Springtails really are a terrarium/vivarium builder’s best friend.
These tiny critters are mold-munching machines, and the most effective way to control outbreaks in a hot and humid ecosystem.
Sounds great right? Until you get to the store and you’re faced with the choice of choice of temperate vs tropical springtails.
You might think tropical ones are the obvious choice for a tropical terrarium… but life is never that simple.
In this guide we’ll be comparing the two popular options and helping to push you in the right direction for your particular build.
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Types of Springtails – An Overview
First things first, the springtail family on a whole is enormous.
We’re talking thousands of species here. But, thankfully when it comes to popular usage in the terrarium and vivarium industries, that number gets dropped right down to about a dozen.
They come in a variety of colors, from simple white or black, all the way to bright pink and shiny silver.
As a way to further classify (and presumably simplify) these springtail species, they’re given a designation of “tropical” or “temperate.”
The weird thing is, it’s seemingly all a bit of a mess…
You’d think it refers specifically to their natural affinity for named environment, right?
Well, it’s not that. Or at least the anecdotal evidence of experienced keepers doesn’t align with that notion.
There’s a lot of confusion out there – so what is the difference?
Key Differences: Temperate vs Tropical Springtails
As far as I could find, there’s not a lot of reliable sources that are able to decisively lay out the differences between the two.
Most of the Google search results are forum links to the popular Dendroboard.com. Of which I’ve trawled (what feels like) hundreds of threads asking the question, hoping to get some first-hand advice.
Here’s what I found:
- Tropical springtails are more plump and rounded, whereas temperate springtails have a (comparatively) long and thin body like a mini caterpillar.
- As expected by the names, tropical springtails prefer warmer environments, with temperate doing better on the cooler front. But temperate will still do absolutely fine in tropical conditions (so why are they called temperate?!).
- Sellers often report that the tropical varieties reproduce at a slower rate than the temperate, but the experience of people on the forums seem to suggest the opposite. Love that.
Springtails for Terrariums – What’s on Offer Here?
Okay, so lets keep things simple.
The overwhelming majority of sellers offer just the two main types anyway.
- Tropical White Springtails are usually labelled as a general Collembola sp.
- Temperate White Springtails are usually the Folsomia candida species.
These are the classic, tried-and-tested species of springtails that are certainly a good starting point.
Which you choose seems largely dependent on who’s experience you believe most and which looks the most appealing to you.
Though there definitely seems to be more on offer for the so-called tropical varieties.
If you’d like pink or silver springtails, I believe they’re both typically of the tropical Collembola kind.
In the broad Collembola species, you can get a variety of colored “tropical” springtails from pink to silver. Alternatively, Sinella are somewhat common and offers more tropical choices.
On the temperate front, I really couldn’t find much beyond Folsomia candida.
I guess that’s the one and only.
Of course, with there being thousands of species of springtail, there’s probably lots more that will work and are on offer from specialist sellers.
Tropical or Temperate Springtails – Which Should You Choose?
To be honest, from all my research the answer is that it probably doesn’t matter.
Both will likely work!
In reality, there’s an enormous amount of overlap between temperate and tropical springtails.
Both are employed for the same things – as a cleanup crew and as feeders – and they’re honestly used interchangeably. It’s mostly down to personal preference and a bit of luck. I’m sure you’ll find success culturing springtails of either persuasion.
A surprising number of experienced keepers recommend that you use both the white tropical and white temperate together too (though the pink tends to out-compete everything apparently).
I’ve seen a variety of sellers offering mixed cultures.
It’s certainly the easiest way to come up with a solution to the question!
Over to You
Well, I couldn’t really get to the bottom of who decides on a tropical or temperate designation.
Personally, I’m beginning to suspect that the temperate and tropical designations only exist as a crude way of distinguishing between two different varieties of the same species.
Another way of saying, “the thin version” or “the plump kind.”
Have I got all of this wrong? Honestly, I hope I have because it’s frustratingly unclear.
What’s your verdict on temperate vs tropical springtails?
Let me know in the comments.