Springtails (Collembola) are a group of hexapods that live primarily in the leaf litter and decaying material on the forest floor. They also happen to be one of the most widely used members of a cleanup crew in bioactive vivariums or terrariums. Their primary function in a vivarium is to breakdown waste matter such as animal feces, fungi, and leaf litter and other decaying matter. In turn their own frass (feces) breaks down further to make the nutrients bioavailable to the plants’ root systems. This helps create a bioactive ecosystem to keep your vivarium from building up waste matter.
Keeping, breeding and raising springtails is relatively simple to do. After you have purchased your first culture, if appropriately maintained, you should have a renewable source of fuel for your tank.
The materials you will need to get started are:
- Starter culture of Springtails
- Jungle Jewel Exotics Springtail Food
- Jungle Jewel Exotics Biochar (charcoal)
- A plastic container of some kind (16-32oz deli containers work great)
- Bottled or RO water (dechlorinated tap water at a bare minimum)
Setting Up A Springtail Culture Is Easy
Once you have acquired the required items, start by rinsing your Biochar (in dechlorinated tap water) to remove the dust. Then fill your plastic container half to 3⁄4 full of the clean, wet biochar. Biochar is an extremely porous material that will provide ample surface area to your springtails and facilitate breeding. Now that the media is in, fill the cup with Bottled or RO water until it covers the surface of the media. Now let sit for 30 minutes to an hour. Soaking your media allows the water to soak into the pores of the media and ensures your culture doesn’t dry out. After soaking the biochar, keep a small amount of water in the bottom of the container (a few millimetres will be enough). Which further prevents the media from drying out and turning your new invertebrate friends into crisps. After you seed your culture with springtails, add a pinch of Springtail food, weekly or as needed. Top up any evaporated water as needed.
Adding New Springtails To Your Culture Or A Vivarium
This step is probably much easier than you’d expect (and fun too). There are many ways that facilitate the transfer of springtails from one container to another. One way is merely transferring some of the media from the springtail culture you purchased into the newly made one. The second way, and definitely the more fun way to do it, is using the springtails natural properties against them. Springtails are hydrophobic, meaning they repel water, and due to their tiny size, it results in them floating on the surface of the water. With that said, flood the established culture to the point where springtails are covering the surface of the water, and pour the water from that culture into your new one. The springtails will fall with that water into the new culture, thus creating a fully seeded culture.
Some Quick Tips About Springtail Culturing
In my experience, I find it beneficial to fully flood an established springtail culture from time to time. This will help flush out any excess waste material, and nutrient build up. If your actively feeding off you springtails into a vivarium or using them to feed small froglets, this step is not necessary. Don’t over feed your springtail culture,as this can cause the water to foul up or create an off gas, killing off your Springtails.