The first step to culturing saltwater rotifers at home is to obtain a starter culture. If you can’t find a hobbyist (or breeder) growing rotifers locally, you can find them online—just type ‘rotifer cultures’ or ‘live rotifers’ into the GOOGLE search bar on the bottom left margin of this page, and you’ll find a number of listings. The advantage of buying saltwater rotifers locally is that you don’t have to deal with the hassles and costs of shipping—and neither do your rotifers. I purchased my first rotifer culture online and had a very pleasant experience, so you should feel like you can buy with confidence. Since different strains of rotifers are present in either freshwater or saltwater, it is important that you ensure the rotifers you are purchasing are saltwater rotifers. The most commonly available species are Brachionus plicatilis, commonly known as large strain saltwater rotifers. The next step is to get the equipment ready. To culture rotifers, you will need the following equipment:
Equipment List for Culturing Live Saltwater Rotifers at Home
- Air pump—large enough to aerate the cultures
- ~10 ft. Flexible airline tubing
- ~ 3 ft. Rigid airline tubing
- Multi-outlet airline splitter/valve
- 2-7 x 2L bottles (or 5 gallon buckets)
- Aquarium salt (cheapest you can find)
- Rotifer food (commercial or phytoplankton)
- Rotifer sieve (~50 micron mesh)
You will notice that the equipment to culture rotifers, is much like the equipment needed to culture phytoplankton. One of the major differences is that you don’t need a specific light source (other than room lighting) to culture rotifers. Although anecdotally, I recall growing rotifers to higher densities, faster while treating them with the same light cycle as phytoplankton. I suspect that a ‘lighted’ method of culturing saltwater rotifers allows for higher densities because the phytoplankton food source is able to reproduce to more dense numbers and therefore sustain a higher density of rotifers. The downside of sharing space with your phytoplankton is that contamination of the cultures will no-doubt result, causing you to order fresh cultures of phytoplankton and clean down your system. Before we get too far, you will also need to decide if you intend to grow the rotifers as a continuous culture or a batch culture. We’ll discuss more details about the pros and cons of continuous vs. batch culturing live rotifers in the next segment.
The next post in this series shows how to culture rotifers as a continuous culture.
This is the second post in a series. Return to the Rotifer Culture Introduction post