Compost Worm Feeding Guide: What to Feed Red Worms with Tips and Feeding Chart (2024)

what to feed red worms, foods

Compost Worm Feeding Guide: What to Feed your Red Wigglers with Tips and Feeding Chart (2024)

What to feed red worms?


Simply put, red wigglers are vegans. That certainly means meat is a strict no. A good rule of thumb is to feed them things that grow from the earth and keep anything derived from another being away. 

A few things that you can feed red worms include:

  • You can feed them fruits like grapes, berries, peaches, apples, and bananas.

  • You can feed them leftover pulp from juicers. If you make juices at home often, it's time to gather and store the pulp.

  • Sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and squash are other good options to feed them.

  • Feed worms a balanced diet to provide them with the best nutrition. If you don't want to get into the nitty-gritty, simply get them worm chow like  Memes Premium Worm Chow.

  • According to a  post  by the US Department of Agriculture, certain waste products, such as crushed egg shells, banana peels, and coffee grounds, can be fed to them.

  • Red wigglers can also eat cardboard and shredded paper.

  • Red wigglers also like Spinach, Romaine, and other green leafy vegetables.

  • In addition to fruits and vegetables, leaves and grass can also be fed to red worms. The only caveat is that the leaves and grass should be devoid of pesticides and insecticides.

Things to consider while feeding them these foods:

Even when feeding these foods to red worms, always remember:

  • Stick to the uncooked and raw form of these fruits and vegetables.

  • Red wigglers always prefer soft foods. Either feed them the soft foods or cut them into very soft pieces.

  • The higher the moisture content in a fruit or vegetable, the better it is for red wigglers.

  • Ensure you avoid feeding them anything containing spices or a strong odor.

Rule to live by: When in doubt, feed them something else.

What not to feed red worms?

The list of what not to feed red worms is even longer:

1. Citrus fruits and pulp


Citrus fruits are acidic, and worms don't prefer such foods. Adding a high concentration of such fruits to the compost bin can change the pH level, which can kill worms as well.

2. Meat

Meat produces a horrible smell on decomposition. The smell also attracts other pests in the vicinity. Some of these are predators of red wigglers.

3. Dairy

Dairy products produce an equally strong odor upon decomposition, which can attract pests.

4. Fatty and Oily foodstuffs

As per the IOWA Department of Natural Resources , earthworms breathe through their skin. Adding fatty or oily foodstuffs to the bin can coat their skin, hampering breathing. Not only that, but such foodstuffs can once again attract pests.

5. Spicy foods:

Spicy foods are not well-liked by red worms. Apart from that, hot spices like chili peppers can irritate their skin, which means they cause more harm than good. It's best to avoid spicy foods for this very reason.

6. Garlic, Broccoli and Onions

When decomposing, these emanate a strong foul odor, so avoid feeding these to your red worms.

What should be fed to red worms occasionally?

This section will break a rule as it contains some cooked foods. However, since most of these foodstuffs contain significant starch, it's best to give them in moderation. Foods that you can add in moderation include:

  • Pizza crust (No cheese)

  • Pancakes (No butter or cream)

  • Pasta (No sauce)

  • Brown or white rice

  • Bread

Before adding these to the worm bin, consider these things:

  • Ensure worms have consumed all the other starchy foodstuffs inside the bin before adding these. It will help you limit the quantity of these starchy foodstuffs.

  • Adding too much starch to the worm bin can attract gnats. They aren't harmful in limited numbers, but if you don't take action, they will multiply, causing problems.

Feeding techniques:

When it comes to feeding red wigglers, most people just think about what to feed red wiggler worms and what not to feed red wiggler worms, but how you feed them is equally important. Check the 2 techniques below that you can use.

1. Surface feeding


During the initial period when the red wiggler population hasn't exploded, stick to surface feeding, which involves keeping food on the bedding. Sprinkle it around to ensure all worms have equal access.

After placing the food, sprinkle a little water to ensure everything is moist. Avoid overwatering the bedding or the food.

2. Trench feeding


Surface feeding is usually suitable. However, trench feeding is necessary when the worm population is high. It ensures the proper distribution of food in that case.

Follow the steps below to execute this feeding technique.

Step 1: Soak the food you want to add to the bin in water until it reaches a paste-like consistency.

Step 2: Dig a trench in the middle of the bin. The size of the trench should be such that it can hold the entire paste.

Step 3: Spread the paste in the trench and sprinkle water.

Step 4: Cover the trench with bedding and sprinkle water on top.

Few advantages of using the trench feeding method include:

  • Since the food is now spread, more worms can access it simultaneously.

  • An ample quantity of moisture ensures the worms can feed on the food easily.

  • High moisture content also aids the conversion of food to compost.

How often should you feed red worms?

According to this research report , it's best to feed worms once a week for the first 6 weeks. During this period of time, since the worm population hasn't increased exponentially, it's best to stick to the surface feeding method. Ensure that the food is spread in such a way, the layer is 1 ⁄ 2" thick. Such a spread pattern ensures worms have easy access to food.

When determining how often should you feed red worms, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • In a single instance, you should add enough food to last them a week.

  • At first, it's difficult to judge how much food will last a week. That's why you might have to check periodically. If the food is over, don't hesitate to add more food before the seven-day period ends.

  • With the growing population of worms, the food that used to last a week will be over sooner. Keep that in mind and adjust the quantity accordingly.

How much should you feed red worms?

According to Oregon State University , red wigglers can eat organic material equal to their body weight daily. Their intestinal tract contains 1000 times more microbes than the food they consume, which helps them consume such a high quantity.

In fact, the same report states that red wigglers are after the microbes in the decaying matter rather than the food itself. It's just that they consume the organic decaying materials because the microbes are inside them.

Keep in mind that their population can double every 60 days, so if you have added a pound of red wigglers at the start, you can start by feeding them 1 pound of food, but after 60 days, you need to increase it to 2 pounds.

Tips to follow while feeding red worms:

Besides following the right diet, it's also important to feed them properly. Follow the tips below, and supplying them with proper nutrients shouldn't be a problem.

1. Over-feeding kills

Over-feeding worms leads to 3 problems which are:

  • Decaying food utilizes oxygen in the bin. More food means oxygen gets depleted at a faster rate, which threatens the survival of worms.

  • Over-feeding them will also create a toxic bin environment, forcing them outwards.

  • Over-feeding them will result in a stronger decaying odor, attracting pests again.

Therefore, sticking to the feeding frequency and quantity highlighted in this post above is best.

2. Ditch the chemicals

Whatever you add to the compost bin, whether food, leaves, or bedding, it should be chemical-free. Best is to go with organic food. The insecticides, pesticides, or chemicals in the bin content will also adversely impact the red wigglers. That's why ditch the chemicals.

3. Blend the foodstuffs

Want to accelerate the population growth of red wigglers?

Blend the foods before adding them to the bin. This makes it easy for worms to digest, which means they can eat more in less time, resulting in faster compost production.

4. Never bury the food

Red wigglers mostly search for food around the surface. Therefore, they won't discover anything that is 2 inches or below the surface. They won't find food buried beneath the surface, and uneaten food depletes oxygen, leading to many problems.

5. When in doubt, feed less

Remember that you can always add more food by checking the bin periodically, but detecting overfeeding is much more difficult.

Therefore, when in doubt about whether you are overfeeding them, simply feed them less and check the bin regularly. Once the food is gone, you can, of course, add more.

6. Procure food in advance

Even a day without food can hamper the population growth of worms as they become sluggish. Sure enough, they won't die of starvation in that time, but the population growth and activity will be hampered. Hence, now that you know what do red wigglers eat, it's best to keep their food well-stocked at your home.

7. Rotate the foodstuffs


The above section highlights the numerous foodstuffs and organic matter that red wigglers eat. Even though they aren't picky eaters, as highlighted in this post  by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, it's still best to rotate these foodstuffs to ensure they get the microbes they want. Rotating foodstuffs also ensures that the resultant compost has a wide range of nutrients.

8. Be wary of protein poisoning

Red wigglers can suffer from something known as protein poisoning. Protein poisoning can be fatal for them. Therefore, when feeding them, stick to the following tips to avoid protein poisoning:

  • Feed them only when the previous food is over. Protein poisoning is primarily caused by overfeeding.

  • Regularly monitoring the bin's pH level also lets you know when things are getting out of hand. According to the California State Portal , worm bins should ideally have a pH level of 6.5. Try to maintain a pH level close to that. Any drastic changes indicate overfeeding, which can result in protein poisoning.

  • Aerate bin contents weekly to ensure the bin has the right conditions.

  • Keep the food in finished compost for 2 days to initiate decomposition before feeding it to worms.

9. Use bedding to hide food

According to Cornell University , food scraps should be covered with bedding. This helps retain moisture in the food and prevents the odor from spreading, keeping unwanted pests at bay. However, it's important to ensure that only a light sprinkle of bedding is on top and the food isn't below 2 inches of bedding.

10. Always check for pests

Unwanted pests can attack red wigglers and their food supply. While red wigglers love decaying matter and feast on it, the same organic matter attracts pests. Therefore, when feeding them, check the worm bin for signs of any unwanted pests. If you don't monitor for such pests, you might continue feeding the worms, but other pests might hijack that food, which can starve your worms.


What food is ideal for red worms?

Vegetables, fruit peels, coffee grounds, and other decomposing organic matter are ideal food for red worms. Anything processed should be avoided.

Do red worms eat fruit?

Yes, red worms eat fruit and fruit peels. The only fruits you shouldn't feed them are citrus fruits. Besides that, the high moisture content and the fruity odor attract them. They consume fruits at a faster pace than other foods.

Can red worms eat rice?

Worms love uncooked rice, and you can feed uncooked rice to worms regularly. As for cooked rice, you should limit the frequency of such rice because it can turn the bin into a gooey mess and resulting in an unpleasant odor that can attract pests that aren't conducive to growth of red wigglers.

What do worms hate the most?

Worms don't like any type of meat or fish, animal waste, citrus fruits, or spicy or salty foodstuffs. Additionally, it's best to avoid buttery and greasy foodstuffs.

Can worms eat onions?

Onions should not be fed to worms as decomposing onions produce a very strong smell that attracts unwanted pests. Besides, as highlighted in this report , onions are acidic, and adding them to the bin can make the contents acidic, which is not conducive to worm growth.

Can worms eat tomato leaves?

Yes, worms eat tomato leaves as long as harmful fungi or bacteria aren't present. Usually, the fungi and bacteria present on tomato leaves can't remain alive for long after plucking. So, compost tomato leaves a few days after plucking them.

Can worms eat potato peels?

Yes, worms can eat potatoes as well as potato peels.

How long do red worms live?

According to the Alabama Wildlife Federation , red wigglers can live for 1 to 5 years. However, to survive that long, they need temperatures between 40F to 75F and moist conditions.


Stop worrying about what to feed red worms. Simply use the chart above and follow the tips highlighted. Sticking to those foodstuffs will ensure a thriving red wiggler population and heaps of compost in no time.

If you want purebred red wigglers for composting, click here.


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