Live foods are overall high in protein. They stimulate spawning, and help to intensify coloration. Live foods enhance the natural tendencies of fish to forage for their food as they would in their natural environment.
White worms (Enchytraeus albidus) are a great source of food for the aquarium. They are about 70% protein, 14.5% fats, and approximately 10% carbohydrate. The white worm in size is approximately 3/4" to 1 1/2", somewhere between Tubifex and Grindal worms. Fish love them, and they are appropriate for a large variety of carnivore fish, even the smaller cichlids.
Nick Lockhart, breeder for <a href="http://www.kingdiscus.com">King Discus </a> feeds white worms twice weekly to our breeding discus and juveniles. His goal is to provide a wide variety of food to keep the fish interested and feeding to stimulate breeding.
White worms are easy to raise. A plastic shoebox from the dollar store will meet the needs of most aquarists. As worms need to breathe, the container shouldn't be air tight. Cutting a small hole in the lid and placing a piece of breathable foam in the hole will suffice to allow enough oxygen to reach the worms.
Fill the container about 3/4 full with peat moss as the medium. The peat moss should be wet, but not soaked. Test by squeezing a bit of the medium in your hand. If a few drops emerge, then you have it right. If water emerges from the mass in a stream, you have it too wet.
Add your starter culture of worms. Finding a suitable starter culture can at times be difficult. A good source can be from auctions at local fish clubs, or from a fellow enthusiast. Also, looking in the classified in the back pages of magazines like Aquarium Fish Magazine or Aquarium USA can sometimes lead to a good resource.
Place a piece of wet crustless white bread on top of the medium for compost. Cover this with a sheet of plastic the size of the slice of bread. The plastic aids in keeping the bread from drying out. It is a good idea to bury the piece of bread in the medium when first starting a culture to prevent mold from occurring. Allow the worms a week to establish before feeding them. Check on them on a daily basis to insure that they are eating the bread.
White worms will need to be housed in a cool dark place, free from insects. We use an apartment sized refrigerator with a temperature control sensor that maintains the temperature at 55-65 degrees Fahrenheit.
One of the best foods for white worms is Gerber's Baby Oatmeal. Add a pinch of active dry yeast to the mixture. The trick is to feed the worms enough to insure they thrive, but not so much that it will begin to mold. A good rule of thumb is to feed only what they will consume in three days. A little trial and error work is needed here. If mold occurs, simply spoon it out of the medium, and replace the food, using less the next time.
White worm cultures will "crash" if the population becomes too large. This can be noted by the worms attempting to crawl up the sides of the container. Simply dump the medium onto a sheet of newspaper, separate the medium into two parts, and you have another culture to fall back on if the first crashes. Get another shoebox, top to 3/4 full with dampened peat moss, and you have the insurance of a supply of white worms.
To harvest white worms, simply wait until a nice clump of them are underneath the sheet of plastic, pluck them out with tweezers or your fingers, and clean appropriately before feeding to your fish. rinsing with dechlorinated water, by pouring from one container to another will do the trick, removing any soil or left over food. You can then feed the worms to your fishes.
The biggest thing to remember about growing white worms is to never let the medium dry out. It is also a good idea to have two cultures growing at the same time, in case one of the cultures "crashes." Keep an eye out for mold, feed the worms appropriately, and you will have happy, vigorous fish!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alden Smith is a published author who has been marketing on the internet for over 7 years. His website, http://www.kingdiscus.com, is a resource for articles, software and information on the tropical fish hobby. Visit his website for more information on live foods, tracking software, and articles on the tropical fish hobby, especially if interested in raising discus fish. weekly articles are posted, along with updates for Fish Minder software,