Vinegar eels in the classroom

One of the easiest organisms to raise in the classroom are the nematodes known as vinegar eels. Recently on the NSTA Biology listserv one of KABT’s own, Candy Surdez had the following to offer. I’ve contacted her and she has agreed to sharing her message here and she’ll be sending a pict or two of her culture. From Candy:

To anyone interested: vinegar eels are one of the easiest to care for. I’ve had cultures that have lasted for several years. Order a culture of them from a biology supply house and I also like to order the vinegar that has the “mother of vinegar” fungus in it rather than just plain cider vinegar, although I think perhaps some have done that. Cut up some fresh apple chunks and add to a clean quart jar along with the vinegar. Inoculate with the culture of vinegar eels, apply lid, and you have a culture that requires no care except for perhaps an occasional fresh chunk of apple and a moderate room temp.

BTW, vinegar eels are perfect for my “Is It Alive?” first-day-of-school activity. I prepare up to 12 stations with objects that are obviously alive, obviously not alive, and quite a few that really make the kids think. Vinegar eels are one of those, because at first glance, the kids don’t see them. Upon closer inspection, either with a hand lens or in a drop of the liquid on a dissecting scope, there are gazillions of the little guys thrashing around.

Another thing: getting kids introduced to a creature adapted to low pH gives lots of learning opportunity for pH, enzymes, adaptations, etc etc. Other subjects you can tackle using vinegar eels: life cycles, reproduction, population size and density, limiting factors, food chains, etc.

Hope this helps!

Candy Surdez
Sabetha High School
Sabetha KS

There are a number of resources on the web that also explain how to culture the worms–seems that they are used as fish food by the fish hobbyists. Here’s a couple of links: Live Food Cultures and Ventral Fins (scroll down for vinegar worms).

Updated 03/02/08:

Candy just sent a photo of her culture that I’m posting here along with the following comment:

But this culture is thriving……if care is taken not to move or shake the jar, thousands of worms can be seen with the naked eye around the edge right at the surface. Students can use a hand lens to enhance their viewing. I do have holes punched in this jar’s lid….don’t know if that’s necessary or not.


vineagar eels

Updated 08/05:

Summertime is a time for catching up.  Recently Candy sent me the 08-is-it-alive-lab that she has written for this lab as well as a 08-is-it-alive-lab-teacher.   She has graciously provided them as word documents so that if you choose to use them you can  edit them to fit your classroom situation.



4 thoughts on “Vinegar eels in the classroom”

  1. maggie2moo,

    I’ve heard back from Candy–she’s pretty swamped with getting her kids ready for the state assessment but she is planning on developing some support material for the “Is it alive?” student worksheet as well as some digital images of vinegar eels. At this point, though, she’s not really sure when she will be sharing these…


  2. maggie2moo,

    I’ve sent an email request to Candy for this resource–I’ll let you know if she can share…


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