Vivarium Animals feeding guide
1- Crickets :
- Crickets Care Sheet
crickets can be small ( Pin Heads ) and medium live food and su large live food when they become an adults ..
Name: Crickets. There are two species of Cricket readily available for the use for live feeding and these are commonly referred to as the Brown Cricket (Common House Cricket) and the Black Cricket (Black Field Cricket or sometimes the Mediterranean/African Cricket).
Scientific name: Brown Cricket: Acheta domesticus. Black Cricket: Gryllus bimaculatus
Lifespan: Crickets have a very short lifespan of up to about 8 weeks, with only about 2-3 weeks of that time as a fully grown breedable adult. This short lifespan proves to be the only hassle of keeping a cricket colony, as dead crickets must be removed as soon as possible from the rest of your crickets to avoid disease and the eating of the dead, so it becomes a regular job in the maintenance of your colony.
The Benefits of Crickets as a food :
Crickets are readily taken by a host of reptiles, amphibians and inverts and make a meaty and nutrious meal when gut-loaded with the right diet. Gut-loading is the practice of feeding crickets and other feeder insects with highly nutritious food items that will in turn make the feeder insects more beneficial to the health of your exotic pet. Crickets are also suitable for dusting with vitamins and calcium prior to being fed to your pets.
The various life stages of the cricket will offer a wide variety of prey size to offer your exotic pet, with newly hatched ‘pin-head’ crickets being suitable for smaller exotic pets and fully-grown adults being suitable for larger specimens.
Crickets are easy to keep and cheap to feed which makes them a good, affordable choice to have as a handy food item. The only downside to keeping crickets is their relatively short lifespan, so care must be taken to ensure you have a constant supply available through breeding within the colony. Black Field Crickets are also quite loud as they will chirp in adulthood, so if you would prefer a silent colony then the quieter Brown Crickets are recommended.
Cricket Housing :
Crickets can be housed in a Cricket Keeper (available from Reptile shops and online) or a well-ventilated, deep, plastic tub/bin or an aquarium with a mesh lid. Crickets do not climb well on smooth surfaces, so ensure that the sides of the tub are not textured. Air holes should be punched into the lid of the box for ventilation or alternatively cut a large section of the lid out with some sharp scissors and cover the hole with a fine wire mesh or a recycled pair of old tights (pantyhose). No substrate needs to be used, so this makes cleaning a more simple process.
They will also require places to hide, so cardboard tubes or egg box bottoms placed in the tub will help them to feel secure.
The tub should be kept dry and in a place where a normal light cycle can be maintained, with around 8 hours of darkness each day.
As Black Crickets will chirp in adulthood, placing the container away from areas that this noise may disturb you is advised.
Crickets will eat almost anything, but as you are going to be feeding them to your exotic pets it is wise to feed them on foods that boost their nutritional value. Dry foods like oats, bran, grain and flaked fish food should always be readily available, but the addition of plenty of fresh vegetables regularly would give the crickets a good diet. Variety is recommended, but potatoes and carrots are a favourite. They do well on a high protein diet so dry dog or cat food is suitable too. All the food items should be chopped into small pieces to make them easier to consume by the crickets. Calcium and Vitamin dust can added to the dry food to gut-load the crickets, but most exotic pets would still require regular dusting to supplement this.
There is no need to add water to the container, as they should be able to source all their water from their food, especially if items like orange, apple or lettuce are a regular in their diet, but if you do prefer to give them something to drink just add a damp sponge or slightly soaked cotton wool to avoid the crickets drowning in a water bowl. Their water should be declorinated or bottled spring water.
Cricket Temperature :
Crickets should be kept at a temperature around 25 - 30°C (77- 86°F). They can survive at lower temperatures, but will not breed as quickly at temperatures below this. Heat can be provided with a heat mat, but if you would prefer to keep your crickets more cheaply, then placing them on top of a vivarium which as a roof mounted heat source like a ceramic or heat bulb will suffice.
Temperature can also be used to help your exotic pets at feeding time, because if you cool your crickets in the fridge prior to feeding then they will be more inactive and therefore easier for your pet to catch.
Crickets are difficult to sex as juveniles, but when they reach adulthood it becomes easy to tell the two genders apart. The female has a ovipositor (egg laying apendage) extending from the rear, which is quite distinctive and is the easiest way to determine the sex of your crickets. The males also have ridges on their wings, while females wings are smooth. This is due to the males wings being used to create the 'chirp' that is the cricket's recognisable mating call.
Adult Crickets will breed quickly if given the right conditions. A breeding container should be placed in the housing to encourage the females to lay their eggs. This can be a plastic tub containing either a simple substrate of damp cotton wool or paper towels or alternatively it can be more natural and contain moist sand or fertilizer free soil to allow the female to burrow before depositing.
This container should be replaced regularly or when it becomes apparent that eggs have been laid. Eggs are white in colour and should be removed to a separate container to be incubated. If the breeding container is kept warm and damp the eggs will hatch in about 10 days.
Other Useful Information about Cricket:
To start a viable cricket colony it is recommended to purchase around 200-1000 crickets, dependant on the frequency that they will be required. It is advisable to leave your colony for a few weeks before starting to harvest them as a live food to allow the breeding process to get started and ensure your supply is sustainable.
Crickets are naturally cannibalistic and territorial, so ensuring that there is always plenty of food available and providing adequate hides should avoid this. Dead Crickets should also be removed as soon as possible from the container as crickets will sometimes eat the dead, which can not only lead to disease, but goes against any of the positive gut-loading that is recommended for crickets that are meant as a live food.
- Videos :
Cricket Pen setup ..
- A product Review :
- Small Mega Keeper Cricket Pen
courtesy to : www.georgiacrickets.com/
The Mega Keeper Cricket Pen is ideal for housing, keeping and dispensing live crickets. This keeper comes in Clear. Crickets prefer dark spaces, and will readily crawl into the egg crates which provide hiding places for them, making it easy to use.
The side of the container is scuffed giving the crickets a larger surface area to live. The larger surface area reduces stress and allows for more crickets to be held inside.
- Large enough to hold 1000 small crickets, 500 medium and 500 large.
- Removable, well-ventilated lid
- Includes Egg Crates with initial Order
- Makes cricket feeding neat & tidy
Width: 15 ¾ "
Depth: 11 "
Height: 11 "
Volume: 6 gallon
To keep your crickets alive longer “gut load” with Premium Crickets Cricket Food
- How to Raise Your Own Crickets
Are you tired of going to the pet store and buying crickets every week to feed your scaly, squirmy, or hairy little friend? If you're a true do-it-yourselfer, then you might be interested in raising your own colony of crickets, which will provide a steady — and free — source of crickets right within the comfort of your home.
1- Buy several large containers or tanks. You will need a container or tank to keep your crickets in. It's easiest to have at least two containers, one for breeding adults and one for maturing young crickets. Decide how many crickets you want to raise and purchase a container(s) of suitable size.
You'll want to make sure that your container or tank is big enough for your cricket colony. One big mistake many people make when raising crickets is not buying a big enough container. When crickets breed in a very confined space, they actually eat one another so that there are fewer crickets to compete for resources. This isn't something you want. Make sure to buy a big enough tank!
Purchase a clear tote bin with a secure lid to keep the crickets in. High-sided plastic storage boxes are a common choice. A 14 gallon (53 L) container can hold a colony of over 500 crickets with sufficient cardboard or egg crates to climb on. Smooth-surfaced tote bins will reduce the number of escapees.
2- Make your containers breathable. Cut one or two 6" holes in lid of the tote bin for ventilation. Cover the top with a metal mosquito screen to prevent escapes, as crickets can chew through plastic screen. Try a hot glue gun to secure the screen. You can experiment with variable vents if you want additional control over the heat.
3-Layer the floor of the container with vermiculite. Place 1-3" of vermiculite in the bottom of the tote bin. This will give the crickets something to walk on that will keep the container dry to prevent bacteria and reduce odors. Especially with denser colonies, this will need to be replaced every 1-6 months, so get some extra.
4- Place a disposable plastic container filled with very damp loose topsoil in the tote bin. The females need this to lay their eggs in. Try to make it just slightly higher than the vermiculite so the crickets can get in the container. Make sure your topsoil is fertilizer- and pesticide-free.
You can put screen on the surface of the soil to prevent crickets from digging or eating the eggs. Females can deposit eggs through screen using their egg laying spike (ovipositor).
5-Buy 50 or more crickets. Make sure you have enough crickets to feed your pet with 30-50 extra to breed. It's important to have a mix of male and female crickets but preferably, more females than males.
Female crickets have three long extrusions on their behind with the main one (called ovipositor) that it uses to deposit the eggs in the ground. Female crickets will also grow fully developed wings.
Male crickets have two extrusions. They have short, under-developed wings that they use to produce the familiar cricket call we hear at night.
- Starting the Breeding Process :
1- Assemble your colony and let them feed. Place all your crickets in your completed cricket container. Place a shallow dish of commercial cricket food or substitute (crushed premium dry cat food works well) in the container away from the soil.
You can treat the colony to fruit, potato slices, greens, and other vegetable matter to supplement their diet. Be sure to remove unfinished fresh foods before they mold or rot.
Other, more bizarre foods may include tropical fish flakes, pond fish pellets, rabbit food (alfalfa pellets), or pretty much anything with high protein content.
Try to mix the feeding up to keep your crickets happy. The health of your crickets will translate directly to the health of your pet(s). Try to supplement dry foods with fruits and vegetable scraps, as well as greens such as lettuce. This will ensure that your crickets are truly ready to be a nutritious snack for your pet(s).
2-Make sure to give your crickets adequate water. Crickets need near constant supplies of water to stay alive and well. Watch as your crickets swarm to water whenever you mist the container. Here are some creative ways cricket keepers keep their quarry nice and hydrated:
Try placing an inverted bottle reptile water dispenser with a sponge in the reservoir into your container. The sponge should help prevent any flooding or drowning in the tote bin.
Cut one long side of a cardboard toilet roll and unfurl it to get a rectangle. Wrap this cardboard with very absorbent paper, such as paper towel, and hoist it up vertically in a corner so that it forms a kind of fort.
A dish of water gel (also sold as soil substitute, e.g. "polyacrylamide") or unflavored jello kept in a corner also makes a great watering hole.
3-Heat your crickets. Crickets absolutely need to be kept warm to promote breeding and incubation for their eggs. Heat can be provided by various methods such as a reptile heater, a heat pad, or a light bulb. Placing a space heater in a walk-in closet will heat the entire closet, providing heat for your crickets and incubating their eggs.
When mating to breed, males only chirp between 55–100 °F (13–38 °C). Crickets do best when kept on the warmer side of 80–90 °F (27–32 °C).
4- Give your crickets time to breed. If you've given them enough food, water, and heat, and your crickets are generally happy, they should breed profusely. Give them about two weeks to breed and lay the eggs in the soil. The crickets will burrow down about an inch below the topsoil in order to lay their eggs. After two weeks, the topsoil will be filled with little oblong eggs about half the size of a rice grain. Remove this topsoil and place it in a nesting container to incubate the eggs.
While waiting for your crickets to lay eggs, be sure to keep the topsoil damp. Eggs that are completed dried out will die and be useless to you. Fill a mister with filtered water and periodically spray the topsoil to make sure the heat doesn't dry it out completely.
Finishing the Breeding Process :
1- Incubate the eggs. The crickets need heat to incubate the eggs until they hatch. Place the disposable container in a larger container that can be sealed tightly and place it where the temperature is 85–90 °F (29–32 °C). After about two weeks (longer at lower temps), the eggs will start hatching and pinhead crickets the size of a grain of sand will emerge by the hundreds daily for about two weeks.
2- Collect the pinhead crickets and place them in a rearing container. This container should be stocked with food and water to allow the baby pinheads to grow until they are an appropriate size to put back into the main container — usually about 7 - 10 more days.
- Remember to moisten the soil in your rearing container every so often to make sure that the crickets have enough water.
-Consider also placing the rearing container on top of a heating pad set to 80–90 °F (27–32 °C)
3- Repeat. Following the above steps with your new crickets will produce hundreds upon thousands of crickets, which will be plenty to feed your pet and perhaps even all your friends' pets. Pretty soon, you will be a full fledged cricket farmer! If your crickets die, pay special attention to these things:
-Not enough space. Crickets need plenty of space to habitat and breed. If your crickets become too crowded, they will begin to feed on themselves in order to remove competitors from the ecosystem.
-Not enough/too much water. Crickets need more water than you may think — misting the soil and filling their water reservoirs every couple days is extremely important. At the same time, do not drown your crickets in water. Regular misting and refilling is enough.
-Not enough heat. Crickets like hot temperatures to live and breed in. Try to keep your container between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit for optimum temperature.
- Live Crickets Care, breeding and feeding :
courtesy to : www.wormman.com/breeding_crickets.cfm
raised and sold in pet stores is the Gray Cricket, Acheta Domestica. This cricket is easily bred and raised in captivity and can become a great source of profit for the grower.
To start, all that is needed is some sort of container to act as a brooder/incubator. The container must be large enough to provide room, but not so large that it cannot be heated. You can use a garbage can, a Rubbermaid container, a wooden box, an aquarium, or any type of container that will allow free movement, air flow, heating, and room for all of the components necessary to successfully breed crickets.One thousand crickets take up a great deal more space than 20 crickets, so you have to plan ahead.
Crickets are one of the best live insects for feeding pets, bait, and for profit. I put this together for the small grower who wants to get started with crickets but doesn't want to spend a fortune on equipment. You can get started with crickets with some odds and ends that you can find around your house.
Let's start with which cricket can be raised in confinement. The cricket that is
How do you distinguish the males from the females? The female cricket has three long extrusions on her back and fully developed wings. The male cricket has two extrusions. In the female, the extrusion is called the ovipositor. This is the sexual organ of the female cricket and is what is used to lay eggs. The female will stick the ovipositor into the soil and lay eggs. The ovipositor will deposit the eggs beneath the surface of the soil or bedding material you
will furnish to house the eggs before hatching.
Back to the box. The container you will use must be escape-proof from the inside and out. You do not want critters getting in as much as you do not want crickets escaping. The enemies of the cricket are numerous: centipedes, millipedes, spiders, and a whole host of insects find crickets an attractive addition to their daily menu. Crickets are excellent climbers and jumpers, so the container has to be closed on all sides.
The container has to also provide air and heat. Crickets need fresh air to stay healthy and to breed. The best way to provide air is to use some sort of cover that allows the passage of air but one that doesn't have holes.A piece of cloth secured over the top can provide air and no escape for your crickets or entrance for the enemies of the crickets. Use of cheese cloth, an old shirt, or any old cloth will work. Try to boil it first so that any bacteria in the cloth is killed before use.
Once you have decided upon a container, your next problem will be to figure out how you will provide heat for the crickets. Crickets breed and grow best in a temperature of about 88 degrees. They will breed at lower temperatures, but you will have a higher mortality of the young and a lower egg lay rate. There are a number of ways to heat the crickets. You can keep the crickets in a warm room. For instance, you can keep the cricket bin near a furnace or other heating source. Another way is to heat the bin. You can do this by using a heating element like the type used for heating reptiles, or you can heat the bin using a light bulb. In the case of a bulb, you have to make some provisions so that the bin does not get too hot and kill the crickets or start a fire. A thermostat can be added to the bulb. This will cost a couple of dollars, but you will be able to set the thermostat on 88 Degrees and get optimum growth from your crickets. I prefer using a warm room or using a reptile type heater. This will minimize the chance of a fire.
Choose your heating method and then gather up the rest of your supplies. You will need a food dish. A shallow dish will work well. A cap or cover from a peanut butter container works well. You will also need a water dish. Crickets should not have access to an open water dish. An open dish will cause drowning, bacteria growth and will sour the entire culture. Try to give the crickets water in a different way. There is a new product available that will allow water in gel form. This stops many of the problems that used to pervade breeding and raising crickets. You can also set up a ?wick watering system.? This type of system allows the crickets to get water from a dish through a sponge or cotton. If you use this method, you must remember to change the cotton or sponge every couple of days so that you will not have a build-up of bacteria. You can also give water another way, which is the way that we recommend, by using a slice of fruit or potato every couple of days. The crickets will get water and food from the slice.
Use chicken mash as a food for your crickets. Egg layer mash works well. Heat the mash in an oven to kill bacteria before giving it to the crickets. The container should also be cleaned really well so all bacteria is killed.
You will also need some sort of substrate so the crickets can lay eggs in it. There are two ways of doing this. One way is to place removable egg laying containers in the main containers. These containers can be something like a
margarine container or some sort of soup container.he other way is to place a substrate of soil or peat moss. on the bottom of the entire container so the crickets can lay eggs on the floor, in the sand. Then, you can use the entire container as an incubator. I like this way of doing it because you do not have to remove small containers all the time and place them into incubators. The problem of doing it this way is that you have to use a different container for each generation, or you will not be able to easily size your crickets for resale. If you use a separate container with the substrate on the floor, you will have to date the container, so you can ascertain the age of the crickets. If you keep detailed records like ?Date Started? and Date Babies Started Hatching,? you will have a system of keeping all one size together and will be better able to offer them for resale based upon size. You will not sell many mixed size crickets. Cricket customers are buying crickets to feed pets, fish, or to go fishing. They have needs for specific sizes, and if you can?t give them those sizes, you will not sell crickets.
After your crickets have laid eggs in the substrate for a few days, you can move the breeders to a second container to lay eggs in there, or leave them for the full ten days and then remove the breeders to feed pets, to go fishing, or for resale. After two days, you will want to remove the breeders so that they do not eat any crickets that have started to hatch. Breeders sometimes eat the babies if they can catch them. Removing the breeders stops this and ensures you will have all one size growing together.
Keep the babies in the brooder/incubator until half grown. Then, move them to a storage container. A sweater box works well as a storage container. You can place the container in a cooler room to slow growth and development. At this stage, the crickets do not need the sand but do need food and water. Using chicken mash and fruit and vegetable slices will help provide these needs. Do not allow the vegetables to get stale or moldy. Replace the slices every couple of days.
That's it for care and breeding. You will now need to sell your crickets. Pet shops and bait shops buy large amounts of crickets. There are companies that raise and sell only crickets and do extremely well. You can market your crickets to local pet shops. In the year 2000, crickets will go for about five cents to ten cents each. This is a great price and can make you a great deal of money. Call pet and bait shops in the area and ask them if they would be interested in trying your crickets. Explain the plusses of buying crickets from a local breeder, such as: no shipping costs, no shipping strain on the crickets, and the ability of the shop owner to have you service their needs right away.
You can also look into placing local advertisements telling customers that you have crickets. Advertise specials in free local papers or low cost papers. Find out what the shops charge per cricket and advertise a lower price. You will get buyers. You can easily make $10,000 per year in a basement or spare room.
Finally, shipping crickets is easy. A one foot square box can hold 1,000 crickets. Make sure that the box is taped securely on all sides. In one of the sides, cut a rectangle with a knife and staple and glue a screen in the box so the crickets can get air during shipping. If you are shipping in the winter to cold areas, you may need to add heat packs to the boxes. These are usually 48 hour packs and will get your crickets where they are going with enough heat to keep them healthy. You can ship the crickets through USPS Priority Mail, Air Mail, UPS, or Overnight. We ship Priority and Air Mail and have had great results. As of now, there are not any regulations against shipping crickets. However, that may change some day.
Good Luck with your cricket venture!
2 - Earthworms :
Why raise earthworms?
Raising earthworms is one of the easiest ways you can go green and reduce the amount of trash entering our landfills and water systems. Instead of throwing your kitchen scraps in the garbage can or down the sink disposal simply feed them to your worms! And if you enjoy gardening this is a great way to save money -- your worms will produce fertilizer for life! Earthworms can produce more compost, in a shorter time, with less effort, than any other tool known to the gardener or farmer. The compost which is produced by earthworms is of the highest grade, containing not only greater amounts of mineral nutrients in soluble form, but also containing a high percentage of castings that help to form soil aggregates, leading to a permanent improvement in soil structure. Are you a fisherman, too? Why pay $4.00 for a dozen worms when you can raise them yourself? Whatever your reason for raising earthworms, you will enjoy watching your critters grow, reproduce and recycle!
A healthy red wiggler bin
Which types of earthworms are used for composting?
There are three types of composting worms and one type of garden worm available here at Worms4Earth.com, I will list the three types of composting worms in this section. You can read about the garden worms further down the page.
The Red Wiggler
This voracious eater is definitely the beginner's choice because of it's adaptability and tolerance to a wide range of temperatures as well as the ability to process large amounts of organic material. Although this hardy worm will survive temperatures close to 40°F, they prefer bedding temperatures between 68°F and 80°F. They are hardy enough that, if acclimated, they can live in bedding as hot as 100°F. If your needs are strictly composting, this is your worm of choice. It is also a superb protein source for your chickens, pet turtles, lizards and aquarium fish.
The Red Wiggler grows to a length of 3-4 inches, but don't let it's diminutive size fool you - these little guys process large amounts of organic material. You'll be able to compost your kitchen scraps 10 times faster when compared to composting without them.
These bed run worms are shipped in breathable bags and will come in various sizes, from juvenile to breeder. There are between 800 - 1,000 worms per pound.
Add Red Wigglers to your indoor compost bin or outdoor compost pile..
A typical red wiggler bin :
Freshwater aquarium fish love Red Wigglers
The European Nightcrawler :
The European Nightcrawler is also known as Eisenia hortensis, the Belgium nighcrawler or super red. This composting worm is much larger than its cousin the Red Wiggler. It has quickly become known for being a great bait worm for it's size and ability to live longer on the hook as well as it's tolerance of salt water. This hardy worm will survive temperatures close to 40°F, but prefers bedding temperatures between 68°F and 80°F.
Eisenia hortensis is a large composting and fishing bait worm that grows to over four times the thickness of its cousin, the Red Wiggler.
The European Nightcrawler can grow up to 5 inches and is THE BEST BAIT WORM available. Its thick skin gives it the ability to live longer on the hook than any worm sold today (even in brackish and saltwater). There are approximately 250 large worms per pound.
Add Europeans to your indoor compost bin or outdoor compost pile. Europeans are easy to raise; just keep in mind that if you want them attain their potential size you will need to raise them in manure and feed them grain or corn, preferably chicken laying mash.
- European nightcrawlers from a bin :
The African Nightcrawler :
The African Nighrcrawlers is a large tropical worm species that tolerates higher temperatures than it's cousins listed above. The African Nightcrawler enjoys a bedding temperature of 70° - 90 °F and consumes large amounts of organic material from kitchen scraps to manure. If you live in especially warm areas this will be the worm for you. Keep in mind that this worm is sensitive to colder temperatures and will perish if exposed to bedding temps below 45 °F. This worm is very popular in the southern U.S. because of the lack of freezing temperatures. This is the longest of the three composting worms and produces a lot of compost as well as breeds quickly.
Raise African Nightcrawler for fishing as well. It is second only in size to the Canadian Nightcrawler. They breed quickly and can consume large amounts of organic material -- the larger the worm, the more it can eat!
The African Nightcrawlers are shipped 3-4 inches long and are breeder size. There are approximately 250 worms per pound.
Add African Nightcrawlers to your indoor compost bin or outdoor compost pile.
African nightcrawlers size comparison :
Which type of earthworms for my garden?
The Alabama Jumper
The Alabama Jumper is also known as Amynthus gracilus. You can put this type of worm directly into your yard or garden. Alabama Jumpers can thrive in just about any kind of soil, including packed clay, and will aerate and fertilize your yard and garden. These worms are very active and can burrow through the thickest soils with ease. They have thick skin and are very powerful -- true to their name, they will literally jump out of your hand.
Alabama Jumpers jumping
Alabama Jumpers, like other earthworms, have only three basic life requirements: food, water, and protection from harmful agents. Of the three, it is probably the lack of sufficient food is what retards the earthworms population in most gardens and croplands.
Assuming that soil factors are favorable, an Alabama Jumper population will grow only insofar as additional organic matter is incorporated into the soil. This may come in the form of compost, manure, decaying plants, or organic wastes of a wide variety. It may be added to the soil and tilled in, or grown in the soil and then plowed under. Any way it is added, organic matter is essential to encouraging greater numbers of earthworms in the soil. In addition once an earthworm population has been increased, enough organic matter must be supplied periodically in order to maintain that increase.
Ensure that you have plenty of leaves, hay, or any organic material in place before adding these worms so that these critters have a good food supply. Ensure your soil is moist then add worms right before the sun goes down. Distrubute your worms evenly and cover with soil.
Adding Alabama Jumpers to soil
Where can I raise worms?
Earthworms need only a few requirements in which to successfully live and breed. These requirements are moisture, darkness, and food. These conditions can be found in any outdoor compost pile, which is definitely the easiest type of worm system to maintain. But, because these requirements are so easily produced, many people choose to build a bin they can keep indoors, which also has its advantages.
Worm Bins :
Many people who are new to raising earthworms begin raising them in a Do-It-Yourself plastic storage bin , The convenience of portability along with the fact that most folks will not be raising populations in the tens of thousands makes the indoor worm bin .
system an easy project. And for those who are contemplating raising worms on a large scale, the worm bin is a smart way to learn how to raise them in a controlled environment before making a big investment. Because the extremes of heat and cold climates can be harmful to earthworms, raising them indoors ensures that their environment will always be climate controlled. You can put the bin in your garage (if cool), basement, closet, spare bedroom or your porch. If you decide to keep your bin outside, keep it away from direct sunlight. For those of you living in the south, putting your bin outside may be too hot during the summer months -- the combination of heat and humidity definitely becomes a factor when raising earthworms in a plastic bin that isn't designed to insulate against that kind of weather.
Check out the Get Started web page to learn how to build your own do-it-yourself bin. If you don't want to build your own, I also offer an excellent product made from recycled plastic right here in the U.S.A. It is called the Worm Factory Worm Bin and it is an upward migration, multi-tiered system. For more info, check out the Worm Factory Worm Bin web page.
If you decide to keep your worm bin in the garage keep in mind that worms will bake in a closed garage with no air conditioning. I can tell you from personal experience that earthworms will not do well in a plastic storage container sitting in a hot garage with temperatures exceeding 100° F in the middle of the summer. Plastic bins are not insulated so the hot ambient air temperature will easily transfer to the contents of your bin. If you don't have a basement, keep them in a utility or spare bedroom.
Compost Pile :
Hey all of you gardeners out there -- did you know that earthworms are the most efficient composters in nature? Your pile will be compostedten times faster with earthworms than without them. One of the advantages of a maintaining a garden compost pile is that the finished vermicompost is conveniently close to your fruits and vegetables. Making a compost pile is easy -- just get yourself some chicken wire and make a simple enclosure (this is optional), find a nice shady spot, rake up some dead leaf or grass mulch and add some kitchen scraps. Water thoroughly and add earthworms in a week or two. You can add any of the three types of composting worms listed above to your compost pile. You'll even discover that your compost pile will begin to attract a lot of the native species of worms you have in your yard (this only applies to areas that have native species -- some places may not have earthworms such as New Mexico and Arizona). To add them to your pile simply dig a hole in the top of your pile, place your worms in the hole, and cover them up. You'll want to keep your pile watered, but not soggy as this could make you pile heat up too fast.
When you turn your pile use a pitch fork if you have one. You will always run the risk of injuring or killing a few worms when you turn your pile, but a pitch fork is less intrusive than a shovel and will keep your losses to a minimum.
What size bin do I use? :
You will want a bin that gives enough space to house your worms and bedding. For do-it-yourselfers, an 18 gallon (give or take 2 gallons) bin is a good size to start with. Starting with 3 pounds of worms gives you a good amount to process your kitchen scraps. This amount also allows enough room for your earthworms to reproduce as your worm bin can hold upwards to around 9 pounds of worms.
Use only opaque bins. See-through bins will stress your earthworms as they will continually dig toward the center of your bin trying to get away from light.
If you choose to go with a Worm Factory you will need to assess how many trays and how many pounds of worms you want to begin with. If you have any questions please to not hesitate to contact Worms4Earth!
What kind of bedding do I use for my bins?
There are several types of bedding that you can use. I'll outline the most popular types and list some pros and cons of each type.
Shredded Paper :
A readily available source of bedding is newspaper. You will need to shred the paper before putting it in your bin. You can hand shred it or use machine shredded paper. In my opinion, though, hand shredding is better as it doesn't clump or get matted together. If you choose to hand shred your paper make sure the strips are no greater that 2-3 inches wide. You will also need to moisten the paper before adding it to your bin. You can mist it with a spray bottle or soak it and wring out so it isn't soggy. One of the advantages of paper is that worms can survive in it without adding any kitchen scraps. But, although they won't starve to death eating just paper, a paper-only diet will produce very small worms.
Peat or Sphagnum Moss :
This has long been the composter's choice for raising earthworms. It has excellent moisture retention and is readily available from your local garden or home improvement store. You will need to moisten the peat before adding to your bin. Soak until completely saturated, then squeeze until just damp like a sponge. And... although worms will consume peat, you must add other food such as kitchen scraps or paper because peat has no nutritive value.
Pros: Readily available, clean, no dust, odorless, easily prepared (if machine shredded).
Cons: Tends to matte, making it difficult to bury waste, preparation time (if hand shredded).
Pros: Readily available, retains moisture.
Cons: Recognized as being environmentally unsustainable, can be acidic.
- Because peat can to be slightly acidic, I recommend soaking your peat for 24 hours before putting in your worm bin OR adding a cup of lime to the water if you don't want to soak for that long (the calcium in the lime raises the pH). You can also add a 1-2 teaspoons of lime to the kitchen scraps each time you add food to your bin. Crushed eggshells will also raise the pH.
- If you choose to add lime to your bin, make sure you don't buy slaked/hydrated lime. Slaked and hydrated are toxic and will burn your earthworms. Slaked/hydrated lime is used in making mortar and cement.
Manure can be used as either bedding or food and is generally used for outdoor worm beds and compost piles. You can use rabbit manure, composted cow or horse manure to top off your bin if you use peat as bedding. Rabbit manure is especially attractive for worm farmers because it is a "cold" manure -- it does not need to sit for weeks composting before adding to your worm bin. The manure already contains loads of microorganisms that earthworms thrive on. Earthworms LOVE manure and thrive on the nutrients available within it. Manure is a natural habitat for composting worms and contain many of the organisms vital to an earthworm's growth.
Pros: Highly nutritional, often free when obtained from local stables or farms.
Cons: Fresh cow and horse manure will heat up when fresh and needs to compost several weeks before use. May contain de-worming drugs.
There is one potential downside to using horse and cow manure; if the animals were given de-worming drugs this could be fatal to your worms. Any amount of de-worming drug the animal's body did not absorb will be present in their stool. A good rule of thumb is to only use composted manure that is at least two months old.
Coconut Coir :
Coconut fiber, or coir, is a renewable material that comes primarily from India and Sri Lanka. It is becoming more popular with organic composters as well as the hydroponic growing industry. It may be a bit pricier that some other bedding material, but you will be satisfied to know that you are using a renewable of bedding when compared to peat moss. But, just like peat, your worms cannot survive in coconut fiber alone.
Pros: Clean, odorless, mixes well with other bedding, retains moisture well, renewable source.
Cons: More expensive than other bedding material, more difficult to obtain.
It is always a good idea to "turn" or "fluff" your bedding at least once a week. You can do this by digging down to the bottom and bringing the bedding to the top. This ensures that plenty of air is in contact with the contents of your bin. You want your bedding to have plenty of oxygen so decomposition remains accelerated, plus it makes it easier for your worms to crawl through it.
Feeding - What, How, and How Much?
What do I feed earthworms?
The earthworm is an eating machine. It literally eats the earth as it burrows through it. Material that is too large to ingest will be pushed aside with its "head" (prostomium). Worms don't have teeth, so the material they eat is first moistened in their mouth then passed into their gizzard which acts like teeth and grinds the food. The food is then passed to their intestines which absorb the nutrients contained within. Whatever the worm doesn't digest is then passed out of their bodies as nitrogen rich worm castings.
An important fact to know about feeding your earthworms is that they thrive on the microscopic organisms that live on the decomposing organic matter they ingest. These organisms include a variety of algae, fungi and bacteria that are essential for the worm's growth.
When it comes to kitchen scraps, worms will consume just about everything you do, with the exception of a few. I outlined below the biggest "don'ts" -- anything that is not listed should be ok to add to your bin or compost pile. If you are unsure, the best rule of thumb is don't use it.
Do Not Feed Worms the Following:
Meat and Bones - Decaying meat produces offensive odor. May attract flies, rodents, ants and other non-desired pests. Bones will not be processed by worms.
Salty snack food or Fast food - Big Macs, potato chips, french fries and olives are a few examples. You can soak salty foods overnight, pour off the water, then feed to your earthworms.
Pet feces - Dog or cat feces do not belong in your worm bin as they are not properly processed manure. May contain viral or bacterial toxins.
Green grass - A big mass of yard clippings will decompose thermophilically and will create high temperatures that are harmful.
Alcohol - Very toxic.
Excess citrus fruit - Citrus fruit contains a substance called limonene that can be toxic to earthworms in large quantities. You can throw in some orange peels -- just not 15 oranges at once!
Old pressure-treated wood - The active ingredient is cyanide which is toxic to worms in small quantities.
How Do I Feed Earthworms?
When you feed them your kitchen scraps don't distribute the food evenly throughout the bin. Instead, put the food in the corner about halfway down into the bin. Then cover and check back in a week. You will notice that a lot of your worms will have gathered in the area you put the food! When the food is almost gone you can repeat in the opposite corner of the bin.
To speed the composting process you can chop up or boil your kitchen scraps. Raw veggies like broccoli and carrots take time to break down -- chopping or boiling sraps create greater surface area as well as soften and break down fibrous material, making the food more readily available to your worms.
How to feed your worm bin with kitchen scraps
How much do I feed earthworms?
Just as important as what to feed your worms is how much. If you have researched the internet you will find a ton of data stating that worms will eat half of their body weight daily. This is a half-truth -- as worms crawl throughout the soil they can ingest half of their body weight a day, but not all of what they consume will necessarily be from the kitchen scaps you are feeding them. A simple way to determine how much to give them is to make a fist -- note how big your fist is and put that much food in your bin. Check back in a week, note how much is left and add more when needed. You will soon get a feel for how much your worms are consuming and will be able to add more food accordingly.
A quick note about overfeeding -- too much kitchen food packed together may become anaerobic and heat up your bin. If you notice that your worms seem to be trying to escape your bedding may be too hot. To cool it down, remove some of the decomposing food. Remember, the smaller your kitchen scraps are, the faster they will be consumed. Another clue that you have too much kitchen scraps is if it begins to stink. If your bin becomes smelly simply remove some of the scraps, or redistribute half to the other side of your bin.
Raising Bait Worms
If you are raising larger worms such as European or African Nightcrawlers for fishing bait, you will want to approach growing your earthworms like a farmer. Simply feeding them your kitchen scraps won't be enough to get them as big and fat as you'll want. You'll need to feed them a steady diet of food such as manure and grains. I recommend seeing if your local feed store carries Purina Worm Chow. If they don't carry it or can't order you any, try the Rabbit Chow. Chicken laying mash, too. Remember, raising big fat bait worms will take more focus on your part when compared to just raising them for composting.
Harvesting the Worm Castings
When to Harvest the Castings
After a measure of time that can be from between 1 to several months (depending on worm population density) you will notice that most of the original bedding has been converted into a rich, dark earthy material. This dark material is the worm castings, also known as vermipost. When most of the original bedding has been consumed it is time to move your worms into a fresh bin of bedding.
How to Harvest the Castings
So now that it is time to harvest your worm castings you will need a tarp or sheet of plastic large enough to pour the contents of your bin upon. Choose and area with a good amount of indirect light, empty your bin onto the tarp, then separate the big pile into several smaller piles. Give the worms about an hour to crawl to the bottom of the each pile (if you do this under direct sunlight cut you wait time in half). Then carefully scoop up the "wormless" vermipost and place its own container. Now take your exposed worms and put them in a freshly bedded bin. It may be a little cumbersome at first, but you will get faster with practice.
The Pile Method
The Sift Method :
What is Worm Tea?
Worm tea is a solution made from worm castings and water. Think of what happens when you make tea with a tea bag; when you place a tea bag in water, the properties of the tea leaves leach into the water. The same hold true with worm castings. When you soak worm castings in water the castings are diluted and the beneficial micronutrients and microorganisms contained within are transferred to the water. This solution gives your plants and an instant boost of energy and nutrition. Not only can you feed the roots, you can use a spray bottle and feed the leaves as well. As the worm tea soaks into the soil, the nutrients and beneficial organisms are evenly dispersed into the soil and substrate. Your soil is now is teeming with molecules that your plants need to sustain healthy and productive life cycles!
Raising earthworms takes a bit of patience and care. Remember, they are living creatures that require cool, moist bedding and food they can digest. If you follow the tips I've given you, you shouldn't have any problems. The biggest mistake that beginners tend to make is overfeeding. If you're unsure, give a little less, pay attention, and feed them more when necessary.
Good Article in WIKIHOW :