Red worms vs Nightcrawlers (European Nightcrawler & Red Wiggler Differences & Similarities)

red worms vs nightcrawlers blog banner

What is a red wiggler – and what is a nightcrawler? And what are their differences?

These are two common and popular kinds of worms sought by those with vermicomposting systems.

They are closely related – in fact, they are known as cousins. There are some differences in size and coloring, and they also thrive on different types of food.

If you are considering using vermicomposting bins for the first time, both the red worm and the nightcrawler are easy-to-manage composting worms.

Below, we’ll take a look at their similarities and differences in a face-off!

European Nightcrawler Vs Red Wiggler – What’s the difference?

  • The first most obvious difference is their appearance. Experienced composters who have observed both of these types of composting worms will recognise the difference in the size of the adult worms.
  • The red wiggler (eisenia fetida) reaches a length of 3 to 5 inches when fully grown and are surface dwellers. As with most animals, living conditions affect the quality of life for these creatures.
  • As composting worms, they happily live on kitchen scraps that they turn into worm castings (i.e. worm poop), which is ideal for a rich compost pile (as well as horse manure, leaf litter, other food scraps, etc.), for your garden soil, plants, and other vegetation.
  • European nightcrawlers (Eisenia hortensis), when healthy, reach a length of between 3 and 8 inches.
  • Nightcrawlers are generally considered more prolific breeders and outweigh their cousins in this respect.
  • Nightcrawlers munch down on soil, however, whereas red wigglers and red worms prefer any food or material that’s decaying.
  • In the right living conditions, both types will reproduce at a reasonable rate.
  • Worm farmers will need to ensure that if these worms are to be farmed in a bin, that it is of sufficient size or additional accommodation is available when necessary.
  • Both the red worm and European nightcrawler are likely to be used as fishing bait worms by a fisherman, as well as for plants or in vermicomposting bins.
  • Though red wigglers tend to be more popular vermicomposting worms, where Nightcrawlers are sometimes preferred as a fishing worm for bigger fish as the size helps draw attention. It totally depends on personal preference and needs.
  • Both worms are interchangeable and can do both jobs (fish bait and be used for composting)

Can red worms and nightcrawlers live together?

Yes, they can. They have similar food preferences, and can live together but be sure to have food buried in different depths of your bedding.

Red wigglers like to dwell the surface layers while Nightcrawler’s like to dig deeper. So they’re unlikely to compete for the same food material.

They also prefer to live in slightly different temperatures and surfaces so will thrive at different depths without overpopulating the same area.

Nightcrawlers are considered to be the hardiest and can adjust easily to differences in temperature.

European nightcrawlers can be invasive, so may be easier to control in containers.

Red Wrigglers are less comfortable in cold temperatures so that they can be protected from harsh weather in a controlled environment, such as a worm bin.

Moving a bin undercover may be easier for those with worm bins to manage too! Red Wigglers are frequently farmed as opposed to living freely in natural habitats.

Both accept a variation temperature, but nightcrawlers usually burrow deeper, so space is not an issue.

Dietary preferences vary too. These two worms happily make great neighbors!

several nighcrawlers in the soil

That’s not always so common between two different species in the wild, so you won’t have to worry too much about your red wiggler worms struggling with your nightcrawlers.

However, it might not always be the best option to take if you are struggling to maintain a compost bin.

They have very different needs in many respects, and what’s more, nightcrawlers tend to need a lot more space to dig down and thrive. Where as red worms tend to eat and prefer to stay within the top layers of soil

So – yes, they can live together, however, if you’re new to vermicomposting in any shape or form, you might find keeping them together to be a little complex.

Will night crawlers eat red wigglers?

No. The similarities – and differences – in these two types of worm actually make them great vermicompost buddies, if you are willing to take the time to look after these fishing worms.

There’s zero chance of one worm eating the other. However, as mentioned, that’s probably going to be the least of your worries.

The main issue at stake is whether or not you have a big enough tank or bin, and can balance the different needs of these composting worm breeds effectively.

Honestly – you’ll get some fantastic composting material out of these worm breeds – but we’d suggest sticking to simple earthworms to begin with, and maybe work your way up to Alabama Jumpers and the like.

Are red worms better than night crawlers for composting?

The cop-out answer is, it depends. Red worms or red wigglers are considered by many better or “easier” for your compost bin.

That’s largely thanks to the fact that they will munch their way through decaying food and other matter, whereas your average nightcrawler will prefer to just keep digging. They are a little similar to the common earthworms in that respect.

That is also why it is very important to try and ensure you know the difference between the worms you adopt and place in your compost bin.

If you accidentally pop night crawlers in your bin, then you may find you’re not left with much at all.

Red worms will take care of much of the food scraps and waste you’ll likely cast into your worm bin, usually at a faster rate.

Therefore, it’s certainly better to know which species you want over the other to make your job easier and to get the right worm bin environment ready for your species of worm.

A shallow bin won’t be appreciated by nightcrawlers, for example where as red wigglers or red worms will do just fine.

several red worms in the soil

Are European Nightcrawlers the same as red wigglers?

No, but it’s really easy to get confused. The size and girth of these worms at their maximum length can be similar (though healthy nightcrawlers are generally bigger) – and in terms of weight and power to shift soil and burrow, there is not a great difference.

Their individual physical power and, thereby, soil disturbance is not usually a threat to this partnership. In the wild, such differences may present a problem when other species share a space.

There are, of course, different types of nightcrawler, too. There’s the African nightcrawler, there are Canadian nightcrawlers – and, of course, the European variety discussed here.

Conclusion

If you’re starting with vermicomposting, it can sometimes be hard to tell the difference between a variety of worms.

However, the difference between red worms and night crawlers could make a lot of change to your bin and compost material – make sure to check the worms you buy into so you know the castings you can expect.

It’s quite common for some of the worms to be mixed together when buying them too, at least in the United States. Look out for this.