Best Types of Worms for a Worm Farm: Beginners Guide

When you start a worm farm, there is a myriad of questions to navigate. Particularly when it comes to the show’s star, the worms, for instance, can you use worms from your garden? Or do you need a particular type of worm? We’ll answer these questions and more in our beginners’ guide to worms for vermicomposting.

Worms for vermicomposting


  • many worms are suitable for worm farms
  • red wriggles or tiger worms are the most productive and reproductive
  • maintaining the proper environment is the key to a successful vermicomposting farm

Since you are researching the best types of vermicomposting worms, we assume you already understand the benefits of a worm farm for your garden. Those that are yet to discover how beneficial worm farms are check out our article HERE.

But let’s turn our attention to the main stars of the show, those wriggly little creatures that produce the black gold we call worm castings fertilizer.

In this guide, we will take a deep dive into worms and explore the reasons for choosing certain types of worms over others.

We’ll also take a closer look at worms themselves and the conditions they thrive in.

So if you’re ready, grab that magnifying glass and get ready to do what we at the Garden Bench Top do best – getting our hands dirty.

bird hugging worms for vermicomposting
credit: tenor

Types of Worms for Vermicomposting

You will be surprised how many different worms can be used for worm farms. These include:

  • Red wriggler/Tiger worms/Brandling worms (Eisenia fetida),
  • Indian blues (Perionyx excavates),
  • Alabama Jumper (Amynthus gracilus),
  • European Nightcrawler (Eisenia hortensis), or
  • African Nightcrawler (Edrilus eugeniae).

However, depending on your location and climate, some worms perform better than others for vermicomposting.

Let’s take a closer look.

Red Wriggler Worms (Eisenia fetida)

By far, the most favored worm for vermicomposting and the type of worms we use in our worm farms, the red wriggle, is known by many names.

Other common names you may have heard bandied around the vermicomposting space are tiger worms, brandling worms, manure worms, panfish worms, and trout worms. And that’s only a few of them.

The main reason why red wriggler worms are popular for worm farms is that they have voracious appetites. A study by the composting department at Cornell University claims worms can eat their weight in soil daily.

Not only do red wriggler worms eat a lot, but they are also good breeders as well. They have a 27-day breeding cycle, from when they first mate until when they lay the lemon-shaped egg capsules. After a 2-3 week period, baby worms will emerge, ready to continue the next generation of worms on your farm.

As you may have guessed, red wriggler worms get their names from their red/brown color. Red wrigglers have distinct ringlets running the length of their body. And their clitellum (reproductive organ) is usually swollen and thicker than the rest of the body. They can also sometimes have a yellowish tinge to their tail. Here is a close-up picture of some red wrigglers from our worm towers in our tiered garden bed.

Red Wriggler Composting worm

Indian Blues (Perionyx excavates)

Another popular composting worm is Indian Blues (more simply known as blue worms).

Indian blue worms love to feast on vegetables and fruits, which makes them perfect for worm farms and composting. They usually linger in the top layer of the bedding material, making it easy to harvest the rich worm castings from the lower portions of the worm farm.

You can see the difference when red wrigglers and Indian Blues are placed side by side below by a Reddit user called Caring_Cactus.

Red wrigglers vs Indian Blues
credit: reddit

Despite their name, Indian Blues are not blue. Like the Red wriggler worms, they are reddish-brown. However, unlike the red wrigglers, the Indian Blues have a visible blue sheen coating and don’t have the distinguishable yellow coloration around their tail.

Blue worms are more commonly found in Asian regions and the tropical areas of Australia. And they prefer warmer conditions.

Alabama Jumper (Amynthus gracilus)

The next worm often discussed in the composting world is the Alabama Jumper worm.

Unlike the Indian Blues, the Alabama Jumper worms like to live deeper in the soil. What makes them a very handy worm is that they can live in varying substrates, such as soil high in clay density and even sandy substrate.

The fact that they like to dig down makes Alabama Jumper the ideal worm for gardens with challenging conditions. The Alabama worms will break up the soil and aerate it, making it viable for plant growth. They also help to enhance the water-retaining properties of the garden.

Alabama worms do come up to eat organic material, like vegetable waste and organic waste, which is why they are considered a worm for vermicomposting.

Alabama jumpers could not look more different from the red wrigglers or Indian Blues. They are long and thick. Growing to an average length of 6-9 inches and with an approximate thickness similar to that of a pencil. Their color is still reddish. However, their clitellum is a distinct pale color compared to the rest of the body.

European Nightcrawler (Eisenia hortensis)

You may have heard about European Nightcrawler worms because they are a prevalent type of fishing bait.

Even though they are associated with bait, European Nightcrawlers, like other worms, still serve a purpose in the garden. They are great for creating tunnels in the garden soil to allow oxygen and water to reach plant roots.

Like the red wrigglers, the European Nightcrawlers like to hang out toward the top of the substrate. Making them perfect candidates for a worm farm.

However, many worm farmers prefer the red cousins over the Nightcrawlers because the European cousins don’t eat as much. And as such, it takes them longer to create that lucrative black gold worm castings.

African Nightcrawler (Edrilus eugeniae)

Unlike their European cousins, the African Nightcrawler worms have an appetite that matches the red wrigglers, which is excellent for composting purposes. But their diet is somewhat different from that of their red cousins.

They also generally operate at a deeper level than red wrigglers, making them a good companion in the same worm bin.

The main drawback of African Nightcrawlers is they are not tolerant of cooler temperatures. Temperatures below 60° Fahrenheit (15° Celsius) are fatal to African Nightcrawlers. Therefore, if you intend to use them as a vermicomposting worm, make sure you keep the farm indoors in temperatures between 70° to 85° Fahrenheit (21° – 29° Celsius).

African Nightcrawler Worms
credit: Reddit

African Nightcrawler worms are duller-looking worms. With muted grey and purple colors throughout their bodies. They grow larger than the average red wriggler, reaching lengths up to 8 inches.

An interesting fact is that nightcrawlers (both European and African) are different from earthworms. The primary differences are:

Nightcrawler Earthworm Active at night only active in the daytime and night has a segmented body is not segmented with one long body generally smaller (1-2 inches) generally larger (2-6 inches) prefers to eat food waste rich in protein, like decomposing animals and meat scraps, but they also eat vegetation like their red cousins. prefers to eat organic vegetation like leaves, vegetable matter, and fruits. They will not eat protein-rich foods.

Worm Anatomy

Given that Red Wriggler worms are the most popular for vermicomposting, we’ll focus on exploring the exciting anatomy of these compost worms.

The Basics

As we established in the table above, Red Wriggler is a single-bodied worm (not segmented like the nightcrawler worms).

At one end is a pointed head that it uses to eat and push through the soil. Worms don’t have teeth, instead using muscles throughout the body to move food through the mouth and into the digestive tract.

At the other end is a tail that is usually flatter and wider than the head. Red wrigglers also have a light yellow color at the tail to help distinguish which end is which.

Digestive Tract

Once the food enters the mouth, it begins its journey through the worm. It first encounters the pharynx, a set of muscles that processes the food into the esophagus. There it waits to be processed into the gizzards of the worm, finally getting crushed by another group of muscles. Finally, exiting at the anus as rich and fertile worm castings.


Did you know the skin of the red wriggler is a fascinating organ of the worm?

Other than the usual purposes of skin, such as protecting the internal organs. Worms breathe through their skin. This makes their skin extremely sensitive. For this reason, the worms’ environment must be maintained in ideal conditions, such as pH, temperature, and moisture content.

Reproductive Organ

Worms reproducing

Another interesting fact about worms is that they are hermaphroditic. Meaning they have both male and female reproductive organs located at the clitellum.

Two red wriggler worms intertwine to reproduce, and both secrete sperm via their skin (another valuable purpose for their skin).

The result will be a cocoon (or worm egg), which forms an elongated lemon shape. We discussed the gestation period of red wriggler worms earlier.