Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

First I want to thank Sylvia Bernstein for writing her book for with out it, I would be nowhere and second I can't thank those involved in this Forum enough! When you put so much time and effort into your aquaponics set up and something does not go well, it's not like you can run down to the local store and get advice. Nobody in my area is any kind of authority on this subject, so I really feel like a Lone Ranger! Thank you Aquaponic Gardening Community!!!!

I guess I'm just looking for some support/guidance/ on cycling my pond/AP for the 1st time, I just don't want to mess it up.

1. Started cycling 4/12/13 (fish less) . Temps. were a little  cool, but I was eager to get any kind of   jump start.

2. 3,000 gal. AP. Water temp is now 65 Degrees F.

3. Ph is around 7.2, Ammonia 4 ppm, Nitrites 4-5 ppm, Nitrates around 2-3 ppm.

4. Grow beds are planted and seem to be doing well.

Just looking for any comments/help/direction in addition to Sylvia's book. Thanks!!

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I took your advice Alex and ordered worms from Uncle Jim! thank you!

Greetings,

  I was over at another discussion about vermicomposting and what to feed worms, and was asked to add some feedback to this discussion.  Glad to chime in….  This is long..

  The questions posed above are all good and fair ones.  There is some mystery about worms and a lot of mis-information about worms also.  This is very understandable.  There are approximately more than 2,700 different types of ‘earthworms’ ( that is, in  the taxonomic classification in the phylum Annelida).  Add to that the confusion of “what is a redworm? ” and it gets more confusing.

        First off, the term ‘redworm’ is just a category used in the world of vermiculture to distinguish the group of worms which generally live in the top horizon of the soils layer where the dead and decaying organic matter lies.  The redworms live in this organic matter where it is moist and consume the matter, breaking it down into what we would call soil.  Redworms cannot live in the lower soil horizons.  Their realm is organic matter.

     Another category are the ‘earthworms’.  This group of worms are those that require a soil environment to live.  They cannot survive in a solely organic matter environment.

      When vermiculturists talk about worms in this manner, think about it as compared to the “Dog World”.  There are groups or categories called “Working Dogs”, “Toys/Companion Dogs”, “Herding Dogs” etc…but these are not specific breeds, just a groups of dogs according to behavior and characteristic. The same with worms.

     To some people who do not know about worms, a red worm is the same as a redworm. Not so. Just because it is red-colored does not make it a redworm.  Also redworms are comprised of many species of worms that will accomplish composting in an environment that is only compostable matter.  Some species of redworms are faster at accomplishing this task than others.  Some are suited to a specific temperature range or pH.  Some redworm species are also more finicky than others and will attempt to leave (or die) if their parameters for ‘comfort’ are not met.  Some redworms have more of a wandering habit than others.  All these characteristics come into play when choosing what species of redworm to obtain for a specific purpose.

     Let’s get even more confusing….I'll address the issue of  common names and scientific names.  I do not like pretentious delving into scientific jargon for the sake of impressing anyone.  I got over that ‘sophomore-itis’ years ago after my Univ. days…However, in terms of clarity, when it comes to redworms there is a need to use some scientific reference…here is why: Often times common names are used interchangeably among redworm species  from region to region, or just indiscriminately applied by those who do not know.  The average person buying ‘redworms’ will not necessarily know what kind of worms they are getting simply by looking at them….”Yup, those are worms alright!”  Each species of redworm is distinguished by the number of muscular bands from tip to genitalia, and also size, coloration, and presence and placement of setae or bristles on the body (yes, redworms do have bristles!), etc..This is easily seen using a hand-lens coupled with good eyesight…and a dichotomous key.

     To quote Alex above “ "EF" is eisenia fetida, which is THE redworm, the stuff of composting myth and legend” …

    Eisenia fetida is commonly called  redwiggler, tiger worm, brandling worm, manure worm depending where you are….BUT there are also other composting redworm species that get labeled interchangeably with these same common names.  This is why so many of those who raise redworms and know what they are doing use the scientific names.

  It gets more odd: There is another species of redworm referred to by its common name “European Night Crawler”, scientific name Eisenia hortensis.  It is actually NOT a night crawler at all…It is given that common name because of its size.  True night crawlers live in burrows in the lower soil horizons (they require a soil environment) and cannot tolerate temperatures well over 50 degrees F, which is why true night crawlers are sold in the fishing bait section in refrigerated cases.

      Bob Terell made a very good observation in his post above:" So, now I don't know anymore if earthworms will survive in the AP system or not.  If they will then the worm industry has put one big one over on us with the red wigglers when we could have just gone out in the yard and dug up our own for free."

 

     Here is the best answer I can give you…and I freely tell the same to others…Yes, redworms will live in an AP system very successfully.  The water has dissolved oxygen in it.  The reason you see worms surface after the soils get drenched in the rain outdoors is that rain water does not contain needed amounts of dissolved oxygen in saturated soils.  Redworms can live very happily in the bottom of a pond or even and AP system fish tank (if they don’t get eaten) for months (or indefinitely) because there is dissolved oxygen in the water. Redworms require moisture on their skin through which they breathe.  The reason Eisenia fetida is the worm of choice for worm bins and AP systems is that it is the species of redworm that tolerates the widest temperature and pH range of all the species of redworms, and it has the highest rate of consuming organic matter and fastest reproduction rate. Very importantly, Eisenia fetida does not have a wandering habit, so it will stay put in your AP system or worm bin.  Some redworms DO have a wandering habit, that make them not the best choice for these applications.

  Can I just go out in my compost pile or manure pile and get worms from there to use?   Actually, yes, you can.  And it may be that what you find is Eisenia fetida…it might be another species of worm.  Remember there are 2,700 species of worms!  Go ahead and try it. Just make sure where you get them from is not down in the soil, but up in the litter layer or in a non-thermophillic compost pile.  Be aware that if the worms do not like the space you put them, or are earthworms they may end up making a mass exodus, or dying. Some people hunt their own worms successfully.  Eisenia fetida have lived outdoors successfully on their own for years, as have all other species of worms, so yes, they are out there.  Those who sell redworms are not “putting a big one over” on anyone.  There are people who want to be sure of what they are getting, and may not want to hunt redworms down themselves (hoping they get the right species for their application), so buying the worms is a good option for them.

   There are people out there who are selling redworms who do not know a redworm from a red worm.  That is where asking what species of worm they are selling (scientific name) comes in handy.  But the neighbor boy down the street who is selling redworms , and knows they are not night crawlers can still be a good resource. Just depends on what chances you are willing to take.  By the way… there is no such thing as a Hybrid worm. …They do not ‘interbreed’.  So do not get sucked into that con. 

 

    Bait shops often sell true night crawlers, that require refrigeration.  They may also carry European Night Crawlers (the large species of redworms mentioned above) as bait that really do not require refrigeration. If you buy redworms at a bait shop you will pay WAY MORE per worm than you would if you bought them from someone selling composting redworms, plus you have no way of knowing what you are really getting if the worm species scientific name is not on the label.  Sold as fishing bait, it really does not matter what species they are...most fish are not going to ask....

      By the way, Eisenia fetida are small, but make great fishing bait!  You can get a whole worm on a hook, which gives you better 'worm action" and great fishing results...Another plus is that you can take these worms on extended fishing/backpacking trips without them dying on you, since they do not need refrigeration.

 

 

 I hope I clearly and fully addressed the redworms and Aquaponics application questions in this discussion that  I was asked to address. ( Alex, thanks for inviting me to join in this conversation.)  If you have more questions go ahead and ask.

 

-          Converse

 

Good info, Converse.  Thanks.  

Wow! enjoyed the education. Thank You Converse!

Converse said:

Greetings,

  I was over at another discussion about vermicomposting and what to feed worms, and was asked to add some feedback to this discussion.  Glad to chime in….  This is long..

  The questions posed above are all good and fair ones.  There is some mystery about worms and a lot of mis-information about worms also.  This is very understandable.  There are approximately more than 2,700 different types of ‘earthworms’ ( that is, in  the taxonomic classification in the phylum Annelida).  Add to that the confusion of “what is a redworm? ” and it gets more confusing.

        First off, the term ‘redworm’ is just a category used in the world of vermiculture to distinguish the group of worms which generally live in the top horizon of the soils layer where the dead and decaying organic matter lies.  The redworms live in this organic matter where it is moist and consume the matter, breaking it down into what we would call soil.  Redworms cannot live in the lower soil horizons.  Their realm is organic matter.

     Another category are the ‘earthworms’.  This group of worms are those that require a soil environment to live.  They cannot survive in a solely organic matter environment.

      When vermiculturists talk about worms in this manner, think about it as compared to the “Dog World”.  There are groups or categories called “Working Dogs”, “Toys/Companion Dogs”, “Herding Dogs” etc…but these are not specific breeds, just a groups of dogs according to behavior and characteristic. The same with worms.

     To some people who do not know about worms, a red worm is the same as a redworm. Not so. Just because it is red-colored does not make it a redworm.  Also redworms are comprised of many species of worms that will accomplish composting in an environment that is only compostable matter.  Some species of redworms are faster at accomplishing this task than others.  Some are suited to a specific temperature range or pH.  Some redworm species are also more finicky than others and will attempt to leave (or die) if their parameters for ‘comfort’ are not met.  Some redworms have more of a wandering habit than others.  All these characteristics come into play when choosing what species of redworm to obtain for a specific purpose.

     Let’s get even more confusing….I'll address the issue of  common names and scientific names.  I do not like pretentious delving into scientific jargon for the sake of impressing anyone.  I got over that ‘sophomore-itis’ years ago after my Univ. days…However, in terms of clarity, when it comes to redworms there is a need to use some scientific reference…here is why: Often times common names are used interchangeably among redworm species  from region to region, or just indiscriminately applied by those who do not know.  The average person buying ‘redworms’ will not necessarily know what kind of worms they are getting simply by looking at them….”Yup, those are worms alright!”  Each species of redworm is distinguished by the number of muscular bands from tip to genitalia, and also size, coloration, and presence and placement of setae or bristles on the body (yes, redworms do have bristles!), etc..This is easily seen using a hand-lens coupled with good eyesight…and a dichotomous key.

     To quote Alex above “ "EF" is eisenia fetida, which is THE redworm, the stuff of composting myth and legend” …

    Eisenia fetida is commonly called  redwiggler, tiger worm, brandling worm, manure worm depending where you are….BUT there are also other composting redworm species that get labeled interchangeably with these same common names.  This is why so many of those who raise redworms and know what they are doing use the scientific names.

  It gets more odd: There is another species of redworm referred to by its common name “European Night Crawler”, scientific name Eisenia hortensis.  It is actually NOT a night crawler at all…It is given that common name because of its size.  True night crawlers live in burrows in the lower soil horizons (they require a soil environment) and cannot tolerate temperatures well over 50 degrees F, which is why true night crawlers are sold in the fishing bait section in refrigerated cases.

      Bob Terell made a very good observation in his post above:" So, now I don't know anymore if earthworms will survive in the AP system or not.  If they will then the worm industry has put one big one over on us with the red wigglers when we could have just gone out in the yard and dug up our own for free."

 

     Here is the best answer I can give you…and I freely tell the same to others…Yes, redworms will live in an AP system very successfully.  The water has dissolved oxygen in it.  The reason you see worms surface after the soils get drenched in the rain outdoors is that rain water does not contain needed amounts of dissolved oxygen in saturated soils.  Redworms can live very happily in the bottom of a pond or even and AP system fish tank (if they don’t get eaten) for months (or indefinitely) because there is dissolved oxygen in the water. Redworms require moisture on their skin through which they breathe.  The reason Eisenia fetida is the worm of choice for worm bins and AP systems is that it is the species of redworm that tolerates the widest temperature and pH range of all the species of redworms, and it has the highest rate of consuming organic matter and fastest reproduction rate. Very importantly, Eisenia fetida does not have a wandering habit, so it will stay put in your AP system or worm bin.  Some redworms DO have a wandering habit, that make them not the best choice for these applications.

  Can I just go out in my compost pile or manure pile and get worms from there to use?   Actually, yes, you can.  And it may be that what you find is Eisenia fetida…it might be another species of worm.  Remember there are 2,700 species of worms!  Go ahead and try it. Just make sure where you get them from is not down in the soil, but up in the litter layer or in a non-thermophillic compost pile.  Be aware that if the worms do not like the space you put them, or are earthworms they may end up making a mass exodus, or dying. Some people hunt their own worms successfully.  Eisenia fetida have lived outdoors successfully on their own for years, as have all other species of worms, so yes, they are out there.  Those who sell redworms are not “putting a big one over” on anyone.  There are people who want to be sure of what they are getting, and may not want to hunt redworms down themselves (hoping they get the right species for their application), so buying the worms is a good option for them.

   There are people out there who are selling redworms who do not know a redworm from a red worm.  That is where asking what species of worm they are selling (scientific name) comes in handy.  But the neighbor boy down the street who is selling redworms , and knows they are not night crawlers can still be a good resource. Just depends on what chances you are willing to take.  By the way… there is no such thing as a Hybrid worm. …They do not ‘interbreed’.  So do not get sucked into that con. 

 

    Bait shops often sell true night crawlers, that require refrigeration.  They may also carry European Night Crawlers (the large species of redworms mentioned above) as bait that really do not require refrigeration. If you buy redworms at a bait shop you will pay WAY MORE per worm than you would if you bought them from someone selling composting redworms, plus you have no way of knowing what you are really getting if the worm species scientific name is not on the label.  Sold as fishing bait, it really does not matter what species they are...most fish are not going to ask....

      By the way, Eisenia fetida are small, but make great fishing bait!  You can get a whole worm on a hook, which gives you better 'worm action" and great fishing results...Another plus is that you can take these worms on extended fishing/backpacking trips without them dying on you, since they do not need refrigeration.

 

 

 I hope I clearly and fully addressed the redworms and Aquaponics application questions in this discussion that  I was asked to address. ( Alex, thanks for inviting me to join in this conversation.)  If you have more questions go ahead and ask.

 

-          Converse

 

Converse posts some very enlightening info with some very good links (how to identify different species) in this thread herehttp://community.theaquaponicsource.com/forum/topics/composting-wor...

for anyone who is interested...

Thanks again Converse :)

Thanks for your insight Converse! So, what are your thoughts on the "worms surface during the rain because the rain sounds like a mole" theory? That was another discussion we were having somewhere on this forum. I also read an article that theorized that worms surface during the rain because of migration purposes, because the wet soil helps them to travel farther than they normally could. I'm not totally sold on the rain drowns worms idea. And if anyone wants to have a good time, run a search for "worm grunting" on youtube :)

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=why-earthworms-sur...

Converse said:


     Here is the best answer I can give you…and I freely tell the same to others…Yes, redworms will live in an AP system very successfully.  The water has dissolved oxygen in it.  The reason you see worms surface after the soils get drenched in the rain outdoors is that rain water does not contain needed amounts of dissolved oxygen in saturated soils.

 

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