Springtails

Mick Bajcar
Last update: 17 August, 2002

Until recently I had never succeeded in cultivating springtails in large enough quantities for them to be of use as a food source for my Dendrobates or Mantella, though they are always in my vivaria. At Frog Day in Holland in April, 1996 I bought a culture contained in an ice cream-type tub, which was teeming with springtails. From this I was able to establish how it had been made. 

The important feature would seem to be the form of the medium. This was peat, sterilised in a microwave and then compressed until it was a very solid block (easy to achieve with my weight!). The culture should then be seeded with a substantial number of springtails and fed regularly with suitably small amounts of boiled potato or flaked fish food. 

The springtails can be extracted by holding the peat block in place with a finger while tapping them out. Alternatively they can be floated off by drowning the culture. However, the culture needs then to be re-started. With six cultures on the go at any one time, I even feed them to my larger frogs.

An Easily Maintained Springtail Culture

Bob Worthington
Last update: 17 August, 2002

Over the last two years I have managed to maintain, by a simple means, a very productive springtail culture. The culture basically exists with/on a white worm culture i.e. . I have raised white worms for many years for feeding to various newts and fish. Instructions on commercially available white worm cultures generally recommend temperatures of 20°C. These, however, are always short lived, requiring the frequent starting of new cultures.

I found many years ago that cultures obtained from my compost heap, kept in cool but frost free areas, did not suffer from this problem. One such culture, kept in a polystyrene container of the type used to transport tropical fish, has been maintained for over three years. The white worms are fed on ordinary white bread (no milk) in four areas, each area covered by pieces of slate approximately 100mm square. After some twelve months the underside of each piece of slate became covered with springtails, which have been harvested since May for my frogs. Part of the culture was passed on to Mick Bajcar, who has maintained it with equal success.

The culture is approximately 70mm deep and consists of old vivarium compost. The polystyrene container is kept uncovered, but wetter than if just for raising white worms. I have tried raising the springtails on various media, without the white worms being present. They survive, but are not prolific.

If anyone requires further information, please contact the group.

 

RAISING SPRINGTAILS

Bob Worthington

Springtails are essential for raising very small frogs after metamorphosis and as a food supplement for larger frogs such as D. auratus. I always find it fascinating to see the time spent by D. auratus feeding on even the tiniest of Springtails. I have tried a variety of methods of raising Springtails (see below) with, at times, outstanding success, only to find the cultures crashing after 1-2 years. The following is my most successful method so far.

I use the plastic containers in which I receive my hatchling crickets and which are supplied without ventilation holes. They are about 189mm x 100mm and I cover the base with about 5mm of activated charcoal available from any tropical fish shop. On top of this I place two squares 75mm x 75mm of capillary matting. Water is added so that if the culture is tilted a small amount can be seen at one end. Small pinches of Ready Brek Breakfast cereal are placed onto the capillary matting, the culture is seeded with springtails and the lids closed firmly.

The cultures develop best between 20 and 25°C, below 10°C they become dormant and above 30°C they die off. The Ready Brek quickly produces various moulds and fungi, which the springtails presumably eat. Further cereal is added as required.

To feed the frogs the pieces of matting are removed and placed into the vivarium and new pieces are placed onto the culture. Starter cultures can be obtained from further hobbyists or collected from around compost heaps. It was recently suggested to me by Richard Berridge that potato peelings from the compost heap often prove to be a good source.

 

Springtails

Mick Bajcar

At long last I have found a reliable method of culturing Springtails. These tiny insects, which are essential for raising newly metamorphosed Mantellas and the like, can be unpredictable to culture in any quantity. They seem to do best on a fibrous medium, and the best I have discovered is tree fern root. Unfortunately, I have never found this for sale in this country (Britain), but I begged a piece from Andrew Clements who had bought some while in Holland.

The root is thoroughly soaked then placed in a margarine tub with a sealed lid. Springtails are added along with a little flake fish food. Kept warm, they multiply rapidly, and can be removed simply by tapping the piece of root. It is best to set up a new culture every three months or so, as cultures tend to crash. This is presumably due to the build-up of some form of toxin. The old culture medium (the fern root) can be re-used if washed thoroughly. This method is simple and reliable and, perhaps best of all; the insects are extracted from the culture easily.

*****

... I have to agree with Mick. Tree fern trunk (it's the rhizomatious stem of the tree fern which produces the fibrous material, although root tissue does pass through it) is a very good medium. My relatives in New Zealand tell me horrendous tales of acres of these beautiful plants being bulldozed to provide ground for houses. While at Maarn this year I gritted my teeth, put conservation out of my mind for a moment and bought a three-foot (90cms) length of tree fern. Cut into thin slices, it forms an excellent basis for Springtails. I use moss/sedge peat in a 50:50 mix in a polystyrene tub with the tree fern lying on top. I sprinkle TetraMin fish food onto the surface and this maintains the colony very well. As I keep small frog species, it is ideal food, which they all take - seemingly in preference to most other foods. For babies they are often essential.

I did have a chat with some of the Dutch frog breeders, and they seem to maintain their cultures in large containers, feeding them on boiled potato while not using tree fern at all. While on the subject, I will soon be writing to Willem Neeleman who can supply me with contacts from whom tree fern medium can be obtained. I will let you know the result.

John Skillcorn

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