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© 2001, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, J.Atchison
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A friend taught us how to grow these miniature worms. The method he showed us was so easy and nearly fool proof. There are more complicated techniques but this method worked for us for a long time. We only switched from the technique when the number of fish in the hatchery required us to grow larger numbers of worms.
We started growing the Grindal worms when we got into Killifish. We found that the smaller adult fish did great on them and because most of the fish we were working with at the time were small, we used these worm on nearly all of our fish that were greater than 1/4 inches long. This first culture method yielded some peat moss as a by-product and this small amount of peat moss was simply added to the tanks with the fish. With several fish, the peat moss with actually have an added value as a pH suppressor. As our species within the hatchery grew, the peat moss became a small liability and we switched our harvesting methods.
There seems to be a need to transition fish from one food size to another, particularly from baby brine shrimp and microworms into the sizes of say, whiteworms. As our fish interests grew, we started working with greater number of species and types of fishes and noticed that universally the fry would take the Grindal worms when the fry grew to about 1/4 inch. It didn't matter what kind of fry, they all loved the Grindals. With the Grindals, the fry get more into their mouths in a shorter period of time...spending less energy for more food value. What a deal.
For a few tanks of Killifish or for a tank
or two of fry, a small butter/margarine tub will be large enough to feed all of your fish
every other day. If you think about it for a bit, that means that with two culture you
will have a near continuos supply of Grindals. Our smaller Grindal worm culturing system,
you should be able to feed a tank or two of fry or the few tanks in a smaller fishroom.
The medium culture system should be able to yield upwards of a teaspoon of worms every
other or every third day.
Any medium you chose will have to be wetted to start with. Wetting peat moss is a little tricky. We like to use a large pot on the stove top, adding enough peat to fill the container to about 1/2 of it's volume and then adding enough hot water to bring the top of the peat moss up to the top of the container. We put the heat on to about 1/2 or the capacity of the stove, set a timer for about an hour and watch some TV. When the buzzer goes off, we turn off the stove and let the peat moss steam in the pot as it cools to the room temperature.
If you have chosen to use straight peat moss and notice that the worms do not seem to be moving through the peat or that they tend to crawl up the sides of the container, it is usually because the peat is too acidic. If that is the case, mix the peat with plain potting soil in a 50/50 ratio. You can also add a well rounded tablespoon of garden lime to two gallons of peat moss to bring the acidity of the soil a little more close to neutral pH.
The moisture is squeezed from the medium leaving it damp, not sloppy wet but definitely not on the dry side. To this medium, we add a starter of Grindal worms and then a little food.
We have started using plastic containers
such as shoe boxes and sweater boxes for culturing the worms. The sweater boxes are about
twice the size of a shoe box. We like to use plastic because we can clean the boxes
between culturing and can poke air holes through the plastic with simple tools. The air
holes are very important, especially in warmer weather. A good culture grows very quickly
and with all worms, a moist, aerated culture is important. A lack of air is also a common
reason for worms trying to leave the culture medium, crawling up the sides and dying.
In extremely hot weather (in the upper 90s
and low 100s F) you might try placing the culture in a old fish shipping styrofoam box
with a bottle of frozen water. By rotating the bottle with a fresh frozen one each
morning, you can keep the temperature inside the insulated and covered box cool enough for
the worms even in the hottest of days. If you live in an area that routinely sees
temperatures in the low 100s, you might find that you need to change the water bottles
twice a day, but the process is simple and cheap.
When the worms are finished eating,
the worm mass with look rather gray. Take a pinch or two of the worm cluster and drop them into a cup. With a
baster, add water to the cup and pump the water in and out of the baster, making a worm
soup-like thing. Don't try to damage the worms, you are simply breaking up the worm and
peat mixture. Feed the mixture directly into the tanks. The peat left in the tank will be
removed with future tank vacuum cleanings and worms...well if they hit bottom, you fed too
many. Even so, if you are using bare bottomed tanks they will probably be eaten before any
damage occurs. the worms live a number of hours before dying and then decaying. A couple
of extra worms will usually be eaten before damage can occur.
"We grow food not bait"