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Cleanup Crew Showdown—Ultimate Winner

The last couple of weeks, we have looked at various species that can serve as tank janitors, or the cleanup crew, for bioactive terrariums. These microfauna devour waste and decaying matter in the terrarium or vivarium, and improve the health of the soil.

This week, we narrow the detritivores down to one ultimate winner.

First, here’s a review of the previous showdowns:

Week 1 — Isopods vs. Millipedes

Isopods are easily found in exotic pet stores and gardening stores, and they come in many different colors and sizes. Millipedes aren’t sold as widely, but they are also available in a few different species.

The week 1 winner: Isopods for their availability and variety.

See the full article on isopods versus millipedes here.

Week 2 — Springtails vs. Earthworms

Springtails are small, unobtrusive, and breed quickly. They safely double as a food source for many reptiles and amphibians. Worms are excellent stealth custodians since they tend only to surface at night, but they make large burrows in the soil, which some find detracts from the aesthetic within glass terrarium walls.

Week 2 winner: Springtails for their versatility and easy breeding.

See the full article on springtails versus earthworms here.

Ultimate cleanup crew winner

The overall winner among custodial microfauna is:


Filling your bioactive terrarium with isopods allows you to pick and choose which species you prefer. Each species is a different color and size from the others. In fact, here’s a helpful video you can watch to find out more about isopod varieties:

You can easily create a mixed-custodian tank with several different isopod species. Although springtails and isopods are pretty similar when it comes to care and waste consumption, springtails just aren’t as interesting.

If aesthetics aren’t as important to you, then springtails are also a solid choice. Millipedes and earthworms are less common custodian choices, but you can certainly mix a few in with your isopods or springtails.

Getting started with isopods

If you’re looking to start your own bioactive terrarium, we have an article with step-by-step details on breeding isopods. That way, once you have a starter colony, you don’t have to purchase more.

Plus, they’re fairly easy to take care of, with minimal food requirements. You can feed bits of food, or a specialized isopod food mix. And they don’t require a water dish—just a tank misting to keep the area humid.

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