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Paramecia

Paramecia
by Adrian R. Tappin
reprinted with permission
Orinigally published at: http://www.powerup.com.au/~tappin/



Paramecia are unicellular microorganisms belonging to the phylum Ciliophora. Members of this phylum (ciliates) are characterised by their external covering of continuously beating, hair-like cilia. Under favourably conditions they multiply rapidly by a process called binary fission where they divide in half forming smaller duplicates of themselves. They can also reproduce by conjugation in a similar manner as sexual reproduction in more complex animals. Paramecia are a cosmopolitan organism and are found in suitable habitats all around the world. Global distribution of Paramecia species is believed to be the result of the break-up of the super-continent Pangaea over 200 million years ago. This continent was home to ancestral paramecia that have subsequently been separated by continental drift. The oldest reported fossil Paramecium was discovered in a piece of amber dating back to the Cretaceous period, over 65 million years ago.

Paramecia are oval flat creatures, and bear a number of tiny cilia that serve to propel it through the water. As they move through the water they collect small particles of food that are swept into the gullet. Most Paramecia are bacteriovorous and feed voraciously on bacteria that accompany decaying organic matter. They are an important link in detritus-based food webs in aquatic ecosystems and are consumed by other small animals, which are in turn preyed upon by larger organisms. Paramecia are an excellent primary food source for newly hatched rainbowfish larvae

Most aquarium related cultures of paramecia are generally referred to as Infusoria. The term infusoria is a collective name for many microorganisms and can include paramecium, microscopic algae, bacteria, protozoans, desmids, rotifers and a host of other small organisms. Old time methods for obtaining a culture of infusoria was by boiling hay, lettuce, spinach or other vegetable matter and allowing the resultant infusion to stand in the air for a while in the hope that stray infusorians will alight therein. At best this was a hit and miss method and in most cases it simply didn't result in a successful culture.

The best way to bring about a successful culture is to make a vegetable based infusion similar to the above (banana skin works well) and introduce a pure culture of Paramecia (obtainable from biological and aquaculture supply companies or live food culture dealers). There are a number of different paramecium species available however, Paramecia multimicronucleatum has been found to be one of the best. It is a very large paramecium and promotes rapid growth of fish larvae. The culture is placed in the infusion and before long a pale; ever changing cloud of tiny motes will be seen when the jar containing the infusion is held to the light. Although just visible to the naked eye, to see paramecium properly, a microscope is needed. Once you have started a good culture of your own it is a simple matter to prepare a series of cultures from the original one.

You can collect the paramecia with a syringe and feed part of the culture solution directly to the baby fish. Feed the baby fish, according to their number, as often as possible in small quantities so as not to pollute the water. You should be able to tell when the fry are getting enough to eat because their stomachs will be distended. The best way to collect paramecia and avoid adding any of the culture solution into the fry tank is to use a laboratory grade filter paper placed over a funnel and into an empty collection container. Pour the contents of the culture through the filter paper. The filtered medium will collect in the container and the paramecia will be concentrated on the filter paper. The paramecia are then washed off the filter paper with fresh water and fed to the fry. Return the filtered medium back to your culture container, as the culture will continue to reproduce.



If it is desired to feed the culture to the fry over a predetermined period of time the following method can be used: (See diagram) Drill a small hole in the screw-on lid of a clear plastic food container, the size of some small diameter plastic tubing. Push the tubing through the lid until it is about a centimetre off the bottom of the container. Fasten the tubing to the outside with some sticky tape. The container is then filled with paramecia culture and sited on the lid of the aquarium with one end of the tubing dangling over the surface of the aquarium. The culture is transferred into the aquarium by syphoning and the flow is regulated with an aquarium clamp. By leaving the end of the tubing, on the inside of the container, just above the base less detritus is picked up.

You can add some water-soluble vitamins to enhance the nutritional value of the paramecia a few hours before harvesting. They will absorb them directly from the water. Most vitamin solutions designed for human babies generally contain all the necessary vitamins fish require. You could also use one of the commercial solutions devised expressly for feeding paramecia.

When the culture is thriving well add a few pieces of vegetable matter, which will provide organic matter when the original culture is nearing exhaustion. The culture will decline rapidly if the nutrients are completely used up. However, care should be taken with the amount added as too much could result in the water becoming depleted of oxygen and cause your paramecia to perish. Ideally, you should start a new culture every few weeks.

A quick and simple formulation for culturing paramecia follows:

1. Fill a 2 litre wide-mouthed jar with pre-conditioned water.
2. Add approximately 30 seeds of boiled wheat, 5-gm of brewer's yeast, and paramecia culture.
3. Cover and store in the light at approximately 28°C (The culture grows more slowly at lower temperatures).

The culture should be ready for use in 4 days and remain useable for three weeks or more. Instead of boiled wheat you can use Liquid Fry or milk at about 20 drops per litre.

© Copyright 1996-2000, Adrian R. Tappin - All rights reserved.
Updated December, 2000.