An enterprising reader recently wrote to us about the prospect of raising marine worms for commercial purposes. He was wondering if this is possible, and specifically mentioned creating a “bristle farm” (by which he presumably meant a farm for raising bristle worms, or polychaetes). The reader didn’t ask any specific questions about how this operation might be set up, so we won’t get into the specifics of setting up a marine worm farm that is designed to turn a profit. Instead, we will focus on the general feasibility of this project.
We should first mention that lots of worms are reared for commercial purposes, as worms are bought for a variety of different purposes. Many of these worms are reared for animal feed, including whiteworms (Enchytraeus buchholzi), which many aquarists raise as fish food. Although used to feed fish, whiteworms are not themselves marine worms. They are reared in soil with various types of organic matter, which is added to provide a food source for the whiteworms. However, unlike some worms reared for animal food (e.g., Phoenix Worms), they are generally not sold commercially and are instead raised by fish owners for their private aquariums. The only other common type of worm raised for commercial purposes are composting worms, which are also not marine worms.
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So, what are the marine worms that are for sale? Interestingly, we have written about buying aquatic worms before, so we won’t exhaustively cover this topic again. However, we can say that aquatic worms are in fact sold, so clearly there are people who raise them for commercial purposes. Although there are tens of thousands of different marine worm species in the world, not all of them can be purchased (obviously). Bristle worms, the type of worm our reader specifically mentioned, are actually sold, though, so a “bristle farm” is possible. The best way to figure out what type of marine worms are viable to sell is to visit a fish and aquarium supply store. Marine worms can also be purchased online (you don’t even need a brick-and-mortar building to sell them!), and their online catalogs can also be perused for product ideas.
Clearly, some marine worms are raised to be sold, although this isn’t as common as raising worms for other purposes. There are fairly large markets for animal-feed worms and composting worms, but this doesn’t appear to be true of marine worms. People tend to buy a few types of worm for their aquariums and not much else.
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