Banana Worms as Live Fish Food: The Ultimate Guide


What are Banana Worms?

Banana Worms (Panagrellus Nepenthicola) are a small nematode which is often cultured as live fish food for fish fry. They are not parasitic and are completely harmless to humans. Of the various types of small worms raised for fish food, Banana Worms are one of the smallest. This tiny species only grows to 1/16 of an inch or less. The small size makes them a great choice for tiny fish fry which might have a problem eating other, larger live foods. Banana Worms occur in many places including sap from tree wounds, wheat paste and on saturated felt beer mats. These worms are a healthy choice for fish so long as the colony they’re harvested from isn’t moldy or spoiled.

Use of Banana Worms as Live Fish Food

Banana Worms are some of the smallest fry food worms you can raise. This makes them an excellent choice for Betta as these fry are very tiny and have a hard time eating larger foods such as brine shrimp. Betta fry aren’t the only type of fish which can eat Banana Worms as a first food. Any fish with small fry can benefit from Banana Worms like Guppies, Angelfish, Neon Tetras, Barbs and Danios. Brine shrimp are a common first food but they can be larger than some tiny fry can handle. While most fry will grow to the point where they can eat brine shrimp, small feed worms are an excellent choice when fish fry are very young. Feeding with Banana Worms is easy and only involves wiping some from the sides of their growing containers and rinsing directly into the fry tank. It is important to not overfeed as Banana Worms only live for 12 hours or less in water. Uneaten worms will die and might spoil tank water. Make sure you feed fry more than one type of food. A varied diet is the best choice for healthy fish fry.

Banana Worms
Banana Worms

How to Culture Banana Worms

Banana Worms are easy to cultivate. You only need a few pieces of equipment to start producing this popular fish fry food. We’ve put together a list of all you’ll need to know to get started.

1. Assemble your equipment to grow Banana Worms

Growing Banana Worms is simple but you’ll need Banana Worm starter culture, plain instant mashed potatoes, small plastic containers with tight lids and tall sides and RODI, bottled, or other un-chlorinated water. You can use Banana worm starter you’ve purchased, or use some from an older batch that isn’t producing worms but hasn’t gone moldy. Getting plain instant mashed potatoes is critical. Don’t try to use any mashed potatoes with flavorings or other added ingredients. Read labels carefully to verify that you’re using a pure product.

2. Prepare Banana Worm growing containers

Your Banana Worm cultures need to get fresh air but must be sealed to prevent the worms from crawling out and prevent insects from getting in and causing an infestation. Cut vents in your container lids and tape a piece of coffee filter or filter floss over these holes. Make sure the filter material you choose is sealed on all sides with tape. It’s possible for Banana Worm cultures to fail because of an infestation from outside insects, so properly covering the air vents is very important. You’ll also need to add dates to your cultures so you know how long each has been growing. Most people have more than one Banana Worm culture growing from different start dates and it’s important to keep track of the individual ages of every culture.

3. Growing Banana Worms

When you’re ready to start a new culture, first spread a half-inch layer of instant mashed potatoes in the bottom of a prepared culture container. Next, add enough bottled or RODI water and mix to form the consistency of fluffy mashed potatoes. Make sure the mix isn’t runny as it’s possible to drown your Banana Worms if there’s too much liquid. Some people add yeast to this mix but that’s probably unnecessary. Finally, spread some of your Banana Worm starter culture over the surface of this mix. If you haven’t already, label this container with the date and what type of worm you’re growing if you are growing multiple varieties of fry food worms. This container can be stored at room temperature but keep it out of direct sunlight. Clear walled containers can act like mini greenhouses and heat from direct sunlight can build up, killing your colony. Keep an eye on your batches over time, and be ready to discard any that are getting moldy, infested with insects, or smelling spoiled. Never risk feeding your fish fry with worms from batches which are moldy or unhealthy.

4. Harvesting Banana Worms to feed fish fry

As your Banana Worm batches mature you’ll eventually see the tiny worms crawling up the side walls of their container. Using your finger or a cotton swab, wipe some of the worms off the inside wall and rinse them directly into your fry tank. Don’t overfeed your fry as any uneaten worms will die and can spoil tank water. Banana Worms will live around 8 to 12 hours in water so take this into account when planning how much to feed. As always, never feed your fry with Banana Worms from batches which have become moldy or look spoiled.

5. Starting new Banana Worm cultures

Once you become comfortable growing Banana Worms you’ll likely want to start more cultures. This is also important because batches can fail and you’ll want backups to make sure your fish fry have enough food. Luckily you don’t need to buy more starter culture and can use worms from previous batches to create new ones. These don’t have to be fresh cultures as even older cultures often have enough worms to start a new batch. It is important to only use batches that aren’t moldy or which look spoiled. Don’t contaminate a new Banana Worm batch with mold from a failed container. You can reuse your growing containers as long as they are thoroughly cleaned first. Inspect the filter material over the air vents for any signs of damage and replace if necessary.

Where to find Live Banana Worms for sale

You can find Banana Worm starter cultures online or from local fish stores. If you know some other local fish breeders they may already have some cultures going, and can provide starter culture for your batches. Depending on the source, prices for Banana Worm starter cultures range from $20 USD to only $5 USD. It is difficult to collect Banana Worms from the wild, so always use a good quality starter culture from a reputable source. Trying to start form batches from soil is also difficult and it’s hard to know if you are growing the right kind of species. There are other organisms which live in soil and it’s easy to start a colony of something which might harm your valuable fish fry. It’s best to always start your Banana Worm cultures from quality starter.

Banana Worms vs Microworms

Banana Worms are much smaller than Microworms (Panagrellus redivivus), and are the best choice for very tiny fish fry who may have difficulty eating larger foods. However, both types of worm are common fry foods and both can be grown using the same instant mashed potato mix. While the nutritional profile of Banana Worms and Microworms is similar, some breeders will raise more than one type of worm to give their fish fry a varied diet. Microworms are very common and they are the easiest type of small feed worm to find starter culture for. Once you master raising Banana Worms you’ll know everything you need to know to branch out into raising Microworms.

Banana Worms vs Walter Worms

Banana Worms are smaller than Walter Worms and also much more common. Walter Worm starter culture is harder to find and can be more expensive. Both types of worm have a similar nutritional profile and both are smaller than other common feed worms, so deciding to feed one over the other will depend on personal preference. Like all feed worms it is easy to start new cultures from existing batches so the initial cost of Walter Worm starter is less of a deciding factor.

Banana Worms vs Vinegar Eels

While Banana Worms can be raised in a mix of instant mashed potatoes, Vinegar Eels grow in a solution of unfiltered apple cider vinegar, un-chlorinated water, and apple slices. Because of more expensive ingredients, Vinegar Eels are more costly to raise but offer some advantages over Banana Worms. Vinegar Eels live and swim longer in water which gives fish fry a longer time to find and eat them. Banana Worms only live 12 or fewer hours so the risk of spoiling tank water with dead, uneaten worms is greater. Vinegar Eels are also more complicated to harvest but the colonies will hold and be ready for harvest longer than Banana Worms. Some breeders feel that Vinegar Eels are a more healthy choice for their fry’s first food.

Fish Laboratory

With decades of collective fishkeeping experience, we are happy to share the fish care tips that we've picked up along the way. Our goal at Fish Laboratory is to keep publishing accurate content to help fishkeepers keep their fish and aquarium healthy.

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