Can Red Wigglers Live With Nightcrawlers

Daniel Brown
• Sunday, 08 November, 2020
• 8 min read

Red wigglers and nightcrawlers are two species of worms you can use on your farm to maintain and/or increase the fertility of plants’ soil. They also fancy their solitary underground homes, which is one of the reasons they love to travel down deep into the soil.

wigglers fatten
(Source: www.youtube.com)


As they dig their way through, they eat dirt and, in the process, leave behind what is called “worm castings”. Which can significantly fertilize your farm soil and keep your plants thriving all through the year.

Nightcrawlers makes deep burrows that can aerate the soil and allow your plants’ root to properly absorb the oxygen they need to stay healthy and keep growing. These worm castings are made up of important nutrients (like calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and nitrogen) that can improve the structure of your plants’ soil.

As mentioned earlier, earthworms love solitary, which is why these fascinating creatures can burrow as deep as six inches into the soil to enjoy this solitude. The deep tunnels they create in the process serve as efficient channels through which oxygen is allowed to flow through to the plants’ root structure.

The burrows they make also creates a better environment in which the microorganisms can assist in the growth of your plants. For example, red wigglers prefer to feed on decaying soil matter (like fallen leaves and animal wastes) and manures instead of in-ground composts, as opposed to earthworms.

In this process, they also release castings (as do earthworms, too), which can highly contribute to the nutrients level of your plants soil. However, red worms can also aerate your plants’ soil to allow the easy absorption of water, oxygen, and other necessary nutrients you decide to use in your garden.

worms wiggler composting lincoln nebraska vermicomposting
(Source: bigredworms.com)

As a fully organic indoor gardener, you must understand the importance of naturally maintained fertile soil structure all year round, without having to use toxic chemicals. This is why you might want to use vermicomposting to better sustain and also increase the soil nutrients your plants depend on for optimal growth.

Vermicomposting, in simple words, refers to the use of worms, and other microorganisms, to convert dead or decaying organic matter into fertile nutrients for your soil. Not just any type of worms, but those that particularly feed on decomposing organic matter as food for their survival.

Interestingly, worms can also help in breaking down the nutritional elements contained in the soil to make it easier for your plants to absorb them for their survival. As mentioned earlier, red wigglers and earthworms differ slightly in their environmental preferences.

The conditions under which a red worm may thrive can be a bit different from that under which nightcrawlers adapt. When you mix red worms and common earthworms together, you might want to expect a more efficient vermicomposting system on your farm with each species contributing differently to the growth of your plants.

Their deep digging will also help your garden soil with drainage and water holding. Red wigglers, on the other hand, will be more efficient in converting fallen leaves into soil nutrients your plants largely thrive on for optimal growth.

axolotl care axolotls water category feed insects
(Source: www.watercritters.ca)

Nightcrawlers is deep diggers, while, on the other hand, redwigglerscan be found within only a few inches to the soil surface. This means, one species will be more comfortable than the other depending on the living condition you’re able to create for them in your garden.

Since red worms are smaller, they can easily be kept in higher density than their counterparts, earthworms. You may have to integrate some conditions in your garden to keep your nightcrawlers alive and also ensure the sustainable growth of your plants all at the same time.

Worms, generally, need calcium for survival and the continuous supply of this element will ensure they thrive properly on your farm. Earthworm feeds on soil and largely on dead and decaying organic matter.

Toxic chemicals like fungicides and ammonium sulfate can seriously injure and reduce the number of worms. So, to prevent this, you can reduce, or stop, the use of fertilizers and fungicides that can harm the worms as well as your plants.

The Canadian Nightcrawler is a soil dwelling worm that is very popular for fishing due to its large size and the relative ease with which it can be collected (especially at night, during or after a heavy summer rain shower). They come up to the surface (typically at night) to feed and to mate, but most of their time is spent burrowing through the soil.

range squirrels species squirrel flying map northern southern states united spotlight ranges nsfs credit november
(Source: blog.timesunion.com)

You likely wouldn’t see the nightcrawlers though since they would be hanging out down in the lower regions where the soil meets the organic matter. The ‘European Nightcrawler’ is in fact a similar worm to the Red Wiggler (they are closely related) and they can technically be kept in the same system.

I was reading some research papers the other day about the concerns of the introduction of exotic (foreign) earthworm species into American land. I’m not going to go into the environmental and ecological risks in detail, but a section mentions that “There is evidence that native earthworm populations can coexist with exotic earthworms and in some instances may have an advantage if the site is not highly disturbed” (James, 1991; Dotson and Kali, 1989; Callahan and Blair, 1999; Callahan ET.

This is for the benefit of the European Nightcrawler because they are larger, worth more by the pound, and they also breed slower. The two type of worms have quite different characteristics in terms of birth cycles, environment adaptability and sexual maturation.

On the other hand, European Nightcrawlers do not grow as rapidly, but is more robust and can adapt to a wider moisture range. So with more red wigglers around it will lower the chances of European Night crawlers finding their mate to breed.

Worms do the clever thing in being able to control their population, which means another limitation for the chances of European night crawlers to proliferate. So to conclude, separating the two species is the best way to go if you’re breeding (doesn’t matter as much if you’re only thinking of composting).

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 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.

Higher moisture levels do tend to work better for worm composting, but this is definitely a good guideline to start with (especially when using a water-tight bin). I really like using newspaper to line the inside of my watertight bin which helps to hold excess moisture under control.

Worms seem to absolutely love rotting leaves, so definitely don’t be so quick to kick those bags to the curb in the fall. Aside from activating the important microbial community, this also allows for moisture to make its way throughout the bin materials.

For anyone interested in simply trying out vermicomposting (or if you want to save some money), I would recommend heading to your local hardware store and grabbing yourself a standard Rubbermaid tub (with lid) or something similar. All worm composting experience aside, the sheer size of this system makes it very worry free.

Even if there are unfavorable conditions in one section of the bin, the worms can easily move into many other favorable zones. Similarly, I tend to keep 1 or 2 small indoor bins at one time, plus an “overflow” bucket (for excess food waste), thus making it much easier to ensure that balanced conditions prevail. All that being said, there is nothing wrong with a single worm bin in the size range of a typical ‘blue box’ recycling container.

This size of bin should be large enough to provide both buffering capacity and waste-processing potential for a typical household (especially if you use an overflow bucket and/or an outdoor composting heap as well). If you are using a typical Rubbermaid type of bin it's not a bad idea to drill some holes in the lid and along the sides prior to adding your bedding/worms etc.

The Canadian Nightcrawler is a soil-dwelling worm that is very popular for fishing due to its large size and the relative ease with which it can be collected (especially at night, during or after a heavy summer rain shower). What many people don’t realize however is that this species is not very well suited for life in a confined worm bin.

You likely wouldn’t see the nightcrawlers though since they would be hanging out down deeper in the lower regions where the soil meets the organic matter.

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