Raising Vinegar Eels For the Aquarium
It is a well known fact that feeding live food to your fishes will help them to grow better, show better coloration, and improve vigor. Fish love a variety of foods, and live foods are more closely related to what they feed on in their natural habitat. Although raising live foods can take up a small amount of space, and a bit of your time, the results in seeing your fish thrive are well worth it!
Vinegar eels are basically fry food, and very easy to grow. They are not really eels, but are classified as a minute nematode worm (Turbatrix aceti). and feed on vinegar or acidic, fermenting vegetable matter. These tiny roundworms are bilaterally symmetrical, approximately .08 in. (2 mm) long, and lives for around 10 months with a minimum effort of care.
To cultivate, fill a gallon jar with a quart of undistilled apple cider vinegar, a quart and a half of aged cool tap water, and an apple cut into 6 sections. If your water is typically hard, increase the apple cider vinegar to a 60% ratio. Introduce your vinegar eel culture to the container, and cover with a piece of cloth, held in place by a rubber band to keep flies out of the culture.
The media will need to be replenished about once a month, due to some evaporation and loss from harvesting the eels.
Culturing the eels is very low maintenance, as they have no temperature requirements and a long life span. One consideration is odor, for the apple cider vinegar will smell a bit like a winery, and some may find it objectionable!
Be patient with the culture, as it may take up to a month for the culture to be strong enough to see the eels in large numbers. When you are able to see them in quantity, it is time to harvest and feed to your fishes.
Harvesting vinegar eels is perhaps the most challenging part of the whole process. The easiest way to accomplish this is to draw the eel laden fluid up with a small baster, such as is used for basting chicken or turkey. Transfer this liquid into a funnel lined with a coffee filter placed over the opening of the culture jar to return the excess fluid to the container. When you feel that you have harvested enough for a feeding, gently rinse the coffee filter under a stream of cold fresh water for several minutes. Swish the inverted filter in your tank, and feed the fishes. If feeding several tanks, swish the filter in a beaker of water, and feed the eels using an eyedropper.
Vinegar eels will stay near the surface of the water, so aren't good food for bottom feeders. Surface feeders such as rainbowfish will benefit greatly from feeding vinegar eels, but a lot of cichlid fry are bottom feeders. This is why a variety of live foods is important to feeding fry.
If you do not feed vinegar eels on a regular basis, don't worry. The culture will keep indefinitely for a year with little care needed. A couple of times per year, thin out the culture by using a coffee filter and funnel, remove about half the media, and replace with fresh media in the proper ratio. You can then gift a fellow aquarist with the culture to begin a vinegar eel colony of their own.
About the author:
Alden Smith is an award winning author. His website at King Discus is filled with information and articles relating to the hobby. This article is one of a series on Discus fish. Find more at his site.