Wondering what to feed springtails? Here is your complete guide!
We often treat Insects as harmful to our homes, but can some of them be beneficial too?
Springtails are surprisingly common tiny insects, often found in your house’s damp nooks and corners. These bugs feed on any organic matter.
And that’s a great reason why you would want to feed, grow and breed springtails (we will explain later why)! So what do you feed these tiny insects so that they can come and stay at your house?
Let us find out.
Why Would You Want To Feed Springtails?
Springtails can chomp up such things as bacteria, fungi, and mold! That’s why culturing springtails is a common practice in many places.
For owners of fish tanks and aquariums, being able to culture springtails is the ideal way to keep their tanks clean. They are also known to eat plant pests, making them a beneficial addition to any garden.
But if you are growing a culture of springtails, knowing what to feed them and giving them a steady food supply is an important part of the program.
You can have a thriving culture of springtails by choosing the right kind of food and habitat for them. In the next few sections, let us look at what to feed springtails.
Food Items from Your Pantry
When you are feeding springtails, you can start the process by looking into your pantry. If you are growing temperate springtails, brewers yeast and uncooked rice can be a great choice. Other species might have different preferences.
If you are going for yeast, choose brewers yeast flakes. Sprinkle these yeast flakes in the tank or box where you keep the springtails.
You will need to put this food in about three times a week, which should be enough for most growing colonies. You can also add fish food for variety.
If you are feeding rice to springtails, choose dry uncooked rice, either brown or white. However, springtails tend to get bored with rice and stop feeding.
Worry not; like temperamental teenagers, you can get them back on track by varying their diet for a few days and then going back to rice.
While these food items are great as feed for springtails, there is a chance that rice can get mold over time. So you have to clean the tank from time to time to clear out the stale rice debris.
Fungi, Bacteria, Algae
Springtails are usually self-sufficient even if you don’t feed them anything separately. For example, if you harvest springtails and leave them in the garden with your plants, they will find their own food.
You can keep these insects in the soil with other plants, and they will start feeding off other microorganisms and pests. Fungi, bacteria, and algae are good food items for springtails, isopods, and other soil-dwelling organisms.
These insects are particularly fond of the spores of fungi, which springtails help to disperse as well. This makes them an important part of the decomposition process.
If you are introducing springtails to an aquarium or plant environment, they can feed off the bacteria buildup in water or soil.
Springtails also consume other small organisms, such as protozoans and nematodes. In doing so, they help to control the populations of these pests.
Decaying Plant Matter/Animal Matter
Springtails can consume a wide variety of plant and animal matter as food. This includes both living and dead organisms.
Some of the more common items on their menu include dead algae, detritus, bacteria, small invertebrates, and even other springtails.
Due to their small size, they are also able to gain nutrients from microorganisms that simply won’t be enough for others.
This ability to clean up dead organic matter makes them an important part of the food chain in many aquatic ecosystems.
Leaf litter and plant debris are also good sources of food for growing springtail colonies. Adding a layer of organic mulch over the soil can be a good idea to feed your springtails.
You can also provide a small dish of water for these insects to drink from.
One of the most important reasons why people breed springtail cultures is because of their ability to eat away mold.
Mold is surprisingly common in the US and can cause severe health problems. Exposure to mold can lead to itching, coughing, runny eyes and nose, headaches, trouble breathing, and even cause severe allergic reactions.
Thankfully, you can use springtails to eat up mold in your house by placing them in targeted spots where you find it, such as damp places in the kitchen and plumbing.
Food is only one part of breeding springtails. A safe and healthy growing environment is very important for springtails.
They do not do well in direct sunlight. These insects grow naturally in damp and dark areas, so you need to keep them in such areas for them to grow.
When you observe the breeding culture of springtails, you will notice that the insects thrive around the food.
Once they start multiplying, you can use them as feeder insects for your fish by transferring them using a piece of charcoal.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do springtails need to survive?
Springtails need moisture to survive, and you will often find them near sources of dampness and water.
They also need a food source, which they usually find in decaying organic matter or soil rich in microorganisms.
Springtails are very small, so they can also survive on a diet of smaller insects or other arthropods.
Can I feed springtail nutritional yeast?
Yes, you can feed springtails nutritional yeast. This is a good source of nutrition for them and will help them stay healthy.
How do you keep a springtail culture alive?
A springtail culture has to be maintained properly for all of them to survive. The crucial thing to do is to keep the substrate moist and feed them a variety of foods.
Springtails will also reproduce easily, so you may need to remove some of the excess population from time to time. It will take around two weeks for a new culture to start growing properly.
How do you feed springtails in a terrarium?
One way to feed springtails in a terrarium is to place a piece of fruit or vegetable matter in the terrarium. The springtails will then feed on the decaying matter.
Another way to provide food for springtails is to purchase a commercial springtail diet from a pet store or online retailer like an affiliate link.
Maintaining a springtail culture can be a difficult task for a first-timer. However, once you understand their behavior and feeding habits, you can grow their cultures very quickly.
We hope this article has given you some ideas on what to feed your culture of springtails. Thank you for reading; we hope this article was useful to you!
Over the years, our readers have sent us several emails on this topic. Please go through them below!
Letter 1 – Springtail from Mexico
Location: Mexico City
March 20, 2014 6:38 pm
This bug apeared recently (beginning of march) in the washbasin of my bathroom, they are very very small (1mm) apear by night, maybe 10 or 15, when I disturb them with my fingers they take tremendous jumps. If I fill the basin with water they drawn during the night. The foto is of a drowned one, very magnified.
I live in Mexico City.
I hope you can help me identify them, in any case thank you!
Buenos Dias Guillermo,
The creature in your photo is a Springtail, a hexapod in the class Collembola. They might be the most populous creatures on the planet and they are basically benign, or actually beneficial as they help organic matter to decompose and break down into humus. They jump by means of an organ called a furcula. According to BugGuide: “Species with a furcula are jumpers; the furcula is normally folded under the abdomen, and the insect jumps by suddenly extending the furcula ventrally and posteriorly.” BugGuide also notes: “Springtails indoors should be ignored, as they cause no health threat whatsoever and will quickly die or disperse as the areas they frequent dry out.”
Letter 2 – Springtails
Can Silverfish hop?
First, I’d like to compliment your site – very well done and informative!
My husband and I have a recent infestation in our bathroom of a small bug that we thought could be Silverfish. After reading your page on Silverfish and looking at the photo, however, I’m not certain that this is what we have.
These bugs are about 1/8 of an inch long, have antennae on the front and shorter antennae on the back – as best as I can tell there are only two on the back end. They have lighter colored stripes running horizontally across a very thin body. And these bugs hop, as much as about a foot. We find that they congregate near water – especially under and around wet flip flops worn in the shower. Could these be Silverfish? Or are they another bug?
Thanks for any help you may be able to give,
There is a relative of the silverfish known as the Jumping Bristletail, Family Machilidae, but my money is on a type of Springtail, Order Collembola. They like damp areas and can get quite numerous.
Thanks for your quick response! And thanks for what seems to be the right diagnosis. Now we’ll get to work on getting rid of these guys!
My husband and I are very impressed with your website – our new "house and garden field guide."
All the best,
Letter 3 – Springtails
Large masses of tiny graphite colored bugs
October 1, 2009
These bugs have been present since early Spring. They appear to be coming out of the gravel around the house and hot tub when it rains. They are dark gray in color and are less than 1/16″ in length. We are concerned that they may infest our house.
We would appreciate your help in identifying them.
Packwood, WA – S side of Mt Rainier
We are so happy you sent excellent images of both the entire aggregation of Springtails, and a detailed closeup leads us to believe they are in the family Hypogastruridae. Springtails are among the most common insects in the world. Most species are very habitat specific, and there are some species that are found in homes, especially in showers, under sinks, and in damp basements. Springtails are benign creatures that often feed on mold and fungus. If they are present in the house, they may be symptomatic of another underlying problem, like mold growth. We do not believe the species depicted in your photo will infest your home.
Letter 4 – Springtails
A million little critters
I noticed these "patches" of pinkish little things over the surface of our swim pool the middle of this February. I have lived in this house for over 20 years…never seen this before. The location is on the Central coast of California, San Luis Obispo. The size of the creatures are about 1 to 1.5 mm Any thoughts??
These are Springtails, minute insects that are found in large aggregations. They are often associated with swimming pools. Perhaps the drought this year has led them to your pool if they have never congregated there before. Springtails need moisture to survive, and they flourish under the proper conditions.