White Worm Culture (Enchytraeus albidus)

Paul Bachhausen [ CC BY-SA 3.0 de ]

Paul Bachhausen [CC BY-SA 3.0 de]

White Worms, Enchytraeus albidus, are commonly cultured by aquarists as a form of live fish food. The wiggling motion of the White Worms in water makes them irresistible to even the pickiest eaters. The various applicability and acceptance of White Worms has led to its widespread popularity. The first large scale production of Enchytraeus albidus was conducted by the former Soviet Union in the 1940’s. When the high nutritional value of White Worms were discovered, they were readily applied to enhance the increasing efforts in fish culturing. The relative high protein content made the White Worms worthy of a weekly production of up to 300 kilograms, mainly for use as juvenile sturgeon feed. Extensive studies on the nutritional value and cultivation of White Worms were conducted in the former Soviet Union during this period. Today, Enchytraeus albidus are commonly used as a standard test organism in various biological and toxicological studies. Since White Worms are sensitive to chemical contamination and other stress factors, their population level and gene expression is used to determine the effects of stressors on the environment. In the aquaculture industry, White Worms are commonly cultured in various sectors as fish feed. Large scale production is implied to integrate White Worms in formulated fish diets as a quality stock enhancement. Live forms of White Worm are commonly used for feeding smaller specimen or juvenile specimen via worm feeders. Besides fish, White Worms are also used to feed frogs, newts, reptiles, birds, and larger invertebrates.


  • Length: 20 mm

  • Diameter: 1 mm

Nutritional Value

  • Protein: 70%

  • Lipids: 14.5%

  • Minerals: 5.5%

  • Carbohydrates: 10%

The use of White Worm for fish is very extensive. In fact, White Worms are one of the most valuable source of live food for fish and fish fry. The high protein content of White Worms enables peak growth rates for the most robust specimen. The particular size of White Worms makes them suitable for feeding fish that have outgrown smaller fish food such as Microworm, Baby Brine Shrimp, and Grindal Worms. The White Worms nutritional value consisting of high protein content makes them a great candidate for conditioning fish for breeding conditions. Spawning behavior of various species of fish can be triggered with the aid of White Worms. Since oligochaetes constitute a significant portion of food for fish in the wild, White Worms are a suitable food source to help mimic such natural environments.


White Worm Culture

Enchytraeus albidus are hermaphroditic, with each individual specimen consisting of both male and female reproductive organs. Each specimen will produce a cocoon filled with eggs. While cocoon produced by younger specimen contain only about 10 eggs, mature specimen will produce cocoon with over 20 eggs. There have been reports of cocoons with up to 35 eggs. The egg filled cocoon hatches in 12 days after fertilization. Within the next 20 days, the newly hatched offspring will start to produce cocoons as well. An average White Worm will produce approximately 1000 eggs in their lifespan. In ideal conditions, White Worms can reproduce very rapidly and increase their population exponentially. In order to establish a successful White Worm culture, it is important to understand the necessary parameters. A White Worm culture care must not be neglected in order to constantly produce a high volume of fish food. Productive cultures can provide an abundance of high quality live fish food and routinely feed an entire fish room. White Worms must be maintained in a cool dark environment. The optimum White Worm culture temperature range is 12 – 21 °C. The higher range of the scale will result in faster maturity. However, production will slow down past 21 °C and the population will decrease with temperatures nearing 30 °C. White Worms will also die at temperatures nearing 0 °C. Wine chillers and small refrigerators can be used to effectively control the temperature of a culture year round. A variety of containers can be used to culture White Worms. One popular option for White Worm cultures are shallow wooden boxes. Wooden materials allow great moisture control and aeration at the same time. Wooden boxes can be constructed from pine or plywood. Alternative materials such as plastic and Styrofoam containers can be used as well as long as proper drainage and ventilation is provided. The ventilation holes should not exceed 2 mm in order to prevent contamination. An alternative method to small ventilation holes is to provide a larger opening with a sponge or cloth barrier. Since plastic and Styrofoam materials prevent air flow, it is necessary to routinely mix the culture media. Another important component of the culture container is the lid. The lid will prevent contamination of insects such as ants, beetles, flies, and mites. More importantly, the lid will block light as White Worm dislike any form of light. In order to satisfy this condition, transparent containers should be largely avoided unless the culture will remain in a dark environment. White Worm culture media should contain a high portion of organic matter. A pH of 6.8 – 7.2 is considered the optimum range, resulting in peak production levels. White Worms will not survive any acidic soils with pH levels below 5. In order to provide such conditions, there are various types of White Worm culture medium that can be used. The most common type of culture media for a White Worm culture is a soil based media. This consists of a 1:1 mixture of soil and peat moss. Potting soil with any addition of chemical fertilizers, sterilizers, or pesticides should be avoided as it will ultimately be passed onto the fish. Soil with a sandy or clay-like texture should be avoided as it will not provide proper aeration. Light soil with a mixture of coarse material is suitable as it will remain loose under moist conditions and provide adequate air flow. Soil for plant seedlings are specifically designed to maintain moisture and remain loose at the same time. It is recommended to test the acidity of the mixture before application for best results. If the soil pH is acidic, the ratio of the peat moss can be reduced. The acidity can also be reduced by boiling the peat moss prior to adding it into the mixture. The latter method is more favorable as the ratio of the mixture will not be altered. While peat moss can slightly lower the pH of the culture media, it is highly beneficial to the culture as it provides superior moisture retention and control. If the soil in the culture media is from an outdoor source, it should be thoroughly searched for any contamination before adding it to the mixture. Small insects and larvae in the soil should be removed. Since outdoor soil often contains many small organisms such as mites that are difficult to detect to the naked eye, it is recommended to dry the soil out completely to get rid of them. In order to thoroughly dry out the soil, spread the soil out to a thin layer under strong sunlight for a few days. A quick way to get rid of small mites in the soil is the microwave the soil. Purchasing the soil may be easier since soil from hardware stores and garden centers are treated prior to packaging. It is possible to culture White Worms with a soil-less culture media as well. Some of the options for a soil-less culture media include coconut fiber and sponge. The advantage of soil-less culture is the ease of maintaining cleanliness. However, a soil-less culture generally requires more attention and frequent maintenance since it lacks moisture retention. For White Worm cultures, the culture media should be maintained very moist at all times. Thus, the application of an inner surface cover is helpful. The surface cover can make harvesting the White Worms easier as well. Any flat material such as a thin piece of glass or plastic can be gently applied on the surface. The moisture retention is crucial since dry culture media will result in lower production rates and will ultimately result in the culture crashing. However, the moisture level must not be too wet either in order to maintain necessary air flow. A wet culture will produce an anaerobic environment which will also cause the culture to crash very quickly. Thus, a moist culture media with aeration must be maintained at all times. White Worms should be fed at the surface of the culture media for better monitoring of the culture condition and easier harvesting as well. By placing a flat piece of glass or plastic on the feeding surface, the food underneath will maintain the necessary moisture for the White Worm to feed on it. The feeding amount should be relative to the size of the population in the culture. Overfeeding must be avoided as an excess of food can rot and cause a variety of issues. At the same time, White Worm cultures should not be left without food for extended periods of time in order to maintain peak production level. Thus, the key is to provide small frequent feedings. Small frequent feedings are especially important for newly establishing cultures. The type of food can also determine the amounts of food that can be fed. Foods that are prone to rapid deterioration should be fed to only last a couple days. On the other hand, foods less prone to rotting such as dry food can be fed in larger quantity to last longer. The following is a list of food that can be fed to White Worms:

  • Bread Soaked in Milk/Yogurt

  • Oatmeal

  • Trout Feed

  • Dry Cat Food

  • Mash Potato

In order to harvest White Worms lightly place a flat material on the surface of the culture. By placing a source of food under the flat material, White Worms will gather in the area and climb on the surrounding flat surface. In order to harvest, lift the flat material and scrap the worms off the surface. Alternatively, if a mesh surface is placed on the surface, the White Worms will gather in a mound on the top of the mesh where the food was placed. This method is highly efficient since it make it possible to collect a large amount of White Worms without the soil. It is advisable to feed White Worms in a bare bottom tank. Otherwise, feed slowly through a pipette or a worm feeder. White Worms will remain alive in underwater for several hours. As with all foods, uneaten White Worms should be removed in order to prevent water pollution. Lastly, one must be careful not to overfeed since fish will greedily feed on White Worms. Regular maintenance is crucial in order to maintain peak production levels in a White Worm culture. Without regular maintenance, a culture can quickly crash resulting from various issues. While examining a White Worm culture, it is important to pay special attention to the moisture level of the culture media. If the soil is too dry, the worms will burrow deep into the soil and ignore the food. When the soil is too wet, aeration of the culture media may be affected. In addition, it is important to regularly monitor the food level and any other irregularity. Some of the common issues with White Worm cultures are mites and mold. White Worm mites are very common especially in cultures with a soil based medium. While it can be difficult to completely eliminate mites in a soil based culture, mites population can be controlled effectively through a variety of methods. While manually removing individual mites can be a tedious task, clumps of mite populations can be removed while they are congregating on a food source. Another method of removing mites in White Worm culture is to temporarily flood the entire culture. Mites can be effectively removed from the culture as they float on the surface of the water. For a culture with excessive mites, re-culturing may be a better option. While removal of mites are necessary at times, the key is to control the population of mites by moisture control and preventing excessive food left over. In order to achieve a completely mite-free White Worm culture, a soil-less culture is more realistic. Another common issue with White Worm culture is mold. Similarly to mites, mold can be controlled by moisture control and preventing excessive food left over.

Posted on July 23, 2019 and filed under Journal, Guide.