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Earthworm Flakes – a New Food for Tadpoles, Newts and other Aquatic Pets

Earthworm flakeI have long been witness to the nutritional value of earthworms, and have even experimentally reared several amphibian and fish species on “earthworm only” diets (please see article below).  In my experience, whole, well-fed earthworms come very close to being a perfect food item for a wide variety of carnivorous herps, fishes and invertebrates.  What’s more, many animals cannot resist them – even those that rarely if ever encounter earthworms in the wild. Indeed, earthworms are often the first choice of zookeepers and experienced hobbyists seeking to induce feeding in “picky”, wild-caught or newborn amphibians, fishes and certain reptiles.

Earthworm Drawbacks

However, earthworms are expensive to purchase, and not everyone has the ability to collect them.  Also, the tiny earthworms needed by smaller amphibians and fishes are nearly impossible to obtain unless one sets up a breeding colony.  While this is feasible if you have access to a cool basement or similar area (please see article below), not everyone is able to indulge their pets in this manner.

Using Earthworm Flake Food

Enter Zoo Med’s Earthworm Flake Food, recently marketed as a breeding stimulant, fry rearing food and treat for tropical fishes.  In addition to dried, powdered earthworms, Zoo Med’s exciting new food contains a variety of other nutritious ingredients, including salmon, krill, shrimp and plankton.

tadpolesI believe Earthworm Flakes will also prove useful to those keeping smaller aquatic amphibians and other creatures.  Tadpoles, Newts, smaller African Clawed Frogs, Crayfishes, Freshwater Shrimp, Snails and aquatic insects such as Diving Beetles would all benefit from a dose of earthworm nutrients in their diet.

Earthworm Flake Food might also be tried with those animals that, while preferring live invertebrates, can sometimes be induced to accept dry foods.  Included among these would be newly-hatched Mexican Axolotls, aquatic salamander larvae of many species, and Dwarf African Clawed Frogs.

I have a special interest in North American Catfishes and other native fishes, most of which go into a feeding frenzy when supplied with earthworms.  I plan to try Earthworm Flakes with some of these as well.

Further Reading

Of course, its hard to top the real thing…please see my article Keeping and Breeding Earthworms if you’d like to start your own colony.


Tadpoles image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by bohringer freidrich


  1. avatar

    I have a hatchling box turtle which hasn’t eaten yet. I found it soon after it hatched. We’ve tried various foods; mealworms, crickets, wet catfood to no avail. Would earthworm flake food be a possibilty? I looked for it at the petstore which carries these products but can’t seem to locate it. Does anyone know where to buy it?

    • avatar

      Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog. Live earthworms are the best food for inducing young box turtles to eat. However wild-caught animals often eat little or nothing as the weather turns cool, even if kept warm indoors. This is ok if the animal has been feeding well, but may be a problem if it has not fed for awhile…please write back with some details and I’ll advise. Hatchling box turtles need high levels of UVB light and a secure hiding spot if they are to thrive. Please be aware also that it is illegal to collect them in many states – it may be best to bring the animal to a rehabber who can house it and release in the spring – please let me know if you need details as to legality in your state, locating a rehabber, providing UVB light etc.

      Earthworm flakes are useful to top salads and other foods once the turtle is feeding, but live are best to start with. You can order the flakes here.
      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  2. avatar

    Thank you. Here’s an update regarding hatchling three toed box turtle:

    I have set up a terrarium w/UVB and heat lamps, coconut substrate, plants, flat rocks, hiding area and a water dish. As far as legality, my understanding is that a person in this state is allowed to take no more than four turtles from the wild during his/her lifetime. I also have a yellow-bellied slider I found as a hatchling on a busy road. That turtle is now over six months old and doing well. I would not attempt to take an adult.

    The found box turtle was not moving when I found it on a busy paved trail and it doesn’t seem to be mobile so I have been setting it in the shallow water dish 2x a day (which it enjoys). Still working on worms – no signs of eating after three weeks. I did not see a visible yolk sac but I did notice the turtle still had an egg tooth when I found it so I’m guessing it’s @1 mo old?

    • avatar

      Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the update. The egg tooth is usually lost within a day or 2 of hatching, so it’s likely that your turtle has not eaten yet. In cooler parts of the US, turtles sometimes overwinter in the nest – hatch but do not emerge (snappers, Eastern painted turtles); but your turtle would likely have been feeding by now if all was well. If it does not start soon, it may be better to cool the turtle down for a few weeks – difficult call; please write back with an update in a week or so,

      The rules re turtles are easy to find – check under the wildlife authority in your state (name is usually Dept. of Environmental Conservation, D. of Natural Resources, etc.). There may be a general rule as you mention, but certain species are usually singled out for special protection, Box turtles suffered massive declines when the EU regulated native tortoises – millions were shipped overseas to fill the void; consequently, they are protected in many, but not all, states. Please let me know if you need any help with this.

      Good luck and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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