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I've been using vermicastings (i.e. castings from worms) in my deep water culture bubbler system for a couple of weeks on an experimental basis. The 2 lbs of castings are stored in a paint strainer bag and submerged in 9 gallons of water. The castings are generated by 1 lb of European Nightcrawler worms that compost my kitchen scraps and a large amount of coconut coir used as bedding material. The "bubbling" comes from aquarium air stones and an inexpensive aquarium air pump that aerates the water.

Today while removing the old castings and replacing them with fresh ones, I noticed something very interesting and somewhat surprising. Live worms! I counted 5 or 6 without really looking too hard. The worms weren't just living in the top of the castings, but there were several submerged deeply under water.

I've been keeping worms for 3 years.  Based on my experience, too much water in a worm bin is not healthy for the inhabitants.  When things get too wet in the worm bin, I often find "drowned" worms.  It's rare that I get that kind of water in my bins these days, but as a worm keeping newby it happened more often when I would overfeed them.

I can only guess that the worms were able to survive in the deep water culture bins because of the aeration being provided by the air pump. If worms can survive in that environment, then the plants must like it even more than I thought. :-)

Here's a picture of the spinach I am experimenting with after 2 weeks of growth:


Here's another picture of mature kale plants using more traditional hydroponic nutrients:


 Here's a link to the original blog post on my gardening website.

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Comment by Rich Feiller on January 30, 2012 at 10:20am
My vermiponics bucket syster with constantly running water emitters the worms were mostly in the wettest parts of the buckets. The buckets are top fed each with a large single plant.
Comment by World Composting on January 31, 2012 at 9:42am

Hmm that is interesting, I'm really curious as to how the plants do without using the traditional hydroponic nutrients as I had looked into this before but couldn't really find much information.  If this works for you I might try it once I get my worm bin running smoothly.

Comment by Rich Feiller on January 31, 2012 at 10:40am
With just using the castings there is not a constant consistent level of nutrients. The hydroponic solutions are superior because they are formulated to meet ALL of the needs, whereas worms alone do not provide all that is needed. The purpose of aquponics and vermiponics is to provide enough nutrients with a basic amount of nutrients to produce results. It is necessary to supplement this.
Without a doubt vermiponics works best in conjunction with aquaponics, wher worms are in the sustem using a bell siphon. The bell siphon provides superior oxygenation for the media and worms as it fills and drains four or five times an hour. Even so there needs to be a dry area at the top of the grow bed about 1-2" for the worms to retreat too
Comment by bpearcy10 on January 31, 2012 at 6:49pm

I am supplementing the vermicastings with a 1/2 dose of my hydroponic nutrient. Instead of 3 tablespoons I have been using 1 1/2 tablespoons and 2 lbs of castings. With the recent change in castings over the weekend I got a nice growth spurt in the spinach.

Comment by bpearcy10 on January 31, 2012 at 6:52pm

I had an outdoor aquaponics system when I lived in Florida. After my move to Michigan, I will be moving my aquaponics indoors.


Comment by Rich Feiller on February 1, 2012 at 12:16am

have you checked you nitrate level with just the worm tea? i don't know what your nitrates were with your aquaponic system. i found that a minimum of 60ppm-100ppm worked very well with my aquaponics, some guys take it well over 200ppm. 

i believe you said  your VE was derived from manures, if so i think your mineral level is better then mine was since my worms lived off of veggie compost. 

i was also wondering, reading up on the use of worm tea, if done properly should not be administered at more then 20%, it will retard growth if a higher concentration is used. i wonder if that applies to vermiponics. my system had a total water capacity less aggregates of 853-40%=512gals of grow beds and 400gal in vat. so was quite diluted.there were a total of (125) 4-6" goldfish still in it when i drained it and moved the fish to the greenhouse. 

these hydroponic guys have it down to a science, they are getting up to 6 crops a year. they have it down to the day and hour of nutrients, light intensity and spectrum. i am just happy with decent veggies




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