Types of Nightcrawler Worms: How to Identify Them

  • By: Sam Richards
  • Date: August 18, 2023
  • Time to read: 7 min.

For effective vermicomposting, one of the most crucial is your choice of worms. There are different types of earthworms, and it is important to find one most suitable for your composting bin. Among others, a nightcrawler worm is one of the best options.

Nightcrawlers are amongst the most beneficial earthworms, which will provide natural aeration for the soil. This way, water, and oxygen can easily penetrate the ground. While in some areas it can be considered as an agricultural pest, these worms are revered for their composting benefits, making it easier to transport nutrients and minerals from under the ground to the surface.

In this short guide, we will be talking more about nightcrawler earthworms, as well as some of the most common types available.

Characteristics of a Nightcrawler Worm

Before we discuss the types of these worms, let’s first have a quick look at nightcrawlers in general. While it is possible for nightcrawlers to burry at a depth of up to 6.5 feet, most of them thrive on the ground. They crawl on the surface at night, which is a logical explanation for their name.

Generally speaking, the following are some of the most common characteristics of nightcrawlers.

  • The body has a dark color, which can range from grey to red.
  • There are red-shaped segments, which are called annuli. The latter, meanwhile, is covered by tiny bristles, which are called setae. This is what they use to slither on the ground.
  • As for its size, it can weigh up to .39 ounces and grow up to 14 inches.
  • It is capable of flattening its body.

Aside from their physical characteristics, it is also important that you know their feeding habits. They are classified as herbivores as they feed on plants. The first segment of their body is the mouth, which is what lets them eat food. When they feed on the soil, they will create a permanent burrow, which will also make it easier to identify their presence.

What are the Types of Nightcrawlers?

Types of nightcrawler worms

Now, let’s take a closer look at three of the most common types of nightcrawler worms.

1. European Nightcrawler

Scientific Name: Eisenia hortsensis

Physical Characteristics:

  • Can grow from two to four inches
  • The average weight is up to 1.5 grams when fully developed
  • The color is bluish to pink-grey with cream-yellow or pink tails

Known as the larger cousin of the red wriggler worm, the European nightcrawler is an excellent choice for vermicomposting. It is predicted that in the near future, it will overtake the popularity of red worms in worm farms.

One of the best things about this type of nightcrawler is that it is tolerant of temperature fluctuations. With this, they will be easier to grow in most environments. Even with the environmental changes, these worms will most likely survive.

Despite their temperature tolerance, it should be noted that they need protection from the heat, especially when the temperature reaches 80 degrees Fahrenheit. When it is too hot, they might burrow too deep or they will try to escape the worm bin.

Like other worms, they will also need moist bedding to survive. This is because they breathe oxygen through their skin.

Out of all the three species, they are the smallest. They can grow from two to four inches, unlike the two other nightcrawlers mentioned below, which can reach up to eight inches.

2. Canadian Nightcrawler

Scientific Name: Lumbricus Terrestris

Physical Characteristics:

  • Grow from 5 to 8 inches
  • Known for being deep burrowers
  • Has a darker color end compared to the rest of its body

One of the most noticeable characteristics of the Canadian nightcrawler is its size. It is also one of the biggest earthworms, which will make it a great choice if you are fishing. Since it is large, you will not have a hard time hooking the bait.

However, these worms are not often used for composting. In fact, some people note that you should avoid having this in your compost. They are deep diggers and do not swarm food. To add, they are also hard to maintain.

When it comes to growing these worms, one of their most important care requirements is the right temperature. They do not like being in a warm environment. They will die if the temperature reaches 65 degrees Fahrenheit and above.

3. African Nightcrawler

Scientific Name: Eudrilus eugeniae

Physical Characteristics:

  • Unique coloring, which is a mix of grey and purple
  • The top part shows off an iridescent sheen when exposed to sunlight
  • Grows as long as 8 inches, twice the length of redworms
  • Has bands when they stretch

One of the most important things to note about the African nightcrawler is that it is a voracious eater. It can eat up to 150% of its body weight. Therefore, if you will be using this worm as compost, make sure to provide enough food so that it will thrive.

As tropical worms, they are most suitable in warm environments. They are sensitive to the cold. The optimal temperature for their survival is around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. They also do not like sunlight like other worms, even if they prefer a warm environment. This is unlike the Canadian nightcrawler which is more tolerant of warm conditions.

Aside from being good for composting, since these earthworms are large, they are also often used as bait for fishing. They are prolific and easy to grow, so they will be easily accessible.

If you have African nightcrawlers in your compost, you can feed them with fruit and vegetable waste, as well as eggshells, coffee grounds, and garden waste. Basically, you can give almost anything that other composting worms will eat.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the ideal conditions for composting with worms?

The ideal conditions for worm composting include a temperature range of 55-77 degrees Fahrenheit, a pH level between 6-8, and a moisture content of around 70-80%. It is important to provide adequate ventilation and avoid extreme temperature fluctuations.

Can I buy European nightcrawlers for my composting setup?

Yes, you can buy European nightcrawlers, also known as Eisenia hortensis, for your composting needs. They are a great composting worm species and are highly efficient in converting organic matter into nutrient-rich vermicompost.

Are red wigglers also a good option for worm composting?

Absolutely! Red wigglers, or Eisenia fetida, are one of the most popular worm species used in composting. They have a voracious appetite, reproduce quickly, and can tolerate a wide range of conditions. They are excellent composters and can help break down organic waste effectively.

What are the benefits of worm composting?

Worm composting, also known as vermiculture, offers several benefits. It helps reduce organic waste going to landfills, produces nutrient-rich compost for plants, improves soil structure and fertility, and promotes the growth of beneficial microorganisms. It is an environmentally friendly way to dispose of organic waste and create healthy soil.

How do I feed the worms in my composting system?

To feed the worms, you can provide them with a variety of organic materials such as fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, tea bags, shredded paper, and cardboard. It is important to avoid feeding them meat, dairy products, oily foods, and excessive amounts of citrus. Chop the food waste into small pieces to speed up the decomposition process.

Can worm composting be done in colder regions like North America?

Yes, worm composting can be done in colder regions like North America. However, it is crucial to provide insulation and protect the worms from freezing temperatures. You can use a worm bin with proper insulation, position it in a sheltered area, or use heating elements to ensure the worms’ survival during colder months.

How long does it take for worms to convert organic waste into compost?

The time it takes for worms to convert organic waste into compost can vary depending on factors such as worm population, temperature, and the types of materials being composted. In general, it can take anywhere from a few months to several years for worms to fully convert organic waste into compost. However, under optimal conditions, it is possible for worms to convert organic waste into compost within a few weeks to a couple of months. 


At first glance, nightcrawler worms may appear as just ordinary inhabitants of our lawns and woodlands. However, a closer look reveals a range of beautiful worms that can grow anywhere from 6-8 inches to a staggering 10-12 inches long. These worms play an essential role in the ecosystem, aiding in the decomposition process through their castings. Beyond the backyard, they’re highly sought after as bait for freshwater fishing due to their ability to withstand warmer temperatures, and many anglers often find themselves looking to buy them for this purpose.

Yet, it’s essential to be cautious. Some nightcrawler species can be invasive, threatening the balance of local ecosystems when introduced to non-native environments. The observation of these worms is not new; even Charles Darwin took note of their significance in the natural world. Whether one sees them as a suit for one’s fishing needs or marvels at their role in nature, nightcrawlers undeniably catch our attention with their unique characteristics and contributions to our world.

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