How to keep worms alive in a container?

How To Keep Fishing Worms Alive?

There are a variety of different types of fishing worms.

You have your normal earthworms to your nightcrawlers and some other types, but they are all kept alive in similar ways.

This article will look at how to keep your fishing worms alive and fresh, so you can get the best catches you can from them.

The whole point of using live bait is because it is alive, so keep reading to learn how to keep your fishing worm bait alive longer.

How To Keep Fishing Worms Alive

How to find?

Before getting into how to keep your worms alive, we will touch quickly on how to find fishing worms. While you can buy fishing worms, it is cheaper and normally funnier to find them yourself.

The best way to find them is to wait till a few hours after dark and then go out and start digging in the ground.

It is best if the ground is warm and moist. For light, you can use a flashlight or headlamp and put some red cellophane over it so as not to scare the worms. Y

ou then pull them from the ground and put them in a small bowl or dish with some warm dirt in it. Once you have some worms, it is time to go fishing or store them in a way that will keep them alive.

Worm box

Find the worm to go fishing

One of the easiest ways to keep your worms alive is to build a worm box. This is a small box that is normally about 2 feet by 3 feet by 2 feet and made of wood or other material.

The nice thing about making a worm box is you can store a lot of worms in it and have a constant supply of worms for fishing.

You won’t have to go out hunting for worms every time you want to fish; you will just need to dig some out of your worm box. A worm box of the described size can hold upwards of 500 worms.

Inside the worm box, you will want moist, not wet dirt or moist newspapers. This will be what the worms eat and grow in. The box should be kept buried in the ground to keep it cool, and only a few inches should be above the surface. You want the box in the shade to also help with temperature. The box should be 40 degrees to 60 degrees Fahrenheit to keep the worms alive and happy. To help with this temperature, you can keep ice cubes in the box, and they will also help keep the dirt moist. You can also use a burlap sack or straw for this.

This worm box works great for keeping worms at home and having a steady supply, but you may be wondering how to keep worms on a fishing trip, well you can use this method on a smaller scale.

Bait Box

You can get a bait box that is about 12 inches x 12 inches x 8 inches and keep around 400 worms easily with this similar method. Put the dirt or substrate of choice in the bait box and then in the middle ad a sealed glass jar or plastic container packed full of ice cubes.

As the ice cubes melt, it will keep the dirt moist for the worms, and on hot days the worms will gather by the jar. The bedding will stay cool and damp because the condensation will be held in. Just make sure to keep the box closed when not getting the bait out, so it doesn’t get hot or dried up. You want the condensation to stay sealed inside the box.

Coffee Can

There are some other methods for keeping worms alive, and one of those is a coffee can. You can poke holes in the plastic lid and keep the worms inside it with the dirt or bedding. You can even use old coffee grounds. If you want to keep the worms for a few days, then you can store the coffee can in a small fridge to keep it cool and your worms fresher longer. If going out fishing with the coffee can you can keep it in a cooler and put some ice around it. This will keep it cool and the metal can will develop condensation keeping the soil moist for the worms.

Childs Wadding Pool

Another alternative to the worm box is a child’s wading pool. It can be kept in the shade and filled with dirt and can hold a lot of worms. The key is just to keep it moist. As long as you keep the bedding damp, but not wet, the worms will be happy and live for weeks in this. Using a wadding pool is easier than building a worm box, but it is not a permanent way to keep worms like a worm box is.

Keys to keeping worms alive.

So, now you know a few different methods to keep your fishing worms alive. You know that you can build a worm box, use a cooler as a small worm box, use a coffee can, or even use a child’s wading pool. The real key to keeping worms alive is keeping them in the right conditions. The right conditions for worms are dark, moist, and cool. If you do this, they will stay happy.


Keeping your worms alive and fresh for the next time you go fishing is easy.

It is even easy to grow your own worms using a worm box, so you don’t have to buy them or hunt for them. To keep fishing worms alive just keep them in a cool dark place that is moist but not wet.

After reading this, you now know a lot of methods to do this. If the methods suggested here don’t work for you, then I am sure you can come up with your own method that works better for your area and what you have available.

Any container with coffee, straw, dirt, or even newspaper inside of it that is kept moist and cool can keep your worms living long enough for you to go fishing, just make sure the container is not airtight or else the worms won’t be able to breathe. Other than that you are well on your way to keeping your fishing worms alive.

How To Keep Worms Alive at Home Easily

The Earthworm has been used for a very long time to catch many species of fish. They are great producers and arguably one of the very best at everything. The problem arises when you are met with the challenge of helping them survive.

Knowing how to keep fishing worms alive is an essential part of your success with them largely in part to fish preferring an option that wiggles and squirms. The way it moves counts big.

Without the intended action of the bait, you will get very few strikes from bigger fish and they will lose a lot of potential drawing power. There are some steps you can take to greatly reduce the amount of risk that the bait faces. They will die if not cared for right. They are very fragile and many refuse to take care of them. They are actually pretty easy to care for though.

Those steps include knowing some very basic principles and some very basic knowledge of worms in general as well as their behaviors and biology. While we generally will be covering common varieties found in tackle stores, these can be used for most species. The following tutorials will help you successfully look after Red Worms, European Nightcrawlers and many other similar yet related species.

1. Insulate and Cool Them Off By Keeping Them In The Refridgerator – Maintaining Their Temperature

Your job will be made a lot easier if you possess a way to keep the worms insulated. Good insulation means that they will not die from overheating or from being too cold. It means that it will keep their temperature at a constant level regardless of the weather conditions outside. These creatures tend to overheat and freeze easily. The heat will often cause their metabolism to rise. That means that they need a lot more energy and a lot more food to live.

A very large portion of the care needed to take care of them in your dwelling place is often cut out for you. As far as making sure the bait survives, it doesn’t require a ton of effort. You often only need one thing if you plan to keep them for a month or less. It is something you probably already have. A refrigerator. In much the same way that you would find the worms inside of a fridge at the local tackle store, this is how you want to store them. If you have a common refrigerator at your home, you already have the perfect place to keep them in.

Letting them stay inside the fridge will do a few things. First of all, it will prevent drastic temperature spikes that can cause your bait to go into shock. Since most modern refrigerators are well-insulated and are designed with the sole purpose of maintaining a constant temperature, you don’t have to worry about how hot or cold the air temperature gets.

Second, it will cool them down to about 40 degrees Fahrenheit. On the surface, this particular temperature may seem a little cold, but that is what is good about it. Keeping them in a colder environment that they can still tolerate without dying keeps their metabolism down. They are very much the same in this aspect as fish. In colder weather, they have a much slower metabolism.

This means that they eat much less and they use a lot less energy. Giving them the cold shoulder is actually beneficial as long as you don’t freeze them to death. The cooler environment puts them in survival mode. They will focus purely on surviving. You will actually get their help in this phase. As far as storing them in the fridge, many anglers will have a problem with the fact that they are putting them inside the place they keep their food.

They have fears of cross-contamination and other sanitary reasons. It is a valid concern, but it holds no weight. The container they come in is likely just a plastic tub with a lid. It is quite comparable to a tub of chicken salad or coleslaw. The lid may have tiny air holes in it but this will not hurt anything at all.

They will not contaminate your fridge shelf, they won’t ruin the surface of the glass, they won’t make any food near them spoil or anything remotely similar to it. If it bothers you at all (and it shouldn’t), just give the shelf a quick wipe with a cloth after using your favorite disinfectant on it.

2. Keep The Bedding Damp With Proper Hydration

Many anglers when they first start out almost always tend to forget one thing. They often forget to check for proper hydration levels. Hydration refers to how much water is present in the bedding material. The peat moss that the crawlers or Wigglers live in when you purchase them always will have a damp feel to it. There’s a reason for that. More of a need and requirement than an optional want, the bedding always needs to be damp to the touch. This is primarily because of the way they breathe.

All species breathe through their skin. Having the water gives them a steady supply of oxygen. The water will allow them to breathe easily. Unlike a human being, they don’t possess lungs and unlike a fish, they lack gills.

Once the bedding gets a little dry to the touch, you will want to add a little bit of purified distilled water to the bedding. as is the same story with keeping minnows alive, using tap water can be a bad idea because it often contains chemicals and a lot of extra additives that can be toxic to the worms unless it is treated first. Things like chlorine, fluorine, and fluoride to name a few.

Don’t overdo it with the water either. You want to use just enough to add moisture back into the bedding and no more. They can drown if you are not careful. To much water will do much more harm than good. A good idea is to use a spray bottle and spritz the bedding when it starts to dry out.

3. Provide Healthy Food For Consumption

Keeping them in the fridge is all well and good if you are planning on using up your bait in a month or less but what about longer-term survival? This means you want to feed them. They will get hungry. Naturally, you want to feed them.

They love to eat things like used coffee grounds and vegetable matter. Providing food is a lot easier than one might think. If you drink coffee every morning, you can use the used leftover grounds to provide the creatures with a nice meal. Even if you do not drink coffee, it makes a very inexpensive way to provide food for them. Just soak some grounds in hot water for a few minutes and let them cool.

Another option is fruit and vegetable scraps. They love to consume and eat vegetables and fruits. If you have Red Wrigglers and you want to keep them for long-term storage, consider building a worm farm. Just placing little bits of vegetables in the tub will cause them to eat it. They eat things like leaves naturally in the wild. The things you should feed your worms are generally basic in nature and fairly straightforward. Feed them vegetables, paper, eggshells, pasta, bread, coffee, tea bags, and fruits.

1. Get A Good Container Or Cooler To Keep Them In

Now that we have gone over what the best method to keep them alive at home is, we are ready to delve into keeping them lively and wiggly in the absence of a fridge. These are places such as in your car, in your boat, or on the water which is ultimately the most important. If you live in very warm climates, things may prove a little more challenging. If you live in a colder one or prefer fishing in winter, things are a little bit easier.

When the thermometer gets above a certain point, not only will your bait die instantly, but it will actually start to dry out in the tub. It will quite literally make worm bacon. That means you cannot count on the action of the bait to entice strikes for you. If they are touching any part of the side of the tub at all, they will actually start to stick to the sides of the plastic and it will start to stink really badly.

Enough to make many anglers pinch their noses. If this happens to be inside of your car, it is just a nightmare because you have to drive with it, roll the window down and hope you don’t have to clean anything later. The same thing can happen if you drop it in your boat. If this does start to happen, do not worry too much. It will not go to waste. It makes an excellent choice for small Channel Catfish bait and Bluegill. Also, dead bait just doesn’t produce near as well when compared to the same kind if it is alive.

You will catch a lot less fish this way. These are just some of the reasons why it is important to store them in such a way that the sun cannot get to them and warm them up. Even the surrounding air without direct sunlight can have a lethal effect on them. How do you remedy this? You need a very good container. A very well-insulated container.

Styrofoam doesn’t usually work too well because it is very fragile and is not a good candidate for keeping out the heat. A common tool used to accomplish this is a cooler or icebox. You can choose to have ice in it or not. It doesn’t really matter too much. The ice is always nice for keeping them cold and it drastically helps, but the cooler still provides reliable shelter from the sun and warmer atmosphere which is what you really want.

The important thing is that they don’t gain body heat in the process of keeping them. It is in essence, a makeshift fridge. Think of it as your fridge away from your fridge. You are attempting to simulate the optimal conditions you would normally have if you had access to a fridge on your trip. Also, remember to open the lid of the container once every hour or two if the container is airtight to allow for oxygen flow so they do not suffocate. Alternatively, the bucket you keep them in can have an oxygen source.

2. Keep The Bedding Damp With Proper Hydration

As was mentioned before, moisture and hydration levels are extremely important to the longevity of the bait. You always have to make sure that the little buggers are hydrated but not too much. Even on the go, hydration is important. It is probably even more important when you are outside because of how weather likes to affect water.

If it is a very hot day, using a little bit of cold or ice water in the bedding of the worms cools them down and regulates their body temperature to a point where they can survive rather easily. More water may need to be added depending on if the weather evaporates the water out of the bedding quicker than you would like. If you are able, you want to keep them moist and cool for the best results even while you are fishing. Heat makes them work harder and die quicker but cold temperatures have the opposite effect.

Another important thing to remember is that these creatures are fragile and delicate cold-blooded animals. That means that their blood will change depending on the temperature of the environment in which they live. You want to add new water but only a very little bit. Just enough to rehydrate the bedding. Don’t wet the bait, don’t make any indoor swimming pools with a diving board and water slide, and don’t go crazy with it at all.

Just a few drops or just one tiny ice cube placed on top of the bedding is enough to make them happy. When you do it, add it very slowly so they can acclimate. Cold-blooded animals hate drastic changes in temperatures. It can kill them easily. Also, never forget to tip over the container to drain out the excess liquid if there is any.

Live Bait Is Good Bait

There is no debate as to why someone would choose live bait over dead. It produces more fish. If you know how to keep fishing worms alive and you follow some specific steps, you can count on always having a squirming struggling meal to offer your targeted fish.

Then, you can start to see your catch rate go up and stay there for a lot longer. Regardless of what fish you are after using them, one thing holds true. They work. They make great options to consider for panfish, bass, catfish, Crappie, and even species like Pike and Walleye will hit an Earthworm.

The problem with using them is because they die before you actually want them to. Don’t be caught with dead bait on accident again. Learning the process to keep them healthy and happy isn’t very hard once you know how to.

Keep your Worms Alive

Keeping those Worms Alive and Healthy
Hi again fellow anglers. This article I’m going to talk to you about storing worms. Once you’ve gone to the trouble of collecting several dozen or more worms, you’ll want to address the issue of keeping them alive and healthy. Whether it’s the garden variety red worm for bluegills or nightcrawlers for walleyes, plump lively worms out fish the dead mushy ones every time. You will always catch more fish with live or recently dead bait. Worms are not the sturdiest critters, but with a minimum of effort you can keep them healthy, plump and wriggling for a long time. We’re also going to discuss some ways to fatten them up in our next article.
Before you even leave for the collection excursion, you’ll want to have something already prepared for them to live in. First you’ll need a container of some sort. There are a lot of options; first we’ll chat about some of the ready-made units. There are several styles made out of plastic that have stackable layers. These can be a good choice when you have a limited space; they are about 15-20” around and come in both square and cylindrical configurations.
The stacking feature allows you to make it multiple layers high. The rectangular one pictured is something I have, it’s 18” square. As pictured it has 4 levels and a base, each one 5” tall. You won’t find these much in your local big box store, but there are numerous sources online. If you were to look up worm farming you would find several different vendors. These have perforated bottoms so the worms can migrate from one level to another, sort of like a worm-o-minium. They are used more for raising and breeding worms along with storage. These can cost from $100-200 and up, depending on a few whistles and bells and how many of the stacks you want, but if you throw a few in there and let them breed you could eventually have an almost unlimited supply at your fingertips.
Many of them are made of Styrofoam, you can get yourself one from your local big box store or bait shop; there are several vendors who make some nice ones.
These range in cost from $10-50, depending mostly on size. Some of them are just enough for a day’s supply; others of the larger ones make decent storage but are often more than you want to schlepp around with you. You can make your own from a shipping container, those boxes Omaha steaks come in work very well. And those giant plastic bins you can get at Staples or Office Max will also do very nicely. These will keep the moisture in and also keep them cool when in the refrigerator. Keep in mind that the worms will often burrow towards the bottom so you don’t want to be digging through more than about a foot to get at them. You can use 5 gallon buckets but they haven’t worked well for me for anything more than a gathering container; it’s kind of limited space to get into. For any of your long term worm containers, remember to vent and allow them to breath. If you don’t vent the box, it will promote mold and mildew and heat which will kill the worms. The store bought ones usually have vents built in, (see the picture above) but you’ll have to invent something for your own brand. Make sure any holes are covered with mesh or you’ll find some of your worms will escape through them.
The next thing you’ll need is some sort of bedding; the easiest and cheapest way to get bedding for the initial collection process is a small box filled with a mixture of dirt, grass, and leaves. This works fine to put them in short term, but for longer term storage you’ll want something a bit better. You can buy bedding pre-mixed as well as worm food from a variety of different companies at most fishing and outdoor stores. Again, multiple vendors make them, one is called Magic Worm Bedding, another is made by Frabill along with numerous others;
it serves as both food and bedding. The worms will eat any organic matter so you do have to keep adding additional new bedding periodically. At a cost of $12-20 for a bag it’s enough to fill their beds once. Peat moss, if available, also works fairly well.
Part of the goal is not to cost a fortune doing this. As with the container itself, you can also make your own bedding for practically nothing. An easy way to get plenty of bedding fast and cheap is shred your daily newspaper, and standard letter paper mixed in works in limited quantities too. Run the paper through a shredder and Voila, worm bedding. When you make your own, you need to adhere to a few simple guidelines. First, make sure you take the time to shred the paper, don’t just throw a bunch of wadded up paper in the bin. Second, use mainly newsprint along with a few letter sized pages; DO NOT USE GLOSS PAPER as found in magazines and catalogues. Third, while they actually eat the black ink, there is something about colored ink that is bad for worms, so you need to separate out the ads and Sunday comics and use only pages with black ink.
You still need to do a couple more things to that bedding to ensure a healthy environment for your worms. First, you’ll need to add some dirt to the mix, a couple handfuls of topsoil works well. Worms need a little bit of dirt for roughage in their digestive tract, and a few finely crushed up eggshells serve that purpose with the benefit of adding a little calcium to their diet. These two additives are important to healthy worms. Worms also need moisture, it helps make them fat. Some of the pre-packaged bedding doesn’t require much, but you will need to moisten the home made stuff before you add the dirt and eggshells. A good rule of thumb is pour water over the non-dirt part of any mixture, your shredded newsprint for instance. Let it set for a few minutes in a bowl or pot, then squeeze out as much water as you can; you want it damp but not soggy before you put it in the container. You don’t want to dump it in a big wet wad; separate it and fluff it up a bit. Take a couple handfuls of the dirt / eggshell blend and mix in with the bedding, then fill your container close to the top. Put it in loosely, no need to pack it down. You can have this prepared well before you go out to collect your worms.
Now we’re ready to store our worms. I recommend storing nightcrawlers and garden worms separately; the biggest reason being you won’t have to dig around finding one or the other. You can just dump your leftovers from fishing right in. Remember to rinse off your collected worms in clean water before you put them in the farm. Put them on the top and cover the box. When you come back later and uncover them, the healthy ones will have burrowed into the bedding. Any left on the top are likely going to die and should be removed so they don’t contaminate the entire bin. If you have an overabundance, put them in your garden.
Once the worms have settled into their new home, you’ll want to make sure that they are preserved properly. Worms are fragile critters, and heat is particularly brutal on them. Always try to keep them cool in the field; a zip lock full of ice inside on the top of the container will work wonders. If you have refrigerator space, that works best for your long term storage, especially any time where the temperature is going to be much above 60F. A couple things to consider when using the refrigerator; First, make sure your spouse or significant other knows about and is OK with your using the fridge for an apartment for your critters. I have been chastised numerous times over the years; some folks just don’t have a sense of humor or understand the importance to keep your worms cool. Best way is an old one that you keep for important things like beer, ice, snacks and bait. Second, make sure the lid is on securely or they will crawl out and get everywhere. If you have a basement and it stays cool, that will work as well. An attached garage works fine from October – April, just keep from freezing and the worms will hibernate.
Now that we’ve got housing for them, next we’ll look at some ways to catch and feed them to keep a ready supply. If you have any comments, questions, or tips you might like to share, feel free to contact me at [email protected] See you on the water.
Copyright Jeff Kolman 2018

How to Make a Worm Farm for Kids

Image by Gainesvegas

Have you and your kids ever gone worm-charming, or headed outside to look for worms after it’s rained? Has your little one ever dangled a worm in front of your face or run after you with one at the park?

Even if you’re not the most enthusiastic worm-lover, you’ll find this easy eco-friendly activity great for teaching your kids all about recycling and taking care of the environment.

All About Worms for Kids – What’s the big idea?

They wriggle, they squirm, they look a little bit slimy – so why should you encourage your children to get hands on with worms? Well, the humble earthworm is a good example of how something small and seemingly insignificant can actually have a big role to play when it comes to protecting our natural environment and helping it thrive.

When worms tunnel through the earth they help plant roots get greater access to water and air and the nutrient-rich waste that they leave behind also helps the plants to grow. Worms are fantastic natural recyclers that can convert food scraps from the kitchen – otherwise destined for the landfill site – into compost for the garden or vegetable patch.

How to Make Your Own Worm Farm

What better way to learn about earthworms than by observing them at work in your very own worm farm? You can find everything you’ll need to make worm farms for kids at home in your cupboards or in your garden. Worm farms can be any size you want as long as the wrigglers have a healthy amount of space to move around.

To make your own worm farm, you will need the following:

A container

This should be transparent if you want to observe the worms moving around. Glass jars, plastic drinks bottles, or small aquariums work well, but these must always have air holes in the top, drainage holes in the bottom, and a cover to prevent escapees, excess rain damage, and the attention of hungry birds!


Garden soil layered with sand makes for a great visual combination that will intrigue curious minds. Your kids will love watching the worms mix everything up as they burrow; but shredded newspaper works just as well. Fill the container about two thirds of the way full and make sure the bedding is moist – neither wet nor too dry.


The most fun part of this activity will probably be the worms, for kids. Enticing them out of the earth is a task in itself, but if it’s taking too long for you, or you’re having no luck, you can actually order composting worms on the Internet to arrive at your home by post or simply buy some from your local garden centre.

Composting worms aren’t your usual garden variety – they’re shorter and red and they tend to stay close to the surface of the earth. Regular earthworms burrow deeper to avoid conditions they don’t like.

Food scraps

If you want your worms to survive and keep pests like maggots from breeding in your worm farm, make sure you avoid meat scraps or dairy foods. Worms can also react badly to salty, spiced, and citrus foods. Cut the food up into small pieces and only add more once the previous batch has been eaten. This can take more than one day.


Worms are generally not fans of sunlight as it tends to dry out the skin through which they breathe. To be kind to your worms make sure small containers are kept in cupboards, or covered with black paper to keep the light out.

Stain removal tips

Making a worm farm from scratch can be a messy process and that might mean muddy clothes. Be sure to protect surfaces and clothes before you start this activity and keep Persil small & mighty Bio to hand in case any stains happen in the process – our article on how to remove mud and grass stains from clothes may be particularly useful!

Interesting Worm Facts for Kids

While you’re making your worm farm, why not share these facts with your kids:

  • There are around 34,000 different types of worm in the world.
  • Worms do not have lungs – they breathe through their skin.
  • Worms eat at least one third of their own body weight in a day.
  • Worm poos are actually called ‘casts’ and are often found bagged up in gardening stores for use as fertilizer.
  • Another word for worm farming is vermiculture.

For even more fun facts, check out this article from the National Geographic or this guide from the BBC.


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This project is so much fun for homeschoolers, or just to get the kids involved in the garden! Learn How to create a worm farm with kids!

Kids love all things creepy and crawly, which is why they are the perfect people to help you create a worm farm. A worm farm is ideal for anyone who wants nutrient-rich soil but may not have room for a compost bin. Building your worm farm is easy; you just need a few supplies and some little helping hands. Take a look below at how to create a worm farm with kids to get started!

How to Create a Worm Farm With Kids

1. Pick the perfect container.

A plastic bucket with lid makes the perfect container. You want something roomy as well as airtight. A cover will help keep the bucket dark which worms love. Once you find the perfect container, give kids some markers and let them personalize it with their drawings.

2. Make some worm beds.

Explain to kids how worms love a cozy bed just like they do. Shred up newspaper to place in the bucket. Black and white newspaper works best. You can then spray the bedding with a spray bottle to dampen it. As you can see, these are simple jobs for kids. Once the bedding is made, add some gardening soil and give it all a good mix.

3. Find your worms.

Finding worms is the part that kids love. You can now go searching for worms to add to your bucket. You want to use red worms. If you can only find earthworms they will work, they just won’t be as effective. Search damp and dark spots in the yard for your worms, or if you have to snag some at a local bait shop. You can even find Red Worms on Amazon! 

This is also an excellent time to talk to kids about how to handle the worms. Talk about how important it is to be gentle and respectful of them. You don’t want to injure the worms or cause any stress or damage to them.

4. Feed the worms.

Have kids save their fruit and veggie peels and scraps to feed the worms. This is a fun way for them to care for the worms while also finding a use for the scraps. Let kids add scraps to the worm farm daily, as a single worm can easily eat half its weight in a few days.

5. Circulate the farm.

Give kids a garden trowel to turn the bedding over and around once per week. This will help add some air and oxygen to the farm which the worms will need.

In time, the worms will turn the scraps and paper into rich soil perfect for your plants.

Give these tips for creating a worm garden with kids a try and see how easy it is to make one for yourself.

Amanda is a busy mom of 3 that is constantly on the lookout for shortcuts to add more happiness to the day. She loves creating recipes, printables, DIY, and sharing family fun tips with you.


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How to Make a Worm Farm

Does your little one have an unearthly fascination with creepy crawlies? Often even the most bug-shy kids can tolerate worms – as anyone who’s ever had one dangled in their face after a day in the yard will be able to tell you!The good news is that earthworms are completely harmless, and you can even use them in a way that’s good for you and educational and fun for the rest of the family. We’ve put together a guide that will show you how to make a worm farm with your kids, and teach them a little bit about the world around them at the same time!

How to build a worm farm

You can buy a worm farm kit online or from a garden centre, but chances are you already have everything you need for worm farming in your house and garden. Here’s what you’ll need for your worm farm:

  1. A container. This can be just about anything, but it should be see-through if you want to be able to see the worms moving around inside – a plastic drinks bottle will work well, or an old piece of Tupperware. It should have holes in the top (for air), holes in the bottom (for drainage) and a cover (to foil any escape attempts).
  2. Bedding material. Soil from outside is perfect for this – you can layer it with sand or old newspaper for an interesting visual contrast, as you’ll be able to see the worms mixing up the bedding as they burrow! Keep the bedding moist – not too wet, not too dry – for the best results.
  3. The key ingredient in any worm farm! Your kids will love hunting for these outside (check out this guide to worm charming to show them how). In a pinch, you can also order composting worms online. Don’t worry if your little ones get a bit mucky while they’re hunting for their new friends – your trusty OMO liquid will be on hand to take care of any mud and grass stains!
  4. Food scraps. Any kept animal needs feeding, and your worms will be no exception. Avoid foods like meat scraps and anything dairy-based – this is more likely to attract maggots than worms! Instead, things like vegetable scraps are a good bet, as well as non-citrus fruit scraps: apple cores, banana peels and the like. Worms will also enjoy used tea leaves and coffee grounds. Remember to keep an eye on the food levels – only top up the food once your worms have got through their last meal, which might take a while (over a day).

Keep your worm farm somewhere dark and sheltered. Worms dry out if they’re exposed to too much light, so make sure that your worm farming takes place under black card or in a dark cupboard.While you make your worm farms, why not share some fun worm facts with your kids? Here’s a few to get you started:

  • Worm farming (or vermiculture) was so important in ancient Egypt that Cleopatra outlawed removing earthworms from the country.
  • Worms don’t breathe or drink like humans do – they absorb water and oxygen through their skin.
  • There are about 34,000 different worm species on the planet.

You can find more worm facts for the whole family to entertain your little ones online. Why not pick out your favourites and share them?

Hands-On Science

Create a worm farm and explore the important role worms play in your garden.


  • Large jar with a lid, like a spaghetti jar
  • Hammer
  • Nail
  • Soil
  • Sand
  • Oatmeal
  • Teaspoon
  • Cup
  • Two or three earthworms
  • Black construction paper
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Crayon


  1. Use the hammer and nail to carefully poke holes in the lid of the jar. Take the lid off and set it aside.
  2. Add a little water to the dry soil and dry sand so that they are moist.
  3. Use a cup to scoop up some moist soil and pour about an inch into the jar. Measure a teaspoon of dry oatmeal and sprinkle it on top of the soil. Then add about an inch of moist sand. Continue to add an inch of moist soil, a teaspoon of dry oatmeal, and an inch of moist sand until you have about two inches of space left at the top of the jar.
  4. Add two or three worms to the jar and screw on the lid.
  5. Wrap the sides of the jar with the black construction paper and tape it in place. Use crayons or markers to decorate the paper or label it with your name.
  6. Place the worm farm somewhere dark, where it’s not in direct sunlight.
  7. After about a week, take a peek inside the jar by removing the construction paper. See what the worms have been doing!
  8. Every week, add a little bit of water to the jar to keep the soil moist. Put the paper back on the jar to keep it dark.
  9. Every six weeks, add a teaspoon of oatmeal for the worms to eat.
  10. If you would like, you can move your worm farm outside by putting the worms in a garden.

What’s happening?

Worms move through the soil in search for food. When they burrow through the soil, they create small tunnels and loosen up the soil. This allows air and rainwater to reach all parts of the soil. Plant roots need to be exposed to air and water in order to grow, so a garden that has lots of worms is very healthy.

In your jar, you should notice the small tunnels and pathways the worms have created. The worms are looking for food – the oatmeal – and on their journey, they help mix up the soil. Keep the worms in a dark place and covered with black construction paper because worms like damp, dark places.

Build a wormery

How long will it take?

Half an hour to set up and several weeks of observation.

What you will need

  • a large, clean, glass jar
  • moist soil
  • sand
  • earthworms
  • old leaves
  • vegetable peelings, tea leaves, overripe grapes
  • some black paper and a cool, dark cupboard

Step-by-step guide

1 Ask your children to cover their work surface with newspaper. They will need to wash their large jar carefully so that it doesn’t smash. You may want to help younger children with this.

2 Help your child to put a layer of sand at the bottom of the jar, about 1cm (0.4in) deep.

3 Add a thick layer of soil, then add another thin layer of sand, then another thick layer of soil. Ensure there is about 5cm (2in) of space at the top.

4 Now for the fun part! Ask your children to go and find some worms. Before they put them in their jar, ensure they have a good look at them. Can they tell which end is which? How? Can they guess how a worm moves? Can they see the hairs on the worms skin?

5 They need to put the worms in their jar, then add some old leaves, vegetable peelings, tea leaves and overripe fruit if you have any.

6 Then they can put the lid on – with a couple of holes in the top – place black paper around the jar and put it into a cool, dark cupboard. Leave it for about a couple of weeks and then observe what the worms are doing.

7 What has happened to the vegetable peelings?

8 What patterns have the worms made in the earth?

Tips and advice

  • Your children are likely to find this project much easier to do than you are! Do try to overcome any squeamishness, as worms are so vitally important for the gardener. Not only do they aerate the soil and improve its condition by breaking down rotting plant waste in the soil, they will also produce even higher quality compost in your compost heap, eating their way through quantities of kitchen waste at the same time. When children are collecting and observing the worms, they need to be aware that worms do not like to be in the dry or the light for any length of time. They could try holding them on wet hands, or looking at them on black paper (not as easy to see them), or using several, each one just for a few minutes.
  • Your children may wish to investigate the two main types of worm (earth and tiger). They can set up two jars and compare what happens in them. This is an important scientific skill, which will be developed in school.
  • Always ensure the contents of the jar are moist, not too wet and definitely not too dry. Worms ‘breathe’ through their skin, which must be damp for this to happen. The jar should not be put anywhere too cold.
  • There is no danger with this project, apart from when handling the soil, and your children should be vaccinated against tetanus already. Worms do not bite or produce any skin irritant.
  • Charles Darwin studied worms for 39 years, and concluded that life on earth would not be possible without them. Mainly because they increase soil fertility so efficiently, but also because they reduce quantities of plant waste.
  • Brandling worms – also called tiger worm, or Eisenia foetida – will come naturally into your compost heap, but you can make your own wormery to process kitchen waste more quickly and efficiently. You can give the worms most kitchen waste – all uncooked fruit and vegetable waste, tea leaves, coffee grouts etc. In fact, worms are omnivorous and can eat meat as well, but it is sensible to keep this out of your jar, wormery or compost heap.When the contents of your jar look well mixed, the vermicompost (compost produced by worms) is ready to use.
  • Earthworms are what you will find if you dig in your garden; tiger worms are what you will find in your compost or manure heap, or you can sometimes buy them in an angling shop. Use one or the other.

Worm Farm Design For The Classroom

“What would be a good worm farm design to build for classroom use? It needs to be relatively small and have access areas to observe how the worms are composting.” ~ Christina

Hi Christina,

While I haven’t created one myself, I suspect that it would be relatively easy to build a great educational worm bin.

As you’ve pointed out, a key component of such a system will be some sort of observation area so the kids are able to see what’s really going on inside. The easiest option would simply involve using a fish aquarium. I have made a worm bin using an aquarium and it was certainly fascinating to watch the composting process.

As I discovered however, the major downfall of using an aquarium is the fact that it is very difficult to keep everything aerated inside. Aquariums are of course well sealed systems (in order to prevent water from leaking out) so it is inevitable that conditions will become more and more anaerobic over time as materials are broken down and become compacted.

There are a number of ways you can help to keep things oxygenated however.

For starters, you could create your own artificial aeration system using one or two basic aquarium air pumps and some plastic tubing. Simply poke lots and lots of holes all along the length of the tubing, clamp the end shut (fold it over and tightly constrict with a cable tie), then run the tubing all through the starting materials (bedding + food scraps) as you add them to the aquarium. Attach the tube to your air pump, plug it in and away you go

You also certainly don’t need to use a glass aquarium – in fact, some of the plastic aquariums for kids could be ideal since they are inexpensive and quite small. Perhaps you could buy a number of them and then split the class into groups, each taking a slightly different approach with their own system.

The added advantage of a plastic aquarium is that you can drill small holes in the walls near the bottom (or even on the bottom if you have a tray underneath to catch liquid) to help with air flow.

Something else to keep in mind however, is that aquariums also let in a LOT of light. Worms are very sensitive to light, and prolonged exposure can cause them harm. As such, I would highly recommend keeping a dark sheet over top of each aquarium when not making observations, or storing them in a dark location (like a closet or cupboard).

If your school happens to have a dark room for photography, you might be in for a real treat (assuming you can use the room). Worms are not sensitive to red light, so there is a good chance you could actually observe the worms at work (they will move away from the light in regular classroom).

As easy and (potentially) inexpensive as a small aquarium worm bin would be, you may be hoping to build something with a little more of a ‘wow factor’. If you have some decent carpentry skills or at least know someone who does, the sky is the limit.

I found examples of some fantastic looking systems that should help to provide some inspiration in this department. Both systems are based on the same basic idea – a worm bin with some sort of clear viewing wall, enclosed within a cabinet-like structure. Both look great, but the second system is definitely a little more impressive (it may actually have been purchased).

Here is the nice homemade system:

And the more advanced example:

Hope this helps.

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See Also…

How To Grow A More Productive Veggie Garden… How To Turn The Food I Grow Into Healthy Hearty Meals… How To Keep Chickens, Rabbits & Other Livestock… How To Turn Herbs Into Natural Health & Wellness… How To Become More Self Sufficient In General…

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