Types of Nightcrawler Worms: How to Identify Them

  • By: Sam Richards
  • Date: December 4, 2020
  • Time to read: 4 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 to 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, they 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
  • 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
  • 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 a 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 it with fruit and vegetable waste, as well as eggshell, coffee ground, and garden waste. Basically, you can give almost anything that other composting worms will eat.


In sum, a nightcrawler worm is one of the best earthworms you can use for composting. They are effective for soil aeration and in aiding the transfer of nutrients to the surface of the soil. There are three main types – European, Canadian, and African. For composting, European and African nightcrawlers are the best options.

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