How Long do Nightcrawlers Live?

Nightcrawlers are one of the best, if not the best, worms for fishing. Fish love them, and they work great on a hook.

Under the right conditions, nightcrawlers can live for over six years, with some reportedly living up to 20 years.

How long do Nightcrawlers Live

We know that nightcrawlers can live for more than six years, but that’s not much use to you or I, who wants to grab a box from the tackle shop and want to know will they last the weekend.

With the right conditions, you can keep fishing worms alive for longer than you may think.

In the Fridge

If you put the nightcrawlers in the fridge, they can stay alive for up to a month.

However, you can’t just chuck them in the fridge and leave them there for a month; though they may survive, they won’t be the best worms.

You will need to open the door every once in a while for circulation and maybe check the moisture level.

In a Container

How Long do Nightcrawlers Live

Nightcrawlers are one of the toughest worms we use for fishing, but like most worms, they don’t do well in warm conditions.

Nightcrawlers in containers may live up to 4 or 5 days, but this is totally dependent on the conditions.

If the weather is hot or the soil is too dry, this could be drastically reduced to less than two days.

I also find that by having favorable conditions, not only do the worms live longer, but they are more alive in the water and look better.


If you are storing your nightcrawlers outside, then they could live their full life, which is 5-7 years on average.

For the worms to live this long, you would need to provide them with optimal living conditions.

For this, you would need to regulate their food, temperature, and moisture levels.

Not only would your nightcrawlers last a long time this way, but you are essentially creating a worm farm which means you can look forward to having more nightcrawlers than what you started with.

What Reduces a Nightcrawlers Lifespan

Nightcrawlers need three things to live a full life. Temperature, moisture, and food.

If any of these three things are taken away from the worm or not at the levels they require, their lifespan will be reduced.

Temperature Too Hot or Too Cold

Nightcrawlers can tolerate temperature swings a little better than red worms. However, they still need the right temperature for the best chance of survival.

Anything over 90f and nightcrawlers will start to perish. This is why it is best to keep them in a cool shaded place or in the fridge.

Nightcrawlers can live longer under colder conditions than they can under hot conditions. Still, the lowest optimal temperature for a nightcrawler is 65F.

One important thing to note is that there are different kinds of nightcrawlers. 

Canadian nightcrawlers need a lower temperature than European nightcrawlers to survive.

Anything more than 45f for Canadian nightcrawlers is too hot. They also do not tolerate as wide a range of temperatures as European nightcrawlers.

Their lower temperature range is only 40F.

Too Much or Too Little Moisture

How Long do Nightcrawlers Live

Worms breathe through their skin, and by providing too much moisture, you can kill them.

However, too little moisture and nightcrawlers can dry out. The optimal moisture content for nightcrawlers is between 40-60%

Not Enough Food

Nightcrawlers require food to stay alive and can eat their body weight in food per day. Without food, nightcrawlers can only live for 3-4 weeks.

Nightcrawlers eat many things such as table scraps, and paper. However, they should not be fed meat.

How to Keep Nightcrawlers Alive For Longer

As we mentioned, under optimal conditions, nightcrawlers can live for quite a long time. So, by providing somewhat adequate conditions, you should be able to keep your nightcrawlers alive and in peak form long enough to go fishing.

Keep Them in the Fridge

One of the best and simplest ways to increase the lifespan of your nightcrawlers is by storing them in the fridge.

Nightcrawlers perish much faster in warm weather than they do in cold conditions. 

By storing them in the fridge, you not only prevent them from getting too hot, but you also keep the moisture levels from becoming too dry.

Keep Them in the Shade

If you have a large number of nightcrawlers, it may not be practical to keep them in the fridge.

Often I go out and collect my own nightcrawlers before a fishing trip and come back with quite a large amount.

I usually have too many to store in the fridge, so I store them in a wooden container.

To prevent them from getting too hot, I store them in the shade. I find that they last long enough here to get me through a few weeks of fishing.

Add Food to Their Container

How Long do Nightcrawlers Live

By providing food for your nightcrawlers, you can sustain them for much longer.

Worms such as nightcrawlers eat all types of food such as fruit and veg. Avoid giving them meat or acidic foods.

But by giving them some veg or even old paper, you can increase their lifespan.

However, unless the other conditions are met, such as moisture and temperature, food alone won’t increase their life for very long.

But if the other conditions are met by adding food you can increase their lifespan drastically.

Even in the fridge, you could expect them to live many months.

Add Water to the Soil

As mentioned above, worms need moisture to survive. You can increase the lifespan of your worms by adding a few drops of water to their soil every couple of days.

Even if they are in the fridge, you should check that they have the right amount of moisture.

This could be a simple hand test, or you can use a tool to check the moisture.

By keeping the moisture content optimal in the fridge, you could increase the lifespan of nightcrawlers in the fridge to up to two months, giving them an extra month on average.

Final Thoughts

Every angler knows nightcrawlers are the best worms for fishing. To keep them alive for as long as possible, store them in optimal conditions.

In the fridge, they will live for a month or so. In your fishing container, you may be able to keep them alive for a week.

If you store them outside in proper conditions, they could live for more than five years. If you fish regularly, then this is the best method for keeping your nightcrawlers alive.

string(10) "freshwater"
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