Harvest MILLIONS of Microworms

Dear fellow aquarium enthusiasts:

I only recently bumped into this site as a result of my search for a microworm culture. Only then did I learn of this valuable resource to share ideas and experiences. Well, I would like to share with all of you an incredible harvesting technique that I just discovered.

I used to grow microworms many years ago when I had over a dozen tanks in my parents home. I found them to be a very valuable live food for young fry. Now I am showing my children then joy of keeping an aquarium and breeding. I remember never being able to harvest enough worms for all my young. In an effort to increase my harvest, I would always have 6 -12 cultures going.

The time tested method of harvesting these worms is to scrape them off of the side of the container as they climb out of the medium. Indeed, this is what I did many years ago and it is also the instructions I received from Clint when I ordered my culture. However, if you have kept microworms before, you have observed the same thing as me – most of the worms are on the surface of the medium. Only a small fraction of them actually climb out to be harvested. Of course, if you try to harvest off the top of the culture, you will also get an unacceptable amount of the medium which you do not want to put in your tanks.

A little background: I used to grow the worms only in a corn meal culture. We put this in plastic shoe boxes which were great because they were large and clear with covers. Per the instructions that Clint provided, I saw that you could also use other material such as oatmeal. So, from the starter culture I bought, I started two cultures; one in oatmeal and one in corn meal. I wanted to see which would work better (provide the most worms). These were both put in large plastic shoe box size containers.

Both cultures grew well. However, even after 8 days of growth, there were not many worms climbing up the sides. Sure, there were millions of worms in each culture but they were mostly on top. I tried many things to harvest more worms but always got too much oatmeal or corn meal. So, after two days of experimenting, I tried something “revolutionary.” In fact, it worked so well, I believe it could become the new standard for harvesting these worms. Would you believe that at each feeding, I actually harvested MORE worms than I could use. But now I just take less by choice. Here’s the technique:

First, wait until your culture has reached maturity (has a gazillion worms crawling all over it). Then cut a piece of paper towel to fit over about half of the culture surface. You can decide later if you want to use more or less towel. The size of the towel will determine your harvest size. Now thoroughly wet the towel in fresh water and squeeze it so it is just damp. You are going to lay this towel over the top of the culture. We dampen the towel so as not to deplete the moisture in the culture. If you see your culture getting dry, just add water. Now, cover it and just wait a few hours. I let mine wait overnight the first time I tried it. In this time, worms will cover the surface of the towel. Now just remove the towel. It will be literally saturated with worms. The towel comes out virtually “clean.” It comes out a bit cleaner from the oat meal culture but I believe the corn meal culture provides more worms. Rinse the towel in a cup or two of clean water. It usually takes me two cups of water just to rinse the towel to the point where it looks like it is free of worms. Then I finish rinsing the towel in one of my fry tanks. Even after taking the vast majority of worms off of the towel and then dipping the “empty” towel in a tank, I am probably overfeeding this first tank (thousands of worms still on the towel). Next, I pour the cups containing the worms through a #2 cone coffee filter that I put in a second cup. I rinse this through 2-3 times. What is left is millions of worms in the coffee filter that you can use to feed more fry than most of us will ever have.

I took a photo of ONE of my worm harvests from one culture. It is an unbelievable sight.
I weighed the harvest – it was OVER ½ ounce of worms without any debris. I had so much left over that I fed my adult tanks with it also.

Bill is still working on perfecting his new harvesting technique and has recently sent me this update:

Hey, I actually improved on the “millions of microworms” harvesting method described in the article you put on your web site for me. It totally eliminates the process of filtering the worms through a coffee filter. Although filtering works, I have found over time that sometimes the filter “clogs” and it takes a long time to get the worms “purified”. Also, some of the worms go through the filter and are lost. Check this out – imagine being able to dip a teaspoon and get ONLY worms. No filtering, no trouble whatsover.

Here’s my final setup:
Get a worm culture going the normal way. Although my original article indicated that I thought the oatmeal was a better medium than cornmeal, I now prefer cornmeal (it stinks less, it seems to work better and it lasts longer).
So …
1) Get a cornmeal worm culture started and wait until it is going strong.
2) Lay a paper towel over the well-populated culture (same as before). Sprinkle a few teaspoons of fresh water on top.
3) Wait until you see the worms in abundance on top of the towel (same as before).
4) Now, instead of removing the towel, leave it in place. Just use a spoon to gently scrape the worms right off of the towel. You get no cornmeal (or just a couple of specs). From my experience, you can leave the towel in place (as long as you don’t tear it which if you do, just buy a stronger towel, not the cheap store brand) for the LIFE of the culture. This works better because it doesn’t disturb the culture and the only worms disturbed are the ones you harvest. The culture continues without interruption – there is no “recovery” time (such as when you remove the towel). I have harvested 3-4 teaspoons of pure worms EACH DAY from each shoe box size culture. Each of my cultures goes about 3 weeks – some a little longer. When my kids say it stinks too much (I’m used to it), I get some new ones going.
5) For each teaspoon of culture you remove, replace with an equal amount of pure water right on top of the towel.

That’s it! My cultures are working so well I could probably start feeding my adult population if these worms weren’t so small. Thought you might want to share this with your readers as well. As good as the first method was, this is even better still. I don’t plan any more improvements because I don’t see any room. I’m harvesting worms as simply as taking frozen food out of a packet. It doesn’t get any easier than this (unless you can get the worms to jump into the aquarium too :)))
Regards – Bill Wedekind

Article written by © Bill Wedekind