A mini habitat can be anything from a special section in your backyard to the garden in its entirety—it is just a matter of perspective! Of course, if you want to make a mini habitat that you can keep indoors and which might be functional in addition to being a great teaching opportunity for your kids, why not start with a mini habitat fit for worms? Better than an ant farm, these worms are easy to keep, won’t run away and take over your pantry if the habitat cracks and best of all, they can be taken outside and put in the garden where they will work their composting magic around your plants and bushes! Simply follow these easy steps and make a mini habitat any worm will love!
Things You'll Need
- 1 Clear plastic liter soda bottle
- Utility knife
- Long wooden or plastic spoon
- 4x4 inch piece of nylon netting
- 2 pages of the local newspaper (shredded)
- Aquarium gravel
- Potting soil
- Small bag of playground sand
- Organic matter (bits and pieces of overripe banana, peaches and other fruits or veggies)
- Watering can
- 3 earthworms or red worms
- Round flowerpot tray
Make a Mini Habitat
Take an empty liter size soda bottle and clean it thoroughly. Remove the plastic wrapper on the outside to permit for great viewing from all angles. This will become the container for the mini habitat ingredients.
Measure eight inches from the bottom of the bottle up; make a small mark on the outside of the bottle so you know where the eight inch line is.
Cut around the bottle well above the eight inch mark as though you were cutting off the top entirely, but stop when there is one inch left, keeping the top still connected to the bottom portion of the bottle. This permits easy access to the bottom portion of the mini habitat.
Use the corkscrew to make holes above the eight inch mark. These provide the ventilation needed for the worms and for the excess moisture to evaporate. Make some holes on the bottom of the bottle as well to permit for excess moisture buildup to drain away.
Take the nylon netting and place it inside the bottle with the help of the long spoon. Gently press it down so it covers the bottom of the bottle completely. Do not miss this step as it will keep smaller worms inside the mini habitat and prevents them from wiggling out of the bottom drainage holes.
Top the nylon netting with half an inch of aquarium gravel. Next, add four inches of potting soil. Follow this with ½ inch of playground sand. Add another two inches of potting soil.
Gently water the soil inside the mini habitat with the watering can. You want it moist but not wet.
Shred the newspaper and moisten it. It should be as wet as a dish towel after you have done all your dishes and wrung it out to dry. This soggy mess will be the bedding provided for your worms and you need to place it on top of the last layer of potting soil in the mini habitat. This should take the substance inside the plastic bottle up to the eight inch mark.
Sprinkle a handful of potting soil on top of the soggy paper. Do not press down on the bedding, but instead place it loosely into the plastic bottle.
Place organic matter underneath the soil covered newspaper. Keep it to one side of the mini habitat, permitting the worms to have easy access to the paper and the soil below. Sprinkle with another handful of moistened potting soil.
Gently place the worms on the side of the mini habitat that allows them easy access to the underlying soil. Keep the mini habitat away from direct sunlight—worms prefer the dark—and keep it moist but not dripping wet. Place some aquarium gravel in the flowerpot tray and place the plastic bottle mini habitat on top of it. This keeps it in place and also permits any moisture runoff to not ruin your shelves. A closet or dark corner of the room is an ideal location for this worm mini habitat.
Tips & Warnings
- Although separating the upper quarter of the bottle makes access to the bottom easier, you do not have to do that. Simply use a long wooden spoon to maneuver the netting and other materials into the bottom of the bottle. It takes a bit longer, but it preserves the integrity of the worms’ mini habitat. Of course, it does make removing the worms and compost harder later on.
- If you are making this mini habitat during the autumn months, use fallen leaves instead of (or in addition to) newspaper.
- Organic matter worms will enjoy eating includes used teabags, coffee filters, moistened bread, soft pasta, overripe fruits and veggies and even overcooked rice. Stay away from meat and dairy products since these rotting substances will produce very unattractive smells.
- If you notice that the organic matter is eaten slower than you keep adding to it, the worms are either not as quick, or you might need to add a few more worms to help the first set. Add them in groups of two and observe until you find the perfect balance.
- When the food starts disappearing a lot faster and you notice a lot of worms in the soil, it is time to set up a new habitat and release some of the worms back into the wild, as there may have been some offspring added. Use the soil from the original habitat around your favorite flowers and watch them enjoy the rich soil!
- Make a lot of holes above the eight inch mark or you will find that excess condensation will build up inside the bottle and cause fungi to grow and the worms to die.
- Only use overripe fruit and other organic matter for feeding the worms in your mini habitat initially. This makes the breakdown process faster and permits them to have food quicker.
- Resist the urge of keeping the bedding too wet. While you want to protect the worms from shriveling up and dying, leaving too much moisture in the bedding will cause them to drown.
- Worms are living beings and even though they don’t talk or scratch, adult supervision is required when allowing children to prepare this mini habitat or interact with the animals to ensure that they are treated humanely and not subjected to cruel or painful treatment. (And you also want to make sure the kids are washing their hands after handling the animals and the soil!)
- Photo Credit Morguefile.com/Mary A. Pen
- For a website that has all things related to worms, make sure to take a look at EarthWormDigest.org!
- Are you enjoying the ease with which you can make your very own indoor compost? Visit the VermiCulture.com website and find out how you can turn your mini habitat hobby into a great home based business.
- Children will enjoy learning about earthworms with the adventures of Herman the worm at the UrbanExt.UiUc.edu website.
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