Mosquito larvae are not only a nuisance but also a potential source of live food. Understanding the profile of mosquito larvae and learning how to culture them can provide a sustainable and cost-effective solution for feeding aquarium fish.
To artificially cultivate mosquitoes as fish food, you will only need a small container of water, a fish net, and a small amount of powdered food.
In this article, I will provide a comprehensive overview of mosquito larvae including their habitat, lifecycle, nutritional value, and cultural requirements.
|Important: Mosquitoes are known vectors for various diseases (such as malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever, Japanese encephalitis, Chikungunya fever, and others) with an estimated 2 billion people worldwide living in areas where these are endemic. In some countries, the practice of culturing mosquitoes, even as live food for fish, may not only be disapproved by society but also prohibited at all.|
Taxonomy of Mosquito
The taxonomy of mosquitos falls under the class Insecta, order Diptera, and family Culicidae. Thus, mosquitos are part of the subfamily Culicinae, which includes the majority of mosquito species.
Nowadays, there are over 3,500 known species of mosquitoes worldwide. Each genus comprises multiple species with distinct characteristics, geographical distributions, and ecological preferences.
New mosquito species are continuously being found and identified.
Mosquito Larvae as Live Food
As live food for fish, mosquito larvae have a respectable nutritional value. They are abundant in protein, which is necessary for fish to grow. Additionally, mosquito larvae contain healthy lipids and amino acids that help fish have a balanced diet.
- Protein: Mosquito larvae are known for their high protein content, which can range from 45% to 60% of their dry weight. They are therefore a fantastic source of crucial amino acids for fish.
- Fat: The fat content is relatively moderate, typically ranging from 10% to 20% of their dry weight. The fats and oils present in mosquito larvae provide a valuable energy source for fish.
- Vitamins and Minerals: Mosquito larvae are a natural source of vitamins and minerals. They contain various vitamins, including vitamin B complex and vitamin E. In terms of minerals, they provide essential nutrients such as iron and calcium.
One of the great things about mosquito larvae is that they can also stimulate natural feeding behaviors in fish due to their jerky movements.
|It is ABSOLUTELY NOT RECOMMENDED to o feed fish mosquito larvae in large aquariums with a significant amount of plants, especially floating plants. This is because there is a high risk that some larvae may hide and develop into mosquitoes.|
What Fish Will Eat Mosquito Larvae?
Various species of aquarium fish are known to feed on mosquito larvae. Some of them (such as Guppies or Mosquito Fish) are even commonly used in mosquito control programs.
- Guppies (Poecilia reticulata)
Note: According to the study, depending on the body length, the mean number of mosquito larvae consumed ranged between 65 and 84 in a 3-hour feeding bout.
- Bettas (Betta splendens)
- White Cloud Mountain Minnows (Tanichthys albonubes)
- Killifish (Fundulidae family, various species)
- Mosquito Fish (Gambusia affinis)
- Dwarf Ember Barb (Barboides gracilis)
- Pygmy Cory Catfish (Corydoras pygmaeus)
- Endler’s Livebearers (Poecilia wingei)
- Platies (Xiphophorus spp.)
- Swordtails (Xiphophorus hellerii)
- Mollies (Poecilia spp.)
- Harlequin fish (Harlequin rasbora)
- Panda Garra (Garra flavatra)
- Rosy Barb (Puntius conchonius),
- Ruby tetras (Axelrodia riesei)
- Neon tetra (Paracheirodon innesi), etc.
Live Cycle of Mosquito
The life cycle of a mosquito consists of 4 distinct stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The entire life cycle normally lasts 7 to 14 days, though this time might vary depending on the species, conditions like temperature, humidity, and the availability of food.
Here is a summary of each phase:
1. Egg stage
Females generally lay their eggs in clusters (also called rafts) on the surface of stagnant or slow-moving water. In some cases, but the eggs can also be laid in moist soil that becomes flooded. Under favorable conditions, the eggs usually hatch within 1-3 days.
Note: Mosquito eggs are adapted to withstand periods of drying and tolerate a wide range of temperatures by entering a state of dormancy called diapause (a state of suspended development) until suitable conditions return. They can stay in this state for weeks and even months.
2. Larvae stage
The hatched larvae are also known as Wrigglers. They have a small head and a segmented body, giving them a characteristic worm-like look. The larvae live in the water and filter-feed on microorganisms and organic matter present in the water.
The mosquito larvae go through 4 instars or growth stages before transforming into pupae.
Generally, it may last for 3-10 days, depending on the species.
3. Pupa stage
Mosquito larvae transform into pupae (also known as Tumblers, because of their characteristic flipping motion if disturbed).
Pupae have a very distinct appearance. Basically, they have a comma-shaped body, with the head and thorax fused together, and a distinct abdominal segment. They also become darker in color compared to larvae and have a more streamlined and compact form.
During this stage, they do not feed and remain near the water surface for respiration (through a pair of respiratory trumpets located on their thorax). Unlike larvae, they are relatively immobile, however, in case of danger, pupae can move pretty fast.
The pupal stage typically lasts for about 1-7 days.
4. Adult stage
When the pupal stage is complete, the pupal skin splits and the adult mosquito emerges. Its body needs time to harden and dry the wings, therefore, it rests on the water’s surface for a few hours.
Depending on the species, environmental conditions, and the availability of food, the adult stage can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks.
- In most species, male mosquitoes usually emerge before females.
- Males feed on plant nectar and other sources of sugar for energy. Female mosquitoes require a blood meal to obtain the necessary nutrients for egg development. So, only the female mosquitoes bite.
- After mating, females seek out a suitable host to obtain a blood meal.
- It generally takes around 2-3 days for female mosquitoes to fully develop their eggs after mating. After that, they seek out suitable sites to lay their eggs, and the life cycle begins again.
Detail Description of Mosquito Larvae
1. Appearance: Mosquito larvae have a tiny, elongated body that is divided into segments. In comparison to the rest of the body, the head is relatively big and is equipped with mouthparts for feeding.
The body is translucent and usually white or gray in color, allowing you to see the internal organs.
2. Size: The size of mosquito larvae can vary depending on the species and the specific stage of development.
For example, after hatching, they are usually less than 0.04 inches (1 mm) in length. However, at the 4th instar larvae can reach lengths of up to 0.4 inches (1 cm).
3. Movement: Mosquito larvae have a distinctive writhing or jerking action that gives rise to the nickname “Wigglers” for them. They swim through the water by swaying their entire body from side to side.
4. Respiration: Mosquito larvae must have access to the water’s surface to breathe. However, they do it in a very interesting way.
At the end of their bodies, they have a unique feature called a siphon, which is also referred to as a breathing tube or snorkel. They can breathe while rising to the water’s surface thanks to the siphon, while the rest of their body stays underwater.
5. Feeding: Most species of mosquito larvae are filter feeders and primarily consume microscopic organic particles, algae, and microorganisms (such as protozoans, bacteria, etc.) present in the water. They use mouth brushes, located near their mouthparts, to collect food particles from the water.
The feeding mechanisms of mosquito larvae are as diverse as their diets. For example, there are also predatory mosquito larvae. These larvae belong to certain mosquito species that have evolved to feed on the larvae of other mosquito species.
Habitat of Mosquito Larvae
Mosquito larvae typically inhabit standing or slow-moving water bodies (lentic habitats) such as lakes, ponds, puddles, swamps, marshes, ditches, drains, and other stagnant water sources.
They are highly adaptable creatures and can easily reproduce in almost any environment due to their low requirements.
For example, in areas where humans reside, mosquitoes can also be found in various water containers such as buckets, discarded tires, cans, plant pots, and other objects that can hold water. These small, water-filled niches also provide an ideal environment for mosquito larvae development.
How to Culture Mosquito Larvae
List of Materials:
- Container: Although containers of any size (buckets, tanks, etc.) can be used for cultivating mosquito larvae, I would recommend using 2-liter plastic bottles. This choice will prove convenient during the larvae collection process.
- Fish net.
- Any powdered food.
Step-by-step Setting up Process:
- Fill the container with freshwater.
Tip: You can use tap water that has been treated to remove chlorine and other chemicals, or you can use old aquarium water. Actually, old aquarium water will be even better because it already contains some food for mosquito larvae. Green water is also a great choice.
- Place the container outside.
Take the container outside so that the female mosquito can lay her eggs in the water. You can cover the container with a mesh of 0.5×0.5 inches to lessen the possibility of other insects and animals getting into the water.
The result will be that mosquitoes can still fly through it, but dragonflies won’t be able to lay their eggs there. The voracity of dragonflies and damselflies as mosquito-eaters has been reported since the last years of the 19th century.
Note: Dragonfly larvae can catch tiny fish or shrimp if they get into the aquarium in addition to feeding on mosquito larvae.
- Add organic matter.
Mosquito larvae feed on organic matter including:
- Commercial pet food (any flakes, pills, tablets, etc.). Just crush it with your fingers and spread it into the container.
Note: You can use any food for animals (dog, cat, rabbit, mouse, etc.)
- Animal protein (such as dried blood, powdered liver, shrimp powder, skim milk, etc.).
- Yeast. (baking yeast, powdered brewer’s yeast, heated yeast ).
Tip: Do not add any leaves, stones, driftwood, etc. There is no need for that. In addition, it will make harvesting more complicated.
- Place the container in a location that receives indirect light.
Mosquito larvae prefer shaded areas, so keep the lighting intensity low.
You do not need to worry about pH, hardness, ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, etc. because Mosquito larvae are very hardy and can survive almost everywhere. For example, they can complete larval development in waters ranging from pH 4 -11.
Maintenance of Mosquito Culture
Actually, this is one of the simplest stages as it requires very few actions. Mosquito larvae are highly resilient creatures and can thrive in almost any conditions. Moreover, their growth period is quite rapid.
- Make sure the water level remains constant and there is no too much evaporation.
- Avoid direct sunlight as it might cause high temperatures.
- Important: Do not let biofilm (scum) form on the surface.
Scum formation on the surface affects the larvae most seriously. One night’s scum is able to kill off the earlier instar larvae as well as the pupae. That is because mosquito larvae will not be able to breathe.
Note: High temperature, fatty or large-sized food particles, excess of food, and inappropriate larval density will result in biofilm formation.
Harvesting the Mosquito Larvae
It is essential to harvest mosquito larvae before they enter the pupal stage so that fish can eat them. In other words, you have at least a few days after the larvae hatch before they reach the third developmental stage.
- Take a bottle containing mosquito larvae culture and pour it using a fish net. Use the smallest mesh-size fish net you can find. Ideally, the mesh size should be around 1×1 mm.
- Then rinse them several times under tap water to wash away all the waste.
- Now you can feed them to your fish.
Storing Mosquito Larvae
The easiest way to store mosquito larvae is to place them in a damp rag at the bottom of the refrigerator.
By using this method, it is possible to store bloodworms for at least 2-3 weeks.
Interesting Facts about How Mosquitoes Bite
Mosquitoes have a specialized mouthpart structure (called a proboscis) that allows them to bite and feed on the blood of animals.
The proboscis is a long, slender structure made up of several components. It consists of a pair of mandibles and maxillae, which are used to pierce the skin, and a hypopharynx, which delivers saliva.
Do you know that mosquitoes are more attracted to some people?
It is often joked among us that someone is much tastier for mosquitoes. In reality, it’s not really a joke; it’s quite true!
Results of the studies showed that there are several factors that can influence what attracts mosquitoes, and one of them is the genetics of an individual.
Some key factors that can affect mosquito attraction:
1. Chemical cues: Mosquitoes are drawn to specific chemical cues that people emit, such as lactic acid, carbon dioxide, and body odors.
Based on variables including genetics, metabolism, and the types of microorganisms on the skin, these chemical signals can differ between people.
2. Genetics and immune system: Our immune system and genetics also influence mosquito attraction.
According to certain studies, people with particular genetic markers or immune system gene variants may have varying degrees of mosquito attraction.
3. Body heat and moisture: Lots of studies confirmed that the heat and sweat that our bodies emit attract mosquitoes.
Additionally, people who are physically active and pregnant people tend to produce more heat and release more carbon dioxide, which attracts mosquitoes.
4. Clothing color: Mosquitoes are attracted to dark and contrasting colors, as they provide a visual stimulus.
Therefore, wearing light-colored clothing can make individuals less visible and potentially less attractive to mosquitoes.
6. Blood type: Certain blood types (notably Type O), is more attractive to mosquitoes, according to studies.
It is believed that a person’s blood type can affect the chemical cues on their skin, making some people more attractive to mosquitoes.
Mosquito larvae can be one of the ways to feed fish in an aquarium. Although the duration of each stage can vary depending on factors such as temperature, mosquito species, and environmental conditions, culturing them is still a simple and fast process.
In addition, it can be accomplished with minimal effort. Incorporating mosquito larvae into the fish’s diet provides a natural and engaging feeding experience while supporting their growth and overall health.
One drawback to consider is that if you miss the timing, mosquito larvae can eventually develop into mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are insects that humans constantly combat, so if you are interested in alternative ways to feed your fish.
These alternatives provide diverse nutritional benefits for your fish without the risk of introducing mosquitoes into your surroundings.
- Grindal Worms Culture Guide
- Bloodworms Profile: Life Cycle and Culture Guide
- Brine Shrimp: Life Cycle, Benefits & DIY Hatchery
- Detritus Worms in Freshwater Tank
- How to Culture Daphnia in Aquariums
- Tubifex Worms Profile and Culture Guide
- Cyclops Profile and Culture Guide
- Blackworms Profile and Culture Guide
- Seed Shrimp Profile: Ostracods in Shrimp and Fish Tank
- Vinegar Eels Profile and Culture Guide (3 Methods)
- Chapman, Harold C. “Biological control of mosquito larvae.” Annual review of entomology19, no. 1 (1974): 33-59.
- Blaustein, Leon, and Jonathan M. Chase. “Interactions between mosquito larvae and species that share the same trophic level.” Rev. Entomol.52 (2007): 489-507.
- Mokany, A., and R. Shine. “Competition between tadpoles and mosquito larvae.” Oecologia135 (2003): 615-620.
- Federici, Brian A., Hyun-Woo Park, Dennis K. Bideshi, Margaret C. Wirth, Jeffrey J. Johnson, Yuko Sakano, and Mujin Tang. “Developing recombinant bacteria for control of mosquito larvae.” Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association23, no. sp2 (2007): 164-175.
- Asahina, Syoziro. “Food material and feeding procedures for mosquito larvae.” Bulletin of the World Health Organization31, no. 4 (1964): 465.
- Quiroz-Martínez, Humberto, and Ariadna Rodríguez-Castro. “Aquatic insects as predators of mosquito larvae.” Journal of the American mosquito control association23, no. sp2 (2007): 110-117.
- Manna, Barnali, Gautam Aditya, and Samir Banerjee. “Vulnerability of the mosquito larvae to the guppies (Poecilia reticulata) in the presence of alternative preys.” J Vector Borne Dis45, no. 3 (2008): 200-6.
- Clark, Thomas M., Benjamin J. Flis, and Susanna K. Remold. “pH tolerances and regulatory abilities of freshwater and euryhaline Aedine mosquito larvae.” Journal of Experimental Biology207, no. 13 (2004): 2297-2304.
- Dormont, Laurent, Margaux Mulatier, David Carrasco, and Anna Cohuet. “Mosquito attractants.” Journal of Chemical Ecology47 (2021): 351-393.
- Schreck, C. E., D. L. Kline, and D. A. Carlson. “Mosquito attraction to substances from the skin of different humans.” Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association6, no. 3 (1990): 406-410.
- Martinez, Julien, Alicia Showering, Catherine Oke, Robert T. Jones, and James G. Logan. “Differential attraction in mosquito–human interactions and implications for disease control.” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B376, no. 1818 (2021): 20190811.