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Understanding Worms – How To Keep Them In Captivity And Why Worms Die?

I received an interesting question that I would like to share…

My name is (removed), I was wondering if you have ever seen anything like this before. There are several hours between pictures.  

This picture was taken a few hours after I dug up these night crawlers. The crawler at the bottom of the photo was freshly dug up for comparison.

This is a few hours later. They are starting to get skinny in their lower 2/3 rds and swelling in their upper 1/3rd.

This is the last picture. You can see, if you zoom in, that they are splitting and their guts are spilling out.

This is not the first time I have seen this as evidenced by the fact I knew to take the pictures. I knew what was going to happen.

 Here are some facts concerning them:

 I collect these crawlers from roadways when it rainsI  have tried to keep them in a cooler, in bedding, feeding them worm food, but they always get skinny and die.Now I just put them in one spot in my yard and hope they stay put by feeding them well.I feed them cardboard, breadcrumbs mostly, and in the fall I put A LOT of apples in with them.I dump a lot of crumbs and chunks of bread on top of the soil every few weeks. It gets mixed in to the soil whenever I dig some crawlers up for fishing. I have since figured out that is a no no.I am not trying to raise the crawlers for profit, I just want them for fishing.I don’t know what kind of nightcrawlers these are, I live in Colorado, and from my experience these things are huge. I have caught many of them 14″ long (measured. I’m not guessing at length). The soil ph is 7. That’s about all the pertinent info I can think of, if you have questions please don’t hesitate to contact me. If you have any suggestions I would appreciate the help. They are some high quality nightcrawlers and don’t deserve to die this way. Thank you for your help.


You are describing a non composting worm such as a Canadian Nightcrawler (Common Nightcrawlers that are dug from farms and fields In the Northern US and Canada) that you are digging up, and trying to raise like a composting worm.

Canadian nightcrawlers live in dirt, are not extremely voracious, and are not nearly as active as a composting worm (such as a red wiggler).

What you are describing is protein poisoning. The worm starts to look like a string of pearls before it dies.

Wrong environment/Wrong Feed.

Bait shops keep these crawlers in refrigeration (slows down their metabolism), inside a peat/coir based bedding that has some leaf litter in it.

The worms are like big slugs, they are not very active, and do not require much feed. They can be kept for weeks like this.

Obviously, if you put them in a habitat that is COMPLETELY different than their normal environment with COMPLETELY Different feed, you will have a problem.

There is a reason why Canadian Nightcrawlers are dug and not cultured.

The better you can recreate an animals natural environment (any animal), the more successful you will be in keeping it alive.



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