Basement Bettas

Raising Show Quality Bettas

Reviving Micro Worm Cultures

Culture going bad.

I have had my various micro worm [ micro, banana, walter ] cultures for three years. They have come through neglect and a move to Texas during the summer. Many times I thought they were too far gone to recover yet they came back productive as ever. Even if they get funky and seem gone, they often can be brought back to producing high numbers of edible worms for your fry in a day or two. An excellent first food, keeping at least one of these cultures on hand will get your fry off to a good start. So here is what I do to maintain and revive a bad culture.

Top scraped to the side and rest removed.

Even if I do not have fry to feed I try to scrape out [harvest] the worms crawling up the sides at least every other day or so. I am not sure how long they live, but as quickly as they multiply I assume their life cycle is not long. By removing the crawling worms you are removing worms that may die off and foul the batch.. at least that is my thinking. And, when I do that the culture seems to stay good longer. On average I get a week before the culture needs to be refreshed. I have stretched it to ten days, on occasion two weeks and still have been able to keep the cultures going strong.

Oatmeal ready to be mixed with water.

Once a week I scrape the top with all the worms off to the side. All the rest is removed and disposed of. I put it into an old Wal-Mart bag and tie it off when I put it in the trash.. not for the smell but because I don’t like the goop. If the stuff is particularly dark and funky, I just find a good area and scrape it to the side and discard the rest.

Once the old stuff is removed I add some oatmeal I have run through a coffee grinder. I try to add enough to make the bedding about ½” deep. You will get a feel for it over time. If you get too much they will be fine, and not enough you can just add more. To the powdered oatmeal I add some water and stir to make a fairly firm yet slightly runny mix. I mix this off to the side away from the worms I scraped off earlier. One I get everything mixed to the right consistency I stir in the worms and shake some yeast on the top. I also take some time to rinse the lid and will take a paper towel and wipe off the rim and sides of the container. I then put the worms aside to grow.

Yeast sprinkled on top.

I have found my worms do real well on top of the strip lights I use on my 30 gal tanks. They do not seem to mind and actually like the warmth generated by the light. Within a few hours of redoing the cultures you should see lots of worms starting to climb the sides. By the next day they should once again cover the sides of your container. If you culture has been really neglected it may take a bit longer to come back, but should still produce some harvestable worms with in 24 hours.

This is what has been working for me for three years now. I have heard of using other than oatmeal for the growing medium and you are free to experiment and choose what works best for you.  As long as a few worms remain alive, these cultures can be continuously brought back to producing high numbers of edible food for your young fish.


September 21, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Vinegar Eels

Vinegar eels are a very good first food for young fry. They are very easy to culture and feed and can get your young fish off to a good start before starting to feed baby brine shrimp. Not only are they small in size they also will stay alive in the water longer than other first foods thereby not fouling the water.

Once you get a starter culture you need to get it going and established. I have my main culture or base in a glass honey jar.. see photo. Usually you get a few ounces of a vinegar mix with the worms in it. The worms live in an apple cider vinegar and water mixed half and half. So mix up some and put it into a good-sized container. I have used 2 liter soda bottles and a gallon pickle jar. There is no right or wrong, use what ever you have handy. Once you get your container add the vinegar mixture, your starter culture and some sugar. In my honey jar I add about a teaspoon. Again, there is no right or wrong, just dump some in. The sugar is the food for the culture. Many people use cut up apples but I found that a bit too messy, so the sugar is quick and easy and always available.

Once you get them set up put them some place and forget about them a bit. I have enough cupboard space so the base container is in one of them. Someplace out-of-the-way is fine. In time they will multiply very nicely. Depending on the size of your starter culture they should have reproduced enough to get a modest  harvest and/or get your harvesting containers going.  I use long neck bottles for harvesting. We got some flavored drinks in this type of bottle and a friend saved some wine cooler bottles. If you need to harvest worms for a spawn, pour most of your base culture into the long neck bottle. Harvesting will pretty much wipe out the cultures so you want to keep the base going. Add some more of the vinegar mix to bring the level back up, add a bit of sugar and set it aside to multiply again.

I often have several spawns at one time so I need to have several bottles to harvest from at any given time. So I maintain my base and start up several bottles to harvest from. Put some vinegar mix into the bottle and bring the level up to  below the neck. You want the level to be at the widest part to have as much surface area as possible. Add a bit of the base culture, which should have a good supply of worms by now, to each of the bottles you start and add some sugar. Set these aside and give them about a month to mature. My tanks and barracks are on shelves that are 6′ high. I put the bottles up on a top shelf, out-of-the-way, forget about them and let them grow.

To harvest the worms you want to bring the vinegar mix up into the neck of the bottle. At first I mixed the vinegar and water in a measuring cup and poured it in. Once I got an empty vinegar bottle I just mixed some up, labeled the container and stuck it under the kitchen sink. So when ready to harvest I just pour some of this into the bottle to bring the level up into the neck like in the bottle in the first picture next to the honey jar. I then take some filter floss and wrap a twisty tie around the middle and stuff it down into the neck of the bottle so it comes into contact with the vinegar mix. Curl the top of the twisty tie around and down like in the photo. This will allow you to pull up the floss when you are done harvesting. I have tried twine but it will wick the vinegar mix and it will end up all over the counter. The twisty tie works great and are easy to get.. at least around my house.

Push the floss down so there is some space between it and the top of the bottle and top it off with water. You don’t want to use tap that is untreated. Make sure you use your water conditioner on any water you put in the top or use bottled or RO water. Set the bottle aside till the next day. If you check on the bottle in a few hours you will see the worms are swimming up thru the floss and into the water. By the next day it will be hazy white and just full of worms. Take an eye dropper and suck out some worms to feed your fry. You can suck it right down to the cotton ball then top it off with fresh water. A few hours later you will again have more worms to harvest. You can harvest a couple of times a day to keep food in front of the fry. Continue to harvest the worms and replace the water. You will be able to harvest the worms for a good 3 to 4 days before they are depleted. Once the  harvest is reduced pull the floss out and pour out the vinegar mix until the level is back down to the widest part of the bottle. I usually pour this back into the base jar.

You now need to restart the culture with a start from the base. I have several eye droppers so I usually just add a few squirts of my base and some sugar and put them up on the shelf to grow up the culture again. If I feel I may need to harvest the culture again soon I add even more of the base mix to give me more worms to start out with. If you only do one spawn at a time, you only need to keep one bottle going. Because I do several spawns at a time I keep several bottles going at so there is always one or two ready to harvest.

Keeping your cultures producing a high amount of food is almost too easy. To maintain your cultures you will want to add a little sugar about once a month. That’s it. They don’t seem to get over populated and crash and can quickly reproduce a ton of worms quickly. Over time you will get some funk piling up on the bottom of your containers. I use a turkey baster to suck up the stuff in the honey jar and pour the tops of the bottles into a clean bottle and throw the rest down a drain. Even if not really maintained these worms will multiply like crazy. I have gotten busy and not had spawns for a few months and did absolutely nothing for their care. When I finally checked them the worms had produced thriving cultures with a gazillon worms.

When breeding bettas I remove the female the day I get eggs. Two days later I expect to have free swimming fry and will remove the male later that second evening. The morning of that second day after hatching I squirt a dropper full of vinegar eels into the spawn tank so there is some live food swimming for the fry to start feeding on. I continue to feed the vinegar eels for three to 4 days, untill I deplete the culture. They are fed at least twice a day, more often if I’m around the house until about the third day when I will add bbs [baby brine shrimp] as the evening meal. From that time on they are fed various micro worms in the morning then the bbs in the evening.

Getting your new-born fry off to a good start is very easy with vinegar eels. After all the work some times in getting a desired pair to breed, you want to make sure those fry make it to maturity. Of all the cultures I maintain, the vinegar eels are the easiest to grow. For less than a few minutes a month you can have plenty of tiny food to get your fry off to a good start.




September 17, 2011 Posted by | Feeding Bettas, Fry, Live Foods | , , , | 2 Comments


Things have finally settled down around the fish room and it is almost complete. We are building the last four barracks and they should all be online with fish in them in the next two weeks. With the completion of the fish room we getting a routine down to get the chores done. With the last barracks done the fish room will have room for 188 fish in the barracks, four 10 gallon tanks for growing fry from 4 to 8 weeks of age, one 55 gallon, two 20’s and two 30’s for growing out juvies at 8 weeks, another 30 gallon I keep females in and 5 spawn tanks. Keeping every body clean and maintained takes a bit of time and this is what we have settled into.

Raising quality bettas takes good breeding stock and lots of water changes. I run a ro [reverse osmosis] filter almost constantly when I am home. It runs into a 30 gallon trash can. As it fills I periodically pump it into the trash can in front of it that I mix in Kents RO Right to get the ph to 6.4-6.6. Both the plants and fish do better in remineralized water instead of the pure RO. In this trash can I have a pump with a long flexible hose that will reach any barrack or tank in the fish room. From that container I pump water into another 30 gallon trash can accross the room that I use for the barracks on that side of the room. From the trash cans with the reminerilized water I refill tanks and sumps after siphoning.

I have off Friday and Saturday and work business hours the other five days. Monday and Thursday nights the barracks get siphoned out and a major water change done. There are about 55 gallons running thru the big barracks and we like to change out 20 to 25 gallons of water. The smaller barracks run about 25 gallons in their system and I like to change out about 15 gallons in both of them. This takes about two hours to get them all done. We use a common gravel cleaner that I have removed the big tube on the end to siphon out tanks and barracks. Water is siphoned out into empty cat litter containers that hold 4-5 gallons of water. They have a handle and are easy to pick up and move. I used to use the larger cat litter containers that are more of a square bucket but they tended to be heavier and sloshed water. In time I will get a foot operated pump and just pump it out of a bucket and into a drain or out the back door. Right now with the drought I am taking the dirty water out and watering my plants and the shrubbery around my deck. Every thing in the apartment complex is dying and these guys are thriving. I go through a lot of water….

Wednesday and Friday I do water changes on the tanks. I try to change out 1/3 to 1/2 of the water volume on the 20’s and 30’s. The 55 gets 50% changed out once a week and the 10 gallon tanks are on an as needed basis. When I put fry into the 10’s I just dump the spawn tank into the 10 gallon and over the next few days I add a little water to bring the water level up to the top of the tank. I watch the bottom and make sure the snails are doing a good job cleaning any uneaten food. I may take air line tubing with an air lift tube on the end and siphon out funk that is accumulating on the bottom, but for the most part I leave it alone. Fry are still a bit small at this time and even this smaller siphon will tend to remove a few, and I don’t like having to net them that small to get them back in their tank. So I do as little as possible while watching for problems. By the second week in the 10’s I start to siphone the bottoms.. carefully, with the air line tubing siphon at first them moving to the regular siphon. I may only remove an inch or two of water to start.. then over the course of the month I work up to changing out 50% of the water every other day or so.

Once the fry hit 8 to 10 weeks I am looking to get them into a bigger tank. The larger tanks have been made ready by being drained, bleached and set up with a few inches of water. The 10 gallons get siphoned down and the fish are netted and moved into the bigger tanks. Over the next week or so the water level is raised and once again we start to siphon the bottom and get on the 1/3 to 1/2 water changes.

Spawn tanks really are not messed with much. After the spawn the female is removed. I count two days and expect to see fry hanging from the nest. Two days later and the fry should be free swimming. This is the day I remove the male. In the morning on the day I am to remove the male I add vinegar eels to the spawn tank. Later that evening I remove the male and once again add vinegar eels. The next morning there is another VE feeding then they fry are on the bbs [baby brine shrimp] evening feeding. I only feed the bbs once a day.. evening. Mornings I harvest my various micro worms into a small container of water and squirt a few eyedroppers of the solution into the tanks. I have had issues with loosing an entire spawn around this time from over feeding and an amonia spike so I add several mystery snails to handle extra food and I go a bit easier on the food these days. I can power grow them once they hit a month of age.

Fry tanks are really watched for  uneaten food and I like to take amonia readings every couple of days. I take a small eye dropper and carefully suck up anything that seems to be funky watching out for the fry. At about one week I drip fresh water in using about half a beanie of water and some airline tubing. I can place the beanie above the spawn tanks and start suction and water will run into the spawn tanks. Every other day or so we add half a beanie of water until the container is full.. then we start to carefully siphon with air line tubing and a lift tube. I will remove about 1/2 gallon into one of my gallon containers and set in on the counter to settle for a bit. I check and recheck looking for any fry that may have gotten accidently sucked up. If I do have one I use a deep measuring spoon to catch the bugger and return him to his tank. By the end of the month we are removing closer to a gallon and replacing it with fresh water.

We feed the fry twice a day. The morning feeding is a micro worm cocktail and the evening feeding is bbs. Once they get into the 10 gallon tanks I start to add some grindle worms with the evening bbs feeding. Some of the  worms are a bit too big, but the bettas will quickly devour the smaller one and really start to put on some size. As they grow I introduce frozen and live daphnia, mosquito larvae if I have it and smaller pellets. I have just started feeding chopped freeze dried earth worms so they get some of the finer powder resulting from the chopping process. I also have in the freezer some ground liver mixed with salmon and a few other things that I shave off chunks and feed. When they get to the larger grow outs they are introduce to larger pellets and bigger chunks of the earth worms. Live foods are fed if available as are frozen shrimp.

When we get to 10 weeks the boys are becoming obvious and they need pulled and placed in the barracks to keep fins from getting chewed up. Once they hit the barracks they get fed as often as I walk by.. and some days that is a lot. There is a definate morning and evening feeding.. but I also will throw in a few pellets here and there as I’m working aroud the fish room. They idea is to keep them eating with out stuffing them so they look like the ate a marble. With the increased feeding come increased waste, sooo.. we often do a major water change on Saturdays on barracks with Juvies in them.

When the fish get to adult hood they tend to get fed once a day in the evening. That is the guaranteed feeding anyway. Sometimes they will get tossed some more food if I’m working in the fish room or on my days off. If I’m wanting to breed a fish they will get twice a day feedings and more snacks like the Juvies get. Fish that are up for auction also get fed once a day. When a bid is placed on a fish we mark the front of the container SOLD and go lighter on their feeding. At least a day, preferably two days before a fish ships we do not feed them anything.. they are fasted to make sure they do not put waste in the shipping water to ensure they make the trip in good shape.

In addition to the fish we have cultures to maintain. The vinegar eels are easy. Once a month we add a bit of sugar and they take care of them selves. The various micro worms are harvested at least every other day and yeast is sprinkled over the top. Once a week we scrape off to the side some good worms and remove the rest of the oatmeal bedding. Fresh oatmeal is added and mixed with water and yeast is sprinkled over the top. A few hours later the culture is crawling with worms up the sides of the containers. Our grindle worms are a struggle right now to get established. Every day we mix in oatmeal and flip the culture to encourage the culture to grow. Don’t know if it is the heat or what.. but I never worked this hard on them when I was in Ohio. I’m hoping in a month of so to have the cultures producing well enough to feed to adults on a regular basis.

So far we have not had to break down any barracks for cleaning. The oldest have been up a year and they are still fine. They are not crystal clean like the day we set them up, but they are not where they need a complete cleaning. A tooth-brush removes the fuzzies that adhere to the plexi over time and my newly hatched snails takes care of most of the algae that I get bringing them up to a nice size for the baby and Juvie tanks. I’ve determined a once a month cleaning of the sump keeps things running well. The sump is drained down and the funk is removed. We also rinse the sponges and replace the charcoal pads.

A tooth brush is used daily to unplug any holes in the pvc dripping water into the barracks. This is a CONSTANT issue that I’m racking my pea brain to solve. I’m not sure what all gets up into the hose and plugs up the holes but it happens all the time. I have all my pumps wrapped in a fine filter media and we still get it. I went to PEX instead of pvc and monthly remove the pex and flush out what ever is in there. I can hook everything back up after cleaning the sump and within an hour I have some holes plugged up. Don’t know if finer material around pump or something different in the sump filter to catch the particulates will make the difference… but we are working towards a solution.

On average, I spend two hours every night and can spend several hours on a day off doing chores. But I also have four to five spawns in grow outs, four spawns in the 4-8 week stage and working another 4-5 spawn tanks. I enjoy the breeding and seeing the fish grow and mature into a thing of beauty so the time is well spent for me.

September 9, 2011 Posted by | Fish Room, Info You Can Use, Water Quality | , | 3 Comments