Culturing Springtails and Isopods

Culturing springtails

What you need:

  • starter culture
  • 6 qt plastic storage tub with lid
  • horticultural charcoal
  • distilled or RO water

Rinse the charcoal with room temperature water to wash off the dust. Fill your storage tub about 3/4 of the way with the charcoal. Fill at least half of the charcoal layer with distilled water.


Add your starter culture and sprinkle a light dusting of food over the top. (There are many different springtail foods commercially available, but you can use something as simple as plain brewers yeast). After a couple of weeks your culture should be producing new springtails.


Room temperature or slightly warmer is the best temperature to keep them at, and ambient light is all they need. Make sure to keep the water level at at least 1/2, low humidity will cause the culture to crash. To harvest the springtails you can scoop them off of the surface of the water with a spoon, pull out pieces of charcoal that have springtails on them, or just pour the water with the springtails out in to your Vivarium (refilling the water in the culture as needed).

Culturing Isopods

What you need:

  • 6 qt plastic storage tub with lid (if the lid is airtight you will need to add a few air holes, some species need good airflow and will need more ventillation)
  • well draining soil (I like to use Terra Fauna or Terra Flora)
  • leaf litter and other biodegradeables such as sphagnum moss, cork bark, palm bark, oak bark, etc
  • starter culture

Fill your plastic storage tub with soil. The soil should be damp,  but not wet. If you pick up a handful and squeeze it, no water should come out. Some species require drier environments and the soil can be left mostly dry. Top soil with biodegradeables- I like to use a mix of several things, but always use leaf litter and some kind of bark/wood. I also add sphagnum moss- more for high humidity species, less for low humidity species. Add a piece of cuttlebone for calcium. Finally, add your isopods and some food. I like to add springtails to all my isopod cultures to prevent any foods from molding and create a more diverse bioactive environment. Some people find that springtails help keep mites, like wood mites, at bay.

Isopods are detritovores and will consume a wide variety of foods. There are commercially available foods available like Repashy Morning Wood you can offer, you can also use slices of mushrooms, cucumbers, fish flakes, snake shed, cricket carcasses, bee pollen, etc. The list is endless! Avoid grain based foods like dog and cat food as this can attract mites.

It will take about 2-4 weeks for the isopod cultures to start producing new isopods. Some species will take longer, others less time. Its best not to harvest until the culture is producing steadily. Harvesting the isopods is fairly easy, when not buried in the soil, the isopods will hide on bark and wood. You can pick the pieces off and shake out the isopods. You can also place a few pieces of corrugated cardboard or egg crate in for a day and shake out the isopods that gather there.