Springtail Culture Care
A straightforward guide for breeding Folsomia candida Springtails
Springtails ("Springs" for short) are detritivores, which means they obtain their nutrients by consuming detritus (decomposing plant/organic matter); making them the perfect clean-up crew for a live vivarium. They are an indispensable addition in vivarium building, and can be introduced by simply pouring a culture into the substrate layer of an already set up habitat. Springs are tiny little creatures, at just about 1/16" (adult actual size: ) which also makes them a convenient source of food for extremely small species like dart froglets. There are many species available in the hobby today, but the most common and effective Springtails we've used are the temperate species (Folsomia candida) offered here at NEHERP. The below article will help explain care, breeding, and more.
Introducing Springtails Into A Vivarium
Once Springtails are introduced into a properly built enclosure, they will likely never need to be re-introduced, and will sustain themselves for the life of the vivarium. The process of adding microfauna to a vivarium is usually referred to as "seeding". Ideally, Springtails should be introduced to a live vivarium 3-5 weeks before adding inhabitants. While it's acceptable to add them at any time, providing an acclimation period before adding other inhabitants allows them to establish a nice, healthy, functioning population. This also helps prevent booms of less effective detritivores like Fungus Gnats & detritivorous Mites.
Our mixed media cultures make adding Springtails to a vivarium easy, since it's safe to mix directly into your substrate before (or after) the vivarium is finished. The easiest way to seed a vivarium is to add the culture before adding terrestrial plants, leaf litter, and/or moss. Simply distribute the culture's contents into the substrate layer, and cover it gently with leaf litter, moss, or other decor. For best results, vivarium substrate should never be packed down or compressed. The media we make our cultures with is NEHERP Vivarium Substrate, so it's perfectly suited for long-term use in a live vivarium. If your substrate level is high before adding a Springtail culture, simply remove some substrate & replace the amount with the culture media.
Each of our Springtail cultures contain hundreds of Springtails, and can usually be divided into more than one enclosure, if an appropriate acclimation period is followed. A single culture can seed 3-4 small enclosures (up to 12"x12"), 2-3 medium enclosures (up to 18x18), or a single larger enclosure.
Setting Up A Breeding Culture
Unless you are planning on breeding Springtails for feeders, you can skip this paragraph!
We suggest using charcoal as a substrate to breed Springtails over other mixed media. In our experience, cultures on mixed media have a much higher chance of eventually getting mites, if not kept in an appropriate mite-resistant enclosure.
Ingredients For A Springtail Breeder Culture
(Now available as a kit!)
6 Quart (or similar) sterilite bin
Organic, rinsed, medium or fine grade charcoal
Brewer's yeast powder
Hand mister w/filtered water
To start a breeder culture, fill the sterilite container roughly 1/2 way with organic rinsed charcoal pieces. From there, add about 1/4-1/2" depth of water to the bottom to keep things humid & encourage breeding. Once you've added the charcoal & water, simply add some Springtails to seed it. If you are adding Springtails from a charcoal culture, you can either dump the entire small culture into the new one, or add water to the small culture (causing the Springtails to float) and pour them out into the new culture. Adding Springtails from a mixed media culture using a piece of charcoal or tree fern is also easy, although a little more time consuming. Simply sprinkle some yeast onto a charcoal or tree fern fiber piece, mist it, and set it on top of the substrate inside your springtail culture overnight. The next morning, many of the springtails will have climbed onto the tree fern piece to eat, making it easy to pull out and shake off into the new charcoal breeding culture. If more springs are desired, simply repeat the same process the next day until you have enough springs to get the culture rolling. (Try to add 50-100 springs to start; more if possible!)
What about Shipping Charcoal Cultures?
We stopped shipping charcoal cultures back in 2013
Charcoal cultures are available upon request to those who don't mind the considerable shipping risk, and are looking to get a quick & easy breeding culture established. A significant (90%+) portion of Springtails often die-off in transit, due to the charcoal shifting around. We've recently revised this article to explain how the (safer-to-ship) mixed media cultures can also be used to seed a new charcoal breeding culture.
For food we suggest only 1 thing: 100% pure brewers yeast. Simply add a very light sprinkling of brewers yeast every 2-4 days (or less often, if there is still yeast visible) & mist it with some dechlorinated water. This food source is inexpensive, easy, and the Springtails love it. Over the next few days, the yeast will be devoured completely. When it's gone, simply add more. After a few weeks, baby Springtails should begin to emerge and before you know it you'll have a thriving culture. Be careful not to over-feed with yeast, as it can overwhelm the culture causing a lack of oxygen and/or support a mite population. In our experience, many other "suggested Springtail foods" like mushrooms, dog food, fish flakes, and others can attract, carry and/or breed mites. Mites are a nuisance that can eventually overwhelm & out-compete the springs in a culture, but they are NOT a concern or threat to your vivarium's inhabitants or pets. Detritivore mites (like Springtails) eat the same detritus, and are not a parasitic species like some of the "bad mites" that you hear about on reptiles like snakes. If you see round, slow moving bugs in your culture, they are most likely mites. Prevention is key, as there's no removing mites once they arrive!
Pulling From a Springtail Culture
Mixed Media Cultures (What we sell)
For a mixed media culture, simply dump some of the media out into the vivarium with the Springs going along for the ride. Easy peasy.
Charcoal Cultures (If you've made your own from our cultures)
When it comes to removing Springtails from their charcoal breeding culture, there are two ways to go about it. The easiest way is to simply grab a larger piece of charcoal with springs on it and shake them off into the vivarium. Another way (which yields more Springtails) is to add water to the culture to force some springs to fall into the water level. (Springtails float in water!) From there, tip the culture to one side to pour out the water that will have dozens (maybe hundreds!) of Springtails floating on top. Smaller vivariums require only a few dozen springs to start off a population, but larger enclosures may require upwards of a few hundred or more.
Tips & Tricks
Like fly cultures, freshly started Springtail cultures should not be relied on as a feeder source, since they are not yet producing. Fresh cultures are used to create breeder cultures, or to seed vivariums. If you are looking to use Springtails as a feeder source, it's important that you plan ahead & build your own breeding cultures to pull from. Producing cultures cannot be shipped without heavy losses to the colony, so be sure to give yourself at least a month in advance for your Springtail population to grow large enough to use as feeders.
If you are planning on starting your own cultures be careful not to completely deplete your breeding culture! If you pull too many, it can take weeks for your breeding culture to catch up to where it used to be.
Mite prevention is key to long-term viability of Springtail cultures. If possible, keep your Springtail culture on mite paper, or on paper towels saturated with mite spray. Detritivore mites are literally everywhere on Earth, so if you want a successful long-term Springtail culture, it's absolutely necessary to work on preventing mites from entering your culture.
Seeing mold in the culture? That's completely normal, and is usually a good thing to see the day after you feed them. Yeast readily molds over when moist, which is a perfect food condition for these waste-eating detritivores.
We suggest skipping all foods but brewer's yeast to minimize the risk of mites being introduced to, or being supported in the culture.
Buy your first cultures from someplace reputable! If the first culture you start with has mites... Well... You get the idea!
Ideally you want temps to be between 65F-80F. Springs can survive extreme temperatures, but somewhere between 65F and 80F is ideal. Higher than 80F has proven to slow reproduction in our Springtails.
Ambient lighting is best, in our experience. Direct sunlight can quickly overheat a culture, and complete darkness yields slower production.
Have a tiny dart froglet that could use some Springtails as food? If you have a charcoal culture, grab a chunk of charcoal crawling with springs and shake it off into a deli cup. Sprinkle some Repashy calcium plus into the cup and give it a quick shake. Now you've got multivitamin-dusted nutritious Springtails for your frogs to eat!
Keep the culture moist. A dry culture will not produce anywhere near as well as one with the correct amount of water & humidity. Keeping around 1/2" of water in the base of a culture makes a big difference, as well as 2-3X weekly misting. Drying out completely can kill a colony.
Remember - This article was written for the most common (and in our opinion the best for vivarium use) temperate Springtails. Certain species (pink Springtails, for example) breed fastest on mixed media; but the majority of Springtail species we've worked with breed best on charcoal.
Thanks for choosing NEHERP as your Springtail info source & supplier! If you have any questions at all about the info in this article, don't hesitate to contact us. We're happy to help!