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By Clint Norwood
live blackworms
Live Blackworms, about twice lifesize. © Clint Norwood
Psst, want to get your fish in a spawning mood? Here's the trick, feed them some blackworms for about 3 or 4 days. Just about all aquarium fish love blackworms. They are a rich food but for conditioning or growth blackworms can't be beat.
Blackworms are a close relative of the more commomly known Tubifex worm. they are totally aquatic and usually live in nutrient rich bodies of water.
There are 2 camps when it comes to Blackworms. Some people blame the feeding of Blackworms for various fish ills that might pop up. But others including myself feel that clean live Blackworms are the perfect fish food. They're like fish manna, fish just love them. Some fish love them so much that they eat until they get sick, but a good aquarist knows not to overfeed. Some fish are a little smarter than others, or maybe less gluttonous and can handle a few extra Blackworms in the aquarium, and then they can eat their fill over a few days. Blackworms will live fine in an aquarium, but they usually don't last long because the fish will constantly seek them out.
Of course nothing comes too easy and Blackworms do have their drawbacks. One, they have to kept cold, that usually involves keeping them in your refrigerator until you're ready to feed them. And two, they are sometimes hard to find locally. I get mine over the internet from a California dealer. They are quite reasonably priced and shipped postpaid. Heres the link if you're interested, this is an unpaid endorsement. But if you are lucky you can find them at a local petshop.
The biggest problem I had was convincing the rest of the family that it is OK to keep them in "our" refrigerator.
yuck, whats this stuff
Blackworms in the frige, water for rinsing stored beside them.
© Clint Norwood
The reason for keeping them cold is to slow their metabolism down so they can be crowded into a managable container, and it extends their useful life. Maintainence involves rinsing the worms daily, that means EVERY day, even if you're not feeding them to your fish today, you still have to rinse the worms.
I keep the worms in a small plastic container that you can find in nearly any grocery store. I fill this container to about a 1/2 inch (1 cm) depth with tap water that has been cooled. Upon recieving the worms just rinse them once and place them in the container. I add several old brown oak leaves, an old fishkeepers trick, which greatly helps to keep the worms in good condition.

Blackworms with oak leaves
© Clint Norwood
Heres my "perfected" daily procedure: Elapsed time 1 minute, or less if you're quick. Now just take a leisurely stroll around to all the aquariums, feed the fish some tastey Blackworms and watch your fish become a pig.

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