Can You Mix Red Wigglers and Nightcrawlers | Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm

Can You Keep Red Wigglers and Nightcrawlers in the Same Bin

Compost, Night Crawlers, Red Worms

Composting with worms is a fantastic way to turn kitchen scraps and organic waste into nutrient-rich compost for your plants. But do you have to go for just one of these happy helpers or can you mix them? To be more specific – can you mix red wigglers and nightcrawlers, two popular species of composting worms? Is it possible for these worm species to coexist in the same bin and work their magic together? Well, that’s the million-dollar question.

 

If you’re a vermicomposting newbie or you’re thinking of experimenting with different types of worms, you’ll want to stick around and keep reading – this article is for you. 

mixed red wigglers and nightcrawlers on hands above the soil

Understanding Red Wigglers and Nightcrawlers

First things first, let’s get to know our composting buddies: red wigglers and nightcrawlers! These two worms may look similar at first glance, but they’ve got their own unique personalities.

 

First up, we have the red wigglers, or as some like to call them, Eisenia fetida. These little guys are on the smaller side, measuring around 2 to 3 inches long. They’ve got a reddish-brown color and a slim, segmented body with a pointy tail. Don’t let their size fool you, though, because red wigglers are eating machines! They love chowing down on all sorts of decomposing plant stuff like kitchen scraps, leaves, and even cardboard.

 

The nightcrawler (Lumbricus terrestris), on the other hand, can grow up to a whopping 8 to 10 inches long! They have a thicker, more muscular body and come in shades of pale pinkish-gray to dark brown. 

 

Nightcrawlers are all about burrowing. They’re masters at creating deep vertical tunnels in the soil, which helps with aeration and drainage. And when it comes to dinner time, nightcrawlers are less picky eaters. They’ll chow down on just about anything organic, from decaying plants to dead bugs and even animal waste. They’re your ultimate garbage disposals!

 

Can You Mix Red Wigglers and Nightcrawlers

Can red wigglers and nightcrawlers live together? The simple answer is yes. But you shouldn’t want to settle for the simple answer. Mixing these two types of composting worms can be a pretty complex undertaking. While there are quite a few benefits you could reap from their collaboration, there are also many challenges that could make their cohabitation difficult. Let’s take a look.

 

The Advantages of Keeping Red Wigglers and Nightcrawlers Together

First off, their different eating habits make them a dynamic duo. Red composting worms can gobble up food scraps, leaves, and even tear through cardboard like nobody’s business. On the other hand, nightcrawlers are the more adventurous eaters and will happily munch on all sorts of organic goodies. By having both species together, you have a wider range of organic materials being consumed and broken down, which means faster and more efficient composting.

 

But that’s not all! Red wigglers and nightcrawlers have different superpowers when it comes to composting. Red worms, with their rapid digestion skills, turn organic waste into rich and nutrient-packed worm castings, also known as vermicompost. On the other hand, European nightcrawlers are the kings and queens of burrowing. Their underground tunneling not only helps with aeration but also improves water drainage in the compost. 

 

So, by bringing these worm superstars together in your composting bin, you’re combining their powers for a more efficient and effective composting system. 

 

The Challenges of Mixing Red Wigglers and European Nightcrawlers

Before you throw red wigglers and nightcrawlers into the same bin and declare them best buddies, there are a few things you need to consider. It’s not really all roses and butterflies.

 

    • Space. These worms like their personal space just like we do. So, make sure you have a big enough bin to accommodate both species comfortably. They need room to wiggle, crawl, and do their thing without feeling cramped. 
    • Bedding. Red wigglers and nightcrawlers have slightly different preferences when it comes to worm bedding. Red wigglers love bedding made from shredded newspaper, cardboard, or even coconut coir. Nightcrawlers, on the other hand, enjoy a more natural bedding environment. You can use a mixture of soil, leaves, and shredded newspaper to create a comfy home for them. 
    • Feeding time. Both species have hearty appetites, but their preferences differ a bit. Red wigglers are the vegetarians of the worm world, enjoying their leafy greens, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds. Nightcrawlers, being the omnivores they are, can handle a wider variety of food, including meat scraps (but go easy on those).
    • Environment. Red wigglers like it warm and cozy, somewhere around 55 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit (13 to 25 degrees Celsius). Nightcrawlers, on the other hand, prefer cooler temperatures, around 40 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit (4 to 18 degrees Celsius). 
  • Lower reproduction rate. One thing to know about worms is that they’re really good at self-regulation. When they sense that their environment is overcrowded, they will automatically reduce their reproduction rate to keep their population balanced. So, if they feel that the population density has increased, they might stop mating. 

 

So, as you can see, although these two worm types can make a great composting team, they may not be the best of roommates. Their preferences differ in various ways, so finding the perfect balance inside the compost bin can be a serious challenge.

 

Hand feeding red wigglers earthworms

What About Crossbreeding?

Now, let’s address a burning question on the minds of many composting enthusiasts: Will red wigglers and nightcrawlers engage in some worm romance and crossbreed if we keep them together in the same bin? Well, fear not! These worm pals may be close neighbors, but they won’t be creating any hybrid worm species. 

 

Red worms and nightcrawlers belong to different worm families, and their reproductive systems are not compatible for crossbreeding. So, you can relax knowing that your red wigglers and nightcrawlers will stay true to their respective species and focus on the important task of composting.

 

Signs They Are Adapting to Each Other

How will you know if this new living situation is going well? Look out for these telltale signs that they are adapting to each other and forming a harmonious worm community.

 

  1. Behavior. If you notice the worms coexisting peacefully, moving about the bin without any signs of aggression or stress, that’s a great sign. They may even be seen intermingling and sharing the same feeding areas, showing that they’re comfortable in each other’s presence.
  2. Healthy and abundant vermicompost. Both species play their part in the composting process, so if you see a steady increase in the amount of nutrient-rich worm castings, it’s a clear sign that they are working together efficiently.
  3. Take a peek into the depths of the bin. If you spot a well-structured network of tunnels and burrows created by the nightcrawlers while the red wigglers are busily munching away and leaving behind their valuable castings, they have found their roles and are complementing each other’s activities.
  4. Overall health and vitality. Healthy worms exhibit vibrant colors, firm bodies, and active movement. If you notice both red worms and nightcrawlers thriving, showing signs of robust health and reproduction (even if slightly reduced when combined), things are going well.

 

Remember, patience is key when it comes to assessing their adaptation. It may take a few weeks for the worms to settle in and establish a comfortable balance. Keep a keen eye on these signs, and before you know it, you’ll have a bustling worm farm working together to create fantastic compost for your garden.

 

Get All You Need for Your Worm Farm in One Place!

So, it’s not really a question of ‘’can you put nightcrawlers and red wigglers together’’, it’s more so a question of ‘’do you think the pros outweigh the challenges?’’ Because of their different needs and habits, mixing these worms can take a bit more energy and effort on your part. But if you succeed, you’ll have a composting powerhouse on your hands. 

 

Whether you decide to mix and match or just stick to one worm type at a time, Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm is here for all your needs. We’re here to help you create your very own worm farm – from composers and live worm mixes to worm food and bedding, we have it all! And if you have a question, feel free to contact us and let us guide you toward creating a successful vermicomposting machine.

5 thoughts on “Can You Keep Red Wigglers and Nightcrawlers in the Same Bin

  1. I put 30 red worms in a small container for less than a week with 15 nightcrawlers and now all the worms are gone.

    1. How big is the container? 35 worms could get easily lost in a five gallon bucket. It may take a few months to grow enough individual worms in to spot them easily.

    2. After putting your worms in the *New container, did you keep a light on the container at night through the first couple of evenings?

      When I first started out I lost a lot of worms through the evening because the worms are unfamiliar with their new space and like to make a great escape when the sun goes down :) Also your worms might make a run for it on very rainy days. Once you’ve got them settled in a new container this shouldn’t be a problem any more – Just based on my experience

      :P

  2. Sounds like there might be a chicken lurking around somewhere we have lots of wild turkeys and they have been into the worm shed but they did not bother anything. I have had magpies show up and our local moose was caught in the shed a couple of weeks ago but he did not seem to be interested

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