White worms

White worms

by Peter Brown

Ever since I began keeping killies in the late 60’s I have been interested in culturing live foods. The fish keeping magazines of the time had firms advertising cultures and media with slogans like “I’ve got millions!”. Well, I certainly didn’t have millions and I watched as my much-studied White Worm cultures gradually dwindled away… Over the years I have experimented, and I like to think that I have made some progress. These are my most productive methods to date. I am sure that you will all have your own ideas which could be much better. If so, please share them so that we can all benefit.

 White Worm (Enchytraeus albidus)

I keep my mature White Worm cultures in plastic washing up bowls in an insulated cupboard. Each bowl contains a 7cm depth of peat or coir compost which is kept moist by spraying regularly when the surface begins to dry out. I feed in the centre using a thin layer of Ready Brek. The feeding area is covered with a sheet of glass 15cm square. The worms tend to congregate on this glass and are easily rinsed off and the wet glass can then be replaced onto the feeding area. I cut a carpet tile to fit on the surface of the bowl leaving a gap all around the edges. When the feeding area begins to become stale after 3-6 months, I add a further layer of peat 3cm deep and begin feeding as usual. The worms soon move up into the new layer. New cultures should be started off in smaller containers and gradually increase up to a washing up bowl as the culture grows. Try to avoid feeding to your fish until the culture is really reproducing well. I never dig into the culture medium, only taking worms from the glass and culture surface. White worms do not like to be warm. In hot weather I place a freezer packs on top of the carpet tiles and replace these daily. In cold weather I use a tubular greenhouse heater to keep the insulated cupboard at around 16 C.

White Worm cultures

Tropical White Worms (Enchytraeus doerjesi)

These worms are thinner, pinkish white and can be slightly longer than white worms. They are said to have a lower fat content than white worms. I keep them in exactly the same way as Grindal Worms, feeding them daily on Ready Brek. Every 2-3 weeks I give the culture medium a good stir and then press it down gently. I keep them in the fishroom at a temperature of 20 – 25 C. Initially cultures may be slow to start and take 4-6 weeks to become really productive.

Mature Tropical White worm culture