Culturing Live Foods: A Primer
This is my how-to home culture various organisms to feed to fish. Some will be incredibly easy, like Phytoplankton, some more challenging, like Mysid shrimp. I hope users find this primer useful, and as always, questions are welcome.
Culture One: Phytoplankton & Green Algae
PHYTOPLANKTON & GREEN ALGAE
One of the most hated substances in freshwater and marine aquariums is algae. However, Phytoplankton (Green Water) and Green Algae on hard surfaces are one of the most important and useful things to learn how to culture and the basis for many things down the road.
A clean container; glass is better.
Sterile freshwater or marine water
An air pump and airline.
A starter culture
Guillard's F/2 algae nutrient
A turkey baster or eye dropper, depending on the size of your culture
A bright light.
I use five-gallon glass carboys, but you can use any clear container, the size based on your need. Sterilize the culture water by boiling it in a clean pot, then pour it into the container. Mix the water with Guillard's F/2 formulae, the amount based on how much water is used. Use the air pump to put out large moderately slow bubbles out the end of the air line. Place the airline as low as you can get it in the culture vessel.
You'll need a starter culture from a biological supply house. I use lfscultures.com and aquaticeco.com as my sources for starter cultures.
The freshwater algae to look for are Selenastrum, Ankistrodesmus, Scenedesmus, Chlorella and Euglena.
The marine algae to be concerned with are Nanochloropsis, Isochrysis and Tetraselmis.
You can culture two species or more, with a variety better than a single kind.
The starter cultures can come in liquid form or (better) on a petri dish. For the latter, fill the dish with sterile, fertilized water and place it under a moderate light; a window with indirect sunlight is perfect. In about a day the dish should be deep green (or yellow-green, depending on the species). Take a clean cotton swab, rub some off, and dip and shake the end of the swab into your fertilized culture container. Do so until the dish is empty.
Each species should have its own vessel. Mixing species is ill advised, as some species are better at processing nutrients than others, meaning you'll just have one species in the culture.
Turn on the bright light. I use metal halide pendants, but a T5 or VHO fixture suspended about six or eight inches above the culture will do. Bulbs should be 6700K to 10,000K for optimal growth.
You will see the water turning progressively more and more green. In a week to 10 days, it'll be deep, deep green and then ready to harvest some.
I use a turkey baster. Any you remove replace with more sterile water. As long as the culture is kept bright and the removed water is replaced with fertilized culture water, the culture can be kept going indefinitely.
In a future installment you'll learn all you can do with that green water.
A container. Large and low is best
A group of inert, rounded stones; river cobbles is best
An ammonia source
corse sand paper
Sea salt for marine.
Sponge filter, air pump, airline and air stone.
I use kiddy pools on my back deck, but you can use what you like, as long as its low and wide like that. I use fist-sized river cobbles. I sand the 'top' of the stones with coarse sandpaper to rough the stones up a bit so the algae will stick better. I spread them all over the bottom of the pool in one level, except for a corner where I place the sponge filter. I fill the pool with regular, dechlorinated water.
In freshwater you'll need a ammonia source. I use guppies for this. Get good guppies, not the feeder kinds, as you don't want to introduce disease. I use guppies because of their great temperature range: 60 to 90 degrees. I start the air pump. My pools get about six hours of sunlight a day, and indirect the rest of the day.
For marine, I use brackish water, about 1.005 to 1.010, as regular 1.025 sea water just turns green. You don't need an ammonia source, and it'll take you a while to tweak the salt level where the water stays pretty clear and the algae is on the stones.
It takes about three to five weeks to get a good growth on the stones. You could add phosphate and or nitrate to speed things up, but there's no need. I feed the guppies two or three times a day.
The stones are perfect for feeding freshwater fish like Otocinclus and other sucker-mouthed catfish, silver dollars, pacus; lots of herbivore fish. In marine, the algae-covered stones are a natural food source for Tangs, some blennies, some snails; all kinds of creatures in marine and marine reef tanks.
After the stones are picked clean, I replace them in the the pools. In about two weeks they are 'full' again.
Obviously, the bright spring and summer are the best time to culture on stones, though if you have an enclosed porch or sunroom, you can put your cultures there. If a room gets below 70, use a heater for the guppies' sake.
Last edited by Lady Hobbs; 05-10-2010 at 12:37 PM.
Culture Two: Infusoria, Rotifers, Microworms
This is the second installment of my Culture Manuel, and this issue will be foods to feed to small egg-layer fry to get a maximum yield. The green water you learned in Culture One is a common freshwater fry foods. This subjects covered will be Infusoria, Rotifers and Microworms. Rotifers can be cultured for freshwater or marine; the other two, freshwater only.
Infusoria is a general term for freshwater microscopic life that lives off vegetative decay. It is the Number One food to learn to culture if you want to raise egg-layer fry. The best organism to culture is Paramecium, as most all egg-layer fry instantly recognize it as a food source.
A clean container; tall like a drinking glass
A Paramecium starter culture. Get yours here.
Wheat grains and Brewer's Yeast tablets
Aluminum foil or clear wrap.
Air pump and stone.
Optional: A microscope capable of X50 magnification, or a really good magnifying glass.
Depending on the size of your culture, sprinkle enough wheat grains to cover half of the bottom of your culture vessel in one layer. Then tip them into a microwave-safe container, cover them with about an inch of water, and microwave them until the water boils. That serves to soften the grains a bit, and also kills any organisms already on the wheat.
Pour the grains and water back into your culture vessel. Break a yeast tablet in two, and toss in half. Then fill the vessel with cool (between 68 and 72 degrees) dechlorinated water up to about an inch or so from the top. You'll want VERY slow bubbles from your air stone, just enough to break the surface tension but not enough to roil the water at all. Its there to keep the culture fresh and clean smelling.
Introduce your Paramecium start-up culture, cover the top with the foil or clear wrap, and put it near a window where it'll get mostly indirect sunlight. The wrap or foil keeps the water from evaporating so quickly.
Room temperature, it takes a week to 10 days to get a rich culture. Warmer, around 80 degrees, it can take as little as four days. The culture will get more and more milky. When its difficult to see the other side of the container looking through it, the culture is ready. They'll be a slight scum on top, which is normal.
If you have access to a microscope, use an eye dropper, put a single drop on a glass slide, and dial in 50 times magnification. You should see the field full of the little slipper-shaped Paramecium zooming all over the place.
You can use a magnifying glass, but you'll have real trouble seeing the Paramecium with it. You'll likely only be able to see a few of the largest of the critters, which will look like very tiny moving dust.
Harvest them by dipping some out with an eye-dropper from below the scum layer, and squirt it near the fry. The number of 'squirts' per feeding depends on the number of fry.
A trick I learned years ago is to put a bare light bulb on one side of the fry tank. It serves to bring the fry and the Paramecium together.
You'll see the fry curl into a tiny 's' shape and strike at the Paramecium. Feeding them every hour and changing 50 percent of the tank water daily will result in 70 to 90 percent fry yields.
You should be able to keep your culture going for at least a month. You can help by adding just enough Phytoplankton (Euglena is best) to tint the water green, as the Paramecium can eat the algae.
When your culture starts to become clear, scrape off a little of the muck at the bottom of your culture along with a few wheat grains and start another one. They'll be enough Paramecium in the goop to get the new culture going.
A slightly larger small organism and often used as a transition food for fry that are losing interest in Paramecium, Rotifers are a particularly important food source to learn to culture. Unlike Paramecium, Rotifers are multi-cellular organisms. Rotifers are about half the size of baby brine shrimp. There are both freshwater and marine species available to culture. Most common are Brachionus calyciflorus for freshwater and B. plicatilis for marine. Both can be found here.
Marine Rotifers are very useful to feed reef corals, clams and other filter feeders.
A clean, clear container; a 10 gallon aquarium is perfect.
Sterilized fresh or marine water.
A starter culture or cultures.
A slowly bubbling air stone
A top light source
Eye dropper or glass turkey baster
A magnifying glass
Optional: Dried Duckweed
Pour the sterilized water into the culture vessel and set the air stone to slowly bubble. Tint the water middle green with Phytoplankton. Nannochloropsis is best for the marine species; Euglena or Selenastrum for freshwater Rotifers. Then introduce your starter culture.
You should feed the rotifers every four hours. As to how much, if there's a green tint left after the first feeding you are feeding enough. If the water is clear, increase the amount of Phytoplankton. If it is as green as you started, its too much.
In a 10-gallon tank, tens of millions of Rotifers will proliferate. At room temperature, a culture will be ready in about a week. Use the magnifying glass to check the culture. The rotifers will look like tiny pieces of dust, some with a little color.
You'll need to keep the bottom of the tank clean, as Rotifers, as more complex animals, do produce an amazing amount of waste. You must keep the tank clean and filled or your culture may crash.
In a container the size of a 10 gallon, a turkey baster is more appropriate to harvest rotifers. Pour the Rotifers through a woman's nylon stocking, as the mesh is the appropriate 5 microns needed to strain the Rotifers out of the water.
A trick I learned is taking a regular brine shrimp net, remove the fabric and replace it with a section of stocking. Cut enough to form a bowl shape like a regular net. I sew them on, but you can attach the mesh however you like. Also, I've found I get a richer culture by adding dried duckweed to the bottom of the vessel.
To feed, simply turn your net inside out into your fry or marine reef aquarium.
One can keep a Rotifer culture going pretty much indefinitely as long as they are fed and the culture vessel kept clean and fresh.
Perhaps the easiest of the three to culture, Microworms, actually a kind of Nematode, are a great food for growing egg-layer fry.
A clean, bowl-shaped container
Dry brewer's yeast
Aluminum foil or clear wrap
A starter culture
Your culture vessel can be any size you like as long as you can get your forefinger into it to harvest. Use enough dry oatmeal to cover the bottom, and fill the container about a third of the way with water. Sprinkle the yeast on top. Introduce your starter, and cover the container FIRMLY.
The reason is two-fold. One is it keeps the air humid enough for the worms, and two it keeps fruit flies and house flies from invading your culture. A clean culture is much, much better and productive. Though the fruit fly and house fly maggots are good fish food, you really don't want them in your microworm culture.
Once the microworms start, they produce tons and tons of worms. The culture can be kept going as long as you like. Add a little more oatmeal and yeast when it looks like you need to. You'll need to keep the container(s) clean; no goop on the walls.
A healthy culture should have a nice yeasty smell. No one I've ever met doesn't like the smell. It reminds one of fresh sourdough bread. If it smells bad you need to take as many worms as you can out, rinse them under a lukewarm faucet, and start a new culture. Easy.
I scrape off just enough worms to partially cover one side edge of my forefinger and dip my finger into the fry tank. The worms will live for days in the tank. Make SURE its just worms, no culture material, as you don't want that spoiling in your tank.
As the worms sink (they can't swim) microworms are a perfect food for Corydoras fry. Other fry that are a week or two old and hunt for their food will eat microworms. Though I'm sure they've never seen them, for some reason, Betta fry really like the worms.
Last edited by Lady Hobbs; 05-10-2010 at 12:41 PM.
Culture Three: Brine Shrimp
Almost every aquarium hobbyist is aware of Brine Shrimp, Artemia salina. But most, if not all, use only the just-hatched larvae (Baby Brine Shrimp) to feed to their fry. In this installment: Culture 3: Brine Shrimp, we will go beyond the BBS.
A clear culture vessel, the size dictated by the number of shrimp needed
Marine synthetic sea salt
Air pump and stone
A light source
A Brine Shrimp net
A hydrometer or Reflectometer (much better)
Brine Shrimp eggs (de-capsulated is best)
A HUFA product
Optional: Mark Weiss' Coral Vital, a heater, a sponge filter
Raising Brine Shrimp to adulthood is a great benefit to both marine and freshwater hobbyists. The trick with Artemia is as they grow, their nutrient value is virtually nil. Filter-feeders, Artemia must be enriched before feeding.
Mix enough marine salts with your sterilized freshwater to achieve a reading of 1.040 to 1.045 on your reflectometer. Warm the water to about 77 degrees.
It is in your best interest to purchase decapsulated brine shrimp eggs (Life-A is a brand). Brine shrimp eggs are encased in a tough, leathery shell that keeps a tiny bit of water around the egg. Decapsulation removes that shell.
Regular eggs in the shell leave easily thousands of tiny, floating, brown shells. They can become a real mess in your culture vessel, and as you must aireate your shrimp, tens of thousands of egg shells will be swirling around and nearly impossible to remove them without catching the shrimp as well. The decapsulated eggs can also be sprinkled on the top of the water in a marine reef tank for food 'on the hoof'.
Sprinkle the eggs on the top of the water. A good batch of eggs will result in about 90 percent success. The eggs will hatch within 48 hours.
Introduce enough marine Phytoplankton to make the water medium green. Depending on the amount of shrimp, it should clear by half in a day. Add more to make it medium green again. As well as the algae, you can also add Mark Wiess' Coral Vital to the menu. The algae will make the shrimp green, the Vital will make them red.
The Phytoplankton is the staple food for the shrimp, which are filter feeders. Nannochloropsis is a good one to start with, as it doesn't move, just floats. You can use Tetraselmis and Isochrysis after the larvae become small adults as they are mobile enough to catch the flagellate-equipped algaes. Variety is a good thing for the shrimp.
The light source will gather the shrimp for easy collection. A heater is needed if the room is below 75 degrees. A sponge filter with air pump will circulate the water making algae available to the shrimp.
It will take about 10 days for Brine Shrimp to grow up. If you see some with two black dots on their rear its a female carrying eggs.
A day or two before harvesting, gut load the shrimp with either a Omega 3 & 6 fatty acid product (Selco and Super Selco) or a powdered Highly Unsaturated Fatty Acid product (Protein HUFA). All are available online.
Net the required amount of shrimp out, rinse them gently under the tap, and feed. The rinsing takes the salt off the shrimps' exterior.
Adult shrimp can make new small marine reef fish eat. Many corals and anemones will take them. Marine clams will suck them in. They are also good for conditioning breeders in freshwater. Enriching them before feeding is essential to make them nutritious. The selcos and HUFA substances are too rich for the shrimp to be fed to them regularly, thus a day or two before harvesting is the time to use them.
Culture 4: Worms, worms, worms
Among the easiest creatures to culture are worms. Every fish will eat a worm. Wild fish gulp them down, not suspecting the hook. In this installment of my how-to culture manual, we will cover white, Grindal, red and California black worms.
The only challenge is the temperature. White and Redworms need temps not above 70 degrees. Grindal worms do well at normal room temperature, though 72 is best.
Second is siting the culture. White, Grindal and Red worms like it dark and fairly cool. Mine are under cabinets in my 70 degree basement. Its a little cool for Grindals, which like it in the mid-70's, but they do well in my basement. California black worms are aquatic, and thus need to be cultured 'wet'. Regular room temperature is fine for them.
A tray with a lid
Potting soil and peat moss
A glass pane
a dowel or pencil
A starter culture
A plastic small spatula
Optional: 'Worm Bedding' available at Wal-Mart
White worms, Enchytraeus albidus, are closely related to the regular earthworms. They reach an inch in length.
I use clean, new kitty litter pans to culture my worms. You'll need a glass company to cut you a piece of plate glass that will leave an inch all around when placed on the bedding.
Mix the potting soil with the peat moss and sand until its within an inch or two to the edge of your container. Your bedding should be 65 percent potting soil, 20 percent sand, 15 percent peat moss. You can also add some leaf mold if you can find it under logs in a wooded area. Wet the bedding until its damp, not soaked. It should be the same dampness of freshly turned dirt.
Introduce your starter culture. You can get yours here.
Its best to use spring water or similar to wet your culture, as even dechorlinated tap water has dissolved matter which will stunt your culture to its ruin.
Use a spritzer, and dampen one side of the glass. Cover that side with fine grains; oatmeal, wheat germ and the like. Put the 'food' side down on the bedding. Do so carefully not to squish your worms.
You'll need a lid for your culture. I use a piece of plywood with a few quarter-inch holes drilled in it. If you buy Rubbermaid trays they usually come with a lid.
The lid prevents invasion by spring-tails and fruit fly maggots. It'll also deter ants and mice, which will eat the worms. Often very tiny red mites appear on the surface of the bedding and hop around. They are harmless to the worms and like any tiny critter, fish will eat them if they get in the tank.
The worms, which are live-bearers, will gather near the surface eating the food off the glass. They should have it cleared in as little as four days. Sprits the top of the water until it just glistens if it appears dry. Replace the food on the same side and gage how fast its cleared. It its under 36 hours, cover 3/4s of the glass with food. Eventually the whole glass will be cleared, and you can add things like half a slice of bread barely moistened with milk to the menu a day or two before your first harvest. Even flake fish food can be used.
Put about a two-inch layer of food on the glass and raise that end about an inch with a dowel or thick pencil. The worms will collect on top of each other in a line right up to the dowel as they eat the food. Remove the dowel, and pick as many worms as you like. Use the spatula to remove the number of worms you need and feed.
Put the remaining worms under the glass by easing the glass down. You can then reload the glass with food, and sprits the soil if needed.
A white worm culture can be kept going as long as you like; even for years. Just feed them, keep their dirt moist, and harvest every week or ten days.
About 65 years ago Mrs. Morton Grindal of Sweden isolated a small white worm, Enchytraeus buchholtzi, that now bears her name.
Almost exactly half the size of white worms, Grindal Worms like it somewhat warmer than their larger cousins. As long as the culture is covered and dark, you can keep it in the cabinet or iron aquarium stand, if the room temperature doesn't get above 80 or below 60. Like white worms, a Grindal Worm population can double every two weeks. Your 70 degree basement is fine, though.
If you've a small culture, say the size of a shoe box, a trick I learned years ago as an easy way to harvest a small portion is to dampen a square of cardboard or plastic on one side, sprinkle it with a single layer of flake fish food, and place it on your culture bedding. The next day, pick it up and it should be covered with worms. You can put the square on a glass of water, and the worms will fall into it. Then just pour it into your tank.
Grindal Worms will last for days in the tropical aquarium. If you have Corydoras catfish or loaches, they won't last that long, as those two kinds of fish adore worms.
Two tray-like containers
A drill or punch
A pane of glass
A cardboard box
Plain potting soil
A hand garden tool like a cultivator
A sub-70 degree site.
In every bait store they'll be styrofoam cups containing worms. One of the most popular are those called Red wigglers. Those bait stores will be your source for start up cultures for Red Worms. Every fish that can fit the two-inch red worms in their mouth just love red worms. The worms for sale will be either Eisenia foetida or Eisenia andrei. The latter is lighter colored, but they are cultured exactly the same.
To culture, take two same-sized plastic trays. As above, I use new kitty litter pans for this. Drill about a dozen evenly spaced out 1/2-inch holes in the bottom of one. Set this aside.
Take the cardboard box, and tear it into rough squares. Then soak the cardboard in lukewarm water for 24 hours. Then, tear the squares apart in strips and place them in about a double layer on the bottom of the tray with holes. Put the other tray beneath it. It's there to catch the worm castings. Mix these half and half with water, and water your plants with it. They will grow like crazy.
On top of the cardboard put enough plain potting soil (no fertilizers or vermiculite), mixed with about 10 percent peat moss, to reach about two inches from the top edge. Spritzer the top of of the soil until it barely glistens. Introduce your worms. As to how many styrofoam cups of worms you need, it depends on the size of your container. For my kitty litter trays, I use six of them.
Spread the worms and their bedding from the cups over the soil. Cover with your glass pane, then your lid; it should have a handful of 1/2-inch holes in it for ventilation. Leave the culture alone for 24 hours. Then, remove the lid. Use your pinky finger to make six or eight inch-deep holes. Drop two or three fish-food pellets in the holes, and cover loosely. Spritzer the top of the soil if it looks like it needs it, then place on the plate glass pane. As above, it should have an inch layer of soil around it. Then replace your lid.
A week later, cover the bottom of the glass with grains. That will serve to keep your worms near the top of the culture. You can gage the progress of your culture by how fast the glass is cleared. If you sprinkle a little corn meal on top of the soil and its gone the next day, your worms are thriving.
You can feed your red worms anything organic that's plant based, but use restraint, as you don't want to spoil the soil. Banana peels, apple slices; anything like those will be happily consumed by the worms. You can start harvesting your worms after a month. Red Worms will lay their eggs every 30 days, so you can keep your culture going as long as you care to.
To harvest, use a three-pronged hand cultivator and run it slowly through the first two inches of soil. The worms will collect on the prongs. Just dip them in water to remove the soil, then take the worms and feed your fish.
You can strip the worms if you want. Run your index and thumb head to tail so it'll void the metabolized soil from within. I don't, because I know what's in them, and a little worm dirt its actually good for some fish as it aids in digestion.
As Red Worms are larger, they are a great thrice weekly treat for your mid-sized or larger Cichlids. They will be a great benefit to them.
Like their cousins the white worms, Red Worms need to be kept in the cool and dark. They will no do well at normal room temperatures.
CALIFORNIA BLACK WORMS
A watertight container. Aquariums are perfect.
A glass lid
An air pump and tubing
A starter culture
Spirolina pellets and flakes
Black worms, an aquatic inch-long worm from pristine California lakes and ponds, are perhaps the only worm that's suitable for feeding to both marine and freshwater fish.
Lumbriculus variegatus, the Black Worm, is perhaps the easiest of the worms in this post to culture, meaning little work for the keeper.
To culture, take a clean aquarium, the number and floor footprint of the tanks based on how many black worms you'll need. Its best to use the coarse brown paper towels like those used in public bathrooms, as it'll last far longer in your culture.
Tear the paper into even strips, and place them in the bottom off the tank. Put three or four inches of spring water on top, then start a slow, steady bubble from your airline. Replace evaporated water quickly, as the worms need stable conditions.
Introduce your worms, carefully, as they are easily injured. They are attained on the internet or at better fish stores. The worms should be black and moving; if they aren't, they are dead and those need to be removed. Put your cover on the tank. Its there for the humidity and to prevent rampant evaporation.
After a day, drop in just a few crushed Spirolina pellets. After a few days, you can add a few more if the previous ones are all gone. Feed when there's none left. Be careful not to overfeed, as the water will spoil and your culture will be dead.
The worm colony will double in size in under a month. As the paper disintegrates, in about a month very, very carefully replace the spring water and remove any debris. Replace the bedding then if needed.
You can feed the worms the flakes or the pellets. If you have to leave for a week or ten days, don't worry about them, they'll be fine.
Harvesting is simple. Just scoop out as many as you need with a clean fine aquarium net, rinse briefly under the faucet with lukewarm water, and feed. Black worms will last in freshwater tanks until they are eaten. They will die instantly in marine reef tanks, but small gobies and blennys adore them.
Like all worm cultures, keeping the Black Worm culture clean and fresh will enable you to keep your cultures going for years.
Culture 5: Fruit Flies
A favorite of Geneticists and smaller fishes, Fruit Flies are a bit more challenging to culture than the previous installment critters, but no food is more natural for your tetras, danios, Bettas and guppies.
Geneticists are responsible for fixing the genetic mutation that makes home culturing of the flies possible. The bugs do have tiny, vestigial wings but cannot fly.
The two species fish keepers should be concerned with are Dropsilia melanogaster and D. hydei. The difference is size and life cycle length. Melanogaster is 1/16 of an inch, with most smaller than that, and they go from egg to adult fly in two weeks. Hydei is 1/8 inch, and takes a month to go from egg to fly.
A culture vessel; glass is MUCH better
Fruit fly traps
Plastic screening or similar
A large cork
I use 5 gallon glass carboys because I culture a lot of bugs, but whatever you use, you have to make it escape-proof, because even though they can't fly, they can certainly crawl, and thousands of tiny crawling fruit flies all over your house is a nightmare you don't want to experience.
If your vessel has a cap, so much the better, but the culture needs to be ventilated as well as secure. I use two layers of paper towel rubber-banded very, very snugly, and after drilling four or five small holes in it, I screw on the cap that comes with glass carboys on top of that.
To set up your culture, first sterilize it by pouring boiling water in it twice. Then mix up your medium.
There are hundreds if not thousands of recipes for making fruit fly medium, so you can look around for one that suits you. Whatever recipe you use, make sure you use mold inhibitor when you mix it, as mold will ruin your culture in a hurry.
This is the recipe I use with great results.
Take three pots. In one mush two or three bananas, add 1/2 cup of grape juice, about four cups of applesauce, and a half-cup of molasses. Blend in a blender then boil. In another pot combine four cups of instant mashed potatoes and about a cup of brewer's yeast. In the third add two cups of water and two of vinegar. I prefer to use apple cider vinegar.
As the boiled mix cools stir in some mold inhibitor, available in cooking areas of grocery stores. If you can't find it, mold inhibitor is easily found on the internet.
Once the boiled mix is room temperature, pour it into a large enough bowl to hold it. Fold in the dry ingredients slowly and mix thoroughly. Then mix in the liquid ingredients. You want your medium to be firm, but easily poured. This recipe is what I use for the bottom of five-gallon carboys, so you'll have to modify it to suit the size of your container.
Take a large cork (available at cooking shops) and silicone it to the center of the bottom of your vessel. Then, take a turkey baster, load it with your medium, and slowly fill the bottom of your vessel until there's about a 1/2 inch or so of your cork exposed. Make SURE you do not splatter the medium, as it will certainly mold in splatter on the walls.
Take plastic (or vinyl) screening, and roll it into a tube wide enough to fit on your cork and long enough to come close to your lid. You can secure the 'round' of the screen with rubber bands or whatever you like, as long as it isn't metal.
Then add your flies. You can get both species, along with food and instructions, from lfs.com. DO NOT mix species in a single vessel.
Make sure you place fruit-fly traps all around the outside of your culture vessel(s), as their winged brethren will be VERY attracted to your culture vessels, and even if your house is sealed up tight, they will find their way in. As the traps are stronger smelling to them than your towel-covered culture mouth, they will be attracted to and killed by the traps. Goodness forbid a winged one invading your culture. Soon, they would all be flyers and your culture will be ruined. Also, eventually the medium will dry up or start to get moldy, in which case, you move the flies after preparing another vessel for them, then clean and sterilize the previous vessel. With the mold inhibitor, a culture should be viable for a month to six weeks, sometimes longer (depending on room temps) , meaning you'll have many thousands of flies to feed your fishes with.
To feed, tap the culture several times to get the flies away from the lid, then carefully draw out the screen and tap gently so some of the flies fall into a container. I use large plastic cups from fast food places for this. Replace the screen smoothly and quickly, and re-secure your lid as fast as you can.
Tap your cup so the flies fall off the sides of the cup, then feed. You can also dust them with vitamin or color-enhancing powders (NaturRose is a brand) before feeding if you wish.
Make sure when you harvest to leave a significant number of adults in the culture to found more generations of flies.
The culture should be kept at 72 degrees and most definitely NOT above 80, because successive generations would be flyers. They can be kept in the mid 70's down to 65, but lower than that, they won't breed.
Make sure your culture is out of the reach of small and not so small children.
Keep your culture away from vents and windows. Heat is your enemy.
Fruit flies are excellent to condition breeders. Betta breeders swear by them.
Culture 6: Daphnia & Mysis
The most challenging creatures to culture are the Cladacorans (Daphnia pulex, D. magna) and the Mysis shrimp (Mysidopsis bahia marine, Mysis relicta freshwater). They will require more equipment and both will draw on previous installments of my Culture Manual in succeeding with these creatures. Though they are both more complicated and somewhat more time consuming to culture, they are well within reach if you've studied my previous installments.
A clean, sterile container. Glass is preferable
A photoelectric chiller if the room temperature goes over 80 degrees and a heater to prohibit the culture from dropping below 60.
Air pump, sponge filter and line
A brine shrimp net
A bright, sun-like, light. Power compacts or T5's should be used, and the bulbs should be between 6700 and 10,000K. Halide pendants are helpful over larger containers.
Though Daphnia do have certain needs, they aren't that difficult to culture.
Start with a clean, sterile container. If you've a single tank and wish to feed your fish Daphnia just once a week or so, a 10-gallon aquarium would work. Should you have many tanks with dozens or hundreds of fish, a larger container is warranted. I use 437 gallon fiberglass vats for Daphnia culture. Tubs designed to hold water for cattle are perfect, as are Rubbermaid storage trays.
Fill your container with spring water, and start a slow bubble from a sponge filter. It's useful if you run the sponge filter for about a week in an established aquarium first to establish nitrifying bacteria. Tint the water green with the Phytoplankton, then introduce your start-up culture. You can get them from both lfscultures.com and aquaticeco.com.
Daphnia are filter feeders, and they can clear the green water quickly, so make sure they are fed as soon as their tank starts to clear. You can also feed them Paramecium. They can be fed yeast as well, but very sparingly, as the binders in the yeast packets do accumulate and decay.
Daphnia do best in the low-70's. A pH between 6.5 and 7.5 is best, and moderately hard or soft is fine.
They WILL NOT tolerate any dissolved metals, nor any Ammonia or Nitrite. You can plant your Daphnia tank to limit Nitrate, otherwise, constant testing is warranted, and large scale partial water changes are necessary should Nitrate rise past 10 ppm. Salt and excess Potassium, Magnesium and Calcium will kill them, though they need a bit of calcium (say 5 ppm or so) for shell maintenance. A very low, say under .5 ppm Phosphorus can stimulate growth, but 1 ppm of it will kill the young.
If your tank is very stable, you can change part of your Daphnia's water with your tank water during your weekly water change.
Never use an air stone in a Daphnia tank, as they will get caught in the stream and die.
The two species available are D. pulex, the size and jerking behavior of a flea, and D. magna, which is roughly four times that size.
Daphnia breed all the time when food is abundant and water quality is high, thus your container can get full in a hurry. You'll need to harvest (with a fine net) at least weekly, as it'll encourage growth of the colony. All small, schooling fish adore Daphnia pulex, and dwarf Cichlids do well on thrice weekly feedings of Daphnia magna.
Far more challenging and labor intensive than any before, the highly-nutritious Mysis shrimp are our final culturing subject.
The number one problem with Mysis shrimp are they are highly cannibalistic; they will eat their young, and will eat each other if not fed, thus the young must have a place to go to escape the attentions of the parents.
The most commonly cultured are the brackish water species M. bahia. From the deep, cold freshwater lakes of Canada and Europe comes Mysis relicta. Both the freshwater and the marine Mysis reach an inch long as adults.
The great benefit in culturing Mysis Shrimp, which are more properly called Opossum Shrimp due to the females' white belly pouch where eggs and developing young are held, is that they are by far the most nutrient-rich live food one can feed to their fish. Highly Unsaturated Fatty Acids, marine lipids, Omegas 3 and 6 - its all there and more in Mysis, especially M. relicta from the deep, cold lakes they hail from. Cold-water lipids are famous world-wide for their benefits to people. They are just as beneficial to fish.
The biggest challenge in culturing Mysis is finding start-up cultures. It took me more than a week to find sites that will sell the marine species to private people. M. relicta was even more difficult, as at this writing, the only sources for these are public aquariums who keep Sygnathids like Leafy Sea Dragons (Phycodurus eques). Both the marine and freshwater Mysis that I culture came from my old University ages ago, so contact local colleges to see if they have them.
M. bahia start-ups are Chesapeake Cultures, Aquatic Resource Organisms and Reed Mariculture. The latter two accept credit cards; Chesapeake money orders or checks. Links with contact information are below. Please mention the Aquatic Community Forum when your order.
Otherwise, though Mysis are more labor intensive, if you put some time and effort into culturing them, having thriving mysis cultures is well within your reach.
Both the marine and freshwater Mysis cultures are set up the same way. The only difference beside the water is M. relicta must have a chiller attached to its aquarium. The temp should be no higher than 57 degrees; 45-55 is their temp range. The marine Mysis do best at 75 degrees.
To set up a small home Mysis culture, use at least two 20 gallon tall glass aquariums. Add a under-gravel filter plate to either end of the tanks, leaving the middle of the tank empty. One tank will be for the adults, the other for the juveniles.
To culture the marine species, the water needs to be pH 8.2,, which better salt mixes set automatically. Crushed coral or aragonite products should be employed beneath the plates of the juvenile tank to buffer the pH. Salinity should be 1.022 specific gravity. Set the temperature between 75 and 78. As long as extremes are avoided, saltwater Mysis are remarkably unconcerned about water quality.
Once the tank is cycled, add two dozen Mysis. You'll want the light on 16 hours a day. Mysis mate at night, so the tank and room must be dark.
Marine mysis are true omnivores. The staple food should be enriched Artemia nauplii. To enrich them, add Selco or Super Selco (available at aquaticeco.com). Use three parts sea water to one part Selco. The Selco products provide marine fatty acids to the Artemia. Keep the nauplii in the sea water/selco bath for half a day before feeding them to the Mysis. You should have your Artemia cultures going before you purchase your Mysis startup culture.
You should feed the Mysis twice a day with the baby brine shrimp. Keep an eye on the culture, and make sure all the enriched baby brine shrimp are eaten at each feeding.
Mysis will also eat green algae and organic detritus. See Culture One: Phytoplankton & Green Algae for culturing information for Green Algae.
This is the method I use to all but eliminate cannibalism.
You'll need to place the juveniles' tank exactly even with the top of the adults' tank. Position an air-lift tube in one corner of the adults' tank so that it circulates water up into the juvenile tank, while a siphon tube at the other corner returns water to the adult tank to keep the water levels even. Cover the air-lift tube with 800 micron grid netting. The fry can pass through the netting and the lift tube carries them to the juvenile tank. The adults can't pass through. Also, cover the ends of the siphon with 500 micron netting so the BBS can pass through both ways, but the Mysis fry, at four or five times that size, can't.
In this system, the flow from the lift tube pulls the fry into it, sweeping them into the tank. The adults, which are stronger swimmers, easily resist the pull.
You'll need to start your Mysis culture six weeks to two months before you start using them to feed your fish. By then you should have about 400 adults, so you can harvest 200 juveniles a day without worrying about 'fishing out' your culture. When the culture is stable, the population should double every two weeks.
To harvest, sweep a fine net through the bare center of the tank. Proper harvesting takes a while to get the hang of, as Mysis are very fast swimmers, especially the adults.
Keep the adult tank at about that level (400 adults) as your brood stock. Higher numbers of adults can be fed to fish as well as the juveniles.
Some hints, according to my reference (Raising Mysid Shrimp as a Home Aquarium Food by Jay Hemdel) and my own experience.
When production of juveniles slows down, it means elder juveniles are eating the new arrivals, so make sure you harvest every day. You can reduce the predation of fry that are eaten before the air-lift 'evacuates' them by removing most of the males, which will greatly enhance fry production. Males lack the white brood pouch, making the male removal fairly time consuming, but your will quickly be able to identify the sexes.
Keeping the tanks as clean as possible is vitally important. Although marine mysis can stand up to 1 ppm ammonia, you really don't want to push it, as its so difficult to replace a crashed culture.
Reference and equipment
Raising Mysis as a Home Aquarium Food (Jay Hemdel) http://www.seahorse.org/library/arti...ulturing.shtml
air lift tube, siphon tubes, 800 and 500 mm netting: http://www.aquaticeco.com/
M. bahia startup cultures:
Chesapeake Cultures, Inc.
P.O. Box 507
Hayes, VA 23072
Elizabeth Wilkens is the contact person
This company is who I recommend you use for your Mysis start-up cultures.
Please mention AC when you contact them. They also carry Daphnia pulex and other organisms.
Aquatic Resource Organisms
P.O. Box 1271
One Lafayette Road
Hampton, NH 03842
Telephone: 1-800-927-1650 or 603-926-1650
Mark Rosenqvist is the contact person
No experience with them, but have heard good things about the company.
520 McGlincy Lane #1
Campbell, CA 95008
Telephone: 408-377-1065 or 877-732-3276
These people did not reply to me after two emails over a week so you may want to telephone to see if they ship to private individuals.
This winds up the Culture Manual series. I do hope it encourages you to try your hand at culturing, as there's something deeply satisfying at 'growing your own' fish food. Of course, growing your own means the food is disease free.
As ever, if you have questions, its best to PM me rather than to reply to this post, as due to business concerns, I'll only be here intermittently over the next few days. If you would like a copy of all six installments, please PM me with your email address. I'll start emailing copies the day after this is posted.
Culture One: Phytoplankton & Green Algae
Culture Two: Infusoria, Roifers, Microworms
Culture Three: Brine Shrimp
Culture Four: Worms, worms, worms
Culture Five: Fruit Flies
Photos of Rotifers: http://www.microscopy-uk.org.uk/mag/...ll/rotidr.html
Rotifer start-up cultures & eggs: http://www.aquaticeco.com/
Phytoplankton: http://www.lfscultures.com and http://www.aquaticeco.com/
Artemia enrichment (Selco, Super Selco, Protein HUFA): http://www.aquaticeco.com/
Fruit fly startup cultures: http://www.lfscultures.com
Wow, nice, thanks for the work!
1G Planted Betta tank, 1.5G Planted Betta tank, 10G Planted Swordtail Fry tank,
10G Neolamprologus Multifasciatus (Shell Dweller) tank. Empty/Work in Progress 135G, 40GB, 2 x 20GL, 2 x 10G
My aquarium (and more) videos on YouTube
Our prize editor and publisher was up all night writing that, I see. How lucky is AC that we have our very own writer in our midst that delivers such awesome articles? Thanks so much, Dave, for all that information and you definately have some rep coming your way. Good job.
I should have added, the potting soil used in terrestrial worm culture shouldn't have any modifiers like vermiculite or extra fertilizers; it should be plain potting soil, since the modifiers that can be added to potting soil make it unsuitable for the worms.
Thanks for the kind words :)
Once again you have outdone yourself Dave.
Come to the dark side Dave
Come to the cichlid side
you know you want to lol