Saturday, June 28, 2008

Culturing Fruit Flies

Fruit flies are one of the easiest feeder insects to care for. Each 32 oz fruit fly culture includes all the food and water the flies will need for months. The culture will continue to produce flies for at least 2 months. Freshly Started Hydei Cultures will start to produce flies you can feed to your animals in 17-21 days. Freshly Started Melanogaster Cultures will start producing flies in 10-14 days. Each culture has the potential to produce 1000s of flies, but there are a few things that can slow down or stop production all together.


Fruit fly cultures are prone to dry out in environments that are under 65% humidity. To maintain humidity, place the culture inside of a clear Rubbermaid container or storage shelving unit to keep the culture from drying out. You can also spray down the culture with de-chlorinated water if it dries out.


Fruit fly cultures should be kept between 70 and 80 degrees. If the cultures hit 85 degrees even for a little while, the culture will go sterile and will not produce any more flies. Cultures that are kept under 70 degrees produce much slower.


Our 32 oz fruit fly cultures are made with a media that has a mold inhibitor already in it. However, if the culture begins to dry out, mold will appear on the top of the media. If mold develops on the top of the media, spray the mold down with some de-chlorinated water and put the culture in a clear Rubbermaid container or storage shelving unit to maintain humidity.

Mold will occasionally develop on the coffee filters or excelsior used in the culture. To prevent this from happening, make sure cultures are away from heater/air conditioner vents. If mold develops on the coffee filters or excelsior used in the culture, remove the portion with the mold on it before starting new cultures from that culture to avoid spreading the mold. Feeding from a moldy culture will not hurt your animals.


Mites are tiny bugs that love to attack fruit fly cultures. Mites are everywhere, so care must be taken to prevent mites from taking over your cultures. All cultures should be placed on paper towels that are sprayed with a Mite Spray. In addition, the area where the fruit flies are stored should be cleaned regularly.

If mites attack your cultures, it is best to toss all of your cultures and buy new fresh cultures.

Making Fruit Fly Cultures


1. Fruit Fly container and lid

2. Fruit Fly medium

3. Water free from Chlorine - Chlorine will slow the rate of fruit fly production. You can use distilled, RO, spring, etc.

4. Active Baker's Yeast

5. Coffee Filters or Excelsior - Needed to create more surface area for more flies.


Task Tips Pictures
Heat up 1/2 cup to 1 cup of water per culture you plan on making. You do not need to boil the water. Just make it pretty hot.
Add 1/2 cup of media to each cup My media has a mold inhibitor in it already so the vinegar is not needed.
Add 2/3 cup of hot water to each cup and stir When your cultures start producing, if the media is runny, then use less water next time. If they dry out, use more water next time.
Wait for the media to cool In a rush I put mine in the fridge for 5 minutes if I don't want to wait
Sprinkle a pinch of Active Yeast on the culture (optional) Do not put too much Active Yeast on your culture or your media will become soupy. We do not recommend using Active Yeast with our Hydei Fruit Fly Media
Spray the culture to activate the Yeast
Put in some coffee filters or Excelsior for the larvae and flies to climb The number of coffee filters is dependent on your taste and humidity. Coffee filters absorb some of the moisture, so too many can cause your media to dry out and too few and your media will be soupy. With Excelsior, you will want to make sure that all the strands are out of the way of the lid being put on.
Add 50-100 fruit flies For Melanogaster cultures, it is best to use flies from cultures that are just starting to produce. For Hydei Cultures it is best to allow a culture to produce for a few days to a week before starting a new culture with flies from that culture.
Immediately put the lid on your culture

Culturing Springtails


1. Container-I use large 5-6 quart clear Tupperware/Rubbermaid/Sterilite.

2. Charcoal

3. Starter Springtail Culture

3. Water free from Chlorine - Chlorine will slow the rate of production. You can use distilled, RO, spring, etc.

4. Springtail food


Task Tips Pictures

Order a starter culture of springtails by clicking the "Online Store" link above If you want the springtails to colonize in your tanks, just dump the culture in your tank or drain off some water from the culture into the terrarium.
Fill the Tupperware 3/4 full of charcoal and dump in the starter culture (you can also buy the charcoal by clicking on the "Online Store" link above)
Add food
Spray down the culture until there is 1/2 to 1 inches of water in the bottom of the container. Humidity is the key. The springtails don't need to swim, but keeping water in their container keeps the humidity up.
Put the lid on. No ventilation is needed.
Every couple of days add food and spray down cultures as water evaporates. Make sure the water level is not too high. The springtails will not utilize any of the charcoal that is under water.


Problem Possible Solution(s)
Springtail culture stinks
  • Cut down on food
Springtails are dead
  • Make sure water is 1/2 to 1 inch deep. They will die if humidity is low.
  • Make sure you are not overfeeding
  • Check temperatures. Temperate springtails like a little cooler than room temp and tropical springtails need it at room temp or higher.

Creating a Terrarium Fogger


1. Ultrasonic Humidifier. These are the cool mist humidifiers. Other humidifiers heat up water to create mist which will increase the heat in the vivarium or could burn your frogs. Click here for the cheapest Ultrasonic Humidifiers

2. PVC reducer. Needs to be large enough to fill the hole in the humidifier. It should reduce to 1/2 inch. I use a 2 in to 1/2 inch reducer.

3. Plastic tubing. With a 1/2 inch connectors you would use 5/8 tubing.

4. PVC fitting. This will be the access point on the vivarium. With 5/8 tubing you use a 1/2 inch fitting.

5. Timer. Used to set up a misting cycle.


Task Tips Pictures
Gather supplies Ebay is a great place to find cheap ultrasonic humidifiers. PVC supplies are cheaper at your hometown hardware store than at home depot or lowes.
Take cap off of Humidifier

Insert PVC Reducer into Ultrasonic Humidifeir If it doesn't fit exactly, you can use 100% silicone to make a sure fit.
Attach tubing to the reducer
Run tubing from Humidifier to the tank You do not want any point of the tubing to lower than the point at which the tubing meets the tank (sagging). Condensation will form in the tube. If there is sagging in the line, the condensation will gather at the lowest spot and block fog from going through the tubing.
Attach fitting to vivarium Can either be siliconed to the screen or drilled into glass lid or side.
Attach tubing to the fitting
Set timer 2-3 times a day max. You want to allow things to dry out in between foggings. You only need the fogger on for a couple of minutes. A few minutes is more than enough to fill the whole tank with fog.


Problem Possible Solution(s)
Fog isn't making it to my tank
  • Make sure there are no leaks at any of the connections. You can use 100% silicone to seal any leaks.
  • Make sure there are no sags in the tubing. Condensation will gather at the sag and clog the fog.
  • Make sure there are no cracks in the water reservoir on the humidifier. 100% silicon can fix the cracks.

Building a Vertical Tank


1. Two pieces of glass or acrylic

2. 100% silicon for glass or Weld-on #16 for acrylic

3. Hinge

4. Latch

5. Pull


Task Tips Pictures

Measure the inside rim of the tank. You want the measurement as close as possible to avoid gaps. Measure to the nearest 1/4 inch
Buy 2 sheets of 1/4 inch thick glass from your local glass shop. One sheet will be for the bottom of the door (I use 6" for the bottom piece) Shop around for glass. The price of glass can vary greatly from shop to shop.
Place the tank in its desired final position and silicon where the black rim meets the tank at the bottom of the tank.

Place the tank into it normal horizontal position, silicon the smaller piece of glass into the rim of the tank Use plenty of silicon to make sure there are no leaks.
Then place the other sheet of glass into the frame.

Silicon the hinge, latch, and pull in their desire locations. A 10 gallon is only 10" wide, so use a 6" hinge for a 10 gallon tank. I have had as big as a 20" X 21" door on a 12" hinge.
Let the silicon dry for at least 48 hours.


Problem Possible Solution(s)
Hinge/pull/latch is coming loose Silicon is not a glue, but a sealer. It is meant to be used in open air as opposed to a glue. Allow 48+ hours to dry to get the best results.
Tank will not stay shut Place a twist tie (from a loaf of bread) into the hole in the latch
Bottom piece of glass is leaking Add more silicon to the seal.

Terrarium Construction

There are a few considerations that need to be thought through before construction begins. The first consideration is how big you want the enclosure to be. The rule of thumb is 1 frog per 5 gallons. While all froglets can be kept in groups, some species will fight if there is another frog of the same sex in the enclosure. Larger terrariums support more microfauna, provide more space and exercise for the frogs, and are much easier to work with.


The first item you need to get is the tank. Garage sales and EBAY are great places to look for larger tanks. Once you have the tank, you need to build a lid for the tank. If you are going to be making the tank a vertical (tipping the tank on it's side and making the tank opening the front of the tank) check out my How to make a vertical tank page.


The right driftwood makes the tank. Before I even picture the tank I'm going to build, I get the wood. The best wood for Poison Dart Frog Terrariums is Cypress, Burrows, or Grape Wood.

Cypress Driftwood - Smooth and holds up extremely well in very humid environments. This type of wood will even hold up as part of a water fall. It is also very light so it is easier to incorporate into the background.

Burrows (similar to Malaysian Driftwood) - This type of wood has tons of character with numerous grooves and a non-uniform color. This wood is the heaviest of the three, but can still be incorporated into the background of the terrarium.

Grape Wood - This type of wood has a lot of grooves like Kampas. This type of wood will be home to mold and fungus in your tank (don't be surprised if you get mushrooms on this type of wood). The molds/fungus are harmless to frogs.

Terrarium Backgrounds

There are tons of options for Terrarium Backgrounds. Although you don't NEED a background, it adds usable space to the terrarium, allows for more cover, and looks better than a tank without a background. The options for a terrarium background are:

Tree Fern Plaques - These plaques are 10" X 10" X 1". They are light weight and the woven tree fern twigs provide a great environment for epiphytes to grow their roots.

Handi-Foam - Handi-foam is like Great Stuff except that it is 100 times better. It is black so it blends in better, it cures in less time, and we know it is safe for frogs. Spray the foam on the background, use a rubber glove to mold it like you want it, press in driftwood, and then cover it in coir and lightly press it in. Let it sit for 24 hours and you are all set!

Coco Fiber Square - These coco fiber squares are 12" X 12" X 1", covered in latex, and come in brown or red. They are cheap, light, and long lasting (due to the latex coating). The fibers create a great place for plant roots to grow.

Drainage Layer

You will need drainage to keep your plants from drowning. Drainage is a necessary requirement for all Poison Dart Frog Terrariums. There are many options to accomplish this. All of these methods could be considered a "false bottom".

Egg crate and PVC fittings - This is the oldest method around. Cut a piece of egg crate (the light diffusing stuff sold at hardware stores) to fit in the bottom of the tank. I have found that pruning sheers work for this. Then lift the egg crate off the bottom of the tank using PVC fittings.

Hydroton False Bottom - Poor enough balls in your tank to give you a 1"-3" drainage layer. To figure out how much hydroton you need, use this formula:

Inches deep / height of the tank (in inches) = hydroton ratio

hydroton ratio X number of gallons = Gallons of hydroton needed

Gallons of hydroton needed X 4 = Liters of hydroton needed

To hide the sight of the false bottom, you can use black silicon and paint the bottom few inches of the tank.


There are tons of options for a substrate. They are:

ABG Mix - The ABG mix was developed at the Atlanta Botanical Garden and is the Lexus of terrarium substrates. It is long lasting, holds moisture, and drains well. An all-around great choice.

Coir and Orchid bark - This is the simple and cheap method. Mix equal parts.

Sphagnum moss - This type of substrate holds a lot of moisture and inhibits the growth of molds. On occasion, the dried the moss will come back to life. Most of the time, however, it just gets covered in algae and appears to be alive.

Peat Brick - These blocks are a great choice. They are unlike the peat you can buy locally as they are a solid brick that can be cut to fit in your terrarium.

Terrarium Plants

Some froggers almost love the plants more than the frogs. You can go simple or you can hand-pick expensive plants. The plants become your filtration for the frog waste that will develop in the ecosystem. Live plants are a must for Dart Frog Terrariums. Josh's Frogs offers tons of plants that do well in Dart Frog Terrariums. All our plants are selected to grow in terrariums.

Terrarium Lighting

Picking the right lighting for your terrarium can mean the difference between lousy looking plants and vibrant, colorful, and healthy plants in your terrarium. Your lighting options are many. Here is a quick rundown.

T-12 - These are your standard fluorescent lighting fixtures. These lights will provide enough light for most easy plants, but will not allow your bromeliads to color up and your other plants to bloom. It works, but isn't a good choice for a display tank.

T-8 - These fluorescent bulbs have a 80 lumens per watt. They are more efficient and produce more light than T-12s. A good investment if you are doing a rack of tanks as it not only produces more light to help your plants, but it costs less to run.

T-5 - These are the best terrarium lights available. They are bright, create less heat than the CFs, and put out 90 lumens per watt. Their small size produces tons of light with little energy use. These lights are efficient enough to be used in racks and bright enough to be the top choice for display terrariums.

Once you choose the Lights you would like, your next choice is picking the right frogs!