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How to Keep Isopods and Springtails in a Terrarium

How to Keep Isopods and Springtails in a Terrarium

My grandson has decided he wants to learn about ecosystems and to explain how nature and the cycle of things work, I got him a small terrarium.

The sealed tank was a real joy at first, but soon, the tank became a “stank” and I had to move it to the back porch due to the rotting material in the tank.

Before long, the plants in this little microcosm had died.

Not wanting to disappoint my grandson, I headed to the local entomologist for some help. He advised me to get a terrarium clean-up crew in the form of isopods and springtails.

The journey has been incredible, and here’s what I learned:


How to Keep Isopods and Springtails in a Terrarium

To successfully keep isopods and springtails in a terrarium, ensure the sealed space is moist and has ambient humidity. Provide sufficient airflow and add moisture if you see the soil drying out. They not only consume decaying plant matter, but they also aerate the soil so the plants inside the terrarium grow healthy.


What Isopods and Springtails Need in a Terrarium

In nature, springtails and isopods need moist environments that are usually damp and dark. They eat decaying vegetation and isopods also love eating mushrooms.

Before adding these two cleaning insects to your terrarium, ensure there is enough food in the terrarium for them to survive on. If your terrarium is new, you may want to add in food for them to eat while the plants settle and grow.

Best is to wait until the terrarium has settled into a natural growing rhythm before adding in your isopods and springtails, or you may need to add a small population and opt for the slow reproducing subspecies varieties.

Your local entomologist or online isopod and springtail seller may be able to advise you on what type is best for your size terrarium (and according to the type of plants in it).


How to Add Isopods and Springtails to Your Terrarium

Adding these two cleaning specialists to your terrarium is not a simple matter of throwing them in and sealing the lid.

With some forethought and planning, you can ensure they successfully adapt and thrive.


Step One: Buy Your Clean Team

I discovered that I could buy the springtails and isopods I needed online from many different suppliers.

Being cautious, I checked each of these suppliers’ online reviews, ensuring I would buy only from the very best.

These suppliers also sell a wide variety of isopods or roly-polys and springtails as each type or mix being appropriate to a certain type of terrarium.


Step Two: Introducing the New Terrarium Inhabitants

When my order of new terrarium inhabitants arrived, I was somewhat concerned. How was I going to get these tiny insects into the terrarium without simply dumping the whole container in a corner?

Springtails are really tiny, measuring in at only 1/16th of an inch in size, and isopods are not much bigger when they are rolled up.

Finally, I found some advice that worked like a charm—a turkey baster.

I simply suctioned the springtails along with some of the charcoal growth medium they came in and gently spouted them into various strategic places where there was already a large growth of mold and decay in the terrarium.

The roly-polys were somewhat easier, and I could use a dessert spoon to scoop them and place them among the roots of the plants in the terrarium.


Step Three: Population Control

For such tiny bugs, isopods and springtails can reproduce at an astonishing rate! I had a sudden population boom just after a few weeks.

So you better read up on breeding tips for both isopods and springtails so you’ll know what you’re getting into.

Realizing there wouldn’t be enough rotting plant material and mold in there for all of these little workers to feed on, I quickly decided to do a little population control.

With a spoon and the turkey baster, I began to select some of the little bugs to remove. They would have a happy new home in my garden, so I didn’t feel too bad about moving them.


Step Four: Maintaining an Effective Ecosystem

My final tip is to maintain an effective ecosystem. This means that you should ensure there is sufficient water and humidity in the terrarium for the isopods and springtails to thrive.

Remember that isopods need to breathe through their land gills, which require moisture.

Water your terrarium at least once a month, and if you are unsure, then spray it lightly with some clear mineral water once every other week.

The aim is not to drown the bugs, so exercise some restraint with watering.


Benefits of Adding Isopods and Springtails to Your Terrarium

Isopods and springtails are nature’s little clean-up workers. They feed off plant debris.

In your garden, you will find them tunneling through the ground, nesting in your plants’ root systems, and in any dark and damp corners, you may have in your home.

They are not destructive creatures at all.

People often remove them or kill them off with pesticides and poisons, mistakenly believing that they eat their plants or cause their garden to decay. The opposite is true.

These two tiny creatures are effective at cleaning up your plants, ensuring healthy growth and aeration of the soil. Without them, your plants will die.

I was so excited to learn that these two bugs are ideal for helping my garden stay beautiful and healthy, and learning that they could also thrive in my grandson’s terrarium was a real bonus.


Frequently Asked Questions about How to Keep Isopods and Springtails in Terrarium


Can springtails live with isopods?

These two insects make good bedfellows, and what the isopods don’t consume, the springtails eat the rest of the smaller mold colonies.


How do you keep springtails alive in a terrarium?

Add small amounts of distilled water to the growth medium you receive your springtails in and water once a month or when you notice the soil starts to dry out. The springtails will feed on the decaying matter, so there is no need to add food.


The Last Terrarium Tip

Keeping isopods and springtails in your terrarium is a great adventure, and watching these tiny insects work hard to clean up the mold and decay that forms among the plants is fascinating.

When you buy from a reputable dealer, you will be able to purchase a good sample colony of isopods and springtails.

It is then a simple matter of placing them and ensuring there is enough moisture to keep them happy.