World Aquaculture Society Meetings

WHITE WORMS Enchytraeus albidus: A PATHOGEN-FREE LIVE FEED?

Elizabeth A. Fairchild* and Cem Giray
 
Department of Biological Sciences
University of New Hampshire
Durham, New Hampshire 03824
elizabeth.fairchild@unh.edu
 

White worms, Enchytraeus albidus, are an attractive live feed for many cultured organisms including fresh and saltwater fishes. Historically, they were mass cultivated in the former U.S.S.R. to feed juvenile sturgeon. Now, they mostly are grown by aquarium hobbyists as a live feed for ornamental fishes or by biological supply companies for toxicology studies. There is no standardized culture method for white worms. Currently, they are grown in terrestrial systems, typically in soil, and are fed a variety of commercial waste by-products including, but not limited to, brewery grains, coffee grinds, stales (old bakery products), algae, and produce. Many fish farmers are interested in assessing the suitability of white worms as a live feed in their hatcheries, however, they express concerns about bio-security and what pathogens the worms may harbor. Because standard protocols for proper bio-security measures for white worms had not been established, the worms and culture medium were screened for a wide panel of aquatic animal pathogens, as well as several of human health concern. Targeted agents included viral, bacterial, and parasitic organisms associated with freshwater and marine finfish and crustacean species. Thus far, no targeted agents have been detected by either culture or molecular assays, indicating white worms may be a safe source of live feed for aquaculture.

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