Here is a question from Wade:
Bentley, I currently have red wigglers, european night crawlers, african night crawlers and alabama jumpers.
My favorite are the red wigglers cause they are a better size to fish with, the others grow too big for my hook.
I have noticed in raising my red wigglers, I have plenty of them but they just won’t get very large, maybe 1 inch long. What am I doing wrong, I have just built a large 4ft x 8 ft x 12 inche bin for them in hopes that they were just crowded. I have rabbit manure in there and also feed them fermented vegetable scraps in hopes they will grow by fishing season.
This is a fairly common scenario. Red Worms are quite small in general, but 1 inch would definitely be below the adult average (likely more like 3 inches). There are two main factors that seem to play a role: 1) Nutrition, and 2) Moisture content.
The absolute BIGGEST Red Worms I’ve seen (more like 4 or 5 inches) were living in various old outdoor manure (horse manure + stall bedding) heaps. This habitat/food is clearly top notch for these worms since this is also where I’ve seen some pretty amazing densities as well (although I’ve had pretty good luck in my own systems too).
Often, when worms get really crowded food resources can end up in shorter supply, however, thus limiting the amount of nutrition that each worm can get (likely other factors that come into play with crowding as well). I’ve certainly had plenty of systems that were loaded with worms where the average size seemed to be on the small side.
Moisture content can be another really significant factor. Worms are basically little semi-permeable bags of water, so as the surrounding environment dries out they too lose moisture and thus body volume. I’ve noticed in less-than-ideal enclosed plastic bin systems that worms can remain quite plump in comparison to those in open (especially outdoor) systems that are actually operating more efficiently (better overall worm health etc etc).
If you can provide your worms with sufficient moisture (still best to use systems with good drainage and/or air flow if at all possible), rich food materials (such as manure, “worm chow” etc) and a bit more space to spread out in you should see an increase in size for sure. Just be careful with “too much” moisture (usually only an issue in systems that don’t drain) and “too much” nitrogen – the latter can result in ammonia release (deadly) and a condition known as “protein poisoning”.
Your new system sounds great – just make sure you also have LOTS of bedding materials in there as well – it will help to balance the C:N ratio and will provide the worms with a lot more habitat value (bedding air flow, space etc).
Anyway – hope this helps, Wade! I’m sure other folks will have their own nifty methods for growing fat worms as well – hopefully some of them will share here!
Thanks for the great question.