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Bloodworms are the larval form of the Chironomidae group of Midges.   These look similar to mosquitoes, but they do not bite.   Most of them do not even eat while in the adult form.  The adults only live for a short time, mating at night, and the female laying her eggs into the water while flying low over the surface.


The eggs hatch into a creature than looks like a worm although some people object to the name Bloodworm because they have an exoskeleton and little legs.


They are red which is what gives them the blood part of their name.  This is caused by the presence of a form of Haemoglobin. Naturally it is not identical to Human Haemoglobin, but it is an Oxygen carrying pigment. 


The Bloodworm lives near the surface of the sediment at the bottom of ponds and streams, eating the decaying plant material.

Bloodworms are very tolerant of pollution, and will live in quite dirty water that Humans prefer to stay away from.

Bloodworms can be present in very high concentrations.


Bloodworms are good food for many things including fish and predatory insects.  The Bloodworm is partially protected by the sediment they live in, but they are vulnerable when they come to the surface to change into adults.


Although I have lumped them together under their common name, there are hundreds of different species of bloodworm that have been scientifically described, and possibly thousands that have not.

Fish Food

Food Value

Bloodworms are a high protein food.  About 60 percent of their dry matter is protein.  This is comparable with Tubifex worms.  Fish fed on either live or frozen bloodworms tend to grow quickly. 

Bloodworms are an excellent conditioning food for preparing fish for breeding.

Frozen Bloodworms

Frozen Bloodworms are a readily available and reasonably cheap form of fish food.  It is easy to supplement your dry fish food with frozen Bloodworms, and fish usually love them.

Small Fish

I regularly feed frozen Bloodworms to fish as small as 2 cm (Less than an inch) long Neon Tetras and White Cloud Mountain Minnows.  They have no trouble eating the food and grow quickly.


Although I have not had problems with Bloodworms myself, it is only reasonable to set down some that other people have had.


One boy lost some fish feeding bloodworms that had been thawed and allowed to warm up; he was well aware of how to look after frozen food, but he did not find out until afterwards what had happened to the Bloodworms earlier. 

This is not something confined to bloodworms, but  applies to all frozen food whether fed to Animals or People.  Frozen food should be kept frozen until it is going to be used, and should not be refrozen.

Over Feeding

Again this problem is not confined to bloodworms, but it is possible to overfeed with most types of food.  Because fish like Bloodworms a lot, people sometimes give them too much and dangerously reduce the water quality.

Related to this is the use of Bloodworms as almost the only food, rather than as part of a varied diet.

Food Value

Although Bloodworms are an excellent food, they should not be the only food fed.  Fish and most animals need a variety of food.  Just as I do not recommend that fish be fed only on flakes, I do not recommend that Bloodworms be the only food fed.

Turtles are often fed on Bloodworms; they love them.  But Bloodworms are rather low in Calcium and other foods should also be given to your Turtle.

Indigestible Parts

Dr Jim Greenwood B.V.Sc. of Canterbury Veterinary Clinic Canterbury, Victoria has suggests that the larger types of bloodworm that are imported and sold frozen should not be fed to Discus, Rainbows and some tetras because the Chitinous parts of the bloodworms can block up their digestive systems.

Other people have observed problems which probably have the same cause.

I have fed imported Bloodworms to all the types of fish he mentions and have had no trouble, but apparently Dr. Greenwood and some other people have.

Possibly the people who have had this type of problem fed a higher proportion of Bloodworms and less other food to their fish than I do.

Unsanitary Conditions

In some countries where Bloodworms are produced for export, the water they live in is very unhealthy looking, and some people believe the frozen Bloodworms are not safe. All the Bloodworms imported into Australia are sterilized by Gamma Radiation.  I presume that countries like the United States will also use an effective method of sterilization.


It is possible for Humans to become allergic to all sorts of things.  Allergies to frozen Bloodworms are not common, but can certainly happen.

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Olypian quarrels et gorilla congolium sic ad nauseum.

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Chironomidae, Nied, Frankfurt/Main, Germany
By Lamiot from Fritz Geller-Grimm (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Live Bloodworms with Daphnia
Video from