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Hi folks, I recently added 500 red composting worms to my beds. I was wondering if there is any maintenance I should be aware of with them? Do I need to feed them anything? Should I be adding anything to the beds that might help them out? My grow media is hydroton. I have a flood and drain setup. Only about 7 fish in my small 100 g setup, but my levels are all great. I was just curious about my new friends. Thanks for any input!

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I'm anxious to hear responses to this, too. I have access to 100s of worms, and I'd like to learn more about adding them to the grow beds.

I'm wondering if it's as easy as letting some of the older leaves just sit in there instead of removing them for my composter?

Should not require any maintenance. They will eat the fish emulsion and dead roots. You can, if you choose, bury something like banana peels in the media. They will eat it, but it also has the effect of adding "matter" to your gravel beds. So really it would depend on your stocking density and how much filtration you have. So not something you would want to do in over abundance I would think. Things like banana peels may add some nutrients that the system lacks tho.

Either way, no you don't need to do any maintenance. They will thrive and multiply on their own with just whats there.

Personally I prefer to keep mine clean. I have always felt that dead leaves left for long periods attracts various insects, mostly ones that feed on decaying plant matter. I could be way off on that, but that is my experience. My preference is to have a mostly bug free environment as possible in the greenhouse.

If you do plan to use the leaves, bury them. That would solve my problem with it :)

Jeremy Wheaton said:

I'm wondering if it's as easy as letting some of the older leaves just sit in there instead of removing them for my composter?
Thanks Jonathan, you've put my mind at ease. I might bury some decaying leaves here and there since I don't have a heavy stocking density at this time. Appreciate your input on this!

ok I have a little different question... I keep finding shredded worms in my lava rock grow beds, they seem to get washed out of the verticle planters and then pumped back into the lava rock beds in pieces... also can I use the worms I find in my flower garden, ie dirt and under rocks? They are large and pink and have a wide band around the middle. 

Sounds like they may be getting into the the pumps impeller possibly when they get pumped up to the vertical beds. If it is a noticeable problem and you want to prevent it perhaps you could implement a filter bag like the following;

Danner Mesh Water Pump Bag

I would not use the worms found in your garden. Unless you live in a tropical area that has them, they are probably not the correct type of worms. The worms that do work are a very specific type, Eisenia Fetida or commonly "Red Wrigglers".

You can typically identify them by their "tiger striping".

If you do live in a tropical location, you may possible have them. (They die in colder conditions).

If you are tropical, placing a piece of wet card board or melon rind and cover it up with cardboard should attract them.



Deborah Susan Berry said:

ok I have a little different question... I keep finding shredded worms in my lava rock grow beds, they seem to get washed out of the verticle planters and then pumped back into the lava rock beds in pieces... also can I use the worms I find in my flower garden, ie dirt and under rocks? They are large and pink and have a wide band around the middle. 

  I am on my way out of the house to a Wednesday project.....but here is a quick answer...

  The wide band: this is the band that worms get when they are sexually mature.

Worms in the garden:  Redworms (composting worms) need a litter layer of some sort to live in.  They will not live in a soil-only environment.  This is the realm of the earthworm.  If you have mulch or lots of organic matter in your garden, this is a great place for your redworms.  It does need to have a decent moisture content though, whch mulches, etc, usually are good at retaining.

  Thay's all I have time for..gotta run...

 -Converse

Question for Converse and Jonathan.

That picture there with the tiger striping doesn't look like the Eisenia Fetida I'm used to seeing?  Is what I have not really Eisenia Fetida or is that picture above some other kind of composting worm?

Good Morning.  I have only a few minutes to be here this morning and I am off to another day of projects...The joys of farm life...Really!  Fresh air, sun (gotta enjoy it when it is sunny in the PNW), and the great outdoors (too early for misquitos)...

 

First off, I need to give a few basics about worms used for composting.  The term 'Redworm' is not an official scientific class or even speices of worms.  It is a term that is loosely applied by those of us in the world of vermiculture when referrring to the group of worms most used in composting having similar characteristics.  It is something that simplifies speaking of worms in the lay-world of composting.  To be most accurate, we would really need to be talking using the Scientific names of each worm.  The problem with "redworms"/composting worms is that the common names used are VERY often used interchangably.  Here is a list of common worm names that seem to get lumped together.  Depending on where you are, these can be used to descrbe the same worm, or different worms:

    Tiger worm, manure worm, brandling worm, red wiggler, leaf worm, panfish worm...and more

 

   There are three rather broad ecological groups of worms :  Those that live in the deep soil horizons -Endogeic.   Those that live in the suface horizons or litter layer -  Epigeic.  Those that live in soil but feed in both soil and litter - Anecic.   ANd it does not get anymore interesting sounding from there...which is why even most people who work with redworms and have a real base of knowledge shy away from using scientific terms...Not great party conversation material...It is already a sure bet to get strange sideways glances from people when you tell them you are a redworm farmer. But the mix-up of common terms  and  folk-lore type information floating around can be confusing.

 

Redworms are Annelids.  They are Epigeic worms. 

There are a few different types of redworms which are great at vermicomposting.  Each have different parameters for tolerances for  temperature range, pH, etc.. They will reproduce and eat at different rates.  If you have a type of redworm in your bins or AP system that is doing its job, do not worry about specifically identifying it.  Be thankful you have them.  If that was not the answer you wanted to see...read on.  I can help you identify your particular worms...Get our your hand lense, and be sure your neighbors are not watching.  You'll soon be joining the ranks of worm wranglers who get those strange side-ways glances at social gatherings...

 

    Redworms are a lot like people.  If you fed your family only on carrots, you'd look a little different  than others.  Your skin would turn a tinge of orange.  (who knows you might even grow wiskers and long twitchy ears). Remember those experiments at school (maybe due to animal rights sensitivites these are not done any longer) wher you had lab rats and the class fed one caged rat a balanced diet, and another candy, and another some other horrid diet...and then compared then bodies/health of the rats over time?  This is the same with redworms (Please excuse the term redworm in this article - I can write in scientific-ese, but I got over that 'need' after my Univ. days...).  Redworms, even Eisenia fetida, will look different from one place to the next depending on what they are fed.  A worm that is only fed on Malted Barley, for instance, will look a bit washed out in color and small.  Studies from the Univ. of Ohio have shown that the best feedstock for redworms is Hog Manure. You'll get great growth and robust health in redworms. Same type of worm, very different results.  This is why when you go to differnt websites where redworms are sold, some will tell you they feed their worms a specail diet to keep them fat and healthy.  It is possible to do this....SO when you compare "professional looking" worms on an online photo, to yurs, and think: "Hey, that's not what my redworms l;ook like"...there is more to the story.

   How does this apply to your AP systems...If you have redworms in your AP system or in a vermicomposting bin and they do not look like some photo you are comparing them to...it can be because of diet.  From the discussions on this forum, I can tell most of you do not feed your redworms on a diet of Hog Manure, or any manures. It would mostly be vegetation in a vermicomposting bin.  This is fine for the redworms, and they will 'do their job" and thrive as a population. Depending on the make-up of the Food matter you present to your redworm, they WILL look different to a degree than other redworms in size,(length), thickness and coloring.  Even the same species of redworms.

  So how do you tell what redworms you actually have

 Please be sure you examine your redworms quickly and are prepared to return them to a moist dark place quickly.  The red pigment of their skin is very light sensitive.  Exposure to light for a short time can paralyze them, followed by death.

   First off, be sure you are trying to identify sexually mature redworms.  It is difficult, if not impossible, for a newbie to differentiate between speices of redworms that are similar in appearance in their juvenile life stage.  A sexually mature redworm has a thickened fleshy looking band around its body just back from the head a ways.  This is the Clitellum, where the reproductive organs are.

   The only way to be sure you are properly identifying what species of redworm is by counting segments from the clitellum (the thickenedband that has the reproductive organs).  So you will need a hand lense, and patience. You will also need some other anatomy information....

   Redworms have setae.  Little bristle-like 'hairs' arranged on their segments that allow them to move around. There are muscular bands going around the worms, which kind of move in accordian fashion.  Many people use the yellow ('tiger') striping between segments as the only identifying characteristic of Eisenia fetida.  Remember the diet and skin color issue:This is not always very pronounced in all Eisenisa fetida, you have to look.

  Next instead of re-inventing the wheel here, I am going to refer you to some online dichotomous keys to have fun with. Theyt descibe the count of segments, etc for identifying the many species. These online keys, along with great eye-sight, and a hand lense will give you hours of fun indentifying each and every worm in your bins or AP systems. Enjoy!

 

Here is the Key to reproductively Mature Earthworms found in Canada (it includes the main ones used in vermicomposting)

http://www.naturewatch.ca/english/wormwatch/images/taxonomic_key.gif

 

 A simplified dichotomous key to the earthworm species of Kansas

http://www.k-state.edu/earthworm/resources/Kansas%20earthworm%20key...

 

Great Lakes Worm Watch

http://www.nrri.umn.edu/worms/downloads/identification/dichotomous_...

 

 

 I'll check back later...If anyone has any questions....

And IF you actually got out your handlense and did the counting...welcome to the ranks of those who have one more thing they will NOT talk about at the next social gathering they are at. 

  Hope this information is helpful.

- Converse

Man, you know your worms! Thanks for the all the info!

Converse said:

Good Morning.  I have only a few minutes to be here this morning and I am off to another day of projects...The joys of farm life...Really!  Fresh air, sun (gotta enjoy it when it is sunny in the PNW), and the great outdoors (too early for misquitos)...

 

First off, I need to give a few basics about worms used for composting.  The term 'Redworm' is not an official scientific class or even speices of worms.  It is a term that is loosely applied by those of us in the world of vermiculture when referrring to the group of worms most used in composting having similar characteristics.  It is something that simplifies speaking of worms in the lay-world of composting.  To be most accurate, we would really need to be talking using the Scientific names of each worm.  The problem with "redworms"/composting worms is that the common names used are VERY often used interchangably.  Here is a list of common worm names that seem to get lumped together.  Depending on where you are, these can be used to descrbe the same worm, or different worms:

    Tiger worm, manure worm, brandling worm, red wiggler, leaf worm, panfish worm...and more

 

   There are three rather broad ecological groups of worms :  Those that live in the deep soil horizons -Endogeic.   Those that live in the suface horizons or litter layer -  Epigeic.  Those that live in soil but feed in both soil and litter - Anecic.   ANd it does not get anymore interesting sounding from there...which is why even most people who work with redworms and have a real base of knowledge shy away from using scientific terms...Not great party conversation material...It is already a sure bet to get strange sideways glances from people when you tell them you are a redworm farmer. But the mix-up of common terms  and  folk-lore type information floating around can be confusing.

 

Redworms are Annelids.  They are Epigeic worms. 

There are a few different types of redworms which are great at vermicomposting.  Each have different parameters for tolerances for  temperature range, pH, etc.. They will reproduce and eat at different rates.  If you have a type of redworm in your bins or AP system that is doing its job, do not worry about specifically identifying it.  Be thankful you have them.  If that was not the answer you wanted to see...read on.  I can help you identify your particular worms...Get our your hand lense, and be sure your neighbors are not watching.  You'll soon be joining the ranks of worm wranglers who get those strange side-ways glances at social gatherings...

 

    Redworms are a lot like people.  If you fed your family only on carrots, you'd look a little different  than others.  Your skin would turn a tinge of orange.  (who knows you might even grow wiskers and long twitchy ears). Remember those experiments at school (maybe due to animal rights sensitivites these are not done any longer) wher you had lab rats and the class fed one caged rat a balanced diet, and another candy, and another some other horrid diet...and then compared then bodies/health of the rats over time?  This is the same with redworms (Please excuse the term redworm in this article - I can write in scientific-ese, but I got over that 'need' after my Univ. days...).  Redworms, even Eisenia fetida, will look different from one place to the next depending on what they are fed.  A worm that is only fed on Malted Barley, for instance, will look a bit washed out in color and small.  Studies from the Univ. of Ohio have shown that the best feedstock for redworms is Hog Manure. You'll get great growth and robust health in redworms. Same type of worm, very different results.  This is why when you go to differnt websites where redworms are sold, some will tell you they feed their worms a specail diet to keep them fat and healthy.  It is possible to do this....SO when you compare "professional looking" worms on an online photo, to yurs, and think: "Hey, that's not what my redworms l;ook like"...there is more to the story.

   How does this apply to your AP systems...If you have redworms in your AP system or in a vermicomposting bin and they do not look like some photo you are comparing them to...it can be because of diet.  From the discussions on this forum, I can tell most of you do not feed your redworms on a diet of Hog Manure, or any manures. It would mostly be vegetation in a vermicomposting bin.  This is fine for the redworms, and they will 'do their job" and thrive as a population. Depending on the make-up of the Food matter you present to your redworm, they WILL look different to a degree than other redworms in size,(length), thickness and coloring.  Even the same species of redworms.

  So how do you tell what redworms you actually have

 Please be sure you examine your redworms quickly and are prepared to return them to a moist dark place quickly.  The red pigment of their skin is very light sensitive.  Exposure to light for a short time can paralyze them, followed by death.

   First off, be sure you are trying to identify sexually mature redworms.  It is difficult, if not impossible, for a newbie to differentiate between speices of redworms that are similar in appearance in their juvenile life stage.  A sexually mature redworm has a thickened fleshy looking band around its body just back from the head a ways.  This is the Clitellum, where the reproductive organs are.

   The only way to be sure you are properly identifying what species of redworm is by counting segments from the clitellum (the thickenedband that has the reproductive organs).  So you will need a hand lense, and patience. You will also need some other anatomy information....

   Redworms have setae.  Little bristle-like 'hairs' arranged on their segments that allow them to move around. There are muscular bands going around the worms, which kind of move in accordian fashion.  Many people use the yellow ('tiger') striping between segments as the only identifying characteristic of Eisenia fetida.  Remember the diet and skin color issue:This is not always very pronounced in all Eisenisa fetida, you have to look.

  Next instead of re-inventing the wheel here, I am going to refer you to some online dichotomous keys to have fun with. Theyt descibe the count of segments, etc for identifying the many species. These online keys, along with great eye-sight, and a hand lense will give you hours of fun indentifying each and every worm in your bins or AP systems. Enjoy!

 

Here is the Key to reproductively Mature Earthworms found in Canada (it includes the main ones used in vermicomposting)

http://www.naturewatch.ca/english/wormwatch/images/taxonomic_key.gif

 

 A simplified dichotomous key to the earthworm species of Kansas

http://www.k-state.edu/earthworm/resources/Kansas%20earthworm%20key...

 

Great Lakes Worm Watch

http://www.nrri.umn.edu/worms/downloads/identification/dichotomous_...

 

 

 I'll check back later...If anyone has any questions....

And IF you actually got out your handlense and did the counting...welcome to the ranks of those who have one more thing they will NOT talk about at the next social gathering they are at. 

  Hope this information is helpful.

- Converse

Yes, thank you Converse, that was most enlightening. (It's been raining here since Sunday pretty much non-stop so I've got some extra time on my hands...and a hand lens hehe).

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