Nightcrawlers are a very popular bait amongst anglers and a very effective method for attracting and catching fish. They can be used regardless of the season, the time of year, or the temperature of the water.
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While some anglers move on to other baits once they’ve advanced their skill set, anyone can use nightcrawlers as bait. And if you’re going to use a plastic worm anyway, why not just use the real thing?
So, the fish eats the worm- but what does the worm eat? The following article will break down all you might need to know about the diet of the nightcrawler.
The diet of a nightcrawler consists mostly of decomposing matter. If not decomposing, then as long as the substance has been finely ground up and is soggy enough, the nightcrawler will consume it.
So, they’re not fussy- but if you’re keeping these worms to eventually be used as food for another animal, then you’ll want to be feeding them food that isn’t toxic to keep them alive.
If you feed them potentially toxic food, you might end up poisoning the animal that consumes them.
But if you’re only using the worms for bait, you won’t have to worry about what you’re feeding the nightcrawlers.
One of the most common foods consumed by nightcrawlers is chicken mash. You can either give nightcrawlers chick starter mash or laying mash.
Laying mash tends to contain more nutrients, and is, therefore, the healthier option when it comes to feeding your nightcrawlers.
Cornmeal or lard are also cheap and accessible options, but for the best nightcrawler diet, you should be combining these with either chicken mash or pig mash.
If you’re not intent on feeding them only healthy foods, then you can give them molded bread, the skins of vegetables and fruits (like banana peels, orange peels, and potato peels), as well as paper-based trash that has been shredded.
It must be soggy, otherwise, they won’t consume it.
They require regular feedings, as they tend to consume as much as a third of their body weight in a single day.
Nightcrawler Feeding Habits
As for nightcrawler worms in their natural habitat, they differ somewhat from other earthworms.
While the latter tend to be found either in burrows of soil or under leaves or surface litter, nightcrawlers will instead live in shallow and permanent burrows.
At night the nightcrawler will come out of their burrow to forage in the immediate area, usually only straying as far as the entrance to the tunnel. In their natural habitat, they would feed on decomposing organic material, like dry grass, dead leaves, fruit and vegetables, fungi, and various microorganisms.
Often nightcrawlers will bring parts of dead plants back into the entrance of their burrow.
How Often Should You Feed Nightcrawlers?
The frequency of feedings will vary depending on the size, the weight, and the number of nightcrawlers you have in one container.
The first time you feed them, go with a relatively small amount of the aforementioned mixtures.
If after two whole days have passed they still haven’t eaten everything, you should decrease the amount of food you’re giving them per feeding.
If they ate everything in under two days the first time you fed them, then they’re going to need a little more each feeding.
It tends to take some trial and error, but before long you should have determined the best amount of food for your nightcrawlers.
One thing to note is that if you’re breeding the worms, then the population will grow, so you’ll need to be increasing the amount of food you provide the worms regularly.
When it’s warmer during the summer, the nightcrawlers will require more food. They just tend to eat significantly more during these months.
If your nightcrawlers aren’t contained within a climate-controlled environment, then they may be eating less food during the cold weather.
If you’re keeping your nightcrawlers, it’s important to think about bedding. Without the correct kind of bedding (or not enough bedding), the nightcrawlers will struggle and eventually die.
The right bedding will provide nightcrawlers with the right amount of moisture and oxygen, and will also allow them more freedom to move around. Your job will be made a lot easier, too, with the right kind of bedding.
One of the best kinds of bedding for nightcrawlers is shredded cardboard. It tends to be the preferred bedding for nightcrawlers.
You’ll just need to make sure that there’s nothing else still attached to the cardboard before you shred it, like stickers or glossy paper.
Another ideal option when it comes to bedding is shredded newspaper, but you’ll need to make sure it doesn’t get clumped up if it’s the only bedding you’re using.
Shredded leaves are good for nutritional value, but they’re not great for moisture or oxygen. Peat moss allows for a decent amount of moisture and aeration, but this tends to be acidic, so you’ll need a buffer like garden lime.
Coco-coir can also be used, but you’ll need to wash off all the salt before you use it for bedding.
The Environmental Impact Of Nightcrawlers
In some regions, nightcrawlers are considered agricultural pests. But, generally, they provide service of utmost value to farmers and gardeners, as well as to the earth.
Via their tunnels, they allow air into the earth, which helps the soil in the ground breathe.
This aeration supplies roots with more oxygen, which assists in growth, and the tunnels also allow more fertilizer and water to reach the roots. Loosening up compacted soil is another benefit.
The waste from the nightcrawlers also helps to transport essential nutrients up from the ground to the surface.
If you’re only keeping nightcrawlers to be used as bait for fish, then it doesn’t matter what you feed them, just so long as it’s decomposing or soggy.
If you’re a nightcrawler farmer, though, and you’re trying to keep them alive and healthy, then the best diet would be a mix of chicken or pig mash, and cornmeal or lard.
Nightcrawlers eat a lot, but the exact amount per feeding will depend on the size and the weight of the worms, as well as just how many there are in your container.