Compost Worms vs Earthworms – What’s the Difference?

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If you are interested in an eco-friendly solution to getting rid of some of the organic and food waste that your household generates, while enhancing the soil quality in your garden, you may be considering vermicomposting.

What worms should you use though? Your typical garden worms?

When looking at the market you may wonder what the difference is between compost worms vs earthworms, if there is any difference?

We understand that to the uninitiated there are a lot of things that most worms have in common and as most species look the same and act the same, they may be the same.

However, as you will see from this post, there are a lot of easy ways to tell the difference between earthworms and compost worms, especially when deciding which compost worm to put in your compost bin.

How Is an Earthworm Different from A Compost Worm?

As we have noted at the outset of this post, to the untrained eye there is a lot of people who would make the mistake of thinking that traditional earthworms and compost worms were the same things.

However, on closer inspection, there are a lot of ways you can tell the difference between earthworms and compost worms.

Let’s look at some of the ways these types of worms differ from one another.

Earthworms are annelid worms that burrow and live in the soil and play an important part in draining and aerating the soil and also buying organic matter deep inside it.

Red earthworms, also more commonly known as compost worms, are used as baits in fishing and for composting organic material like food scraps among other things.

That is the biggest and most significant difference between compost worms and regular earthworms.

Beyond that, there are also several other crucial differences between compost worms and earthworms.

Below, so you can have a better understanding of these differences, we are going to look at many different aspects of both creatures.


Both compost worms and earthworms are the same because they have segmented bodies.

While earthworms are naturally found in several kinds of soil, compost worms are specially bred and not naturally found in soil.


To the untrained eye, all worms look very similar.

However, earthworms have that natural reddish-brown color you may be familiar with, while red wiggler or compost worms stand out more with a reddish-purple tone.


Earthworms can vary in lengths from as small as a quarter of ich to six inches long, while the length of compost worms tends to be just two to three inches.


As you’d imagine when comparing the lengths, overall, the size comparison between the two species of worms is that earthworms are large and compost worms tend to be much smaller.

Rate They Reproduce

When it comes to rate at which they reproduce, compost worms are much faster than earthworms.

That is another important reason why they are favored for vermicomposting as they will be able to keep their numbers growing and continue to enrich the compost.

Soil Types They Prefer

Earthworms generally prefer to live in very moist soil and tend to get on best outdoors in gardens or yard soils.

Whereas compost worms like red wigglers tend to get on better in warmer environments but can handle a variety of different temperatures.

So, you can see that there are very distinctive differences between earthworms and compost worms.

Why Are Red Wigglers Better than Earthworms For Composting?

Now that you understand the difference between earthworms and compost worms, it should be a bit clearer why red wiggler worms, a type of compost worms are better used as compost worms.

Red wigglers, or Eisenia Fetida (or even tiger worm) as they are also known, are perhaps the most common and popular home vermicomposting worm for composting bins.

These live in large colonies and because they live on the surface they are best suited to compost piles as they feed on compost, manure and rotting fruit and vegetables.

Once they have eaten their food, they defecate or cast and that nutrient-rich by-product is what enhances the compost pile.

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They are very hardy and although they may favor a particular temperature or soil condition, compared to earthworms, they can handle all kinds of climates and environments.

As surface dwellers, as long as they can get out from the soil, they can spread their cast and help enrich the compost and improve the soil quality.

Can You Compost With Earthworms?

In theory, yes, you can compost with earthworms.

It may be tricky though.

As long as they have enough food they will thrive inside a compost heap.

While it’s possible to put red wiggler varieties into closed compost bins and specialized wormeries, standard earthworms will not do well in closed-off compost containers because they need to be able to move around and dig deep into the ground.

Can Compost Worms Live in The Garden?

Although they are both worms, there are major differences between compost worms and garden earthworms that you need to keep in mind before considering keeping the former in your garden.

For instance, compost worms live much closer to the surface and prefer moist and wet conditions compared to garden earthworms or common earthworms.

They also live on a diet of raw and organic matter, like grass clippings and decaying plant matter.

Therefore, if you wanted to keep compost worms in your garden, they would only survive if there was a plentiful supply of organic matter for them to eat.

It is much better to invest in some kind of sealed off compost bin or a special wormery where you can keep your colony of red wiggler composting worms and do not have to worry whether they are still alive or not.

You can control the amount of food they have, their feeding habits and use your food waste and other organic waste products from your household and enjoy the benefits of that nutrient-enriched soil.


Although earthworms and compost worms both have their purposes in the natural world, when it comes to trying to improve the soil quality on your property and recycle your waste effectively, there is one type that is the better option.

As we have hopefully been able to show, compost worms or red wigglers are the best segmented worms for composting.

All hail the red wiggler worm!

That’s not to say other worm farmers don’t have success with other composting worms – we’ve seen successful worm compost created by European Nightcrawlers and even the more hyperactive Indian Blue Worms!

But for beginners and veterans alike, red wiggler worms are the easiest option for your composting bin or worm farm.

Enjoy the composting process and we hope you get tons of useful compost and castings from your kitchen scraps and organic materials!

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