Feeding Fish With Worms

Tubifex, a red mud worm, can be obtained throughout the year in any good pet shop. Unfortunately, Tubifex worms are often contaminated with heavy metals and other poisons that can cause severe illness in aquarium fish. Under no circumstances should Tubifex worms be fed to delicate fish (such as discus fish). Feed them to hardier species only when you cannot get any other live food.

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If you use Tubifex as food, soak the worms thoroughly for a few days prior to using them. Put the Tubifex clusters in a container with flowing water; in stagnant water the worms will die in a few hours. Once a day lift up the cluster of worms and rinse away the dirt that has accumulated. After about three days, the Tubifex can be fed in small portions. They are not rich in vitamins. Shortly before feeding add a few drops of a multivitamin preparation to the water. The Tubifex will then absorb some of the vitamin product. Earthworms can be bought in bait shops or dug up in your yard or garden. Since they are very nutritious, you can feed them to the fish exclusively for a long time without the fish showing any signs of deficiency. Earthworms provide good nourishment for large cichlids, catfish, and other carnivorous fish. The red earthworm (Lumbricus rubellus) is a favorite of most of these fish. Before using earthworms as food, you should keep them for a few days in darkened crates with damp toilet paper (unbleached, uncolored), so that they will shed their outer mucous covering and lose the earth that adheres to their skin.

Earthworms can be bred in a compost heap or in nourishing, loose earth mixed with sawdust. They should multiply when fed a mixture of grass and garden clippings.

White worms such as Enchytraeus alhus and Enchytraeus buchholtzi are relatives of Tubifex and earthworms. After you purchase these (for use as starter cultures), place them in very large plastic or styrofoam containers. These containers must be thoroughly washed, so that they do not smell of plastic or release chemicals. Fill the containers about 2 inches (5 cm) high with damp peat that has been softened for a few days in water and then squeezed dry and finely ground. The containers must have tiny air holes and remain dark.
Enchytraeus albus worms multiply at 50 to 59°F (10 to 15°C) on a diet of oatmeal, brown bread, and powdered milk at a ratio of 1:5. Enchytraeus buchholtzi worms multiply at 68 to 77°F (20 to 25°C) on a diet of oatmeal, brown bread, and powdered milk at a ratio of 3:3:1. All the ingredients are mixed, put on the damp, loose peat surface, and gently tamped down. The peat is sprayed with water, and the containers are covered with thin material such as gauze or dishcloth. Warning: If there is too little air during breeding, the food will begin to ferment and get so hot that the worms will crawl out of the containers. Mold can also form. If the worms are afflicted with mites, they must be washed and put in fresh peat. A breeding setup should be replaced every two months by a new colony. To use the worms as food; press a glass pane gently to the peat surface. The worms will stick to the glass pane; they can then be washed off and used as food. Do not overfeed fish with these worms because they have a high fat content.

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