Springtails are a common pest in fish tanks. These tiny, off-white insects usually like to live on the bottom of the tank where it is moist or in dark places. They can be found living in soil or leaf litter, but they also often surface in aquariums when the conditions are right.
Springtails infest aquariums due to their attraction to light, warmth, humidity, and algae. Remove the algae in your fish tank and keep the water clean to get rid of the springtails. You can also introduce predators such as Killifish and shrimp to control the springtail population in the aquarium.
These small pests can grow and start reproducing fast if you don’t take precautions when setting up your aquarium. They will attack your plants, eat your fish food, and make it difficult to keep the water clean. Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to get rid of springtails in aquariums before they become a problem.
Why Are There Springtails in My Fish Tank?
Springtails Collembola is a type of insect that lives in moist soil and organic plant matter. These small invertebrates are closely related to insects. They are typically 0.1 mm to 17 mm in length and have many features similar to insects, including antennae on their heads, three body sections (head, thorax & abdomen), six legs for walking or springing, and a hard outer exoskeleton. If you notice there are springtails in your fish tank, then something is attracting them:
Here’s what causes springtails to infest your fish tank:
Poor water quality
Unfortunately, springtails in your fish tank could be a sign of poor water quality. Since the aquatic bugs are attracted to humid areas, an indoor fish tank is a perfect place for them to take shelter. When they come indoors, and it’s humid, they’ll go right towards the source of humidity, which is why they often inhabit open-topped aquariums that are placed in dark corners.
Presence of mold and algae
Springtails may survive in your aquarium with just mold and algae. These tiny pests eat the algae and mold that’s found in your fish tank and excrete waste that can cause more problems.
Their activity in the aquarium leaves behind a sticky substance and other organic debris from their bodies, both of which encourage even more growth.
Springtails are attracted to aquarium light
The general health of fish is aided by adequate light in an aquarium. However, when light and water are combined, they create a potent attraction for springtails.
If springtails are in your aquarium, it is best to turn off the tank’s light, especially at night. It will not only discourage the bugs from staying but also kill any that may be in there. However, do not eliminate light in aquariums. Without proper lighting in an aquarium, some fish species may lose their glow, while others may become sick after some time.
The tank’s position
The springtails may also be attracted to your fish tank because of the location. For example, tehy can seek shelter in a dark corner or underneath furniture.
Collembolas live in water, and they like it when it is damp. And when the female collembola is ready to lay eggs, she wants it to be humid to hatch and grow. When an aquarium gets hot, more water vapor is in the air, making it more humid, leading to higher evaporation rates. That means higher moisture levels because of all the water vapor coming from plants and fish tanks or whatever else might be in there.
Do Fish Eat Springtails?
Some species of pet fish can eat springtails especially those that like to feed at the surface of the water in their aquariums. However, not all types will eat the tiny pests and get rid of them in the fish tank. The Banded Killifish fish likes eating springtails and other insects in an aquarium, especially if they’re dead and floating on the surface of the water.
Many other fish and crustaceans eat springtails. That’s if they find themselves stuck inside an aquarium (such as crabs).
How to Get Rid of Springtails in Aquariums
Despite their size and harmless appearance, springtails will eat any organic matter from plants to fish food to algae. If the bugs are crawling all over your aquarium, getting rid o of them can be necessary to prevent damage.
Here’s how to get rid of springtails in your aquarium:
1. Reduce their food source
Springtails are especially common in aquariums with live plants because they eat algae. Therefore, if there’s an abundance of these semi-aquatic bugs in your aquarium, it may mean that the springtail population has outgrown its food source.
In this case, the best way to control springtails in your aquarium is to reduce their food source. You can do that by putting less light and water near plants. That’s because springtails like moist areas. Sometimes removing the bugs themselves is the best way to control their population in aquariums.
2. Set springtail traps in the aquarium
If you find yourself dealing with springtails inside an aquarium, you may want to consider springtail traps (such as Spring-It). Some people have had luck using these springtail traps to get rid of the pest.
So if your aquarium is outside and springtails are a nuisance in the springtime, you may want to give those a try as well. Some traps work well for aquariums but they may not be as effective in larger tanks due to the bugs’ swift mobility.
3. Add Banded Killifish to the tank
Adding some natural predators for springtails into your fish tank can also be a great way to get rid of the pests. Introduce Banded Killifish or shrimp in the tank and let them control the springtail population naturally. They will actively seek the bugs out if they’re hungry enough.
Keep in mind that springtails are usually too quick for fish to catch in most cases, so it may take some time for the natural predators to control the entire population of the tiny pest.
Some springtails cannibalize each other in aquariums if they get hungry enough. Usually, this doesn’t happen unless their population has exploded. They will attack and kill each other until their population is back down to a manageable level.
4. Reduce humidity
Another springtails’ killer is reducing aquarium humidity. You can do this by lowering the water level, reducing light near their food source (algae), and ensuring there’s no standing water in your aquarium.
You can also clean your filters regularly, which helps reduce the pest’s habitat in an aquarium over time.
5. Clean your aquarium’s water surface
Springtails are also common in aquariums because they usually lay eggs on the water’s surface. To get rid of springtails, try cleaning all surfaces in your aquarium. You can do this by using a clean meshed sieve to scoop them off the water surface.
Alternatively, you can get rid of springtails by vacuuming your fish tank. Though it may seem simple, there are a few things you need to know about vacuum-cleaning properly. The type of cleaner that works well with this task is also vital.
For example, an upright or canister model would be a good choice as they have powerful suction. You can also vacuum the aquarium’s water surface to remove dirt and food particles. Doing so will help clear your infestation faster than other methods, such as chemical pesticides.
When all the pests are gone, keep your aquarium clean. Do at least one weekly cleaning session to prevent springtails from returning. Copepods in an aquarium may also resemble springtails. Therefore, it is important to identify different bugs in a tank since some are good for the fish.
- Ed Perry, UCCE, Stanislaus County, University of California, Springtails Management Guidelines
- Lee Townsend, Extension Entomologist; University of Kentucky College of Agriculture: Springtails Entomology