Keeping Reds and Nightcrawlers In One Bin

This question comes from Bob. He is wondering if Nightcrawlers and Red Worms can live together in the same system.

Hi,
Just found your site a few days ago. I love the net….. so much
info, so quickly.
I am going to start up a couple of bins and was wondering, has anyone
you know of combined nightcrawlers and reds in the same box and was
there any problem? I used to raise worms to sell back in the late
70’s and had 6- 4’x8′ beds. I don’t think they were Reds but I don’t
remember for sure. I did have 1 bed with nightcrawlers back then and
every so often, I would find a few NC’s in the other box surrounded by
the smaller worms. Never found any dead ones so I don’t know if it
was “look there’s big brother ” or if they were trying to kill it as a
territorial invader.
Ideally, I would like to combine them to have some for fishing and
yet keep up the voracious disposal speed of the Reds. Also, what is
the optimum pH for each? I used to try and keep it just a touch
acidic to neutral range, 6.8-7.0 and had decent results.

Hi Bob,
Good topic for discussion – I’m sure lots of people wonder about this.
I’m not 100% sure what you mean when you say “Nightcrawler”, but I suspect you might be referring to “Canadian Nightcrawlers” (aka Dew Worms – Lumbricus terrestris). Assuming this is the worm you are talking about, unfortunately they do not make good composting worms, nor are they easy to breed in captivity. If you have open-bottomed bins sitting on soil outside, there is a good chance that Dew Worms (and other soil dwellers) will venture in to the lower reaches of your bin, feeding on some of the organic matter while they are there. But these worms just aren’t suited for the crowded, warm conditions in rich organic matter that Red Worms love so much. They might survive for awhile, but you certainly won’t get a breeding population of them.

If on the other hand we are talking about ‘European Nightcrawlers‘ (Eisenia hortensis), then the answer is yes – Euros and Reds can be combined in the same bin. Some actually like having both in the same system since the Euros tend to go down where the moisture content is higher, while the Reds remain up near the top – thus ensuring that the entire contents are getting vermi-processed.

Red Worms do tend to be a more prolific and active worm however, so mixing the two might not always be the best idea if you want your Euros to really thrive. Also, it might be a bit of a pain to separate the two species later on if you want to sell them etc.

Some readers may recall that I actually dumped a bin of Euros in my outdoor Red Worm bin after it went really sour on me. Just so you know, within a few days I could not find a single Euro. I suspect they went down deep, but I really don’t know for sure.

As for pH, I’ve read that Red Worms are very tolerant of a wide pH range – something like 4.5 – 8. In general I think they prefer it to be somewhat on the acidic side since their preferred habitat tends to be in this range. I’m not 100% sure about Euros but I DO know they are incredibly tolerant. As mentioned above, one of my Euro bins went really sour on me (after adding too much bokashi), creating conditions that would have likely caused a lot of stress for Red Worms. I thought for sure I had killed off my Euros or at least that they would be dying, but when I dumped out the bin they seemed totally fine – sitting down in the shredded leaves (an acidic bedding material by the way) with no visible signs of being stressed or unhealthy.

B.

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Comments

    • Kurt
    • June 13, 2008

    My worm bin is about 2 1/2 months old. During some recent digging around to try and dry it out a little I found two worms that were significantly larger than the rest. I know that the supplier I got them from also sells what he calls “Super Reds” – wonder if I got a couple of them, and if they are indeed Euros??? (Picture e-mailed to Bentley) Anyway, they seem to be coexisting fine (the “Euros” were down deep where it is wettest) We’ll see if they find each other and multiply….

    • Jay
    • July 13, 2008

    Kurt, I think you are talking about Uncle Jim’s worm farm. I asked him about his “super worms” and they are Alabama Jumpers, not Euros. Not sure how they compare to Euros or Red Wigglers for that matter

    • Amber
    • November 5, 2014

    Hello, I am interested in trying my hand at worm farming for our school district’s science center. I have a question about a species of worms other than mentioned in this article.
    can these two species of worms live together?
    Earthworm (Lumbricus terrestris)
    Redworm (Eisenia foetida)
    thanks for your help.
    af

    • Bentley
    • November 7, 2014

    Hi Amber
    I definitely would NOT recommend keeping Red Worms and Canadian Nightcrawlers (L. Terrestris) together. Red Worms are a composting species, so they are adapted for crowded, warm conditions – making them well suited for life in worm bins. L. terrestris is a deep burrowing, solitary species adapted for life in an outdoor soil environment. You could likely keep the latter species alive for a period of time in a bin – but you certainly wouldn’t see any breeding.

    • C.Turnquist
    • May 22, 2015

    I have a small chest freezer that don’t work , outside in the yard. Can I start a worm bed in it and how do I do this ? I fish and I know bed worms are the best.

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