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My mother-in-law gave me some shrimp shells the other day for my worm bin. I went online to search for information related to the contents of the shells, but didn't really get anywhere. Other than the smell (I'm planning to crush 'n grind anyway) is there anything else I should be worried about? I would just throw it in and see what it does, but I'm not familiar with seafood enough to take that risk. If anyone has had success with it, and there is little concern for toxicity i.e. mercury, shoot me a reply. I can get plenty of it, but I've always been a purist about feedstock since I have them indoors. Thanks.

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i've put shrimp and crab shells in my bins, they do smell a little more than other items but generally not a lot if buried and only for a couple days. the ratio of shell to other bedding and compost is low, about a plateful of shells buried in the bottom of a full tray (worm factory) of half composted other material only smelled when digging through the material to see how it was doing. i know, some will say don't bury food, just surface feed, but burying will keep the smell down for seafood. also, it's a 5 tray stacking system that's been going a while so i figure they can escape below if need be.

i read somewhere about using crushed shells in the garden where the chitin in the shells promotes bacteria that feed on it. as the population grows and the chitin is consumed, these bacteria start to work on other sources of chitin, such as parasitic nematodes in the garden. i figured adding this to the worm bin should at best also help and at worst just be a way to keep these items out of landfill.

everyone seems to have different results from different things (common practice says no meat but people do with some success) so i'd suggest starting with a small amount and seeing how it goes. did a google search on "crab shell compost" and found this product (removed product name but just wanted to show the description) ...

"#####" Crab Shell meal is an excellent dry organic source of NPK, Calcium (23%) and Magnesium (1.33%). It will also help with nematode and fungus problems. Here's why: Crab Shell is high in Chitin (Kite-en), which promotes the growth of Chitin eating bacteria in the soil.
I also read somewhere that crab shells are good garden additives. I'm anticipating, then, to see how they fair in the worm bin. I'm going to grind them up the same way I do egg shells in hopes it weakens the odor's muscle, and yes, I will follow your advice and bury it deeper than usual.
crab & shrimp shells

Sounds safe. Like Rom suggested, test a small batch first. Let us know how it goes.
I'll definitely try a small batch first, then add the rest if this proves successful and let you know how it goes.
This sounds like a food source better suited to BSD. Being a very hard material, it would take ages to break down and be ready for the wormies to chow down on. Of course, all things will eventually break down, and like the poster said, the chitin is a good mineral source for other beneficial creatures. I guess this is one of those "it depends on what your goals are for the bin, and how long you have to achieve them".
Try letting the shrimp shells dry out and crush them like egg shells. You could them store the unused portion for later additions.
I first break up the crab shells into smaller pieces, with a rubber mallet. As Eve says it helps crush them if you dry them out first but drying also has the advantage of not spraying crab juice with each stoke (had to learn this the hard way). I found that after a couple weeks or so in the bin the shell peices were quite weak/brittle and broke between my fingers with ease. If you're screening your compost some larger pieces might make it through but by this time I think that you should be able to use them in the garden as is or toss back in the bin.
Thank you for your advice, going to throw a few crushed up shrimp tails in my bin next feeding.
Next time I am going to make sure they are dry before I open them up indoors. My intention was to dry, crush 'n grind before putting in the the bin, but the smell was so bad the raccoons in my neighborhood were wearing oxygen masks. Next time I think I'm going to make sure they are dry and crushed before bagging them up for the bin. Thank you everyone for your advice.
You've inspired me to try it. I just added a very small number of shells (about 4) to my indoor bin, buried deep in the first tray, surrounded by a handful of coir. The rest went into my outside bin (which has a tight lid which should thwart scavengers). I wouldn't have put them in the bin without this thread.

I did a bit of googling and was interested to learn that the shells are mostly carbohydrates (made from chitin). I would have thought they were mostly protein, like fingernails. Does that mean they are really a brown, not a green?
... maybe when dried out but the shells contain bits of flesh too. not sure but i'd guess these pieces of flesh are what have the fishy smell and not the shells.
I'm thinking you're right. Next time I'm going to dry them out right after they get shelled and probably just cook them in the oven and burn off any crab leftovers.




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