If you have a terrarium at home and you are having a hard time keeping it clean, you might consider using springtails. But why do I need springtails in my terrarium, you might ask? This blog will answer your question.
An essential part of growing a terrarium ecosystem in a home is recreating its natural systems in a contained environment.
This includes water cycles, microorganisms, and bio-nutrients that help plants to grow. Springtails are also a big part of a healthy terrarium.
With more people getting into the hobby of growing terrariums, there are a lot of questions about whether or not you can use springtails. So let us answer some of the main questions one might have on this subject.
Do Springtails Help Clean Terrariums?
Springtails are one of the most beneficial creatures in a terrarium ecosystem. These moisture-loving bugs eat mold, leaf litter, and associated organic matter as their main food source.
They are also known as the “cleaning crew” of a terrarium since feeding on all this organic matter keeps a terrarium tank clean without needing you to intervene too much.
As annoying as it may be to allow little bugs to make the place their home, it could be the best way to grow your plants and keep their living areas clean.
How To Breed Them?
Breeding a springtail culture is easy to do if you do it separately in a controlled environment and then release them later into your terrarium.
Springtails thrive in moist environments and grow quickly in any dark and damp corner. You can use a shoebox-sized sealed space and add a substrate layer to grow them.
For the substrate, one of the things you can use is moist charcoal. It is easier to pick up and transfer the insects when the substrate is a hard substance like charcoal.
At the breeding stage, springtails do not require round-the-clock attention. All you need is to provide them with some food source like mold or dry rice about once a week.
These insects usually absorb nutrients from the soil they are living in and feed on dead parts of plants.
Adult springtails multiply rapidly, and they can easily escape from a non-sealed container. Once escaped, it is very difficult to get the insects under control.
So when you are breeding springtails, make sure to use a container that is properly closed on all sides.
However, if you are using an air-tight box, make sure that you open the lid once every few days to let in some oxygen for the bugs.
How Do You Add Springtails to a Terrarium?
Gathering springtails from the sealed container is hard. You can use a springtail trap to get as many insects in one go as possible.
Once trapped, you can open your terrarium lid and bring the trap close. Springtails will always go to areas where moisture is high, but they might take some time to settle down.
Where Can You Buy Them?
There are a few places where you can purchase springtails for your terrarium. One option is to order them online from a supplier that specializes in selling live insects.
Another possibility is to look for a local pet store or garden center that sells these critters. If you have trouble finding them, you can also ask around at your local reptile or amphibian club, as some hobbyists keep springtails as food for their pets.
How to Introduce Them to Other Terrarium Inhabitants?
A terrarium is all about maintaining an ecosystem in a small space. And besides the plants, there may be other inhabitants.
You have to find a balance between insects and other living organisms to make sure your tank is maintained.
It is important to add springtails slowly over several rounds, each time checking whether they are adapting to the terrarium environment or not.
Never release them in your terrarium en masse. They need a week’s time to settle into their new habitat.
Keeping Their Population in Control
Springtail populations can explode if left unchecked. Each female springtail can lay as many as 400 eggs in her lifetime, and the eggs hatch and become adults in a matter of 4-6 weeks.
Springtails molt several times and keep growing as well. They can live up to a full year in a safe place.
However, the best thing about a closed environment like a terrarium is that springtails self-regulate their population. They eat away the molds, bacteria, and fungi, and when the food source gets diminished, many of them die off.
The dead carcass becomes food for the remaining springtails, and as they feed on these carcasses, other bacteria and fungi get a chance to grow back. This completes a virtuous cycle of population control.
An Effective Ecosystem
There are nearly 10,000 species of springtails found in various climates. When you are growing bioactive terrariums, you have to choose what kind of insects you are introducing to the environment.
Maintaining a proper ecosystem with the plants and insects is the best way to make sure you get a proper terrarium tank to look at.
Both temperate springtails and tropical species of springtails can work as beneficial insects to your terrarium. It is important to track the growth of your terrarium and understand its requirements to keep the whole ecosystem healthy.
How To Remove Springtails From a Terrarium?
Removing springtails can be a little more complicated than adding them to the tank. It is almost impossible to catch them by hand since they are tiny. So, here are a few things you can do:
- Do not provide any kind of supplemental food to the insects in the terrarium.
- Empty the terrarium and leave it dry for some time. This can get the insects out since they will not have moisture to thrive.
- Removing the decorations from a terrarium and filling it with water can get the insects to float to the surface. Here you can remove them by hand.
Can Springtails Get Out of Your Terrarium?
Springtails will not be able to get out of a closed terrarium. You have to make sure that your terrarium tank does not have any kind of leak anywhere.
The only chance that they can get out is with the soil that you take out of the tank.
Springtails are known for their ability to jump long distances. This is why they are very difficult to control in large open environments.
In confined spaces like a terrarium, you will mostly find them buried under the bioactive substrate.
Whether you are growing a terrarium in a close or semi-close environment, you have to have proper seals in place to prevent the springtails from escaping.
Tight-fitting lids on the tanks are one of the most effective ways to prevent springtails from escaping.
Benefits of Adding Springtails to Your Terrarium
We can list several benefits of adding springtails to a terrarium. Here are a few that you should know about:
- Springtails can thrive in highly moist environments, and a closed terrarium is appropriate.
- These insects regulate their population according to food availability. This means that growing springtail colonies work more to keep your tank clean.
- Springtails are very low-maintenance creatures in a terrarium since you do not need to feed them regularly.
- Springtails feed on dead leaves and decayed plant materials that help in the cleanup process of a terrarium.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you need both springtails and isopods?
If you are looking to create a more naturalistic environment, then you may want to consider adding both springtails and isopods, otherwise known as pill bugs to your setup.
However, if you simply want to add some extra cleanup crew members, then either should suffice.
Can you have too many springtails in your terrarium?
No, there is no such thing as having too many springtails in your terrarium. They are quite beneficial as they help to break down organic matter and aerate the soil. Moreover, you can never have too many because these bugs self-regulate their population as per the availability of food.
Do you need springtails for the bioactive terrarium?
No, springtails are not mandatory for a bioactive terrarium. However, these insects can be good for creating a healthy ecosystem. If you choose to add springtails, make sure to introduce them slowly so that the other inhabitants can adjust.
Do springtails eat poop?
No, springtails do not eat poop. These insects are detritivores, which means they eat dead organic matter. You can often find springtails in soil and leaf litter, where they help to break down organic material.
Springtails are often misunderstood creatures. While it is true that they can be a big nuisance if you have a home infestation, they are also very useful bugs to have when you are trying to create a terrarium at home.
Introducing these bugs can be the first step to seeing your tiny terrarium tank grow into a beautiful space indoors. Thanks for reading!
Over the years, our readers have sent us several emails on this topic. Please go through them below!
Letter 1 – Springtails, most likely
just a question.
Location: Wichita, KS. USA
December 17, 2011 8:07 am
I have been having hundreds or maybe thousands of tiny tiny bugs coming in the micro-cracks in my basement windows. They all die within about a day or so. They are too small to get a good photo. In fact they are so small It’s hard to make out what they are. but they keep gathering at the base of my basement windows and dieing.
Would you mind if I put some of the dead ones in a zip-lock bag and mailed them to you to identify?
We believe these are Springtails. Most likely, they are dying due to the low humidity indoors. Springtails are benign creatures that can become an annoyance when they are plentiful. They feed on mold and fungus and other organic matter and they are instrumental in breaking down organic matter to form humus in soil.
Letter 2 – Globular Springtail
Subject: Black spotted bug with red head
Geographic location of the bug: Idaho, USA
Time: 01:45 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I found a bunch of these tiny little bugs crawling in my bedroom windowsill. They look to be grayish with black spots and a red head. Any idea what they are?
How you want your letter signed: Brandi
This looks like a benign Globular Springtail to us. See BugGuide for additional information.
Letter 3 – Globular Springtail
Subject: Some kind of small black beetle?
Location: Western Washington
January 30, 2013 4:12 am
Hello I am in Western Washington and it has been about 40 degrees and wet lately. There were about 20 of these bugs that came in the house on a package that was delivered from Amazon and hidden behind a potted plant on our porch. I brought it in at night. I have never seen these bugs before which makes me believe they come out at night or live in the plant. It seems to have 4 white dots on it’s back. They just kind of wandered around the kitchen floor. Not towards dark…. although they didn’t seem to like the camera flash. They are about the size of a ladybug. Maybe slightly smaller.
This looks very much to us like a Globular Springtail in the order Symphypleona. You can see BugGuide for additional information. They are benign creatures that like a damp environment and they will not harm your home. We don’t think you can blame Amazon for their presence.
Thanks for getting back to me so quickly! I read it the next day. I worded it kind of weird, but I didn’t mean to indicate possible blame on Amazon (we order tons of stuff through them), figured they were coming from some plant. I was just extra concerned because we have an 8 month old now =D
Have a great day!
Adam and Family
Letter 4 – Globular Springtail
Subject: They are everywhere
Location: Northeast. State of CT
May 26, 2015 5:00 pm
It is almost summer time in CT. Temps are climbing to mid 80’s. We can’t even go outside now. They are on us when we go in the grass. They are on the deck. It’s crazy. We have never had these before. Been living here for 4 years.
They don’t bite. Im just so concerned for the children and tracking inside the house.
Signature: Concerned CT resident
Dear Concerned CT resident,
You have no cause for concern. These look like Globular Springtails in the order Symphpleona, and you may compare your image to those on BugGuide. Springtails are perfectly harmless, though they can be an annoyance when they are plentiful.
Letter 5 – Possibly Globular Springtail
Subject: Tiny Black Bugs
Location: North Carolina
December 22, 2013 7:59 pm
We found quite of large number of these tiny black bugs in our home tonight. They are smaller than fleas but do jump.
The photo is very tiny as well and we cannot really make out any structural details on your bug. We believe this is a Globular Springtail which is a benign creature (that term just got us in trouble with the Arrow-Headed Flatworm) that can become a nuisance if they are plentiful, and Globular Springtails in the order Symphypleona are generally found in large numbers when conditions are damp.
Letter 6 – Possibly Springtail from Nevada
Nevada, WCTA insect survey
Subject: Nevada, WCTA insect survey
Location: Las Vegas NV adjacent to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
March 21, 2012 10:47 pm
Hi Dan – two students just found this insect at the end of our class. It looks like a springtail (Collembola) to me and possibly the genus Siera. Sorry the picture isn’t better, but I think it’s good enough. It was picked up off the ground. Very small @ 1mm at best.
Signature: Bruce Lund
Springtails are the most common Hexapods on earth, and this does appear to be a Springtail. We cannot say for certain if it is the genus Seira (note the spelling correction) but we are linking to the BugGuide page on the genus. Not all Springtails have the furcula, a forked structure that allows them to spring into the air, but your specimen appears to have a very well developed furcula.
2 thoughts on “Do I Need Springtails In My Terrarium? Helpful Tips”
I have these lil bugs and wanted to know how to get ride of them. My house is an older house but I have taken the bedroom window apart and they still seem to be getting in.
Really interesting find, I guess. Seems like there’ll be a lot more unique finds now that things are warming up in the northern hemisphere! Thanks for sharing.