Fishkeeping Tips 3: Red Worms

     Red worms are your basic fishing earthworms. Most sources state they are a complete diet for fish and nearly
      the best food you can feed them. In my opinion they may also be the easiest live food to maintain- I have kept
      these on and off for many years and have found shortcuts that have made it incredibly easy and very low
      maintenance, with a high return.
      I keep them in covered (small holes drilled in lid) plastic tub-style containers with moist peat- at about 
      the crumbliness of a medium, moist cake. I have found that the depth needs to be greater than 6 inches-
      about 8 to 12 inches seems to work best. They will live and thrive in shallower containers, but they don't
      reproduce. For food I purchase 5 lb. bags of chicken feed- I've had the best success with the
      "egg hatching mix" (Crumble, not pellet, as the pellets are much tougher to grind up), the "grow out mix"
      will also work. In a food processor, grind up into quantities you'll use, fully grinding it down to a fine
      powder (which the worms can eat easily). Each day (or each time the surface of the soil becomes all
      dark again) sprinkle the chicken feed powder lightly over the surface of the peat. Until the worms are
      numerous enough to eat all that you feed every day, the feed can mold slightly- I simply brush my
      fingertips along the surface to work it into the peat and simply re-feed. The mold, however, is much less
      than if you were to be feeding bread slices and other things I have heard that people use. The chicken
      feed is fairly neat, without any smell, and is both inexpensive and easy to find at agricultural food stores.
      To obtain the initial culture there are many online red worm farms where, including shipping, you will only pay 
      about $25 for1000 worms (1 lb.). Because I am at a higher altitude I have found that I have the best luck with
      cultured worms that are locally grown and available at bait shops, gardening shops, some pet stores and
      hardware stores that carry fishing tackle. Red Worms reproduce quickly, and generally double in number
      about every 90 days.
      Keep the remainder of the feed refrigerated, if possible. It'll last about 90 days at room temperature, longer
      when refrigerated or frozen. Many places may require you to buy it in a minimum sized 50lb. bag., but it is
      very inexpensive. I pay about $1.75 for 5 lbs, and a 50 lb. bag is just under $14.00. Try finding a place with
      an open bag that will sell it by the pound. Once I had to buy a 50 lb. bag, getting rid of the excess by taking
      5 lb. bags and starter cultures of earthworms to local fish meetings!

      When the soil becomes heavy with castings (an excellent plant soil), I will rotate out about half of the soil. 
      I tend to believe the worms do best when they are not disturbed- I used to aerate the soil weekly or so to 
      keep it loose, but do not believe the worms did as well. Results can be seen almost immediately following
      daily feedings of chopped worms. Fish fill out quickly- particularly egg laying females being conditioned,
      and batch size for livebearers will increase. After feeding be sure to siphon up any that isn't eaten.
      The only unpleasant task with red worms is the actual chopping up of the worms to be fed. The worms must
      be rinsed off, and then chopped up small enough for the fish to eat easily. Larger fish will be able to eat 
      them whole. Some people will first freeze the worms, then thaw as many as they need to feed, cutting them up
      then. There are devices available to help with this, but I use a plastic cutting board and a one-sided razor blade
      to chop up fresh worms quickly, when they are at their highest nutritional value for the fish. I am working toward
      raising the worms in larger quantities, then grinding them up, and freezing the worm paste mixed with a gel that
      can be easily cut and fed in measured portions.

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