How to Culture Rotifers at home for your saltwater aquarium


What are Rotifers?

Rotifers are a microscopic to near-microscopic organism. They rang in size from 100-2500 microns. Rotifers make up the phylum (Rotifera) that is one of the most basic links in the aquatic food chain. Specific strains of rotifers are commonly aquacultured and are being used to raise marine fish and invertebrates.

Rotifers help sustain a microscopic community that supports small fish, and allow them to eat and grow. Rotifers although commonly used to raise marine fish and invertebrates are primarily  freshwater or brackish water organisms. This explains rotifers sensitivity to changes in salinity. Rotifer relay on a steady supply of phytoplankton for food. One rotifer can consume 100,000 cells of phytoplankton a day.

How to Culture Rotifers.

Culturing rotifers is easy and can be a fun way to raise live foods for your marine fish and corals. Weather your breeding marine fish or feeding your clams, culturing your own live rotifers can save you a lot of money. Most people culture rotifers for raising marine fish but their benefits goes far beyond that.

Rotifers Culturing Supply list:

  • Starter Culture of Live Rotifers
  • Cultured Phytoplankton
  • Culture vessels (Clear water bottles)
  • Light fixture w/6500K Light bulbs
  • Light Timer
  • Aquarium Air Pump
  • Flex Air Line
  • Ridged Air Line
  • Gang Valve
  • Hydrometer
  • RO/DI Water
  • Synthetic Sea Salt
  • Rubbing Alcohol

Step by Step direction:

  • Sterilize the culture vessels with rubbing alcohol and set aside to air dry.
  • Drill holes in the caps of the vessels with a 3/16 drill bit.
  • While waiting for the vessels to dry pre mix the RO/DI water with synthetic sea salt in a gallon jug until you reach 1.017 SG (Specific Gravity).
  • Keep in mind that rotifers are extremely sensitive to changes in salinity. Make changes controlled and slow.
  • Once the vessels are dry pour the phytoplankton culture into the vessel until its 1/3 full. Than add 1/3 of pre-mixed saltwater until the vessel and the last 1/3 with the starter culture of rotifers.
  • Now Insert a rigid airline into the hole in the cap and cut to length. Leave about 2 inches sticking out of the top and at the same time make sure the rigid airline touches the bottom of the vessel.
  • Using the flex airline and the gang valve, connect the vessels to the gang valve then to the air pump.
  • Then turn the air pump on and use the gang valve to control the amount of air flow going into vessels, adjust the air until it reaches a very slow rolling boil.
  • If needed, use a tac to make a small hole in the cap so the air can escape, if the air can not escape the air pressure will blow the cap off and will make a mess.
  • Set the vessels in front of  a 3000K to 6500K (Kelvin) light with a timer for 12 hours on and 12 hours off.
  • The culture will grow lighter in color as the Rotifers consume the Phytoplankton cells.
  • Make sure to not wait to long to Harvest the culture or they will die off.

How to Harvesting Live Rotifers.

There are two methods to harvesting Rotifers:

  • Batch harvest: With this method, the entire culture of rotifers is harvested at once.  This method is not ideal for the term use.
  • Continuous harvest: The best way to harvest your culture is to remove 10% of the culture daily. Then replace the removed rotifers with fresh phytoplankton. This is the best method for long term use.


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