Doyle's Dart Den

 
 

Culturing Springtails
(Collembola)
02/23/99

INTRODUCTION
Springtails are primitive wingless insects in the subclass Apterygota. They are chiefly soil and/or litter dwellers, and live off the fungi that decompose organic matter. Although they can be very abundant in soil in the outdoors and household plants, they are seldom noticed because of their small size. Most of them are 3 mm or less in length.   Their size makes them an excellent food source for newly morphed dart frogs.  They are also useful if introduced into a vivarium with a soil substrate where they will colonize and serve as scavengers for the ecosystem.

ESTABLISHING CULTURES
First, take some potting soil (Jack Cover at the National Aquarium in Baltimore recommends mixes formulated for African violets) and place it in a microwaveable container.  Cover the soil mix with water and allow the soil to hydrate for about 5 minutes.  Next, drain the water off and microwave the soil until hot.  After the soil has cooled, place approximately 1 inch of the soil in an air tight container such as tupperware and add water until there are some low points of pooling water.  Now introduce a starter culture of  springtails.  To provide food for the springtails, add flake fish food to the culture and mist with water to insure the food is moist.  Do not worry if fungus is seen in the culture, as the springtails will feed off of it.  Please note that new cultures need to be setup approximately once a month.  Also, temperatures above 80 degrees will greatly reduce productions.

Another method I have seen is to keep moist mulch in a large container, keep it moist, introduce springtails into it, and let nature take its course.  To feed,  place a handful of the mulch in the vivarium.

For places to order supplies and starter cultures Click Here

TEMPERATURE RANGE
65° - 75° F. (18° - 24° C)

FEEDING
The easiest method I have found is to place several pieces of tree fern bark (approximately 3" x 3") into the culture and place the food on the tree fern bark.  The springtails will move into the tree fern.  When you want to feed, place one of the pieces of the tree fern bark into the tank with the frogs.  This is especially useful with newly morphed froglets which need to have food available in a form that they can feed on anytime.

NUMBER OF CULTURES
I personally do not know of anyone that feeds springtails exclusively, because of the small size of the springtails.  I normally keep 2 - 4 going when I have froglets.

 

 
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