Bloodworms for fish are very popular, but why? Are they better fed to your fish as live food or as freeze-dried or indeed frozen?
In this article all about bloodworms for tropical fish, we cover all aspects of this popular fish food and see if and why you should be feeding it to your fish.
What are bloodworms?
Bloodworms are known as great food to feed your fish, they are the larvae of a non-biting midge Chironomid. This is a type of fly that is harmless to humans and animals. They are small red worms often found in rivers and ponds which fish love to eat.
The fly is less harmless than the larvae itself, it is carnivorous and has a large proboscis with hollow jaws. They contain poisonous venom that easily kills other larvae and small insects and have been known to bite humans which hurts but won’t kill you.
There is another type of worm called bloodworms that come from the genus Glycera. These are more commonly known as Bristleworms and are found in shallow waters. They can also reach 14″ in length.
However, the bloodworms most people feed to their fish are the small red larvae ones and not the worms.
What fish eat bloodworms?
All fish that are carnivores or omnivores will eat bloodworms. Both Freshwater and Saltwater fish can eat them but normally live bloodworms are fed to freshwater tropical fish more than saltwater fish.
Bloodworms are high in protein but they lack other essential amino acids, minerals and vitamins; so they should be used in conjunction and alongside your normal fish flakes, pellets and other foods.
One fish that can eat more than its fair share of bloodworms are Bettas. They need and like a food that is more protein-rich, which Bloodworms are.
If you’d like to know more about other types of fish food, I would suggest you read our in-depth fish food guide. It will help you find a balanced diet for your fish which should include bloodworms.
Where do bloodworms live?
Bloodworms can be found in shallow water and wet/damp areas throughout the world. They are not limited to any particular areas of the world.
They can live in this larvae stage for 3 to 5 years. Once they hatch into midget flies, they only live for as little as 1 day and no longer than two weeks. They are not even born with mouths as their sole purpose in life is to lay more egg before they die.
Are Bloodworms safe to handle?
Most species in the Glycera genus will bite and that includes Bloodworms. They won’t harm you longterm but there have been known cases where people have had allergic reactions from feeding bloodworms by hand to their fish.
Their bite has been compared to a bee sting. To be safe we always advise that you wear gloves when feeding any live foods to your fish to avoid being bitten or experiencing an allergic reaction.
Should you use live or freeze-dried/frozen?
There are three ways to feed bloodworms to your fish. Live, frozen and freeze-dried. All have different benefits and drawbacks. Let’s see which type of bloodworms is best to feed to your fish.
Freeze Dried Bloodworms
These are the most convenient type of bloodworms to feed to your fish as they have a long shelf life, are easy to use and less messy than frozen or live.
However, they have less nutritional value compared to frozen or live bloodworms. One of the benefits is that these bloodworms float on the top of the water if fed to your fish straight from the tub. This gives top feeders a chance to grab some before they sink to the bottom and are eaten up by all your catfish.
If you have more mid or bottom feeders you can simply soak the freeze dried bloodworms for a few minutes before you feed them to your fish. This will ensure they sink quicker.
Top Tip: Freeze-dried bloodworms are sold in two formats. Grade A and Grade B. Grade A are more expensive but worth the small extra cost as they of more nutritional value for your fish.
We feed our fish Omega One Freeze Dried Bloodworms as they have a high protein content and are rich in vitamins and minerals.
Before these bloodworms are processed and frozen, they are fed vitamins and mineral enriched foods until they are big and fat and when they are almost at bursting point, they are then frozen.
This ensures they have the highest protein content possible. The downside of frozen bloodworms is that they contain a large portion of water within the blocks or sheets. This can pollute a smaller fish tank if you drop the block directly into the tank without defrosting them.
How to prepare frozen Bloodworms: Place the frozen bloodworms into a small cup of lukewarm water and allow to defrost for a few minutes. Then drain the excess water through a fish net and feed them to your fish.
Never overfeed your fish with any food and especially live foods. If you do, you will need to remove the excess food and perform a partial water change immediately.
Live bloodworms are the best form of bloodworms to feed to your fish. However, it’s not the most convenient way to feed your fish bloodworms for a number of reasons.
They have a shorter shelf live compared to frozen and Freeze dried and you need to drain the water off and wash them before feeding them to your fish.
The best place to buy bloodworms is from a reputable fish/pet store. These will have been cultivated in the best possible way to eliminate the risk of introducing disease or infection into your tank.
However, bloodworms purchased in small bags will only live for a short period. The shelf life of bagged bloodworms is only one week. Therefore you will need frequent trips to the local pet store.
How to feed live bloodworms to your fish: Drain the bag of water that contains the bloodworms through a net then rinse them under the tap for a few seconds. Then feed them to your fish. if you use your hands remember to wear gloves as they can bite!
You can use a live food feeder like the one below. These make it easier for all your fish to receive a far share of the food and less messy.
How often should you give your fish Bloodworms?
Bloodworms are very high in protein and can cause poor health in your fish if you feed it to them too often.
Only feed bloodworms to your fish two or three times a week maximum and never feed them more than they can consume in 60 seconds.
Feeding your fish a varied diet is key to ensuring they thrive in your aquarium and live long and happy lives.
Should I defrost frozen bloodworms?
Yes, if you are using frozen bloodworms always defrost them first and wash away the excess juice before feeding them to your fish.
If you’re using freeze-dried bloodworms the opposite will be required. You’ll need to rehydrate the bloodworms before feeding them to your fish unless you’re happy for them to float on top of your fish tank for a few minutes before they start to sink as they soak up aquarium water.
How long do bloodworms live?
Bloodworms can live between 3 to 5 years in the larvae state. As mature flies hatch it’s less than two weeks and as little as 24 hours.
Are bloodworms good for fish
The simple answer is Yes, if given in the correct quantity and you don’t overfeed them at anyone time.
Bloodworms contain a lot of iron and protein which is great for your fish as long as you control the amount they receive daily. It can cause constipation in some fish if the level of protein is too high.
And remember bloodworms should be fed as part of a balanced diet and not solely as their main foods as they lack essential vitamins and minerals.
The only risk from feeding your fish bloodworms is from them carrying infection and disease. Therefore buying them from a reputable dealer or breeding them yourself is recommended.
Other suitable freeze-dried foods for fish
There are a number of foods that you should feed to your fish as part of a balanced diet. Some other live foods which we have covered in other topics in more detail are also a great source of food for your fish.
We have listed a few below for you to consider:
- Brine Shrimp (Live)
- Brine Shrimp (Freeze Dried)
- Mysis Shrimp
- Daphnia Water Fleas (Live)
- Krill ( Freeze Dried )
- Red Shrimp
- Peas (Fish Love Peas)
- Sprouts, Romaine Lettuce and other vegetables
- Chopped and washed earthworms
Can saltwater fish eat bloodworms?
This is a question that gets asked all the time and the answer is Yes. Bloodworms are perfectly fine to feed to your marine fish in a saltwater aquarium.
Many people are under the impression that only freshwater fish can eat them but this is not true. I have been feeding bloodworms to my saltwater fish for years. Picky feeders like Dragonet Mandarins and Copperband Butterflyfish love them. They will also be eaten by many invertebrates.
Conclusion: Bloodworms for fish
To sum up: Are bloodworms good fish food and should you be feeding them to your fish? Yes, is the simple answer and we also suggest other live foods as well like brine shrimp and Daphnia.
Bloodworms are inexpensive and easy to purchase from most pet stores. Check the quality of the bloodworms before purchasing and if you suspect they are not the best quality, stay away from them. The last thing you want to do is introduce disease or infection into your healthy fish tank.