Leeches are invertebrates similar to worms that feed on blood. They were used medicinally in the 19th century for bloodletting. This practice waned, but doctors are currently reintroducing leeches to operating rooms for different practices including limb reattachments. Leeches are also used for fishing bait.
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Things you need
- Blood, frogs, or feed supplements
- Lake water (NOT chlorinated tap water)
- Pond or fish tank
Create a habitat for your leeches. You may want to have a small outdoor pond made -- if you live in an area that doesn't freeze -- or have a fish tank set up. It will need to be filled with dechlorinated tap water, or lake or pond water.
Gather leeches. You can order live medicinal leeches to start your own farm, or catch leeches from a nearby lake or pond. Feed your leeches upon arrival. Animal blood, live frogs, or supplemental feed is sufficient.
Allow leeches time to breed. Be sure that they do not have to encounter temperature or air pressure changes while breeding. Leeches are hermaphrodites; they breed by making small cocoons that are fertilised by another leech and left to hatch. If you do not have a pond or tank filter, change some of the water every so often so the leeches have a clean place to live. They do not need to be fed any differently while mating.
After the baby leeches are born, make sure they are fed at least once. You can assure they get fed by having some live water snails or frogs in the tank with them. Leeches can go for long periods of time without food after being fed. If using leeches for medicinal purposes, it is best that they are hungry when delivered so they attach quickly.
If preparing to send your leeches for medicinal use, pack them in distilled water with Hirudosalt or Hirudogel in small containers. These mixtures are created especially for medicinal leeches. They allow the leeches to be in a clean, well-oxygenated and moist environment while being delivered and kept. If preparing your leeches to sell for fishing bait, storing them in water is sufficient.
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