'Russian Red' Daphnia instructions:
There are many different methods of propagating daphnia on the internet and I will address a few of them here:
1. Green water as feed -- this is the common popular wisdom but the problem is in propagating the green water and what is in the water. The essential food or fertilizer for the algae plants that make the water green is nitrates and phosphates which are the end product of the nitrogen cycle. The ammonia and nitrites to produce the nitrates are toxic in any significant quantity. So to have a lot of feed for the algae you are doing a tightrope walk over the abyss of the combinations of toxic chemicals, fluctuating oxygen levels, ph changes, and bacteria. A ten gallon tank with a heater set to about 80 F and a strong light on for 24 hours with an airline to circlulate and oxygenate the water is all that is needed. Crush up some flake food to feed each day and have some snails in the tank to eat any food not in suspension. Some problems that can occur is that cynobacteria can get established instead of the good floating algae. The more algae in the water the less visiblility to monitor the tank -- do it by feel. Avoid plant fertilizers unless you know there is no trace elements that would kill the daphnia.
01-27-2011 I have recently found a way to have the green water without the culturing/propagation. Buy the algae paste from brineshrimpdirect.com and you don't have to feed anything else it appears. They have about 8 different types -- I have tried the Tahitian Blend and the Nannochloryopsis pastes and they definitely work (although they are expensive). I plan to try to make some of my own this spring and may offer it on Aquabid. I keep the paste in a freezer -- but first thaw it out and pour half into an empty bottle and refreeze both. Then every day I open the frozen bottle and fill up the empty half with tank water and shake it until enough of the frozen paste has gone into the water and turned it green. Pour the green water into your daphnia tank until it is definitely green in color and put the bottle back into the freezer with only the frozen paste (the air gap/fraction will increase as you use up the paste). The only drawback I see is that the water gets yellow and opaque -- making it difficult to see the daphnia. There appears to be much more of the tiny guys with this method which may be a plus. Even though the algae is not alive the cell walls should be mostly intact (as long as you maintain the refrigeration) and the algae tastes the same to the daphnia.
2. Infusoria as feed -- I read an article on daphnia written in the 1930's called 'Daphnia by the millions' that made the case that the daphnia eat infusoria. The author recommended using three ten gallon tanks with the first one with beef bullion cubes decaying to produce bacteria, a second tank that was fed bacteria from the first that was full of infusoria feeding on the bacteria, and the third tank with the daphnia which were fed each day with infusoria from tank number two. Note that no green water was involved and this kind of correlates with some experiences I have had in the past where I have put daphnia into green water and found that they disappeared without clearing up the water. The issue here is what is in green water? There is normally infusoria in the green water and is this really what most of the daphnia are eating? My experience is that when the daphnia are thriving and when the green algae in the water is gone the remaining water has a brown color and has a powdery dusty look near the bottom that probably represent the bacteria colonies of nitrogen cycle bacteria hopefully keeping the water non-toxic, and rotifers and other infusoria eating various bacteria from the breakdown of whatever you are feeding. Think of this powdery brown water at the bottom as a liquid filter. Avoid having it turn into a jelly-like mass or turn aneorobic under gravel. The bottom water can have some black stuff as long as it is aerobic.
3. Rice flour as feed -- this is what I usually use in combination with the powdery brown water of method number two above for really large cultures. I use a Braun coffee bean grinder to produce the flour from brown rice. Mixed with water, most of the smallest particles will be in suspension and use enough to turn the water whitish. The large daphnia will speed up and will fill up with the whitish flour while the larger particles that fall out of suspension will be worked upon by the bacteria and infusoria. Smaller micro-organisms created in the bacteria culture are probably necessary for the baby daphnia.
4. For small established cultures I just crush up flake food and stir up the bottom of the tank/container every day. When algae starts to build up I pour the daphnia and some of the bottom bacteria into a clean container and clean up the old one (a mixture of water and bleach will dissolve all of the algae and rinses clean for the next use).
I use an airline with a large screw stuck in the end with a notch just above the screw for the air to escape from. This produces a vertical column of bubbles rising and bringing a flow of water all the way from the bottom of the tank. This water flow is critical to keeping the water oxygenated and leaving no dead spots in the tank. Using a sponge filter can cause the bacteria and infusoria to get sucked into the sponge or otherwise clearing the water. Strong light can be used although you may have to scrape algae off the sides to see what is going on. A temperature of anywhere from 65 to 85 F is all that is necessary with all good and bad actions proceeding faster at the higher temperature. The daphnia will be alive right down to freezing but in really cold water they are just alive -- not propagating. I recommend a small brown-water tank lightly fed each day with your safety stock of daphnia -- just kept alive and well but not booming. Set up other tanks innoculated with the brown water liquid filter and daphnia from your safety stock and figure out what works for you to create the amounts of daphnia you need. Set up a tank with no daphnia to the specification of number 1 above to have a permanent supply of green water and infusoria to experiment with. Mixing in yiest and spirolina powder is another possibility. You probably need to create various sizes of micro-organisms to feed the various stages of the daphnia.
A good thing to keep in mind is the fact that no one really succeeds in propogating brine shrimp from nauplii to adults. There are over 300,000 in each gram of eggs and I have never found anyone that could raise up more than a few hundred adults from a gram of eggs. The problem here is that although the adults can eat many types and sizes of food, the nauplii apparantly can only manipulate very small and possibly a very specific type of small algae into their mouths -- the vast majority starve after they use up their yolk-sack. The people who produce adults for sale buy juvenile shrimp and grow them up to sell. They also sell newly hatched but cannot raise them up themselves. They buy the juveniles from someone who has the receipe or procedure to raise the nauplii to the juvenile stage and the receipe is a guarded secret. Perhaps it takes a village to raise a child and whatever method we naturally set up represents only a couple of houses -- kind of like the Daphnia by the million method. As noted in #4 above, a new method using algae paste may be the secret receipe used by the BS suppliers. I have tried it with BS and it seems to work some of the time but they are even easier to crash than daphnia.
The water hardness does not appear critical to the daphnia I have. As stated in the ad copy, it is apparently decended from an original strain found in the Moscow Zoo aligator pond. As the saying 'what does not kill me makes me stronger' would imply -- this stain has adaptations to survive adverse conditions. The maximum size of the daphnia is about twice the size in the pictures and the normal reproduction is by live young. Under adverse conditions the bigger daphnia appear more clear than red and black dots can be seen which are the resting eggs/cysts (they look like little saddles). I noticed some of the ads for daphnia sold the resting eggs/cysts. I find the adult daphnia will survive down to freezing but they will be in a stasis state -- not able to digest food like cold-blooded animals that need a lamp or hot rock. I don't know how to collect and cure the eggs but it would seem a good thing to know to have a safety stock of eggs. In my cultures there is a possibility that moina daphnia are also present as I have had them in the past. If you sort out the larger ones and find a remainder that never grows large -- these would be moina. My friend that originally gave me both of the daphnia strains claims he got both from me on the last time he restocked after losing his originals. He calls them 'Russian Reds' which appears correct since they almost always appear red to me.
The rice flour is made using whole grain brown rice chopped up in a coffee bean grinder and we usually mix in some spirolina powder. Mix the flour in water and most of the rice powder will go into suspension and the grainy parts that did not go to flour will sit on the bottom and become part of the biological soup. We believe the critical element to keeping the culture going is that the water appears brown and opaque. The adults can probably eat anything but the new-born daphnia need small stuff like bacteria or infusoria from the detrius that in most cultures are cyclic -- it takes a village of biological organisms to raise up the child -- there should be at least one tank with just an airline and the brown-water system that is lightly fed and with snails but no fish or shrimp. If the water goes green after being brown the daphnia may be gone. Indoor or outdoor does not matter except that strong light tends to end up creating the boom to bust green water cycles rather than a steady and consistant culture. I haven't tried yeist but I suspect it may work well but tend to go cyclic. I suspect a key aspect here is that in a system that the daphnia can boom and 'clear' the water the system will end up cycling close to or into 'bust' by either producing too much waste or starving -- I don't know why. Whatever is in the grainy brown water buffers the system from booming then busting and I suspect it is something in the bacteria living on the decaying chunks of the sinking portions of the rice flour that produce a steady supply of food for the smaller daphnia but not what the adults are looking for. In the brown water there appear to be more babies than adults. Experiment with several different setups.
Note that in my cultures you may see 'seed shrimp' -- see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ostracod They don't appear to hurt anything but most fish will not eat them. I have seen some small leech-like things also and perhaps small scuds. None of these is harmful.
Supplementary info 6-7-2010:
Info on rice flour and other supplements for daphnia buyers In researching this I noticed that the rice flour is gluten-free -- apparently wheat-barley-type grains have gluten but rice does not. The Honeyville flour pic is of 'bran' but acts very similar to the original rice flour given to me. As stated in my article, I don't have an exact procedure but the heavier parts of the bran or flour may be producing the bacteria that new-born daphnia require -- a biological village needed to raise the child. The lack of gluten may be keeping the entire mix in water from blooming into a toxic sludge -- with the slow action of the bacteria on the fibers producing a kind of timed release of organisms along with larger chunks for the adult daphnia.
Note that the honeyville has rice flour (I have not tried it) but appears only available in 50# bags.
The rice flour I have used is the honeyville bran pictured and whole grain rice made into flour using a grinder by my friend Larry Brown (who gave me the culture) and the large chunks of rice he gave me that I ground to flour using a Bosch coffee bean grinder.
Note also that the Russian Red are usually red in color and my previous investigations into Brine Shrimp indicates that color is indicative of an increased amount of hemoglobin. Perhaps this strain is like the legendary Yeti or the real life Sherpas of the Himalayas -- naturally selected or adapted for a low-oxygen environment -- I wonder how a Sherpa would do in a marathon race?? The water of some of my established cultures appears reddish.
In interviews of some of my friends that have crashed the cultures the common denominator is a boom before the crash -- keep some low-level safety cultures going for insurance -- don't have all of your culture risked in boom culturing for more food. Feeding daily rather than in mass feedings every week or few days is less risky.
The green water is not required but helps get a culture going. Black dots in the daphia are eggs which indicates that the conditions are adverse -- they normally reproduce asexually (all females). Did you know that daphnia and rotifers are two of the few examples of clones in life -- sexual reproduction is apparantly all that keeps humans and all other animals from becoming extinct due to viruses. Viruses mutate to produce new strains that can exactly match the protein sequences of their hosts but sexual reproduction hopefully produces some variations in the sequences -- perhaps only temporarilly before the virus can change again after a generation or two. If a virus species developed to take out the female clones of rotifers or daphnia, the adverse water conditions or instinct makes the rotifers and daphnia lay eggs of which some are males and the sexual reproduction that then occurs will hopefully have protein sequences that escape the virus -- viva la sex!!
Some of this stuff can help gut-fill the daphnia to deliver extra nutrition to the fish you are feeding. I use their spirulina powder and the algae paste to raise adult shrimp from nauplii and give some to the daphnia. Some medicines can be delivered this way also. Experiments using newly hatched brine shrimp (nauplii) fed with HUFAs show the test groups that got the same nauplii (but gut-loaded with HUFA) with a lower mortality rate. I have taken some vitamin tablets and ground them up with the rice flour with the Bosch coffee grinder
There was no controlled experiment so I can't claim anything.
Craig Moormann http://marinefreshtropical.com/
Any refinement or better methods to produce booming cultures can be emailed to me through my web site: marinefreshtropical.com.
Craig Moormann 7-17-2009