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Worms do not drown - at least not in fresh water.
Three days ago, on November 16, I wanted to see if worms would live underwater.
Here’s a bowl with 2 EFs, 2 PEs, and 2 EEs. This is fresh water taken from the fishpond, with a
handful of vermicompost to make them feel at home. The bowl was covered with a loose lid to keep out the light, but with plenty of gaps should they want to escape.

Day 1: Worms and a gob of VC were placed in the bowl.

Day 3: 72 hours later.

None of worms had escaped, and you even see a few babies that must have been in the VC.

They were mostly laying on top of the VC, not burrowed in as I had expected.

The worms as they came out of the bowl.

A healthy looking EF trying to escape. You see a PE in the left hand corner.

So this begs the obvious question: What does it take to drown your worms?

Views: 2887

Comment by Andrew from California on November 19, 2010 at 1:00am
I don't think they drown in leachate. They most likely suffocate from lack of oxygen in the liquid or are killed by something toxic. The water in the bowl is relatively clear compared to some thick leachate I've seen.
Comment by Susan B on November 19, 2010 at 1:21am
The other option for my worms dying in leachate is that the water may be too concentrated. Really concentrated fluids will suck water out of worms. (Just like putting salt on them, fertilizers are salts.)

Either that or as you mentioned, lack of oxygen. In any case, they die in leachate!

Peter, I'm glad to know they don't drown (and the babies don't either!)
Comment by Andrew from California on November 19, 2010 at 1:34am
That's an interesting theory, Susan. I don't have any leachate. Next time someone finds a dead worm in leachate, check to see if it's emaciated. "dried out" wouldn't be accurate since they would be wet, but they would look skinny and maybe shriveled up?
Comment by Ar-Pharazon on November 19, 2010 at 12:21pm
The mighty Charles Darwin wrote about this too. He noted that earthworms could survive for many days submerged, as long as the water was aerated.
Comment by jean kruse on November 19, 2010 at 10:23pm
When I check the vc I've used in my tea maker I often find worms that have survived the 16-24 hr submersion in the aerated water.
Comment by Peter Barnard on November 20, 2010 at 7:01am
A hydrometer will tell you the specific gravity (i.e. relative density) of your leachate. It will give you some idea of what solids are dissolved in it. You can even make your own one for free hydrometer (essential equipment when you’re distilling your own whiskey)
I also add as little water as possible, so as not to get any leachate. However, on the few occasions when I did overwater the bin, the worms were quite happy to live for several days in liquid mud.
'Leachate' is a very ambiguous term, and I'm sure that some systems will produce 'good' leachate, while others will produce toxic, worm-killing stuff.
Comment by mylles on May 1, 2012 at 5:15am

When I brought a new fish tank I found old garden worms living in the rocks from a year ago when I was poor and had to feed my fish flys and worms I caught. some of those worms escaped and lived on in the tank so I put them in the new one. they seem quite happy.

Comment by Rich Feiller on May 1, 2012 at 8:47am
You can also measure the conductivity with a meter. Osmotic exchange? I doubt if it is salts. They can actuall tollerate a fair amount according to studdies i've read. If they were that sensitive to salts they would stay away from the fresh horse manure i use.
Larry i have found all of the worms are smaller in fresh horse manure as opposed to precomposted produce and schredded cardboard. It certainly a balancing act, density, type of food. I haven't found any impact on size or production with temps and pH. I do know they double in less then a month if repeatedly removing the adults.


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