ARK - Arizona Rivulin Keepers

Culturing Springtails

Springtails are minute insects in the Order Collembola. They are small, white, soft-bodied, wingless insects about 1/16 of an inch in length with distinctive heads and a hump-backed appearance (sort of shrimp-like). Their name comes from a forked structure attached to the underside of the abdomen that acts like a spring to flip them into the air. They are an excellent source of food because 1) they remain alive for a long period of time on the aquarium water surface waiting to be consumed and 2) they are easy to culture. Springtails are commonly found in backyard compost heaps, in leaf litter and under decaying wood. They are scavengers, feeding on decaying plants, fungi, molds, algae, or in our case, flake fish food. They are, in my opinion, one of the easiest live foods to culture. Springtails do not survive in dry conditions so they are not likely to invade your home (as long as you remain in the desert!) - Just in case your spouse/roommate asks J

My Technique


Setting it up: (If you boil your peat like I do, you can skip this step). Get enough peat to fill the container. Add water and mush it around until it is completely wet. Now squeeze out as much water as you can. Then fluff it up. Fill your container with about 2 inches of fairly loose peat moss (Do not pack it.). Add a starter culture (You can get one from an ARK member, including me). Sprinkle a small amount fish food on top (just a pinch) and mist it with your sprayer (just enough to get the flake food damp). Put the lid on tightly and store in a suitable place. I do not put holes in my lids. You can, but I donít. If the food is gone the next time you check the culture, add more. Feed the culture at least once a week; if you are getting more springtails than you need, cut back on the food. Keep the peat moist, by spraying it if it seems to be drying out.

To Harvest: Simply take a big spoonful of peat from the culture and place it in a margin tub. Add enough water to cover the peat by Ĺ inch. Set aside until the peat sinks. 1 Use a spoon to scoop out the Springtails. Springtails like to jump, so you may want to do this over your tanks. Some will inevitably jump from the spoon right in the water! You can, of course, just add the peat with the springtails directly to your tanks! If you are getting mold in your cultures, you are probably over feeding. Donít panic. Just cut back on the food. The idea is to feed them just what they can eat in a week. So there you have it. There are probably many other way to culture springtails that work as well as, or better than, mine. Feel free to experiment.

1 Here is where boiling the peat may come in handy. In my experience, boiled peat settles very fast. Non-boiled peat can float (seemingly) forever!

© 1999 Bill Edwards