Blackworms Part 1
Al Sabetta July 26, 2002

I know that recently we have been discussing the pros and cons of blackworms as a live food. In the past I have received literature from a scientist that specializes in invertebrates and has written extensively on blackworm biology. His name is Dr. Charles Drewes. If you recall my writings on blackworm culture, I referenced him there. Biological supply laboratories also include his research when they supply live worms.

I recently sent him an email to ask his opinion on the disease aspects we have discussed.


Dear Dr. Drewes,

I raise a tropical fish called Discus as a hobby. The question has been raised by my fellow hobbyists as to whether or not Lumbriculus variegatus can act as an intermediate host for tapeworms to be passed then on to our fish. Also the question was asked if they could possibly ingest eggs of parasitic worms, and gill flukes, and then pass them along to the Discus. I am also a biologist and I have searched the literature and found no research to support this.

May I ask you opinion on this matter? I know from my literature searches that you have researched this organism extensively. Any information you could give me is greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.


Al Sabetta


Dr. Drewes reply...


Dear Al,

You are correct. There is no published evidence whatsoever that Lumbriculus is an intermediate host for tapeworms. I suppose that any scavenging organism, including many fish, could inadvertently ingest tapeworm eggs and then, through either predation (being eaten) or by defecation, pass them onto another organism. To avoid that remote possibility, I suppose it might be prudent to let newly acquired organisms (worms and fish) clear their gut contents in a separate container, if you don't know what they have been eating. I continue to glean the Lumbriculus literature but have found no support for the concern and claim about tapeworms. Thanks very much for your message and interest.

Charles Drewes
Professor of Zoology and Genetics


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