Cheap Tricks: The Bump and Grind

Michael Marcotrigiano - New England Fancy Guppy Association
first published in the IFGA eBulletin
All rights reserved

When you walk into the basement of Russ Beasty, close friend and NEFGA member, it's better than visiting your favorite pet shop. The walls are lined with containers of fancy leopard geckos carrying so many color mutations they look fake. Nearby is a tall planted vivarium with tropical tree frogs and lizards. On the floor a plastic swimming pool with skinks. There are snakes in large aquariums and a mouse colony near them. Across from the reptiles and amphibians is a whole room dedicated to birds which include many finch species. Outside in the back year there are emus, quail, and fancy chickens. Yes, there are guppies - in the middle of the basement and growing quite well with his system that utilizes no filtration, no air pumps, just java moss and water changes. The tanks can be seen at the link below

About a year ago while visiting Russ I noticed a coffee bean grinder sitting on the shelf near the mice cages. I was afraid to ask! It turns out that while Russ has no axe to grind he many foods that need to be reduced in size. Using an electric coffee grinder has worked out really well for him. In the past, I have seen many foods listed that I think would be excellent for guppies but they are too large. One in particular is earthworm. We are all told how well guppies do, especially the females, if you give them some earthworm. However, when you buy the earthworm flake sold by aquarium food suppliers and read the ingredients it seems that fishmeal is always the first ingredient listed. Knowing what I know about the laws of labeling this could mean that the product is 99.9% fishmeal and 0.01% earthworm since ingredients are listed in order, with the weight of the predominant ingredient listed first. So how can you get some pure earthworm? You can catch them, gut clean them, dry them or chop them and freeze them - all unappealing to me - or you can buy some freeze dried ones at But the freeze dried ones are bigger than guppies! Now you see where I'm getting. Bring out the old coffee bean grinder and you can make earthworms as finely ground as you want.


Figure 1. With the popularity of grinding coffee beans at home, coffee grinders are not that expensive. I paid about $28.00 for this one.

I must warn you that when you grind earthworms (or any freeze dried food) and open the lid of the grinder the dust is light and fills the air. The first time I did it I inhaled enough earthworm dust to cough for five mintues (try explaining that at the emergency room). So now I do it out on my porch or turn my head away. Really it is not dangerous - I was just surprised at how light freeze dried food is once it is ground up.

Some tips 1) pulse the grinder to get the size you want and check it before grinding it so long that it is reduced to dust (unless you want it for babies). For adults I stop grinding when it looks like fine cellulose insulation - it actually feels that way too 2) clean out the grinder with a paper towel or some kind of brush. No need to wet anything you'll ruin the grinder 3) never use your pet food grinder to grind coffee beans unless you spouse is into very exotic coffee flavors (e.g. liver latte or espresso earthworm) - in other words label it "PET FOOD ONLY". For babies there are plenty of foods on the market that are very finely ground (e.g. at Ken's fish you can get something called "spray dried krill" which is as fine as talcum powder) but for adult fish I find these too fine. Therefore, I start with the whole animal and get the particle size the way I want it. The image below shows the result of my efforts making foods for young adult guppies.


Figure 2. Top row: flake food before and after grinding, Middle row: freeze dried whole earthworms before and after grinding, Bottom row: freeze dried krill superba before and after grinding. Coins are for scale.

Many of you probably are happy with the results you are getting with your current food regime and will not want to change. But if you do want some earthworm or krill in your guppies diet this is the way to go. I grind it all so I don't have to do it again for many months. It gets stored frozen in small Gatorade containers. You can always mix some of these specialty foods into your flake food. My fish devour both earthworm and krill which is now a part of their normal diet in between flake food feedings and baby brine shrimp. Happy grinding!!!