Red Wigglers vs Earthworms: Which Worms Are Best For Composting

by Sam Richards | Last Updated: January 25, 2021

Composting, a natural process of decomposing organic materials, is a good idea if you are looking for an all-natural fertilizer. Your organic scraps don’t have to go to waste. Instead, you can add them to compost, and in turn, it can produce nutrient-rich soil. To do this, you will need the help of worms.

Not all worms are good for composting. Among others, two of the most common are red wigglers and earthworms. If you are curious about which worm is best for composting, keep on reading and we’ll have a quick comparison of the two.

Before we start, allow us to clarify one thing – red wigglers are earthworms. An earthworm is a worm with a segmented body and burrows on the soil. When people use the word earthworm to refer to composting worms, they are often referring to nightcrawlers. The latter is also going to be our point of comparison in this quick comparison.

Physical Appearance

When comparing the two, one of the most important things to discuss is their physical characteristics. Knowing their appearance will make it easier to identify the worms. A major difference is their length. Earthworms are longer, which can reach six to 14 inches. It is believed that there was even a 22-inch earthworm, which was discovered in South Africa.

The physical appearance also differs in terms of color. Red wigglers are often reddish-purple. Meanwhile, an earthworm is reddish-brown or grayish, depending on the specific type. Nightcrawlers can be further divided into three – Canadian, European, and African. While they belong to the same family, they have different characteristics, but such will not be our focus in this article.

Habitat

When differentiating the two worms, another important point to consider is their habitat. They thrive in different environments. For instance, red wigglers are often found in warmer environments with the average temperature being 70 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, earthworms like it to be a bit cooler. The average temperature at which they survive is 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Speaking of habitat, earthworms are more common in open gardens. When you see worms in your yard after it rains, chances are, that is an earthworm. They are also common in flower gardens. Red wigglers are not as commonly found in open spaces.

Another good thing about red wigglers is that they are more tolerant of different living conditions. This means that they have a higher chance of surviving even when there are fluctuations in its environment. Being not as sensitive as earthworms, it will be easier for you to make sure that the red wigglers will thrive in a composting bin.

Lifespan

If you are looking for compositing worms, it is also important to consider lifespan. If the worms die easily, then composting can be a frustrating experience. They might die even before you can harvest their castings. Red wigglers have a bit longer lifespan than the other earthworms. However, this will depend on their environment, so make sure of the ideal conditions to make the worms last longer and produce the castings needed.

Feeding Habits

One more thing that makes red wigglers good for composting is their food consumption. They eat all kinds of organic scraps, especially kitchen waste. They will eat organic material that is on the top of the soil. On the other hand, the earthworms will be eating soil that is already underground, and they will have to burrow to do this. You can simply add food on the top of the compost, and you can be sure that the red wiggler will be eating them. There is no need for turning the compost just so that you can position the food under for the worms to consume.

Manure and decaying plant are some of the favorite foods of red wigglers. These are what you will typically find in a composting bin. They can consume almost any kitchen scrap that you will find in the worm bin. Meanwhile, earthworms prefer decaying leaves and roots, as well as other microorganisms that are naturally present in the garden or in an open land instead of those in a composting bin.

Reproduction Rate

From the two worms, red wigglers are known for their high reproduction rate, making it a better option if you are breeding for composting, even for fishing bait. In a matter of months, red wigglers can form a massive population. Despite this, take note that the reproduction rate is dependent not only on the type of the worm in the bin but also on the environment, especially the soil temperature.

Conclusion

As noted in this comparison of red wigglers vs earthworms, the best worms for composting are red wigglers. They are more suitable for composting bins, especially in terms of their feeding habits. Not to mention, they reproduce quickly, which means that you can harvest more nutrient-rich castings.