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Worms in Aquaponics – Role & Benefits

 A successful aquaponics system needs water, plants, fish, nutrients, and worms.

Yes, aquaponic worms are a real thing and a valuable part of the plant growing process!

In fact, aquaponics has proved to be a very successful way of growing fruits, vegetables, and a variety of other plants.

Worms in aquaponics live in the growbed and they perform several roles to ensure the health of your system and the growth of your plants.

Worms break down solid waste

Your fish produce ammonia and ammonium which is turned into nutrients for your plants by bacteria in your growbed. But, these bacteria are not very efficient when it comes to solid waste from your fish.

A growbed with too many solids build-up
A growbed with too many solids build-up

That’s where your aquaponics worms step in. They will consume the waste from your fish and excess plant roots, as well as other bits that the plant discards. These are then processed and ejected as waste, creating vermicompost, which is great for your plants.

The great thing is that the waste products produced by the worms is much smaller than those produced by the fish. This increases the surface area of waste products and increases the amount of waste that can be broken down by your bacteria.

 The result is more usable nutrients for your plants and less waste left in the tank. 


In fact, the worms in aquaponics are handling the larger pieces of waste for you, preventing you from having to clean the growbed too often and they are filtering solid waste in the growbed for you, saving you the hassle of actually owning a dedicated solids filter. This is only true if you are using the correct fish to growbed sizing.

Best of all, they are natural and don’t need any looking after.

From Vermicomost to Vermicast

To clarify, vermicompost is available in soil when using traditional growing methods. In aquaponics, it happens more efficiently. This is because the vermicompost created by these worms is soaked regularly in highly oxygenated water.

Studies have shown that vermicast (broken down fish solids) creates additional benefits for your plants, such as:

  • Reduction of plant diseases, such as Verticillium, Plectosporium, Rhizoctonia, and Pythium (root rot).
  • Lower the risk of plant parasites
  • Suppress the invasion of plant pests such as spider mites, aphids, mealybugs, and even tomato hornworms.

In short, your worms are helping to improve the quality of the food available to your plants, that can’t be a bad thing.

Aquaponic Worms Destroy Pathogens

You may be surprised to learn that studies also show worms can effectively destroy pathogens that could have a negative effect on human and plant health.

This occurs because worms release coelomic fluids. The fluids work in a similar way to antibiotics and will kill a huge array of pathogens, including E.Coli, salmonella, and botulism.

Introducing worms to your aquaponics system means you have less risk of being exposed to a variety of diseases and they are less likely to attack your plants as the worms have neutralized them.

What are the right worms to use in Aquaponics?

The best worms you can choose for your aquaponics system is red worms. While it may be easier to source the common grey worm you can find in your garden, these are not as efficient at composting waste as red worms.

redworm for aquaponics
Redworms for Aquaponics

Red worms love anything that is decomposing, from fish waste to dying plant matter or even dead plant pieces. They are always eating and effectively creating fertilizer for your plants.

How to care for redworms

The most obvious and beneficial place for your aquaponics worms is in your grow bed. An ebb and flow system benefits the waste of the worms and help to ensure the plants have the nutrition they need, along with other benefits.

Choose red worms from a reputable supplier and make sure they are washed properly before you introduce them into your system. If they are not you may be introducing contaminants or bacteria into your system which you simply don’t need.

You will need to remember that worms breathe oxygen through their skin, for them to survive in your water you need to make sure it is well oxygenated.

It’s debatable if it’s really worth putting worms in your water but it’s definitely worth adding them to your flood and drain grow bed.

Are there downsides to having worms in your Aquaponics System?

There really doesn’t seem to be a downside to having worms in your aquaponics system. They improve the quality of nutrients, reduce your need to clean the system, and help to eliminate nasty pathogens. In addition, they are the most effective and cheapest biofilter available.

The question isn’t whether you should add worms to your aquaponics system, but why haven’t you already added them? With no obvious downside to worms in aquaponics, this is one thing you should be investing in, you’re certain to be pleased with the results.

The one point you should note is that worms are good at multiplying, in general, you can leave them to sort themselves out. The worms won’t drown as long as you use the flood and drain technique.