What Do Springtails Eat? + Best Foods (& Those Best Avoided)

Springtails are fast becoming a terrarium mainstay for their bioactive abilities. 

All of which comes down to their distinctive diets. 

In short, these little critters love to feast on many of the things we don’t want in our terrariums. But there are some common misconceptions about what they’re able to process.

In this guide, we’ll cover exactly what springtails can (and cannot) eat and what you might want to feed them if you want to grow a healthy culture. 

Let’s spring in to action!

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What Do Springtails Eat in Nature?

As with every member of the bioactive cleanup crew, springtails are denoted as “detrivores.”

Species that feed on decomposing organic matter, whether that be fallen leaves, animal waste, or just about anything else found on the forest floor.

But if we look a little closer, they’re not so much eating the organic material itself – they’re eating what’s growing on it!

Springtails like to eat the mold, mildew, and bacteria that grow on decomposing materials.

That’s what makes springtails such an effective bioactive cleaner in a terrarium, as their primary food is precisely what we want to keep at bay.

Springtail culture up close
Springtails may be small but they are effective.

This little crew will happily go to work cleaning up all of your surfaces.

As long as you have a steady supply of decomposing organic materials, your springtails will be happy. You can facilitate this by adding bioactive materials like leaf litter and softwoods like cork bark.

Though in a terrarium, springtails may need a little food booster in the early stages of a fresh terrarium. As (hopefully) nothing should be breaking down just yet.

Also, if you’re culturing springtails separately then you’ll have to supply all of their nutrition.

So next, we’ll cover how to optimize their food for best results.

What to Feed Springtails

When we’re looking at what to feed springtails, it’s less about the food itself and more about how it interacts with a warm and wet environment,

Remember, springtails don’t really eat the food itself; they eat what grows on it. So, generally speaking, we’re looking for nutritious foods that will rapidly form a biofilm

It’s kind of saying food that will mold over quickly, but just throwing in a bunch of moldy food is a recipe for disaster.

There are better ways to do this – here’s what to look for in potential springtail foods.

  • Dry foods often tend to be better than wet foods. Springtails like moist foods, but adding a big wet chunk of fruit can be unpredictable in terms of how much – and what type of – mold it’ll produce. It’s easier to use dry foods and add moisture appropriately (a quick spray of water should do it) to control the growth. Not to mention the fact that fruit tends to attract pests – no thanks.
  • Powders efficiently form biofilms thanks to their high surface area. Plus they’re a convenient solution in terms of storage and dosing, just a few sprinkles at a time is usually enough. Small particulate foods like rice can work too, but grains are best avoided as they also seem to attract pests (as do grain-based foods like dog/cat food).
  • Springtails do best when given a source of protein as well as carbohydrates. Extra points if that contains minerals and other micronutrients too!
Springtails up close with a pile of springtail food
I like to provide all of my springtails with powdered food, it’s so much easier. This was a proprietary blend from Etsy.

So, what are the most common foods to feed springtails? Plus their pros and cons.

  • 1. Brewer’s yeast is an all-in-one choice that’s affordable and easy to source. Full of protein, vitamins, and minerals, it’s perfect for springtails (and it’s used as a supplement for people too). Baker’s yeast is a comparable option.
  • 2. Fish flakes are formulated as a complete nutrition source for fish, and so they contain a balanced blend of carbohydrates and protein. They’re often used for springtails, though I hear anecdotal evidence that they can attract pests too.
  • 3. Dedicated springtail foods are sold by various vendors, each with its proprietary blend. 
springtail food in hand
Honestly, I’m not sure what was in this one but the springtails loved it!

Springtail Food Recipe

I’ve seen a variety of springtail food recipes shared online. 

To me, there are two main reasons to approach a recipe vs. a single food.

  1. You want to optimize the food to the highest degree. 
  2. You want to maximize the amount of food using readily available ingredients. 

Either way, making your own springtail food at home isn’t particularly difficult.

A highly optimized (and very simple recipe) would be to supplement brewer’s yeast with some further nutrient-dense powders, e.g., powdered greens or spirulina.

Alternatively, you can make your own homemade springtail food recipe by blitzing a variety of ingredients down to a fine powder. There’s certainly something to be said for providing a varied diet, and this can easily be done in bulk.

Many of the things you might already find in your cupboards would work; just make sure it’s dry!

  1. A carb source, e.g., dried vegetables, rice, oats, flour.
  2. A protein source, e.g., dried beans, shrimp powder.

The more nutrient-dense (both in terms of macronutrients and micronutrients), the better. For reference, the experts over at Rubber Ducky Isopods sell a Food Bundle Pack containing all the recommended supplements.

Where to Find Springtail Food for Sale

Of course, you can find brewer’s yeast and the like at your local supermarkets, but for optimized springtail blends, you’ll have to go to the experts. 

Feeding Isopods and Springtails Together

Feeding springtails is undoubtedly easier when you have isopods in the mix too.

Isopods take care of the actual food, and the springtails take care of the mold that grows on it. It’s nice to have the balance, and they tend to buffer each other, so nothing gets out of hand, e.g., leftover food rotting or severe mold blooms.

Plus, they both have the same nutritional needs – isopod food and springtail food are often sold as the same product. 

Finally, it also opens up your food options somewhat. In that, you can’t feed springtails a chunk of meat, but you can if you have isopods around. They’ll happily tackle a wide range of food items.

๐Ÿ‘‰ Check out my Isopod Food Guide for more help.

Over to You

Feeding springtails isn’t rocket science, but there are definitely things to avoid (especially when it comes to terrariums)

What do your springtails eat? Have any unique springtail food recipes to share?

Let me know!

Next up, why not check out our complete guide to culturing springtails?

2 thoughts on “What Do Springtails Eat? + Best Foods (& Those Best Avoided)”

  1. Hi Dan,

    Your website has literally opened up a whole new world to me. I have recently started with my first terrarium and made it bioacative with springtails and dwarf tropical woodlice – early days! From reading your article above about feeding springtails and isopods together, can I actually keep them together in the one container with either a proprietary food source and some substrate once I have cultured them separately, until I need them for a terrarium? One other question please – how long do these individuals actually live ? !!

    Keep up the fascinating work

    Mike
    Norwich
    UK

    1. Hey Mike, happy to help! Yes, they absolutely can be cultured together. Isopods live for a few years and springtails just a few weeks apparently (but the latter multiply so rapidly it’s never a problem).

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