Food and Medicine - Live Cultures

In nature, fish and other aquatic species consume nearly 100% live foods. A varied live food diet is a must for aquarists determined to raise and maintain the finest robust specimens of freshwater and marine fish. The time required to collect live food from local ponds and streams and the dangers of introducing predatory enemies, parasites and disease to a healthy tank are enough to make even the most avid aquarist question the desirability of such practice.
The ideal solution to the live food problem is to maintain cultures in the home. To be practical, cultures must produce adequate live food, be easily maintained and dispensed, free of disease, economical and produce no disagreeable odors.
We have developed simple live culture techniques over the past 30 years that are practical even for apartment dwellers with limited space. They are presented on the pages that follow in sufficient detail for even the novice to follow successfully. 

Our introductory live food culture package contains starter cultures of wingless fruit flies (suitable for surface feeders), white worms (suitable for small to large size upper water, mid-water and bottom feeders), mikroworms, (good for fry and very small fish), and mealworms suitable for medium to large size fish such as cichlids with strong teeth, marine fish and crabs. Also included are small packets of food medias for each in the white worm, mikroworm and mealworm cultures and a sample packet of form 2d Agar, used for the wingless fruit fly culture preparations. 



Wingless fruit flies (vestigal drosophila) are one of the finest foods you can feed freshwater tropical and marine fish. They supply nutritional values found only in outdoor live foods. These flies are clean, parasite and disease free, and produce a new generation every ten days.
Culture Procedure:
Place 1/8th teaspoon form 2d Agar and 1 teaspoon yellow corn meal in 2 ounces of water. Bring to a slow boil, stirring continuously. Boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 3/4 teaspoon dark molasses, 1 1/2 teaspoon white corn syrup, a pinch of Drostab and a pinch of dry active baker's yeast. Pour into suitable culture jars or vials to a depth of about 1/2 to 3/4 inch and allow to cool undisturbed for one hour. Use a ventilating foam closure or loosely packed cotton to ensure that no wild winged flies or other pests contaminate your cultures!
Your culture jars may develop excessive condensation on the inside walls during the cooling process. It is best to remove this condensation with a paper towel. Mix a small quantity of dry active baker's yeast with warm water to the consistency of heavy cream. With an eyedropper, dispense several drops of the yeast solution on the surface of the culture media in each culture jar. Crumple a piece of absorbent paper towel and push into the culture jar so that some but not all of the media surface is covered. The towel should loosely extend to within one inch from the top of the culture jar or vial. This serves to soak up excess moisture and provide a suitable surface for the flies. 

Shake a dozen or more flies from your old culture into each of your newly prepared culture vials. Within two weeks, new adult generations will begin to emerge (eight days from egg and larva stage, another six days in the pupa stage). They should produce a constant supply of specimens until the culture is exhausted in four to six weeks. Adult flies are about 1/8th inch long and have a lifespan of about three weeks.
The proper portions needed to prepare 24 drosophila cultures at a time (4 oz. Vials) are:
8 fl. Oz. (250 cc) water
1/2 teasp form 2d Agar
1 Tablesp. yellow corn meal
1 teasp dark molasses
2 1/2 teasp white corn syrup
1/8 teasp dry active yeast
1/16 teaspoon DROSTAB (OPTIONAL)*
*Use DROSTAB sparingly if premature mold develops in your cultures. 

To feed the flies to your fish, tap the bottom of the culture vial in the palm of your hand to dislodge flies that may be on the foam closure. Remove the closure and shake the vial over the aquarium. The flies will be held on the water surface by surface tension until they are devoured by your fish. For a special treat, feed the larva to your fish before they form the pupa stage. They contain a growth promoting hormone that is highly valued for putting maximum growth on young fish. 

Note: Do not be alarmed if the adult drosophila in cultures shipped to you are dead on arrival. They frequently do not survive shipment through the mail. The important thing is that they have laid eggs which have hatched into larvae. The larvae enters into the pupa stage which is very resistant to thermal and mechanical shocks encountered enroute. 

The first generations of adult flies should begin to emerge within a week to ten days after your shipment arrives. Keep in mind that the vestigal (wingless) characteristic is recessive. Although the specimens we supply are of a pure strain, sooner or later through natural mutation, one of the flies may emerge with fully developed wings. Since this would be a dominant characteristic, all of the flies in that particular culture would be contaminated and must not be used to start new cultures going so you will always have a good breeding stock for starting new cultures. 


Now you can prepare culture media without the labor required by our cooked formula. Simply add equal volumes of our new DROS-FLAKE and tap water to a culture vial with a pinch of dry yeast. After five minutes, insert absorbent toweling (same as with the cooked formula). Add a dozen or more flies to inoculate the culture.
You will be impressed with the results obtained with this new product! Many of our customers have lost their stocks of drosophila during periods when they did not or could not take the time to prepare fresh cultures when they should. DROS-FLAKE Culture Media is more expensive than cooked formulas, but it is certainly more convenient to use when time is at a premium.
Recently, we have utilized a semi-rigid plastic mesh to replace the absorbent toweling in our cultures. The advantage of this mesh is that it provides a more suitable surface for the adult flies and pupa to cling to and results in better air circulation. The disadvantage of this mesh is that it is somewhat more difficult to shake the flies free from the culture vial. The mesh, being non-absorbent, will not soak up excess moisture, so it becomes important to avoid using too much water when setting up your culture vials. 

172314 AGAR FORM 2d 10 gm $3.75 
172315 AGAR FORM 2d 30 gm $8.95 
172316 AGAR FORM 2d 80 gm $20.25 
172317 DROSTAB 7 gm $3.49 
172318 DROSTAB 25 gm $10.95 
172319 DROSTAB 60 gm $22.95 


White Worms (enchytrae) are probably the most popular form of live food cultured by aquarists. They are highly nutritious and especially valuable during winter months when ponds and other live food collection areas are frozen.
Our grindal variety reaches a length of perhaps one inch at maturity when stretched out. They are very slender and suitable for both freshwater and marine fish the size of half grown male guppies to four inch specimens.
Culture Procedure:
The styrofoam shipping containers that tropical fish are shipped in make excellent culture boxes for white worms. Plastic shoe boxes or refrigerator hydrator boxes are also good choices. The old standby is a wooden box with loose fitting cover.
Fill your culture box to a depth of three inches with a rich and spongy soil. Leaf mold and humus are excellent additives that will improve enchytrae cultures significantly.
The quality of the soil is very important. It has become more and more difficult in recent years to obtain soil that has not been exposed to chemical fertilizers, sterilizers, fungicides, pesticides and other man made chemicals, sterilizers and other contaminants.
The best place to find suitable soil for white worm culture is to look for a virgin stand of pine trees in a heavily wooded area. The soil around the roots of such trees should be rich and spongy. Best of all, it will be free of man made chemicals. If you add leaf mold and humus, be certain that it is also free from chemical contamination.
Place about 1/2 teaspoon of Enchytrae culture media (or other food media) into a depression or trough in the soil of your culture box. Moisten the media with water and empty the contents of your culture on top of the media. Cover with soil and allow the culture to stand undisturbed for several days to allow your white worms to propagate. Keep the culture box loosely covered with a glass or plastic top.
For best results, keep in a cool dark area. Replenish the food supply as needed (ideally every three to four days). If the food supply is not entirely consumed within a week, you are adding too much food for the worm population. This invites souring of the soil. Should this happen, the culture may be saved by adding a few teaspoons of sodium bicarbonate - mix well with the soil.
It is good practice to purge the worms in a container of cool water for about 10 minutes before feeding to your fish. Resist the temptation to feed white worms to your fish more than three times a week. Although they are greedily devoured, excessive use may cause constipation and loss of color. 

Important considerations:
Temperature: Enchytrae like it cool! Optimum temperature is 58F, to 80F.
Enemies:Many cultures are lost to mice and ants. Keep cultures in a protected area to prevent such a catastrophe.
Moisture: Soil must be neither dry nor soaked with water. Use of leaf mold and humus will help retain moisture and provide air spaces in the soil.
Food: Our Enchytrae culture media is a very nutritious formulation, easy to use, and assures consistent results. Other foods and culture methods are also in common use. You may find that ordinary oatmeal or bread soaked in milk or water will work well for you. If you do use milk, do it sparingly as it tends to sour quickly in higher temperatures.
Ventilation: Your soil must be able to "breathe." The culture box cover should fit loosely to permit circulation of air through the soil without excessive drying of the surface. Stir up the soil in your culture box every three to four days to eliminate the tendancy to cake and to make sure there is adequate circulation of air throughout the soil.
Tip: When collecting, place the worms and surrounding soil into a glass of water. The worms will entwine around each other into a ball and can be easily removed with a baster. 

172206  ENCHYTRAE STARTER  $4.45 
172207  ENCHYTRAE MB  $6.25 
172330  ENCHYTRAE FOOD 2 OZ  $1.95 
172331  ENCHYTRAE FOOD 16 OZ  $14.95 


MIKROWORMS (Mikronematoderna)
Thanks to the efforts of Mr. C. O. Nordstrand and Mrs. Morten Grindal of Solna, Sweden, European aquarists have favored mikroworms as an essential live food for raising the fry of egg layers for over 50 years. Until recently, mikroworms have not been as popular with American aquarists because "hit or miss" culture methods have produced inconsistent and disappointing results. As with most live foods there are many ways to culture mikroworms. What we are presenting here is simply what has worked best for us over the past 30 years. 

Culture Procedure:
Mix one tablespoon Mikro-Culture-Media with three tablespoons water. Cook over medium heat for five minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar. Pour into Mikro-Culture-Jars to a level just below the top of the slotted collecting plate holder. Sprinkle a pinch of active dry baker's yeast over the surface of the culture media and install the collecting plate (tongue depressor) in its slot. Add contents of the mikroworm vial. Keep covered with the vented closure. Check to be certain the ventilation hole in the closure is unclogged. Otherwise theculture will sour and mold will set in. 

In about one week, mikroworms should be swarming over the lower half of the collecting plate by the thousands.
To feed your fish, simply remove the collecting plate from the slot and swish it in a small glass of water. The worms can then be fed to your fish in the exact amount desired by use of a baster or an eyedropper.
Return the collecting plate to its slot. Within hours, the plate will be swarming with mikroworms. Your culture should be constantly productive and virtually odorless for four to six weeks. Save about 1/4 teaspoon to "seed" your fresh culture preparations.
Note: Mikroworms are extremely small and may be difficult to detect. Hold the vial up to a strong light. Inspect the area at the top of the culture media. Be patient! It may take a week after arrival before the mikroworms have multiplied to the point where they can be easily seen. Many customers have returned vials for replacement that were teeming with mikroworms when we inspected them. 

172210  MIKROWORM Starter Culture  $3.25 
172320  Mikro-Culture-Media 4 oz  $2.49 
172321  Mikro-Culture-Media 16 oz  $8.95 
172324  Mikro Breeder Jar (reg. Size)  $1.95 
172325  Mikro Breeder Jar (large size)  $2.29 
172326  Mikroworm Breeder Package  $5.95 
*Includes Mikro Starter Culture, Mikro-Culture Media packet, and 172324 Breeder Jar 

VINEGAR EELS Temp: 40-85F (Ideal 76F)
Lighting: Not required
pH/Hardness: Not a consideration

Vinegar Eels (turbatrix aceti) are barely detectable with the naked eye. They are suitable food for only the very smallest fry.

Culture Procedure:
Vinegar eels are easily cultured in cider vinegar. Fill a one gallon container two-thirds full with apple cider vinegar. Add half an apple and innoculate with your culture of vinegar eels. Place a loosely fitting cover on top (or provide a cover with a few small holes for ventilation).
Within a week to ten days you should have a dense, thriving culture. The eels tend to congregate near the top of the solution by the thousands. This can be maintained for many weeks with no attention.
When harvesting the eels, skim off the surface of the culture where the concentration is very dense. The eels can be fed to your fry with an eye dropper or baster. Don't overdo it at one time due to the mild acidic nature of the culture solution.
It is feasible to really concentrate the eels prior to harvesting with a centrifuge, but scientific laboratory equipment such as centrifuges are not normally found in the average home!
It is possible to culture vinegar eels in a very weak vinegar solution by adding quantities of water, but as more and more water is added, the productivity of the eels becomes less and less. One trade name for eels grown like this is micro-eels.
Still another culture method for those who dislike the odor of vinegar is to use 100 cc of 5% acetic acid with 1/2 tablespoon of sugar. The strength of the acetic acid may be reduced bit by bit until the productivity of the vinegar eels falls off. 

172215  Vinegar Eels Starter Culture  $4.95 

MEALWORMS Temp: 40-90F (Ideal 76F)
Lighting: Not required
pH/Hardness: Not a consideration

Mealworms are a highly nutritious form of live food, especially valued for feeding medium to large aquarium fishes (cichlids, large tetra, barbs, etc.). Dempseys and Archers are particularly fond of them.
The young worms are suitable for fish as small as zebras. Many marine fish and invertibrates such as crabs will feed on mealworms also.
The suitability of mealworms for various birds and reptiles is well know. They are rich in vitamins A and B and can be maintained in a dormant condition in the refrigerator for several months.
Culture Procedure:
Your starting culture contains tenebrio eggs and larva of assorted sizes from the smallest to nearly full grown mealworms. Prepare a suitable container (we use rectangular plastic storage boxes with loose fitting covers) as follows:
Fill container to a depth of about two inches with sterilized bran media. This may be enriched with pulverized lab chow but is not required. Add the contents of your starting culture of mealworms. Place a dry paper towel over the surface of the bran. Wet another paper towel and squeeze as much water out as possible. Place this over the dry towel.
Store your culture in a darkened area. A temperature of 80F is ideal, but room temperature will do. Allow a few of the large mealworms to pupate and emerge as adult beetles. At this time place a few slices of raw potato on top of your toweling. The beetles utilize the moisture from the potato. They will lay eggs. In a few weeks the beetles may be transferred to a new culture box to perform the same function. 

172218  TENEBRIO Starter Culture  $4.95 
172340  Bran Food Media 150 gm  $2.49 
172341  Bran Food Media 525 gm  $5.95 
172342  Bran Food Media 1250 gm  $11.95 
172343  Bran Food Media 4100 gm  $32.95 

POND SNAILS Temp: 40-85F (Ideal 76F)
Lighting: Not important
pH/Hardness: 7.2+/medium to very hard

The common pond snail (physa) is smaller than the ramshorn snail, but it is an extremely hard working scavenger. They may be cultured the same way as described for the red or brown ramshorn snails. They do better in unheated aquariums, but will adapt to almost any reasonable tank conditions.
Newly hatched pond snails have shells that are too hard for most small fish to eat. Because of this, they sometimes become a problem since they are rapid breeders. To counter this, simply crush the snails against the inside glass of the aquarium and your fish will promptly consume the soft body. 

172220 POND SNAILS Starter Culture $4.95 

DAPHNIA (water fleas) Temp: 40-85F (Ideal 72F)
Lighting: Not important
pH/Hardness: 7.0/use spring water

These freshwater crustaceans propel themselves through the water with awkward jerking movements. Daphnia are greedily devoured by nearly all tropical fish.

Culture Procedure:
Daphnia can be easily cultured if suitable water conditions and food is provided. This can be more of a challenge than you might think! Daphnia can rarely be successfully cultured in city tap water. It usually contains metal ions and other contaminants that are lethal to daphnia. Use only spring water! If this is not feasible, unpolluted water from a nearby pond or stream may prove satisfactory. Water from long established, freshwater aquariums may be used as a last resort - it may work for you.
Mash a piece of hard boiled egg yolk half the size of the eraser on a pencil and add it to a 5 gallon aquarium filled with spring water. Do not aerate. Remove any scum that forms on the water surface. After 3 to 5 days, a bacterial bloom should be established (which the daphnia will feed on).
Now the tank is ready to receive your daphnia culture! We urge you to prepare your culture tank within a day or so after you order the daphnia. Do not wait until the culture arrives! Immerse the daphnia culture into your tank gently - do not pour through the air! Air can easily be trapped beneath the daphnia's carapace and they will rise to the surface and die.
Feed the daphnia sparingly with egg yolk squeezed through a piece of cloth only when water clears. Dry active baker's yeast is also a good food - sparingly! After feeding, the water should become clear within three to four days. If it does not, you are feeding too much. This could result in the water becoming depleted of oxygen and cause your daphnia to perish. Do not expose the tank to direct sunlight or strong artificial light.
The daphnia specimens we provide you with are essentially all females. They have a breeding pouch from which young female daphnia are born live. Inoculate fresh culture tanks every few weeks. It is important to do this because once the population of daphnia becomes too crowded or the water too old or not acceptable to the daphnia for whatever reason, the females start producing male offspring and they only ephippial ('winter eggs') are produced. These eggs will not hatch until they have been subjected to several freeze and thaw cycles, so your culture just fades away.
There is probably no other live food form that is more universally devoured by freshwater and marine fish than daphnia. Well established cultures reproduce very quickly and can quickly become crowded in culture tanks. We urge you to set up a fresh daphnia culture tank once a week to ensure a continuous supply of daphnia specimens. 

172212  DAPHNIA MAGNA  $5.95 

RAMSHORN SNAILS Temp: 40-85F (Ideal 78F)
Lighting: Not important
pH/Hardness: 7.2+/medium to very hard

A generation ago, the European Red Ramshorn Snail was a common sight in freshwater aquariums. Today they are somewhat of a rarity due to careless breeding with the common ramshorn snail that has a less interesting brown body color.
We offer both the red and the brown ramshorn snails. The brown ramshorns are somewhat hardier, but both varieties are excellent choices for the freshwater aquarium as long as they are not kept together! If they are kept together, virtually all future generations will be brown, since the red color is a recessive characteristic.

Culture Procedure:
Ramshorn snails are hardy and will thrive and multiply without attention in a freshwater aquarium (assuming the absence of snail eating fish!). They are excellent scavengers, eating algae, left over fish foods, etc. Usually they do minimal damage to plants.
To grow the finest specimens, the snails should be given plenty of room, warmth and food. Water should be slightly alkaline. Temperature is best at 75 to 80 F. Preferred foods include spinach, lettuce, hair algae, shrimp based fish foods and carrot.
Siphon off the bottom of the culture tank frequently and replace with aged freshwater. The flat amber egg masses will hatch within 12 to 40 days depending on temperature. 

172204  RED RAMSHORN SNAILS  $4.95