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|Illustration of vinegar eels|
Turbatrix aceti (vinegar eels, vinegar nematode, Anguillula aceti) are free-living nematodes that feed on the microbial culture, called mother of vinegar used to create vinegar, and may be found in unfiltered vinegar. They were discovered by Pierre Borel in 1656.
Their environment makes them exceptionally tolerant of variation in acidity and alkalinity and they may be able to tolerate a wider range than any other species, being able to survive from pH 1.6 to 11.
Vinegar eels are often given to fry (baby fish) as a live food, like microworms. Although they are harmless and non-parasitic, leaving eels in vinegar is considered objectionable in the United States and is not permitted in vinegar destined for American consumers. Manufacturers normally filter and pasteurize their product prior to bottling, destroying the live bacterial and yeast culture that these nematodes require for sustenance.
Media related to Turbatrix aceti at Wikimedia Commons