How I Culture Microworms and Walterworms
Here’s a quick video guide:
Even MORE information on how to culture these worms:
A container (a plastic margarine, yogurt, cottage cheese, or sour cream tub works well, or you can use a disposable food saver. I prefer 3 lb. cottage cheese containers.)
A large paperclip or similar object (to perforate the container for ventilation)
Potato flakes or Cereal (baby cereal, oatmeal, or cornmeal are often used)
A pinch of Baker’s yeast
Mix-ins (optional; see below)
A saucepan or small pot
Your starter culture
1. Bend one end of the paperclip so that it is straight, and use it to put holes in the lid of the well-rinsed culture container. I usually make about 20-30 holes in the lid. You may heat the end of the paperclip with a candle, which makes the lid easier to puncture, but I find that the holes then become big enough to admit fruit flies. These do not appear to harm the culture, and can also be fed to your fish, but they can be annoying.
2. Cook the cereal according to package directions. You will need to vary the quantity of cereal according to the size of your culture container(s.) You want to end up with about ½ inch of cooked cereal on the bottom of the culture container.
3. Add “Mix-ins” if desired. These are intended to improve the nutritional profile of the worms. I like to grind some wheat and beans to add to the oatmeal, to improve the protein content of the culture medium. I also add a small amount of spirulina algae and black seaweed (nori) for protein, vitamins, and trace minerals. A little paprika is a natural color enhancer that gets passed on to your fish. You can also add these when you add the cereal. The final product should end up moist, but not soupy.
4. Allow the cereal to cool to room temperature, (or room temperature is fine) and then add a small pinch of baker’s yeast. Stir it in well. Don’t add too much yeast; otherwise it will grow too fast and overwhelm the worms.
5. Add your starter culture and close the lid.
6. You may check on the new culture daily. The speed of the culture’s development is dependent on temperature, but if you’re comfortable, the worms should be, too. They develop faster at warmer temperatures. Within a couple of days, you should see worms “shimmering” on the surface of the culture medium. In another couple of days, the entire surface should be shimmering. Within a week or less,the worms will begin to climb up the sides of the container. You can harvest them by scraping them off of the sides of the container with a cotton swab, ice cream stick, or your finger. Some microworm users advocate rinsing the worms prior to use. While I am sure this does no harm, the worms can be directly added to your tank by “swishing” the collection object of your choice into the tank water without problems in my experience.
7. A healthy culture will usually produce for several weeks. When production begins to drop, it is time to sub-culture. When the culture stops producing much, especially if the worms and/or medium becomes much darker in color and smells putrid instead of yeasty, discard it. You can re-use the same container—just dispose of the contents and rinse well in hot water. It is a good idea to start a new culture weekly. Just add a good-sized dollop of an existing culture (maybe a tablespoon) to the new one. I like to have at least 3 cultures on hand at all times…an old one, a middle-aged one, and a new one. That way, there is always at least one culture that I can harvest from, and if a culture crashes, I have a backup.
Delaying old age
You can often extend production of an older culture by removing ¼ to ½ of the older culture and adding new culture medium to it. Supposedly you can do the same thing by adding a pinch of baker’s yeast.
Follow your nose
A healthy culture should smell yeasty and perhaps a bit sour, but not moldy and rotten. Discard moldy/rotten cultures—just make sure you salvage enough worms to restart.
Eliminating fruit flies
If a culture becomes infested with fruit flies, harvest a large amount of worms from the sides of the container and drop them into a jar of clean, dechlorinated water for half an hour. They will sink to the bottom, and any fruit fly eggs or larvae will (hopefully) not survive the immersion, but the worms will. Use an eyedropper to suck the worms out and put them into a clean culture container. If the ventilation holes in your container are too big, be sure and replace the lid, or you will soon have the same problem.
If you started with a large, “ready to feed” culture…
Once you scoop out the bulk of the culture into its new home, you can use a couple of teaspoons of dechlorinated water to swish out the worms that remain in the shipping bag. Then, you can add a small amount (again, 1 or 2 teaspoons) of dry cereal such as oatmeal to soak up the excess water and to serve as new food for the yeast that the worms will feed on. At 75 F or slightly above, you should see worms crawling up the side of the container in a day or two, ready to harvest.
© 2008 by R. Max Wilson
Retrieved from the World Wide Web 6/30/2008