Calcium Clay Springtail Cultures FAQ and Care
QUICK START / TLDR
- To feed out: give the cultures a couple of sharp taps on the lid to knock the springtails to the bottom and away from the lid and edge of the container. Then simply turn up the cup and tap the springs into your viv or a collection container.
- Feed your cultures yeast about once per week or after each use of the culture. Do not overfeed!
- Keep the cultures damp but not wet – no standing water.
What is the clay?
I started using calcium clay as a substrate for my frog vivs. It’s rich in calcium and other trace minerals that are beneficial to the frogs as well as the microfauna living in their vivs. After a while, I realized that springtails were thriving in the clay substrate and decided to start using it specifically for cultures. It’s a combination of several types of clays with added calcium as well as some organic matter. The clay is also available for purchase on it’s own for those interested in making their own cultures.
What is the advantage of clay springtail cultures over charcoal, peat, etc?
Ease of use. It is extremely easy to cleanly harvest springtails from clay cultures when compared to other culturing media. Just turn up the cup and tap out some springtails. Also clay cultures seem to be much less likely to be affected by mites than charcoal cultures. Another bonus with these cultures is the ability to place them in a vivarium or grow-out for the frogs to directly benefit from the calcium clay by using them as clay baths or clay patches.
What kind of springtails are these?
Temperate springtails, commonly sold as “temperate white” springtails. They appear to be a Folsomia species – possibly Folsomia candida or something very similar. This species seems to be very hardy and prolific in a wide range of conditions including, of course, those found in the vivarium.
What do I feed the clay springtail cultures?
Baker’s Yeast. There are many opinions on the best springtail food but I have found baker’s yeast (active dry yeast) to be at least as good as anything else. It’s easy to find at any grocery store and is very inexpensive.
How do I feed the cultures and how often?
A small pinch of yeast about once per week. Though the cultures will survive for many weeks or months at a smaller population without being fed at all, you will need to feed regularly to maintain a high production of springtails. About once every week or two seems to be about right – or just feed each time the culture is used. Feed lightly and err on the side of feeding too little rather than too much until you have a feel for how much yeast the cultures need. Ideally, you do not want to feed more than the culture can consume in a few days. If too much yeast is allowed to remain in the cultures for too long, there can be issues with mold developing. In the worst case, feeding too much yeast can kill the cultures by creating a high concentration of CO2.
How wet should the clay springtail cultures be kept?
Your cultures should arrive at a good moisture level. At each feeding, I usually give the cultures a very, very brief and light spritz with a spray bottle. The clay should stay damp enough that it does not try to form cracks or separate from the plastic container. Another test is that it should be damp enough so that a little clay will easily stick to your finger if you touch it. However, the clay should never be gotten so wet that it easily loses its form or so that standing water forms in the culture.
What if there is mold in the springtail culture?
Very rarely, mold can form in some of the cultures. This is usually due to over feeding. Generally, just ceasing feeding until the mold clears up is the best solution to the problem. Occasionally, if the mold seems aggressive and the springtails can’t keep it under control, it can be manually scraped from the surface of the clay in order to salvage the culture. Again, it’s unusual to have mold problems as long as there isn’t an overabundance of food in the culture.
How long will the clay cultures last?
This depends on a lot of factors and is difficult to answer simply. The cultures do tend, eventually, to slowly decline in population though they never really completely stop producing. There usually comes a point where keeping an old culture around may make less sense than purchasing or making a new, more productive culture. That point is usually going to come sometime around or after the culture is 6 months old. Having said that, I’m still personally using many cultures that were made 8 to 9 months ago with no clear sign yet of slowing down to the point that I would consider discarding them.
Once your cultures begin to wind down, you may still consider placing them into your frog enclosures as a source of calcium clay for your animals.