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Words to the Wise

on Raising

Vinegar Eels

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Vinegar Eels for the home Aquarium
Alden Smith

Live foods are an important part of the tropical fish diet.
Raising vinegar eels is easy, and provides a nutritious meal for
young fry.

It is a well known fact that feeding live food to your fishes
will help them to grow better, show better coloration, and
improve vigor. Fish love a variety of foods, and live foods are
more closely related to what they feed on in their natural
habitat. Although raising live foods can take up a small amount
of space, and a bit of your time, the results in seeing your fish
thrive are well worth it!

Vinegar eels are basically fry food, and very easy to grow. They
are not really eels, but are classified as a minute nematode worm
Turbatrix aceti. and feed on vinegar or acidic,
fermenting vegetable matter. These tiny roundworms are
bilaterally symmetrical, approximately .08 in. (2 mm) long, and
lives for around 10 months with a minimum effort of care.

To cultivate, fill a gallon jar with a quart of
undistilled apple cider vinegar, a quart and a half of
aged cool tap water, and an apple cut into 6 sections. If your
water is typically hard, increase the apple cider vinegar to a
60% ratio. Introduce your vinegar eel culture to the container,
and cover with a piece of cloth, held in place by a rubber band
to keep flies out of the culture.

The media will need to be replenished about once a month, due to
some evaporation and loss from harvesting the eels.

Culturing the eels is very low maintenance, as they have no
temperature requirements and a long life span. One consideration
is odor, for the apple cider vinegar will smell a bit like a
winery, and some may find it objectionable!

Be patient with the culture, as it may take up to a month for the
culture to be strong enough to see the eels in large numbers.
When you are able to see them in quantity, it is time to harvest
and feed to your fishes.

Harvesting vinegar eels is perhaps the most challenging part of
the whole process. The easiest way to accomplish this is to draw
the eel laden fluid up with a small baster, such as is used for
basting chicken or turkey. Transfer this liquid into a funnel
lined with a coffee filter placed over the opening of the culture
jar to return the excess fluid to the container. When you feel
that you have harvested enough for a feeding, gently rinse the
coffee filter under a stream of cold fresh water for several
minutes. Swish the inverted filter in your tank, and feed the
fishes. If feeding several tanks, swish the filter in a beaker of
water, and feed the eels using an eyedropper.

Vinegar eels will stay near the surface of the water, so aren't
good food for bottom feeders. Surface feeders such as rainbowfish
will benefit greatly from feeding vinegar eels, but a lot of
cichlid fry are bottom feeders. This is why a variety of live
foods is important to feeding fry.

If you do not feed vinegar eels on a regular basis, don't worry.
The culture will keep indefinitely for a year with little care
needed. A couple of times per year, thin out the culture by using
a coffee filter and funnel, remove about half the media, and
replace with fresh media in the proper ratio. You can then gift a
fellow aquarist with the culture to begin a vinegar eel colony of
their own.

Alden Smith is a published author who has been marketing on the
internet for over 7 years. His website, , is a resource for articles, software
and information on the tropical fish hobby. Visit his website
for more information on live foods, tracking software, and
articles on the tropical fish hobby, especially if interested in
raising discus fish. Weekly articles are posted, along with
updates for Fish Minder software.

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