Photo: A ball of Tubifex worms.
Years ago in some of our vats I found clumps of Tubifex worms. I have no idea what species, but they thrive in the muck on the bottom of the vats, but only in vats where the fish don’t poke around in the muck. They do well with mollies and rainbowfishes. I was surprised when they continued to flourish throughout our long, hot summers when greenhouse water temperatures routinely exceed 85°F (29.5°C). Everything I’ve ever read about Tubifex says they don’t do well much over 70°F (21°C).
I’ve toyed with the idea of buying a cattle feed trough from our local agriculture store and converting it into a raceway placed over our sumps at the ends of the greenhouses. System water could run in one end and out the other, flowing over a substrate of aquaculture netting and providing water exchange for the worms. Muck (I usually call this mulm) from our vats collected during cleaning could be dumped in as a rich food source. In our system, which uses plant filtration, we can afford to overfeed without causing problems, so I do (Susie, wife and business partner, objects due to cost, but the fish appreciate it). If you are interested in our plant filtration see my blog http://goliadfarms.com/plant-filtration/.
By the way, Tubifex has a reputation of carrying diseases and I’ve seen it blamed for Malawi bloat, a disease African cichlids are reputed to be prone to (I know, I know, don’t end a sentence with a preposition, but rewriting that sentence to read “to which African cichlids are reputed to be prone” just sounds awkward. I never liked language arts anyway. Of course I despised every millisecond of grade school so that’s not too surprising.) We raise several thousand African cichlids, primarily from Lake Malawi, and have never had a case of Malawi bloat. And, our cichlids eagerly eat the Tubifex with no ill effects. In fact, small populations of the Tubifex are found in our cichlid breeding colony vats where they find refuge under cylinders of aquaculture netting placed in the vats as cover for cichlid fry. As a result, I imagine the cichlids are grazing on these worms fairly continuously. Certainly they feast on them when I disturb the worms by pulling up the cylinders during routine vat work.
This project might get off the ground since Susie likes money making projects and Tubifex starter cultures are listed on line at $18 to $35 per 100 worms! For me it’s just another interesting thing to try. Also, if they do well, our fish will have another good food source.
Tim Gray says
It seems to me the more diverse your ecosystem is the better/more efficient it will be, Now I want to experiment with ‘tubifex’, ‘Dero’ worms, amphipods, and cladoderans in an plant filtration system similar to yours.
All I need is more time and more money. lol.
From ecology classes I learned that more complex the system, the more stable it is. I hope that it true, although there probably isn’t anything I could do to remove pieces from ours. I’d like to get rid of duckweed (Lemna species), but good luck with that. I’ll be blogging soon about another organism that’s become established in our system. All of this said, I kind of like complexity and organisms that both surprise me and thrive.
Tim Gray says
Some time ago we met at a restaurant in Beeville, during our conversation you had mentioned the possibility of adding Clown Loaches to your gutter system(s) as a means of controlling snails. Just wondering if you ever pulled the trigger on that idea?
Elaine Luikart says
Have you thought of adding goldfish to your operation to eat the duckweed and hornwort or try raising sheep or goats. I’m not certain about all sheep but Suffolk sheep and Alpine goats have digestic tracts of iron. One of the utube creators said goldfish do better with more plant material in their diet. Goldfish could over winter in your outside troughs. Have you considered rainwater. I use it exclusivly adding epsom salt, and potassium from heart patient salt alternative and calcium from cage bird cuttlebone but you have those in your well water to mix.
Charles Clapsaddle says
We do have goldfish and Koi that we use to generate green water when we are raising Moina. And we do overwinter them outside. We’ve considered setting up rainwater catchment for spawning soft water fish.