Fishkeeping Tips 5: Vinegar Eels

       Understood to have been the scourge of winemakers for millennia, vinegar eels are not an eel at all,
         but a very small nematode that will grow by the hundreds of thousands with almost no care. They are
         ideal for any fry in the first few weeks of life. I feed them to all egg layer fry, such as the Puntius padamya
         until the fry are large enough for brine shrimp.
         Kept by many hobbyists and offered from this site, they can be maintained in any type of bottle or jar of
         about 2 quarts or more. Once you have obtained a culture, fill your intended container with half regular
         apple vinegar and half distilled water, starting the culture off as cleanly as possible. Into that, drop 6-8
         slices of raw apple. Add your new culture.
         Store on a shelf out of direct light at room temperature, and that culture will last 4-6 months  with no further
         attention than to add vinegar and water when it evaporates. As the container fills with eels the water will
         appear cloudy. The population will regulate itself if you don't feed from it. Provide some access to air
         through holes drilled into a loose fitting top. Storing them without a top on the container is a great way to
         catch flies, which will foul the mix. Simply start a new culture in a new vinegar water mix with new apple
         slices. When it begins to "go bad,"- the apple pieces on the bottom of the cultures begin to break down-
         I generally start fresh cultures and clean out the old containers, about every 5 or 6 months. The cultures
         don't smell, and when not being used are fine being ignored until they are needed.

         Though they are not fed other than from the bacteria that digest the apple slices, they are a surprisingly
         nutritious food for young egg layer fry, and when compared to the culture of microworms or paramecium
         (Other foods that also serve this purpose), I find the vinegar eels to be far more convenient and dependable.
         However, though the eels do reproduce rapidly, I keep a number of 2 liter bottles going to meet my needs.
         I find that it takes about 5 days for eels to repopulate a bottle enough to provide a fair feeding, and when
         feeding a 40 gallon breeder tank of 300 odessa fry for the first week of their life, I will feed from 3 two liter
         bottles per feeding, and do that 3 times per day. (Each feeding followed by a 50% water change- see Breeding
         Odessa Barbs) To maintain enough culture so that each bottle has 4-5 days to recover between feedings, I
         maintain about 30 2 liter bottles, which takes a fair amount of space. Because I raise batches of fry frequently,
         about every 5 months I will redo all of the vinegar eel cultures, using about a quarter of each bottle to seed the
         next batch, then setting up the new cultures with fresh vinegar, water and apple slices. I then give them about
         2 weeks before feeding from them again.

         I have found two ways to feed them to the fish that work. You can filter them through a coffee filter by pushing
         a filter into a small rounded plastic container with the bottom cut out (See Video). Sit that over another
         receptacle and pour the vinegar mix through it, then rinse the vinegar eels off the filter into another container
         holding clean water, then feed with a turkey baster. The other way is to run an electrical tie through 1/2" wide
         green scrubby pad strips (The kind bought at any grocery store that we all use to wipe algea off glass), and
         leave them hanging in the vinegar mix. When you need to feed, simply shake the strips in some fresh water
         and feed as before, hanging the scrubby strips back in the vinegar mix when done. The eels populate the
         surface area of the strips and come off easily when shaken in the fresh water. To save on shipping, combine
         with an order of fish for no extra shipping charge. Below is a pic of how I keep my vinegar eels:



                            The Vinegar Eels, ready to be used.


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