Red wigglers formal name is Eisenia fetida are also known as tiger worms, brandling worms, manure worms, panfish worms, and trout worms, are popular composting worms.
They are a great choice for vermicomposting due to their ability to digest and process organic waste material quickly and efficiently.
Knowing what to feed your red wigglers is essential for maintaining a healthy worm composting system as well as optimizing the quality of the nutrient-rich compost they produce.
In general, red wigglers eat a wide variety of organic materials, such as fruits, vegetables, and leaves.
Compost worms thrive on a balanced diet of equal parts “brown” and “green” materials. Brown foods are high in carbon and carbohydrates, while green foods provide a good source of nitrogen and protein.
Some favorite foods for red wigglers include used tea bags, coffee grounds, bread, oatmeal, and dried leaves.
It’s essential to remember that you should avoid feeding compost worms citrus-based fruits and other highly acidic foods, as these can harm the worms.
Manure is another food source they relish, but it’s crucial to ensure it’s properly aged before adding it to your worm farm to avoid harmful pathogens.
What To Feed Red Wigglers
Fruit and Veggie Scraps
We feed our red wigglers raw, uncooked fruit and veggie scraps to ensure proper nutrition. Some of their favorite food scraps include:
Avocado (excluding the pit and rinds)
Pumpkin and squash
Keep in mind to limit citrus fruit peels, as they can attract fruit flies and may harm the worms due to their acidity.
Shredded Cardboard and Paper
Ensure that these materials are properly soaked and mixed with a little soil or coconut coir to maintain moisture.
Additionally, garden waste like dried grass clippings and leaves can be provided as their food source.
Egg Shells and Crushed Oyster Shells
Compost worms need calcium for their reproduction and growth.
Add a small handful of crushed eggshells or oyster shells to our worm bins.
These materials offer an essential source of calcium and also help maintain a balanced pH level within the bin.
Coffee Grounds and Tea Bags
Coffee grounds and tea bags are excellent worm foods as they are rich in nitrogen.
We add them to our worm bins, but it is essential to remember not to overdo it.
Excessive amounts of coffee grounds or tea bags can make the environment too acidic for red wigglers.
By providing these essential foods, we ensure that our red wigglers receive the nutrients they need.
Preparing and Processing Food Scraps
Feeding our red wigglers requires proper preparation and processing of food scraps to ensure a healthy worm bin and thriving worms.
Before tossing kitchen scraps into the worm bin, chop them into smaller pieces.
We recommend cutting food scraps into half-inch to one-inch sizes to help speed up the decomposition process.
Smaller pieces have more surface area, which allows for an increased number of microorganisms, red wigglers’ primary food source.
When preparing food scraps, keep in mind that compost worms prefer soft foods.
They enjoy the sugar and soft flesh of most fruits and can also consume organic fruit and vegetable waste, including rinds, cores, and peelings.
Steer clear of citrus based scraps, like lemons and oranges, due to their high acidity levels. Additionally, starchy wastes, such as bread, oatmeal, and pasta, can be included in moderation.
For an alternative approach, using a food processor is another option for breaking down food scraps.
Blending food waste, like fruit and vegetable peelings, creates a softer, more accessible food source for the worms.
If using a food processor, ensure the worm food is transferred to the worm bin immediately as exposure to air can lead to the growth of harmful bacteria and mold.
Don’t overfeed the worm bin.
Be mindful of the compost worms’ consumption rate and adjust food portions accordingly.
If you have too much worm food ready for the worms, put it in the freezer.
When the food scraps are defrosted it may be a bit mushy. That’s actually okay as it makes it easier for the red wiggler worms to digest.
Too much food can cause unfavorable odors and attract pests. By diligently preparing and processing our kitchen scraps, we can maintain a thriving worm bin for red wigglers.
Food to Avoid or Limit
We recommend limiting or avoiding feeding red wigglers citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and pineapples, as they have high acidity levels that can create an inhospitable environment for the worms.
Not only can these fruits harm the worms’ sensitive skin, but they can also attract fruit flies and give off an unpleasant odor to your compost bin.
While potato peels can be used in moderation, it’s essential not to overfeed them to your red wigglers.
In large quantities, potato peels can develop a slimy, unpleasant texture and may also produce a strong, potentially harmful odor.
Limiting potato peels in your worm’s diet can help you maintain a healthy and odor-free bin.
Onions and Garlic
Onions and garlic are best used sparingly or avoided altogether when feeding red wigglers.
These potent vegetables have strong odors and flavors that can make the compost bin environment uncomfortable for the worms.
Additionally, their high sulphur content can harm the microbes needed for efficient composting.
Following a Proper Feeding Schedule
Monitoring The Number Of Worms
In order to maintain a healthy worm bin and efficiently feed red wigglers, it’s essential that we monitor the total number of worms.
A good rule of thumb is to start with 1,000 red wigglers (about 1 pound) for every 1 square foot of worm bin surface area. Over time, the worm population will grow based on the amount of food provided and the conditions of the bin.
When we notice the worm population increasing significantly, it may be time to expand the size of the bin or consider splitting the worms into multiple bins.
This will ensure there is enough space and food to go around, preventing overcrowding and keeping the worms healthy.
Monitoring The Amount Of Food For Worms
We should aim to feed our worms about half their body weight in food waste every day.
For a worm bin with 1 pound of worms, this would mean providing approximately 1/2 pound of food daily.
What to feed red wigglers and tips for success:
Bury The Food Waste
Place the food waste three to four inches under the top of the bedding to prevent rotting and attracting pests.
Chop or Shred Food
Cut the food waste into small pieces, as red wigglers eat the microorganisms breaking it down. Smaller pieces accelerate the decomposition process.
Feed your worms a mix of starchy food waste, such as bread, oatmeal, and pasta, as well as fruit and vegetable scraps. Avoid meat, dairy, and oily foods as they can harm the worms.
Regularly check the bin to ensure that the worms are consuming the food provided.
If there is still a lot of uneaten food, consider reducing the amount of waste or waiting longer between feedings.
In theory, red worms can eat half their weight each day, but this number applies to a settled worm population under ideal conditions.
As worm bin owners start out with new composting bins, it is recommended to start by feeding an amount of food they can handle every 2 or 3 days.
Managing the Worm Bin Environment
Preventing Fruit Fly Infestation
In managing the worm composting bin, it is essential to prevent fruit fly infestations. This can be a difficult task.
Fruit flies are attracted to the decomposing fruits and vegetables we feed our red wigglers.
To minimize the risk of infestation, we should always bury the food scraps at least an inch or two under the worm bin’s surface.
Using a well-fitted lid on the worm bin can also help to deter fruit flies from entering.
While red worms enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables, it’s important to avoid citrus-based items, such as lemons, oranges, and pineapples.
These have high acidity levels that can result in an invitation for fruit flies. Starchy food wastes like bread, oatmeal, and pasta are better alternatives.
Managing An Ant Infestation
Here are some ways to manage ants in a worm farm:
Remove food sources:
Ants are attracted to sweet and sugary foods, so it is important to avoid adding these types of foods to the worm bin. Instead, stick to vegetable and fruit scraps as suggested.
Create a barrier
Putting a barrier around the worm farm can help to prevent ants from entering. Some effective barriers include diatomaceous earth, and vinegar. Also try standing the feet of the farm in small containers of water. This provides a physical barrier.
Use a raised platform
Raising the worm farm off the ground can help to prevent ants from accessing it. You can use bricks or cinder blocks to create a platform).
Nematodes are microscopic worms that feed on ants. They can be purchased online or at garden centers and added to the worm farm to help control ant populations).
Relocate the worm farm
If the ant infestation is severe, it may be necessary to relocate the worm farm to a different area .
Balancing Moisture and ventilation Holes
Another crucial aspect of managing our worm composting bin is striking the right balance between moisture and aeration.
Red wigglers thrive in a moist environment, with an ideal humidity level of 70%-90%.
At the same time, proper aeration is essential to ensure the healthiest setting for the worms. It is necessary to maintain damp but not waterlogged bedding.
If the bedding becomes too dry or too wet, our red worms may struggle to survive and reproduce.
To achieve the correct balance, we can use air holes in the worm bin.
These holes should be evenly distributed throughout the bin, providing ample ventilation and preventing excess moisture accumulation.
You can use a drill to create holes in the sides and bottom of the bin. The number and size of the holes will depend on the size of the bin and the number of worms you have.
It is recommended to drill 20-30 small holes (1/4 to 1/8 inch in diameter) in the sides and bottom of a 10- to 15-gallon plastic storage bin to provide adequate ventilation and drainage for the worms.
If you have a commercially bought worm farms you will not need to worry about drilling holes as the worm bin is already constructed with ventilation holes.
By keeping a close eye on the worm bin and adjusting the conditions when needed, we can create an optimal environment for our red worms to flourish.
Maintaining A Nutrient Rich Compost
By ensuring their nutritional needs are met, we can improve the quality of the worm castings produced, benefiting our garden soil and plants.
Supplementing with Manure
In addition to fruit and veggie scraps, we can also feed our red wigglers with composted manure to promote a nutrient rich environment for our worms.
Horse and cow manure are great choices for red wiggler worm food, as they are rich in organic matter, and the worms will thrive on the additional nutrients.
When using manure as a supplement, be sure to source it from pesticide free sources, as pesticides are harmful to our compost worms.
It’s also important to use composted manure as using fresh manure can produce ammonia, which is toxic to worms.
Here’s a quick guide to supplementing with composted manure:
Horse manure: Excellent for red wigglers due to its high carbon content
Cow manure: Rich in nutrients and provides more moisture content for the worm habitat
Soil From The Garden
Soil from the garden can also be added to our red wiggler compost bins to provide some natural grit. The soil particles aid the worms’ digestion process and are necessary for their gizzard function.
By including small amounts of soil, we make the environment more comfortable for the worms and improve the texture of the resulting worm compost.
Remember that it’s important to strike a balance when feeding our red wigglers.
Overloading the compost bin with too much manure, soil, or fruit and vegetable scraps can lead to ammonia build-up and other issues, adversely affecting the worms’ health and the overall composting process.
Advanced Vermicomposting Strategies
In this section, we will discuss advanced vermicomposting strategies to help you get the most out of your worm farm.
We will cover topics such as expanding your worm farm and incorporating pet waste into your vermicomposting system.
Expanding the Worm Farm
As your vermicomposting efforts progress, you may find the need to expand your worm farm to accommodate a larger population of red wiggler composting worms.
Here are some tips for successfully expanding your worm farm:
Increase Bin Size
Gradually increase the size of your worm bin to provide more space for your worms and to process a larger amount of organic matter for worm digestion.
Divide and Conquer
If you have multiple bins, you can divide your worm population among them and provide each bin with an equal amount of food and bedding material.
Monitor Population Growth
Regularly check your worm population, ensuring that it is neither overcrowded nor underpopulated. Maintaining optimal conditions will contribute to healthy and efficient vermicomposting.
Vermicomposting with Pet Waste
Incorporating waste from pets into your vermicomposting system can be a great way to recycle nutrients and reduce the amount of waste going to the landfill. However, it is important to do this responsibly and safely. Here are some considerations when using waste from pets in your worm farm:
Choose The Right Waste: Not all waste from pets is suitable for vermicomposting. Stick to herbivore waste, such as rabbit, guinea pig, or hamster droppings. Avoid using waste from carnivorous pets like cats and dogs, as it can contain pathogens harmful to both worms and humans.
Pre-Compost Before Adding: Pre-composting pet waste allows it to break down and heat up, which can help kill harmful bacteria and parasites. Once cooled, it can then be safely added to the worm bin.
We hope these advanced vermicomposting strategies have provided you with valuable information to enhance your worm farming efforts and make the most of your red wiggler composting worms.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should not be fed to red wigglers?
Although red wigglers can consume a wide variety of household waste, there are certain items that should be avoided.
Citrus fruits and peels, such as lemons, oranges, and pineapples, should not be fed to them due to their high acidity levels.
Remember, avoid feeding them meat, dairy, and oily or processed foods, as these can cause issues like foul odors and unwanted pests in the worm bin.
How often do you feed red wigglers?
Red wigglers can eat up to half their body weight daily, so keeping a consistent feeding schedule is important.
We recommend adding fresh food scraps to their bin every 2 to 3 days, making sure to bury the food to discourage pests and odors.
Monitor the bin to adjust the feeding rate based on how quickly the worms are consuming the food provided.
Can red wigglers eat leaves?
Yes, red wigglers can eat leaves, especially when they are decaying.
Decaying leaves are a great source of nutrients for the worms and can be added to their feeding mix, along with other organic wastes like fruits, vegetables, and coffee grounds.
What is the best worm food for reproduction?
To encourage reproduction in red wigglers, feed them a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of organic materials like fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, crushed eggshells, tea bags, and even small amounts of starchy food wastes like bread, oatmeal, and pasta.
Maintaining a favorable environment, such as optimal temperature and moisture levels, will also help boost their reproduction rate.
Can you feed worms oatmeal?
Yes, you can feed red wigglers oatmeal. Starchy food wastes, including oatmeal, are suitable for their diet, but should be provided in moderation along with other organic matter like fruits and vegetables.
How long can red wigglers go without food?
Red wigglers can survive without food for several weeks, but their health and reproduction may be negatively affected if they are consistently deprived of food.
We recommend maintaining a consistent feeding schedule and providing a mix of organic materials to ensure their well-being and support their composting capabilities.