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.