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A few weeks ago we talked about bioactive enclosures. A bioactive setup is where you have a tank that is its own self-contained ecosystem. You have soil, plants, and even some little critters to take care of any waste!

(Psst! You can read about setting up a bioactive enclosure here!)

We mentioned how springtails and isopods are great for cleanup. But we didn’t go into much detail about them. We also didn’t cover which is better in the isopods vs springtails battle.

Let’s fix that!

Isopods and Springtails – What They Are And What They Do

Before we talk about who’s the best choice between springtails vs isopods we need to know more about them. That way we can know just what to expect.

Isopods for Bioactives

A grey isopod sitting on a browning leaf.
Isopods keep waste down by eating decaying organic material.

Isopods are also known as woodlice, pillbugs, or roly-polies. They’re part of the crustacean class. 

They are flat and oval-shaped with a segmented thorax. Isopods have 7 pairs of legs, 2 sets of antennae, and they come in all different colors! Most isopods are 1/8″-1″.

Check out this list of some of the most common isopods used in vivariums. Only 10 variations are listed. But you can get an idea of just how different they can look. Some keepers try to collect as many variations as possible!

Isopods are known as recyclers in bioactive tanks. They like to eat organic matter such as decaying plants and reptile feces. Their droppings help to enrich and fertilize the soil that the plants live in.

Springtails for Bioactives

A close up image of a springtail on a green leaf.
Springtails keep mold outbreaks in check.

Springtails are also known as snow fleas. They are a species of modern hexapods. They get their name because they can jump several inches into the air when startled. 

They’re smaller than isopods, being only 1/16”-1/8”. They come in different shapes and colors depending on the species.

Isopods recycle and springtails keep your mold in check. They like to eat mold, fungi, and decaying matter in general. Springtails naturally live in humid environments, so they’re down to eat your mold.

How Do I Choose Between Isopods vs Springtails?

When it comes down to isopods vs springtails it might be an easier choice than you think.

If you have a more tropical setup then there’s no reason not to have both! Many enthusiasts enjoy having both springtails AND isopods in their cleanup crew. Both of these groups of critters are just so efficient at what they do:

In Tropical Environments

Isopods keep the waste down and soil nutrients up. And springtails keep mold outbreaks in check. Really, they’re the perfect duo. 

Oh, not to mention isopods need supplemental foods (like fruits) and springtails can help make sure that fruit left in the enclosure doesn’t become a future biohazard!

Check out Dan’s blog at Terrarium Tribe to learn even more about this duo. Dan goes into great detail about how isopods and springtails interact. 

But let’s say you really want to go isopods vs springtails. Consider springtails first. Mold is one of the biggest risks in humid bioactives.

In Arid Environments

Isopods vs springtails really come up when we start looking at our more arid bioactives. 

Springtails need a lot of moisture to do well. And arid climates? Well, they’re kind of the exact opposite of that. 

Isopods definitely win out here. Just be sure to research what types of isopods you get. Some species still need more humid settings, while others are fine on drier land. 

Interested in Learning More About Bioactive Enclosures?

Think bioactive enclosures sound neat and want to learn more? Then take a look at these two blogs: How To Set Up a Bioactive Enclosure for Your Reptile and Bioactive Reptile Enclosure Pros and Cons!