Test Your Worm IQ!

Written by guest Author Jerry Gach, also known as The Worm Dude, a professional worm breeder for  Santa Clara County, Alameda County and San Mateo County

The ancient Egyptians knew that soil loaded with earthworms was extremely fertile, as Earthworm’s were the barometer of soil health.  Lots of worms = Lots of crops.

Fast forward to the 21st century….Worms are more in vogue now than ever.  Classes on composting with worms (Vermicomposting) have become increasingly popular, as we realize that if we don’t start taking care of Mother Earth, she will not be able to take care of us.

Most of us think all worms are alike….and most of us would be wrong!

There are literally thousands of species of worms, but only a few are used commercially.


Canadian Nightcrawler:  Lumbricus Terrestris

Red Wiggler:  Eisenia Fetida

European Nightcrawler:  Eisenia Hortensis

African Nightcrawler: Eudrilus Eugeniae

Alabama Jumper:  Amynthas Gracilus

We’ve categorized these commercially available worms into three types, based on the performance of each species.  Some worms will fall into two categories, but we’re yet to see one multipurpose worm that can be used across all categories:


Fishing Worms

Composting Worms

Garden Aeration Worms


Though all of the commercial worms can be used for fishing, not all of them make good composting worms.  Composting worms share the following qualities:

Surface dwellers:  Top 12 inches

Voracious:  Swarm Food

Fast Reproduction:  Can double in population every 3-4 months in optimum conditions

Ability to survive in captivity:  Very Good

Canadian Nightcrawlers are not considered composting worms.  If there was an anti composting category, these worms would set the standard.  Canadian Nightcrawlers are deep diggers, do not swarm food, are not particularly fast at reproducing, and are difficult to maintain.In captivity, keep them in the refrigerator.

Red Wigglers are the KINGS of composters, and are the most commonly used worms for Vermiculture and Vermicomposting in the world.   Red Wigglers set the standard for composting worms.

European Nightcrawlers are good composters, but a little less voracious than Red Wigglers.

African Nightcrawlers are every bit as voracious as Red Wigglers, but their cold temperature sensitivity reduces demand for these worms for all but the serious Vermiculturist.

Alabama Jumpers are considered very poor composters.  Preferring leaf litter to kitchen scraps,  these worms tend to prefer living in soil rich in organic matter.


Canadian Nightcrawlers make poor aeration worms.  Their preference for living in a single deep hole eliminates them from this category.

Red Wigglers are sometimes advertised falsely as soil worms.  Their natural habitat is your local manure pile and/or compost pile.  Because their skin is relatively thin, and their strength marginal, these worms perform poorly at aerating soil.

European Nightcrawlers have similar characteristics as Red Wigglers, and as such, do not perform well in the dirt.

African Nightcrawlers are better suited for compost bins then dirt.   Their preference for warmer temps, and their relatively thin skin makes these worms best suited for a sheltered composting environment.

Alabama Jumpers are the KINGS when it comes to aerating the garden.  Their thick skin allows them to live in soil ranging from sandy to heavy clay.  With a preference for leaf litter or compost, these worms are easily propagated in the garden.


Canadian Nightcrawlers are the KING of fishing worms.  Why?  Because fisherman are convinced that bigger is better.  Canadians are BIG…about 100 per pound. Picked at night from Farms in the Northern United States and Canada, these worms are deep diggers, living in holes down to six feet.  Because of their preference for cool climates, Canadian Nightcrawlers are best kept under refrigeration.

Red Wigglers are commonly used for panfish bait.  Weighing in at about 1/10th the weight of Canadian Nightcrawlers, these are the perfect size for small fish.

European Nightcrawlers are the larger cousins of the Red Wiggler.  At about 3x the size of the Red Wiggler, these mid sized worms are the trout fisherman’s dream.

African Nightcrawlers are longer than European Nightcrawlers, but thinner.  Unlike Canadian Nightcrawlers that like cool temps, these worms perform best at 70 degrees or more, making them the perfect fishing worm for warm waters.

Alabama Jumpers are the strongest of all of the commercial worms.  These are EXTREMELY active worms.  They also have the thickest skin of all the commercial worms, allowing them to stay on the hook for long periods of time.

Now you understand why all worms are not created equal.  There is no “One best worm”.   There are only qualities in worms that we harness for our benefit.  Use the right worm for the job, and you’ll be very pleased with the outcome.