Raising Worms For Fishing

Questions from Luke:

Hi – I recently decided to try and make a worm farm so I can go out fishing more often and was wondering if a L48cm (~18.9″) x W43cm (~16.9″) x H64.5cm (~25.4″) bin would be ideal to start one with roughly 1000 worms? If so, how should I go about making it? Thanks for helping.

Hi Luke,

Normally, I’d likely say your bin was “too deep” – but based on my recent experimentation with bucket systems and passive worm bins, my hunch is that your bin of choice could actually work quite well for your particular needs.

My suggestion, though, would be to get yourself one or (ideally) two more of them. You might be able to produce enough worms in a single bin to provide a sustainable, ongoing supply of fishing worms (depending on how often you go, and how many worms you would go through at a time) – but having a few of these bins going at once would all but guarantee that you’ll never run out of worms.

You didn’t mention what variety of worm you were planning to raise. Since they are intended for fishing, I would strongly recommend the European Nightcrawler (Eisenia hortensis). These can be raised almost as easily as Red Wigglers (and they are close relatives in fact), but they have the advantage of growing considerably larger.

They also happen to be particularly well-suited for deeper, rarely disturbed bins.

As I’ve just alluded to, my suggestion here will be to create “set it and forget it” systems instead of active bins that receive food on a regular basis. I recommend reading the passive worm bin post (linked above), but let me quickly summarize the main ideas here as well – especially those that apply to your particular situation.

When you are attempting to grow a thriving new population of worms for some specific purpose (i.e. other than vermicomposting), I strongly recommend starting with a low density of worms in each bin. Assuming the bin is set up properly (more on that in a minute) – the worms will essentially be presented with the sort of opportunity they were “born” to take advantage of, and the growth of the population will be rapid as a result.

In other words, rather than placing 1000 worms in just ONE of these bins, I suggest densities more along the lines of 200 worms per bin (at most). Yes you will need to be a bit patient – but I think you’ll end up pleasantly surprised by the speed at which your worm herds grow in these mini “bait farms”. While you wait, you can always just set up a temporary bin with a larger quantity of worms, and simply use that as your active bait bin.

There are no set-in-stone rules for setting up these systems – but I do have a few recommendations. For starters, I would definitely recommend using a LOT of bulky bedding materials – ideally, something like shredded corrugated cardboard. Euros tend to thrive in bedding-rich systems in general, but these carbon-rich materials also happen to represent an excellent long-term food source for passive systems.

I would also recommend some sort of “living material” such as a well-aged horse manure (should be pretty earthy smelling and dark in color). Start with a “false bottom” of bedding down at the bottom – then basically just add alternating layers of “living material”, food waste, more bedding – and so on.

If you DO have a good supply of aged manure, I’d recommend filling the top third of the bin with just that. Maybe even add some fresher manure right at the top (assuming the bin has reasonable ventilation).

I would leave the bins to sit for at least 2 or 3 months (it sounds like a long time, I know – but it will be worth it, trust me). Maybe top them up with more aged manure periodically if the overall level seems to drop down a fair bit – but other than that, just leave the systems alone. And don’t forget to keep the lids on! This will be very important for a “neglected” system approach like this. (I would also strongly recommend that these bins be kept in a climate-controlled location rather than outside)

What’s cool is that you’ll only need to harvest one bin at a time, so you’ll eventually end up with staggered worm growth cycles in the three bins. i.e. once you dump out the first bin (I recommend a longer, shallower tub as a bait holding bin), you can get it set up again right away. By the time you make it to the end of the third bin (likely months later), the first one will be once again ready for harvest.

Hope this helps!

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