October 1, 2017

Which Earthworms To Choose For Your Worm Farm

Raising earthworms can be a profitable hobby with rewards beyond financial gain. Worms are popular among fishermen for bait, but you can also grow your own high-protein feed for your pet reptiles and birds, as well as your chickens and pigs if you live on a farm. Earthworms can be added to your compost pile to create an even richer product to fertilize your garden and flowers.


There are 4,400 species of worms, all with unique characteristics that make them perfectly adapted to their role in nature. Choosing which worm species to raise depends upon the ultimate goal you desire for your worm farm.


Canadian Nightcrawlers

Canadian Nightcrawlers

Canadian nightcrawlers, also called common earthworms, are popular fishing bait and sometimes found as feed in pet stores that sell exotic pets. They are extremely difficult to raise at home since they cannot withstand warmer temperatures and grow and reproduce slowly.

It's easier to harvest them from their natural habitat (your back yard or cow pasture), since this worm species prefers to tunnel deeply, is somewhat territorial, and will not grow or reproduce if their home is disturbed.

Canadian nightcrawlers prefer an environment 45 to 50 degrees F, and will not survive above 65 degrees F (although they will keep several months in the refrigerator). As fishing bait, the Canadian nightcrawler is lively on the hook but will only live about five minutes once submerged, and cannot withstand salt water or freezing water.


Red Worms

Red Worms

Red worms are also known as manure worms. Red worms are grown almost exclusively for composting, and their small size (1-1/2" to 2-1/2") makes them an ideal snack for aquarium fish or small reptiles and birds. They are less sensitive to the heat and sunlight than nightcrawlers. Fishermen use them to lure fish that prefer smaller bait, and red worms live longer underwater than Canadian nightcrawlers.

Red worms are prolific breeders, and mature to their reproductive stage in three months. They are the easiest worms for the inexperienced worm farmer to raise. They make their home in manure or decaying plant matter, unlike nightcrawlers, who prefer tunneling through soil.

Red worms are the ideal composting worms. They can be raised in a compost bin or in an outdoor compost pile. As long as your red worms have food and water, they won't wander away from an outdoor compost pile. They aren't adventurers; they'll stay where they are comfortable.

In the winter they will stay in the bottom center of the pile where it's warmer, but in the warmer months will come up through the pile to turn it into rich mulch for your garden. Covering the pile with a tarp in the coldest weather will help retain heat and encourage the worms to eat their way closer to the top.


Red Wigglers

Red Wigglers

The red wiggler, a slightly larger cousin of the red worm, will grow to 3 to 4 inches long. They are good fishing bait that stays lively on the hook, and are great for feeding larger pond fish, reptiles, and birds. Also a preferred composting worm like the red worm, they are top feeders and don't burrow deeply into the ground.


European Nightcrawlers

European Nightcrawlers

European nightcrawlers are gaining in popularity among fishermen and gardeners. They are also called Belgian nightcrawlers or giant red worms. Although European nightcrawlers don't grow as large as Canadian nightcrawlers they are more tolerant to the heat and cold and can survive in temperatures from 40 to 90 degrees F. European nightcrawlers have a longer shelf life and can live from 3 to 5 weeks in a bait cup.

European nightcrawlers do not breed as quickly as red worms or  red wigglers. They mature to the reproductive stage in approximately six months and will grow 4 to 8 inches long. European nightcrawlers are excellent for fish bait, composting, and supplemental feed for koi as well as some snakes and lizards.

They like to burrow in shallow soil, and when released into a properly maintained organic garden they will keep the soil loose and aerated as well as leaving egg casings which add nutrients for plant growth.

For those worm wranglers who want to stock their farm with nightcrawlers, the European nightcrawler is the one to choose. They are suitable for most climates, and their hardiness as a fishing worm is unbeatable.

Ice fishermen love them, since the European nightcrawler will stay active on the hook for up to 30 minutes after being submerged in freezing water. They can also tolerate brackish ponds or salt water.


African Nightcrawlers

African Nightcrawlers

African nightcrawlers are tropical worms often used for composting and fishing. They are more difficult to raise that European nightcrawlers. They have a narrower range of tolerable temperatures. Although they can withstand higher temperatures than other worms (if the humidity is adequate) they often die at temperatures below 60 degrees.

They also have a tendency to make their escape from the worm bed. Africann ightcrawlers are one of the most prolific worms, however; 1,000 worms can become 12,000 to 14,000 in a single year!


Raising earthworms is an easy and inexpensive hobby or home business to begin. You may be able to find enough red worms or red wigglers in that pile of rotting leaves in the back yard to start a worm farm, but might be quicker and easier to buy them from a bait shop or other supplier. European and African nightcrawlers are commercially available. There are many resources for buying earthworm livestock online or you may find a local or regional wholesaler.

Read more: The Caring And Raising Nightcrawlers

Lucy Sheppard

Hi, I’m Lucy Sheppard. I love pets, especially dogs. My love for these true friends of humans turned into a passion. This passion led me to start this pets website so that people like me can benefit from my study and research.

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