Vinegar eels are a common first food for the fry of many aquarium fish. Luckily, they are easy to culture and maintain. If it's something you've never done before or or aren't sure of how to get started, we're here to help.
Vinegar eels offer several other benefits (besides being easy), including being smaller than most nematodes, being virtually maintenance-free, lasting longer than some other live foods in the tank, and moving through the entire water column. Let's get started.
- Apple cider vinegar
- 1 clear bottle that has been washed out (a wine bottle is a great choice)
- 1 apple thoroughly washed to avoid any contamination and cut into pieces small enough to fit inside the bottle
- Dechlorinated water
- Vinegar eel starter culture
- Fill bottle halfway with apple cider vinegar
- Add water until bottle is about 2/3 full
- Add apple pieces
- Add vinegar eel starter culture
- Fill with more water up to the base of the bottle's neck
- Cover the top; there are several methods you can use for this step: use nylon mesh or netting, cut or poke a small air hole into the lid, or use a paper towel and secure it around the top with a rubber band.
- Store at room temperature, either in a dark cabinet or a shelf that isn't in direct sun (the pantry works well for me)
At this time, you will need to let the culture mature for 2-4 weeks before havesting.
When you're ready to harvest:
- Add filter floss (a cotton ball will also work) to the base of the bottle's neck so that it touches the liquid
- Fill the rest of the bottle neck gently with water, leaving a small amount of space at the top for air
- Wait 8-24 hours (overight is usually convenient) and the vinegar eels will travel through the filter floss and into the new water, which is prevented from mixing with the vinegar solution by the cotton/floss barrier
- Use a pipette or eyedropper to suck water from the bottleneck and squirt it into the aquarium.
- Replace the water used.
Back up plan
Some people will split the apple pieces and vinegar eel starter culture in half and follow the same steps to make a main culture and a backup culture. This is a good idea to provide some insurance, but of course, it's not necessary if you prefer to put them all in one bottle.
A culture will typically last for quite a while - the apples begin to break down in about 6 months' time, which is a good time to start a new culture, or to begin using your backup culture if you made one.
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