Worm Tea for Hydroponics?

by RJ
(San Francisco & Mi Wuk, California)

One Tomatoe, Two Tomatoe

One Tomatoe, Two Tomatoe

One Tomatoe, Two Tomatoe
The Set Up

I have a small hyrdo-garden; tomatoes, orchids, basil, parsley. Ebb and flow system.

Can I use worm tea instead of the chemicals in my watering solution?

What is the NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphate and Potassium) of Worm Tea (in general, I know this will vary from farm to farm)?

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Jan 11, 2014
Kratky method and worm tea
by: Bill Lombard

I've used worm tea for hydroponics, in both the traditional method and the Kratky method, with good success. I'd like to hear from others, especially researchers in this area, since it seems like such a good idea.

It also would be great to find a reliable analysis of worm tea and what it provides to plants.

Jan 11, 2014
Kratky method and worm tea - reply
by: RJ


To make sure we are talking about the same thing:
Leachate vs Worm Tea, I just learned the difference.

Also read: "Without a doubt vermiponics works best in conjunction with aquaponics."

Have you gone that route as well?

The Kratky method looks like one short step to aquaponics.

Jan 12, 2014
Hooked On Ponics
by: Pauly

Hey Rj,

Thanks for posting your pics. Although I haven't tried hooked on ponics yet, your system looks very fun.

I won't begin to comment on NPK ratios as not all worm tea or worm castings is created equal and therein lies the difficulty of determining NPK ratios as it would be a guess at best.

I will tell you though that "Worm Tea" and I DO hope that we all know what "True" worm tea is. If not then please know the difference here:
Worm Tea

As I was saying worm tea, when brewed correctly, can and does create a type of Super Food for plants in a hydroponic, aquaponic, or vermiponic system.

But here is one thing that concerns me with your question RJ. You asked, "Can I use worm tea instead of the chemicals in my watering solution?

Well the the answer is yes but I'm assuming that you have already used the chemical fertilizers in your system judging on%2

Jan 14, 2014
Kratky method and worm tea
by: Bill

Hi RJ,
Yes, I use worm castings, alfalfa meal, and rock dust to make tea, so I'm not using leachate.
Kratky's method works well and is nice in water-restricted areas, and is a nice way to go for folks who don't want to mess with pumps and pipes.

Jan 14, 2014
Introducing microbes to the hydro system?
by: Pauly

My last post was cut off for some reason.

Anyway, I know the chemical fertilizers kill microbes. I'm not sure you would want to start now.

Introducing the microbes to the hydro system may stall your plants for quite some time. You would be changing their food source and it just may take a while for them to adjust.

Chemical fertilizers are high in salts and ammonia. Not very microbe friendly just keep this in mind.

If it were me, I would just start over. Clean the system of all chemicals and just go organic with worm tea and castings and minerals.

All the best,

Jan 14, 2014
by: RJ


Thanks for all your input. The plan is to start-over, going organic with worm tea and castings and minerals.

There will also be a very small side foray into aqua.

For now I'll continue with ebb and flow but I want to test my bathes for N/P/K in San Francisco. Any suggestions? Home Kit?

Jan 14, 2014
Testing Worm Castings and Worm Tea
by: Pauly

Check with your local county's extension office. Call the numbers listed in the link below.

They will probably steer you in the right direction and maybe get someone to test for free.

But don't worry about the NPK ratios of worm tea. If brewed properly the only fear you have is drowning your plants.

But it is nice to know what's in the MIX :)



Jun 23, 2014
by: Michael

Well, I have been "playing" with hydroponics for the last 25 years and was never able to find viable and affordable organic alternatives to the commercially available water soluble fertilizers necessary for hydroponics. That is until 3 years ago when I discovered composting red wiggler worms, and I set up my first worm bin.

I definitely do things contrary to popular advice of separating out the worm castings, put them in a sack and soak with a bubbler for 24 hours --- way too slow and too much trouble. I just installed a valve near the base of one end of my 36 gallon plastic worm bin and every morning pour about 5 gallons of water over the top of the worm bin. I leave the valve open and draining into a 5 gallon bucket and VOILA, instant and abundantly available WORM TEA without all the mess and hassle. Plus my worm bin stays fresh and moist and I don't have to disturb the little buggers too much.

For the last 3 years I have used nothing but my Worm Tea for both my small hydroponic fence top garden (20 feet of 4 inch pvc pipe with 2 inch holes cut every 3 inches and solar powered) and my 14 container Patio Garden with excellent results. I also seem to have almost no pest problems, I guess they just don't like worm tea. Anyway, it works.

Just don't worry about the analysis as it really doesn't matter, as long as you have such spectacular results as I have had. If your water is iron or magnesium deficient, you could add some mild steel nails and epsom salts to your solution, but I'm not sure if even that is necessary. The worms seem to have it all, somehow, almost miraculously.

Jan 05, 2015
Leachate versus worm tea
by: Gunter

Hi, only now I see the comment function, so I can as well ask here, as in my email before.

I have read the article leachate vs worm tea, very interesting.

But then there is this article and video on the Australian TV where those guys obviously use leachate and have a great success :


I am now a bit confused about which way to go...

Jan 05, 2015
Confused About Worm Tea?
by: Pauly

This is why ~Worm Tea~ will remain the most controversial topic for years to come...

Because not all worm tea (which is really "leachate") is created equal. I'm won't repeat what's already been said in this thread, or I might. If I tell you to use your leachate because mine worked for me it doesn't mean that it will work for you.

Most leachate sits in the bottom and stagnates for a while then people decide to put it on their plants with either success or failure. There is a war going on inside a worm bin and the good microbes are out populating the bad microbes.

Eventually the good microbes win but during the process bins that are too wet (for various reasons) have leached liquid down into the bottom reservoir. Because the bottom reservoir is not aerated like that of the worm bin, the bad microbes begin to multiply and the war is back on.

Only this time the bad guys will win because this is their playground (environment).

All food in a worm bin is different and all aeration, temps, & moisture levels are all different. No one knows what is in the mysterious liquid when it first starts to drip in the bottom container. Again, if the bottom is leaching then the bin is too wet.

Now, why does it seem to be working for the guys in the link you have provided?

Because this has to do a lot with the way they collect it. It's NOT your normal leachate (they call it worm tea or worm juice I believe).

They are also using a food source that most do not. They are using animal manure which has a lot of beneficial microbes already before going into a worm bin.

Here's the difference. It's not setting in the bottom to become anaerobic and stagnant. They are collecting it from the bottom and recycling it back over the worm bedding where it has a chance to be reprocessed. So it rejoins the "war" and looses more and more each time it's thrown into the fight.

Not only do the bad guys loose but beneficial microbes leachate from the bottom more than the unbeneficial microbes.

Here is another reason why they are having good results. Over the years I have noticed from my readers that the leachate tends to do better with ornamentals than garden plants that we eat. This is because they have a bit of a different diet.

Ornamentals just like a different source of microbes which may be a little more on the anaerobic or acidic type of foods. This isn't always the case though. It just depends on the plant. You may have to do a little bit of research for that.

One thing I do want to note is that there bins were a bit on the wet side and that's why you see a lot of small white worms (pot worms). These are okay if they are not too numerous.

I hope I've helped you to understand this a little bit more so that you can make a better decision.

Here is a method for using the leachate from the bottom of your bin if you absolutely must.

leachate vs worm tea

If You Must Use Worm Leachate

P.S. If they were to add just a couple of steps more by aerating and adding molasses to there leachate they would have so much more beneficial results.

Jan 05, 2015
very clear now
by: Gunter

Wow, I am most impressed! Thanks very much for that elaborate explanation. I have learned a lot now and feel very encouraged to DO it.

Though I have no real use for it so far, I am just interested. But since you mentioned ornamental plants... I planned to raise some, like Japanese maples and the like. Could be interesting to see how they are doing.

Thanks again

I will come back and post results ...

Jan 05, 2015
Leachate Elaborately Explained
by: Pauly

Hey Gunter,

You are very welcome :) I will have an entire section dedicated to worm tea and leachate in the up and coming book. So stay tuned :)

One suggestion before you start

Only use it on a few secluded plants before you use it on all of them. It's best to experiment with the batch so you know it is safe to use.

However if your process changes it can change the entire batch of leachate so be careful :)

Okay buddy, chow!

Jan 05, 2015
Keep us Posted on the Leachate
by: Pauly

Thanks Gunter, Yes definitely keep us posted on the "Leachate Tea".

Thanks :)

Sep 12, 2015
by: Warren

The NPK of worm tea has proven to be largely irrelevant. What matters is actual empirical evidence, proof by results. Worm tea works in hydroponic systems as my past 3 years of experiments have proven. I have been growing hydroponically, actually vermiponically, in 4 inch and 6 inch PVC systems filled with Perlite and fertilized with nothing but Worm Tea. But not worm tea made by the traditional method of separating out worm castings, putting in a "sock" then in a bucket with an air stone and running for 24 hours or more, all very time consuming, tedious and inefficient. I simply have a large 27 gallon plastic worm bin where I recycle my kitchen wastes. I pour at least 5 gallons of tap water through it daily, collect the runoff via a valve on the low end of the bin. This I call Worm Tea and use it to fertilize my Hydroponic system. This gives me Organic and Natural Fruits and Vegetables at Zero costs and Minimal Effort but with Amazing Results...try it, you'll see.


Sep 12, 2015
Worm Tea and drowning
by: RJ


When running 5 gallons of water through your worm farm are you losing a lot of worms (drowning?).

Sep 12, 2015
No worms lost
by: Warren

No worms are lost & they seem to enjoy their daily "shower" where their various waste products are washed away. In fact they like this environment so well, I have yet to see them "run" as long as I leave the lid off and "don't fence them in" as the old Roy Rogers Western song says.

Oct 05, 2015
by: Anonymous


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