Compost Worm Feeding Guide: What to Feed your Red Wigglers with Tips and Feeding Chart
Red wigglers and compost worms are fantastic eaters and will eat just about anything. But there are foods that can harm them or lead to poor bin conditions, so it's important to stick to a few basics.
What do Red Wigglers Eat?
Red wigglers follow a vegan diet so it’s easy to know what to feed them. They can eat most things that are from the earth and not from another living creature. This includes most fruits (red wigglers favorite food!), vegetables, leaves, and grass.
The one exception to their vegan diet is manure, which red wigglers love! Foods you should not feed red wigglers include spicy (e.g. peppers), acidic (e.g., tomatoes), and most cooked or packaged foods.
When in doubt, find something else to feed them!
What are Red Wiggler Worms Favorite Foods?
Red wigglers favorite foods include most raw/uncooked fruits and vegetables:
- Bananas, grapes, melon, pears, berries, peaches, apples, and avocado (but not the pit or rinds)
- Pumpkin, squash, sweet potato
- Pulp from juicers (but limit citrus)
- Composted manure (horse, dairy, rabbit, goat, hog)
Red wigglers actually eat microorganisms that are breaking down the food, so the worms like soft food or food that has been cut into small pieces (this helps accelerate the decomposition process and increases the number of microorganisms for worms to eat).
In addition, red wigglers and compost worms will eat:
- Crushed egg shells
- Green leafy vegetables (e.g., romaine and spinach)
- Coffee and tea grounds in small quantities (too many can lead to an acidic bed which can harm the worms)
- Shredded cardboard, egg cartons, and paper towels
- Composted leaves and grass (as long as they haven't been treated with pesticides or herbicides)
Pro tip #1: Some folks use a blender to lightly blend a smoothie for their worms!
What Not to Feed Red Wigglers
The list of foods red wigglers do not like or can harm them includes:
- Dairy, cheese, and milk products
- Meat or other animal products
- Cooked foods (due to oil and salt content)
- Citrus fruits
- "Spicy" foods like peppers, onions, garlic, and ginger
- Tomatoes or tomato sauce (it's too acidic for worms)
- Foods cooked with oils
- Foods high in salt content
- Prepackaged Foods
How Often & How Much to Feed Your Red Wiggler Compost Worms
We recommend feeding red wigglers around twice a week. A good benchmark for how much to feed your red wigglers is 1/3 to 1/2 of their weight, so if you have 1 lb of red wigglers feed them 5-8 ounces of food per feeding. Another good rule is to only feed your red wigglers after they have completed all or most of the food from the last feeding.
Feeding Red Wigglers - Keep it Simple
When taking care of your red wigglers it's important to remember to: 1) K.I.S.S (Keep it Simple) and 2) do everything in moderation.
These rules apply to feeding your compost worms, watering your worm bins, and just about everything else involved in caring for them. Just remember - you can always add more food later (but it’s hard to remove feed once it’s been added to a bin!).
So introduce foods slowly and in moderation, and once the red wigglers show you they like a food then keep it in the rotation for your squiggly friends!
Feeding Red Wigglers - the 6 Golden Rules
Think of feeding your worms like drinking a bottle of wine - you don't usually drink the entire bottle in 1 glass or gulp. You enjoy it in moderation over several glasses or days. Feed worms slowly (~ 2 times per week) and modestly and they will stay happy and healthy.
When I started my first worm bin I was so excited I overfed the worms and created bin conditions that led to many of them dying or fleeing the bin.
Because I fed the red wigglers and compost worms too much, they weren't able to keep up and over time the older food went uneaten and created anaerobic conditions that killed the worms.
The good news is that there are very simple actions you can take to ensure this doesn't happen! Here're the 6 golden rules for how often and how much to feed your worms:
- Rule #1: Moderation! You can always add more food later.
- Rule #2: For the first feeding, feed 1/5 to 1/4 of the weight of your worm population. For example, if you bought 1 pound of red wigglers, feed them 1/5 to 1/4 pound of food scraps.
- Rule #3: Never feed your compost worms until all food from the prior feeding is consumed/processed. You'll know the compost worms have fully processed the prior feeding when 1) the food is no longer visible on the surface of the worm bin and 2) the worms are not grouped together in a ball where you fed them.
- Rule #4: Don't bury the food! Compost worms are surface dwellers and will generally not eat food that is more than an inch or 2 below the surface. Uneaten food will lead to anaerobic conditions that will kill your live worms. It is ok to sprinkle a little of their original bedding (which should already be in the bin) over the food, but the food should never be buried and should be visible to your eye.
- Rule #5: See rule #1!
- Rule #6: After the first feeding, feed the worms 1/3 to 1/2 of their weight. So if you purchased 2 pounds of worms, feed them 2/3 to 1 pound of food at a time.
Pro tip #2: You may not always have red wigglers’ favorite food on hand, so buy a small compost bin or get a small pail and place your worm-worthy fruits and veggies in the pail for later!
It's important to keep in mind worms won't die if they aren't fed for a few days or even a week or 2 in most cases.
Remember the bedding you placed in the bin when setting it up? That's a food source for worms and they will eventually consume all of it and turn the bedding into worm castings. They need additional food but they can survive without it for longer than you think.
Feeding Red Wigglers Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: What are Red Wiggler Worms Favorite Foods?
Red wigglers and compost worms’ favorite foods are most fruits - they particularly love bananas, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, peaches, and melons!
Q: Can Red Wigglers Eat Potato Peels?
Yes - but we recommend feeding potato peels to worms in moderation. Potato peels are starchy and don’t break down easily so they can take a while for the red wigglers to eat them.
Q: How Often Should I Feed Red Wigglers and Compost Worms?
This depends on a lot of factors like weather, types of food, and the size of your worm population. We feed our worms at Brothers Worm Farm twice a week, and most of us do the same with our worm bins at home. Red wigglers tend to eat more when temperatures are moderate (60-80 degrees), so you may find a need to feed them more during these periods.
An easy-to-remember rule for feeding compost worms is that they should finish each feeding in 48-72 hours. If there is food leftover after this time, adjust the next feeding with a smaller amount of food and continue tweaking how much you are feeding them until they finish a feeding in 2-3 days.
Q: What Do I Do If I’m Leaving Town for a Week or More?
If you are leaving for vacation or a trip and are worried about your worms, there are a few things you can do to ensure their survival. First, worms are usually fine for 1-2 weeks if you are leaving for that long. Just follow these steps and your wiggly friends should be fine while you’re gone:
- Mix in ⅓ fresh bedding to the bin. Bedding can be the original type of bedding you used or several handfuls of shredded cardboard.
- Give the surface of the bedding a heavy misting so the bedding doesn’t dry out.
- Add 1 week’s worth of food to the bin.
- Place a piece of cardboard over the surface of the bin (this will help it retain moisture).
If you are leaving for more than 2 weeks, we recommend having a friend or family member feed and water the worms every 1.5 weeks while you are gone. You can leave food for the worms in the refrigerator and a small spray bottle for watering.
Worm Farm Food Chart
Have any other questions we haven’t answered? Check out our other related posts:
Or feel free to shoot us an email or check the other tips and how to articles on our blog. Thanks for reading and happy farming!