My Experience Raising Compost Worms


About four years ago, a few months before the Covid-19 pandemic took the world by storm I remember often watching gardening videos from various popular YouTube creators. I can vividly recall sitting at my 6 foot plastic foldable table eating one of my previously meal-prepped dinners destressing from the day of intense learning and lab work. I often fantasized about the day that  I could get back into gardening in my own backyard and actually have the stability/space to venture down every rabbit hole I had an interest in within the realm of gardening.

Many of these rabbit holes were fads in my opinion, and many of the YouTubers were either trying to make a profit advertising their own products/e-commerce stores or they were making money promoting other people product(s). One of the fads that were being discussed during this time was the whole vermicutlure/worm farm phase of the garden industry.

For those who are unaware, vermicutlure is (in simple terms) the use of worms to break down decaying organic matter into a nutrient rich waste product(s) known as worm castings/worm tea. It is often labeled as “free fertilizer” for your garden and potted plants. I will admit that it does have some nutritional value for your plants, but I will soon go into the details later in this article.

I recall going home for spring break in mid-march and having my college push back the return date for students based on the news going around. Eventually push came to shove and my school forced all non-foreign students to move out of their on campus housing and either go home or find another place to live. This forced move back home gave me the perfect opportunity to do the things I had been day dreaming about months prior. I recall feeling a bit down at the time due to the circumstance of things going on during my personal life and the world.

I was rather impulsive and my spending history was following this trend. While back home and taking online classes I started growing microgreens, raising compost/bait worms, and bought a pet. These things didn’t make me happier in the long term scale of things, but they did give me temporary joy in that I was finally doing what I always wanted to do. I eventually ended up getting rid of my worms and stopped growing mircogreens, but I will save the story about microgreens for a later day. I do however still appreciate my pet corn snake.

I wanted to write about my experience raising compost worms because I learned a lot while doing it. I made a lot of mistakes and will be the first to admit that I wasn’t the best worm caretaker the world has ever seen despite my attempts to be. I raised worms from 2020 until the end of summer after I graduated college in spring of 2022. It may not seem like a long time, but I was proud that I still had a collection of some worms despite all my short comings and the moving I had to do while in school.

In this blog I will highlight the benefits that I gained form raising compost worms, the negatives I observed, how I had my worm bin set up, why I stopped raising worms, and who I think compost worms are for. I hope the information is helpful and gives you some insight into what it is like to raise worms if you are interested in doing it yourself.

1. Benefits of Raising Compost Worms

Despite not being the best worm farmer I did reap some of the benefits of raising compost worms. The main ones being that I was able to create dark, rich compost for my plants from materials I would have otherwise thrown away when I was living in an apartment. The worms were relatively low maintenance and didn’t produce any odor since I was pretty good at managing the carbon to nitrogen ratio and not adding too much water.

Another benefit was that I was able to use some of the larger sized worms for fishing. Initially I bought European night crawlers for the soul purpose of having a versatile species of worm. These benefits were relatively short lived in my case, though I will admit that you can use the more common compost worm species (the red wiggler) and still use them for bait when catching things blue gill and other small pan fish.

Lastly, another benefit I noticed about raising worms was the wonder/mystery and satisfaction it brought to me. It felt rewarding to sift through the bin with my hands and see small worms and new worm cocoons within the soil. It felt like I was doing a good job and keeping things going (at least at first glance).

2. Negatives of Raising Compost Worms

Even though the positives of raising compost worms seem pretty good I definitely have a handful of negative things I would like to share. First being that finding good, reliable/consistent information about certain species of worms (or even just vermicutlure in general) on the internet is difficult. I would watch 3-4 videos on a single subject and get answers that didn’t really seem to be consistent with what the other content creator or forums would say on the subject. It was really discouraging when I wasn’t getting the results I was expecting and couldn’t find any solid information on how to get said results.

To further send this point home when I first started my worm bin I listened to too many people’s opinions online and took their advice to mix in some of my compost from my compost pile despite this being an indoor worm farm… I later learned why this is a bad idea when I had huge centipedes, snails, two species of non-parasitic mites, beetles, wood lice (pill bugs), and spiders living in my worm bin after a few months. At first I thought this was good because I had a mini-ecosystem in my house, but later learned how difficult it is to maintain such an ecosystem in a small space (it is nearly impossible and your worm population will struggle). Not to mention some of the wood lice would escape and die in my house and fruit flies/fungus gnats were attracted to the bin due to the moisture/decaying matter.

Another negative is that in order to harvest the pure worm castings you have to remove about half of the material and manually sift through the castings to prevent any worms, cocoons, or big pieces of vegetable waste/cardboard from being added to your house plants. It takes a lot of time to sit there and manually sift through a bin every few months or so to get maybe a pot or two of worm castings.

Lastly, worm breeders always feel a bit sketchy. I ordered from some “local” gardening ecommerce business that I thought raised their own worms only to learn that they actually were partnered with some business in the South and I got my worms from them. Many of the worm breeders will sell you a “pound of worms” for about $50. What they often don’t tell you is that the single species you think you are ordering is actually multiple species. This is important to know as some worm species are becoming invasive in various regions around the United States. Look up the jumping worm; it is an invasive worm form Asia that is impacting our native ecosystems.

3. My Worm Bin Setup

To give some added context I will glance over my basic setup. I decided to keep it simple and had a 10 gallon Rubbermaid container that I got form Lowes and drilled an array of holes in the lid for air flow and in the bottom of the tub for excess water to escape. I also bought another container of the same size and didn’t drill any holes and placed it underneath the previous tub as to catch the water/excess liquid. If I could do it again I would keep a bigger sized worm bin (30-50 gallons +) and not mix any of my outdoor compost with the contents of the bin. I would also cut a fine mesh screen to help reduce fruit fly/fungus gnat species from getting in and growing their population.

 For the contents of the bin I had a pound of European night crawlers (with some Indian blue worms mixed in unintentionally), some paper shavings, a handful of kitchen scraps, and coconut coir for the majority of the substrate.

4. Why I Stopped Raising Compost Worms

As you can see, the setup for a worm bin isn’t too expensive or elaborate (though it can be if you buy premade worm systems). You may be wonder why I stopped raising the worms if they were so low maintenance. The reasoning behind why I quit raising worms was because the worms I intended on raising were not really doing all that great in my system. I tried doing everything that the internet insisted besides moving them to a larger, deeper container. This would have been too inconvenient for me at the time since I was living in an apartment and I didn’t exactly have the space to keep a giant tub or two full of worms and substrate nor did I want to move it every time I needed to move.

I also wasn’t really taking advantage of the worm castings being produced.  I would have the entire system full of casting and not know what to do with them. I never really wanted to sift out the bin and would just take half the soil and put it on some plants or something outside. I didn’t want to add them to indoor plants because of all the bugs inside the dirt from the previous blunders. At the time I wasn’t really interested in selling them, but now that could be a good way to deal with excess.

One of the main reasons I stopped raising them was because the fungus gnat population got out of control. I reduced my water input in my bin and even buried food scraps and covered my substrate with a damp newspaper to help simulate an artificial mulch layer. It helped, but it didn’t work completely. I believe I still have descendants of these fruit flies living in my plant room and stuck on my sundew plants.

Lastly, once  I finally figured out how to make a healthy compost pile I soon found earth worms in my compost pile and garden beds naturally (indicating that my soil is healthy and rich with organic matter). I eventually realized that if I used the scraps I was giving to the worms to the compost pile instead that I could have an equal or greater impact on my soil quality/fertility by naturally attracting native worms to my garden and using their castings rather than the more labor intensive ones I was collecting inside.

5. Who are Compost Worms For?

Compost worms are for people who can’t really have a compost pile in their current living situation or people who would like to have a cheaper option at getting nutrient rich worm castings without breaking the bank. I believe (based on my experience) that the larger the operation of worm bin/farm the better for producing castings/worms and the more “worth it” it is. I think that they are more beneficial for people who are serious about gardening and that would like to have the option of using worm castings for plants that live in relatively “sterile” environments like house plants or microgreens on a rack/grow light system.


I had a lot of fun raising compost worms. I loved checking on the worms and seeing how life was doing in the bin. I also enjoyed periodically having up to 10 gallons of fresh, locally sourced worm castings within my own apartment. The castings were created from nothing more than some kitchen scraps, rolled oats, eggshell, and cardboard/paper. If I was in a similar circumstance where I was living in an apartment and was more into a grow light/indoor plant/community garden style of gardener then it would be worth it. For a backyard gardener I think it COULD be slightly beneficial to raise worms for their castings, but I would argue that you could get similar results in fertility using alternate methods and by naturally attracting worms to your soil using rich organic compost.

I hope this inspired you or gave you good insight on what it is like to raise worms for worm castings. It is by no means hard work, but I would recommend doing some research on the species, method, and worm seller that you are buying/following advice from as to possibly prevent some of my own blunders I speak of in this article.

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