What Do Red Wiggler Worms Eat?

What Do Red Wiggler Worms Eat
To keep your wigglers healthy and happy, you need to answer this question: “What do red worms eat?”The reality is, they eat just about everything! Well, except for meat, fish, dairy and processed foods.The key to feeding your composting worms is a balanced diet of slightly aged and finely chopped scraps. Read on for a pretty comprehensive list that answers the question: What do red worms eat?

  • The staple of the diet is leaves, preferably rotted and shredded a bit, which can be used as bedding and also serve as a food source.
  • Vegetable scraps and peels, the slimier and smaller the pieces, the better.
  • Coffee grounds and filters – Hey, red worms love their caffeine kick in the morning, too!
  • Fruit rinds, cores, skins, rotted or just left over, including banana peels, a red worm favorite.
  • Tea bags, used and still moist, work well – be sure to remove any staples, though!
  • Breads and grains can be used, but be stingy with them at first, until you are sure the worms like your presentation. They should be moistened a bit, before adding to the bin.
  • Manure is another item that can work well, but you should proceed with caution. Add sparingly, and stick with rabbit and horse manure, if available. Or … don’t use any at all!
  • Dry dog food, moistened in water, is an nutritious meal for the worms, too. So if the dogs bowl has some left over, dampen it and add to the mix for some variety.
  • Cardboard, oddly enough, is a great source of food. The worms like to chew up the moistened paper product, and are especially fond of the glue that holds the corrugated product together.
  • One last item to add once in a while: finely ground up egg shells. Be sure they are cleaned of any egg residue first, and grind the shells into a fine grit. Worms don’t have teeth, and believe it or not, these gritting little particles will be beneficial to the digestive process (of course, the end product of the digestion is the coveted and nutrient-rich worm castings!).

NOTE: The addition of egg shells should be done very sparingly. Also, the addition of a cleaned and in-tact shell fragment or two can be provide welcome shelter to the smallest, youngest worms in your bin. Feel free to add a little shell structure and see what happens!

As a point of emphasis, remember that worms do not do well with meat products and fish, as these items can attract a variety of pests that you DO NOT want in or around your house (think rats). They also cannot properly digest dairy products. Avoid these items at all times.

Also, fight the urge to add any processed food to the bin. This will only cause trouble for your worm army.

Some foods to AVOID:

  • Meat and fish
  • Dairy products
  • Greasy scraps or left-overs
  • Non-organic or processed goodies (think Twinkies)
  • Citrus fruit, including lemons, oranges, grapefruit

When faced with considering “What do red worms eat?” the best course of action is to add new foods sparingly. Don’t upset the delicate balance of the worm bin, and monitor the worms to determine which menu items are well-received. Adapt the above lists to suit your worms.

Article by Donny B

Readers Comments (26)

  1. Daniel Bridson May 13, 2017 @ 6:29 am

    I’m wondering about old fish food. I no longer have the fish. I have TetraMin Tropical flakes, HBH Crab & Lobster Bites, and Hikari Betta Bio-Gold. I can always put them in the outdoor compost or bury them near plants, but if the worms can eat them, I’d rather do that. I can very easily blend these into powder and/or into a mix with shredded paper, or leftover plant matter

    • Daniel, I think your idea of blending or powdering the food so that it can be mixed in will make the fish food a safe additive. If you have any doubts, offer just a small amount at first and take note of any reactions. Way to be resourceful!

      • I was wondering the same thing, if fish flakes could be fed to red wigglers to fatten them up.

        • In general, a diet of processed grains, such as oatmeal or cornmeal, is considered a quick and easy way to get your worms to bulk up.
          Fish food, however, is commonly made of such things as fish meal, squid meal, shrimp meal, earthworms, spirulina, and vitamins and minerals. If you have a bunch of it on hand, I’d suggest rehydrating some of it to make it easily consumable and giving it a shot. Good luck!

  2. I read dry dog food soaked in water was okay, but I thought meat or fish wasn’t aloud in the bin?

    • I’m glad you asked about this! You are absolutely correct that animal proteins should be left out of the worm bin. Without knowing the ingredients used to make the dry dog food I wouldn’t be able to say for certain that if it were safe of not. Many kibbles are made primarily of grain- which could be safe in moderation. If you want to give it a try, I suggest just making sure it’s a meat-free product, then add just a bit to see how your red wigglers take to it. If by chance the dog food is also a salty product, that is something you would be best to keep out of the worm bin. Let us know what you find out!

  3. hello my name is molly and this agood wabsite ia m 9

    • Hi, Molly! You might be one of our very youngest worm farmers! Glad to have you along! What brought you to The Squirm Firm?

  4. Last year i used an old plastic wheelbarrow to act as my bin. i put in regular dirt, some miracle grow dirt and a small amount of sand i searched for night crawlers and regular worms in my yard and put them in the bin. I Ssprinkled the top with some corn meal and cut up an old pizza box into small squares and moistened them . i put the makeshift bin in the shade and covered the barrow with a an old inflatable plastic bed to keep them from drowning. it was pulleed back a bit to allow for oxygen to get into the barrow. The regular worms seemed to be happy living in their raised bed. i noticed quite a few baby worms growing in the bed also.i mainly used the bed to store the worms for when i wanted to go fishing. When the temperatures were starting to drop, I emptied the dirt into my leaf and yard waste compost bin.how can you safely make a bin that will be able to be used all year round when you dont have room in your living space and no basement either? The worms seemed to like the pizza box really well,i made sure that the cardboard i used had no cheese or oil soaked into it. i also used a cut up carboard box from the grocery store. i was concerned about addding newspaper at first but i did adds some of that to the barrow. How deep should the bin be filled with components and would a polyethylene storage box be a useful bind or is it too deep ?How effective is it to use night crawlers and regular worms i extract and put in the bin this year? Will night crawlers and red wiggler worms coexist in a bin ? and what should i do to preserve my worms over the winter besides letting them ‘GO WILD’ again in the other compost bin?

    • Hi Richard. I’m so excited you are having fun and lots of curiosity about raising worms. I love your method! It just goes to show how versatile this hobby can be! I suggest you take a little to search through all the relevant articles The Squirm Firm has posted to answer the many smart questions you are looking for answers to. I’ll do my best here to give some brief answers so you have something to go on at least. A year-round outdoor worm bin IS possible. It just takes a lot of insulation and some planning ahead, possibly a warming coil too. For red wigglers, surface area is what we want, but for earthworms, they are good with going deep. Compost worms are our specialty and we suggest about a foot square for every 1000 red wigglers. Mixing worm species sometimes will work but often one will end up eventually tip the scales in their favor. To preserve them over winter, they’d ideally be kept above 50 degrees using lots of insulation, some long lasting food, and a source of heat.

  5. My worms LOVE avacado shell/peels. I cut the avacado in half long ways to scoop out the good stuff and throw the half peels in the worm bin. They are shaped like a little boat and somewhat hard and will curl a bit, creating a protective cradle like egg shells. The babies love this and they become little nurseries. When I an separating the worms from the soil I can just pick the whole thing up and put it in the new bin without disturbing anyone.

    • Kat, you are so right! Avocado boats are a smart way to gather many worms together for transport. Thanks for sharing that cool tip!

  6. Daine Iannelli April 7, 2020 @ 7:23 pm

    I have a small piece of property w/ 4 horses. I am looking to manage said property to the best of my ability. I have started a manure pile. I live in a neighborhood w/ close neighbors. I would like to add the red wigglers to my manure pile. An acquaintance also has a small piece of property w/ 4 horses and I asked her where her manure pile was and she pointed to a small black pile of dirt and said she uses red wigglers. I’m just not sure if I should just put them in the manure pile and let it go??

    • Hi Daine, Red wigglers sure do love horse manure! If you have a nice large pile the worms are generally very happy in there. They have a constant supply of food plus the heat of decomposition keeps them within a safe temperature range. If they get too cold in winter, the adults die but the cocoons survive until next spring warms them up. Go for it!

  7. besher kuzbari May 14, 2020 @ 5:23 pm

    can I use guine pig manure to feed the worms

    • Hi Besher. Great question. My first inclination is to say it’s fine. BUT it’s important to make sure that it’s not also urine soaked. It causes ammonia to become a part of the bedding and it’s too acidic for the worms. You could literally rinse it to make sure and then use it. Maybe try with a little bit to start and see how your worm herd reacts. If they get right into it- it’s likely a great addition. I hope you found a winner!

  8. Are there any kinds of tree leaves that worms don’t like? I was thinking of adding my dried up chestnut tree leaves a few at a time as part of the brown matter. Is that OK?

    • Your question is really smart to consider. There are certain types of leaves that worms will avoid. Chestnut matter in its raw form does contain a toxin- I’m not sure if that toxin is also active when the material is old and dry. I suggest trying a little bit of it in a clump somewhere conspicuous- IF you have a large enough system that your worms can be away from it if they choose. They are unlikely to eat it if it is no good for them- So, if you put it in and you see the worms go right up to it, and have little visible effect- it can be okay as PART of a mixture you use for bedding. I’m curious to know how it goes and what you find. Please share what you discover!

  9. how do you keep worms cool in real hot westher? and how do you keep magets out of the worm trays

    • Carol Fletcher July 7, 2020 @ 3:51 pm

      You can put ice cubes in your bin, this keeps it cool and creates moisture 🙂

    • Hello Daniel. To keep worms cool in really hot weather it is essential that they are kept shaded, moist, and possibly even brought inside when temps get too high. I’ve had fairly good success however with keeping large volumes of worm compost and worms outside through most of the summer. When there is a large volume of compost in there the moisture helps maintain a fairly stable temp which should fall between your high and low of the day. So 90 in the day and 70 at night averages out to 80 degrees. This is only a guideline, however. Those worms on the exterior of the bin may still get too hot. Adding cool water that will flush all the way through is one way to actually cool your bedding, or you can add a frozen water bottle to the top try so that cool water and air will flow down through the trays.

      As for keeping maggots out of the trays, your best bet is to just prevent flies from getting in. Be sure to avoid animal products that tend to attract flies. Once you have a lot of maggots- (been there, done that) you kinda have to either pick them out or just let them grow up and fly away. I know, gross. Best of luck!

  10. I just started a worm farm with a stack of plastic crates, it’s very exciting! I was wondering: I have a litterbox-system for my cat so that her pee gets into little wood pellets, which then fall apart in sawdust and get filtered out through the bottom (I love it). I was wondering if the worms would like this sawdus, or not? My cat isn’t on any medication. Also, I think I someone else also asked the question: do you know anything about onion peels, and if the worms like it? As I said, very exciting!

    • We recommend against feeding pet waste to your worms. While you may not directly feed your cat’s waste to the worms, the saw dust will have its waste. The waste can contain dangerous pathogens that should not be introduced to your worm composting bin. Pet waste can also contain traces of de-worming medications that can hurt your worms.

  11. What about nut shells? We eat a lot of nuts – especially a lot of peanuts which have rather soft shells. If crushed up, can they bee added to the bin as food or as grit? Thanks, Jacq

    • Hi Jacq,

      There should be no problems putting nutshells in the worm bin as long as:

      1. The nuts contain little to no salt. Otherwise, it may cause harm to the worms.
      2. The shells are broken down into very small pieces or with a blender or food processor. That way, it will be easier for the worms to digest.

      If you have any other questions, you can always send us an email at contactus@thesquirmfirm.com

      Best of luck with your worm composting project!

  12. I frequently add into the worm bin large avocados, cut lengthwise, seed removed, some or all food substance remaining. Seven benefits I’ve found: 1) nutrition, 2) encourages balling in cozy environment equals happy worms, (3) promotes reproduction, 4) helps keep worms warm, 5) naturally traps a LOT of worms without having to sift when you want to move some to a new bin or for other purpose, 6) traps black soldier fly larva to feed to chickens or just remove. I control BSFL population in bin by regularly dumping avocado rind contents, picking out BSF larvae, putting worms back into rind and lightly burying again, 7) use empty rind to contain mushy foods like pureed pumpkin. Bonus tip: before discarding old avocado rind, look carefully inside for newly-hatched (tiny) red worms enmeshed inside rind. Difficult to remove, so I return those pieces of rind to the bin and let baby red worms make their exit later.


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