How To Use Worms For Aquaponics

Worms are a fantastic addition to any media-based aquaponics system. Knowing how to use worms for aquaponics is essential.How To Use Worms For Aquaponics

When I set up my first aquaponics system, I had tons of fish waste, plant roots, and dead leaves left in the grow bed, and I had no idea how to remove this.

I then discovered that using worms can eliminate all this waste and will help my entire aquaponic system out.

This is because worms feast on fish waste, root systems, and dead plant matter.

I scoured the web, to see if there were any cons to having worms in your aquaponic system, luckily, there was nothing to be found!

If you take worms out your own compost pile, or someone else’s compost pile. Be sure to clean the worms of any debris before putting them in your aquaponic system. 

Worms that come from compost can bring with them unwanted bacteria. That bacteria can really harm not only your plants but also the fish. 

It is also important to wash and clean any other part of the aquaponic system when you are first setting up or adding something new.

This guide will give you all the knowledge you need to add worms to your aquaponic system. 

What Are The Best Worms For Aquaponics?

Most people think that adding common grey worms from your garden is the best worm to use, and that is wrong. 

The best worms are red composting worms. These worms love to feed on decaying or dead plant matter and are really efficient. 

Red worms are always looking for a meal which makes them great for aquaponics. The worms will eat excess fish food, dead leaves, dying roots and so on.

These worms are used in composting because of the natural fertilizer they produce. By adding them to a grow bed, they will also produce great fertilizer for your plants.

The best place to get worms has to be Uncle Jims Worms. Anyone who buys worms for gardening, composting or anywhere else they use worms they will tell you to get them from Uncle Jims.

I have linked to the 250 counts of red worms and that will be plenty to start off with.

What Are The Best Worms For Aquaponics?

Why add Worms to the Aquaponics System?

Eat Debris in Grow Bed 

A common problem most aquaponic growers have is leftover dead plant matter or fish food. The easiest solution for that is worms, no one wants to pick all that out by hand. 

Worms will eat any dead or decaying plant matter such as roots, leaves, or rotten crops. You will now not have to worry about any debris causing mold or algae.

Another benefit is that they won’t only eat the plant debris, but also any fish food that makes it to the grow bed. 

It is common for fish to miss or not eat a few flakes here and there, and those flakes will end up with the crops in the grow bed. 

They will also eat any fish food they come across making the grow bed spotless and allowing your plants to grow to full potential.

Remove Pathogens

Worms have an ability, able to lessen the pathogens that affect humans. Earthworms are able to do so by, releasing coelomic fluids that contain antibacterial properties. 

This antibacterial will remove almost all pathogens and will not only promote plant growth but also ensure all your plants are safe to eat.

Produce Great Fertilizer

Worms are not only good for what they can remove from aquaponics, but they are also great for adding fertilizer to aquaponics. 

When a worm eats leftover debris or fish food, it will produce waste, and this waste acts as a great natural fertilizer.

By adding worms into an aquaponic system you will start to see your plants growing bigger and producing a higher yield. The little extra fertilizer from the worms makes a really big impact on the way your plants grow.

Remove Fish Waste

If fish waste gets into your grow bed it could potentially become a problem. Bacteria in an aquaponic system are responsible for turning fish waste into nitrate that plants can use to grow. 

If your system has too much fish waste it can cause ammonia spikes which can lead to the death of your plants and fish.

A simple way to prevent this from happening is to ADD WORMS! 

The worms will eat any extra fish waste that has not been turned into nitrate. This ensures you will never have an ammonia spike and could end up saving your entire aquaponic system.

 

Where to add the Worms?

Most aquaponic systems have 2 components. The grow bed and of course, the fish tank or pond. 

When adding worms there is no wrong answer for where to add the worms, it just depends on a few factors.

Grow Bed

Adding worms to the grow bed is most common and will have the highest amount of benefits.

I recommend that everyone put worms into their grow bed because there are frankly no drawbacks.

As talked about earlier the worms will remove any unwanted plants matter, fish food, or fish waste and that alone makes it worth it for me.

It is so nice not to have to go out every day and remove any dead leaves or try and fish out any roots that may have broken off after harvesting.

The one downside that I have seen is worms may eat root vegetables such as onions or carrots. This has happened to me once and the worms only were eating at two out of the almost twenty-five carrots I was growing. 

I am not sure why and it may have been because those two carrots were already decaying and I just did not know.

Tank/Pond

Adding worms into the water only has one big benefit, and that is removing algae or sludge build-up. The worms will eat any build up and help to keep the tank or pond clean.

Now, before you start adding worms into the water source you have to think of a few things.

Worms in a tank or pond will have a much harder time surviving and being able to help the ecosystem it is in. 

The fish you have in your system will be the number one thing that will tell if you can add worms into the water. 

If you have large fish such as bluegill or tilapia, the worms will be a nice snack for those fish.

If you have smaller fish such as mosquito fish or guppies, worms will do fine and will be eaten.

The next thing you have to think of is making sure your water is properly aerated. Worms breathe oxygen through their skin, so if there is not enough oxygen in the water, the worms will die.

 It is very important to go over the top with aeration if you want to include worms into the water source.

I personally only add worms to the grow bed, and this is for a few reasons. The biggest one being I grow tilapia and they would feast on any worm I put in the water. 

Even if I had smaller fish I probably would not add worms because they don’t provide good enough benefits considering what I would have to do.  

 

What is the Best Media for Worms?

Choosing the best-growing media for worms is not difficult. All growing media works the same and worms can thrive it all different media.

Let’s talk about the most common and what I chose for my aquaponic systems.

LECA

LECA might sound fancy, but in reality, are just small clay balls. This growing media is by far the most common growing media for any aquaponic system. 

It is used because of its lightweight, it doesn’t affect pH levels, and provides great aeration to a plants roots.

When using Leca with worms it makes it very easy for the worms to crawl through the grow bed. 

Here is a link to my preferred brand of LECA, Grow!t.

What is the Best Media for Worms?

Lava Rock or Gravel

Lava rock and gravel are used less than Leca but work the same for growing plants. Both gravel and lava rock weigh much more than LECA and can put stress on the supports of the grow bed.

When talking about these media with worms it would be my second choice behind LECA. 

This is because when the lava rock or gravel is added to a grow bed, it forms very close together and makes it hard for worms to travel through. 

This doesn’t mean the worms won’t find a way to travel around the grow bed, it could just take them longer. 

Limestone or Marble

Limestone and marble should always be avoided when it comes to aquaponics. The calcium in these rocks will be released and alter the pH of the water.

 You might think the calcium will end up fully dissolving, and it will, but it will take a very long time.

Using marble or limestone makes it impossible to balance pH levels no matter what you do.

 

Oxygen Level

There is a necessity of ensuring you are always having adequate oxygen amounts present in the fish tank. 

Besides, you will be determining this through the use of different aeration devices through averting the water apart from both flooding and draining the grow beds directly to the present fish tank.

Even though the worms in the grow bed will have access to oxygen, you need to keep in mind that the bed will be constantly flooding and draining. 

This means that the worms will be underwater just as much as they are out of it. 

By making sure you have plenty of oxygen in your water, you will ensure they all your worms will survive. 

A great way to make sure you have enough oxygen is in the draining process. 

When your grow bed drains to make sure the pipe that brings the water back to the tank or pond is at least a foot above the water levels. This will ensure that the water splash and bubbles are adding oxygen into the water.

Other Benefits

Fish Food

Just like any other animals, worms will reproduce. If you notice that there are way more worms than you started with you should probably take some out. 

A great way to recycle these worms is to feed them back to the fish you are growing. Worms are a great protein for fish and make a great supplement in their diet.

Use for fishing

Another small benefit from extra worms is that you can use them as bait. If you, like myself, love to go fishing the worms from aquaponics make for great bait. 

Before you head out, take a few worms out of the grow bed and you have free bait.

 

Conclusion

Adding worms to an aquaponic system has so many benefits that you may have never thought of. And the best part is worms have virtually no downsides. Put them in and watch your system thrive.

By following these simple tips you have a beautiful aquaponic system growing and producing plenty of crops.