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Hey! I have a 10 gallon tank sitting around and after a lot of contemplation I really just want to use the tank to study bugs (fun fact: I am a nerd !!!!!) but I was wondering if there were any pet bugs you would recommend?

It will be a vivarium, as I want to keep scuds and possibly semi-aquatic insects (like stoneflies and mayflies), as well as I really wouldn't mind keeping another backswimmer (I had a pet backswimmer for few weeks named Charlie. I loved that critter) or the very similar water boatman. 

But I don't know much about keeping vivariums or terrariums. My dream pet (once they are legal) are Giant African Land Snails, so this is kinda terrarium practice for if that dream ever comes true - and I also just like bugs! From what I've seen with other builds on YouTube, springtails are a must to prevent bacteria growth, and woodlice / isopods help a lot too. I would include pot worms in my substrate as well. 

But what are some cool bugs I could keep in this little area?

Notes

  • 10 gallon tank (standard 20" x 10" x 12") with mesh top
  • will be a vivarium / riparium, with at least half of it being water
    • will have a fountain for water movement, will not have air stone or filter, can add heater if necessary but not planning on it
  • will be using rainwater to fill the tank - typically the parameters of my rainwater is pH 6.0 - 7.0 gH 0 kH 0 ... I will add minerals to it using crushed coral shells leaf litter etc
  • uhhh yeah if you have any other questions pls ask !!! but thats all I can think of atm :] 
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Isopods are super cool little critters and I have a bunch. They can just be treated as cleanup crews, but there are many interesting varieties available on the market these days and they can also be a super cool focus critter for a small vivarium. That being said I have experience keeping them in the standard bin-style setups,  I imagine they would do well in the type of setup you are suggesting but I'm not super sure.

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On 6/2/2024 at 4:46 PM, GoofyGarra said:

Isopods are super cool little critters and I have a bunch. They can just be treated as cleanup crews, but there are many interesting varieties available on the market these days and they can also be a super cool focus critter for a small vivarium. That being said I have experience keeping them in the standard bin-style setups,  I imagine they would do well in the type of setup you are suggesting but I'm not super sure.

Yes, I would LOVE to have isopods! I think they'd do fine, I watch a lot of aquarium and terrarium builds and they seem to thrive in classic-type terrariums ! Dumb question: is there a difference with finding isopods outside versus buying them at a pet store? A local store sells them but I'm kinda cheap and there are tons in my backyard haha

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On 6/2/2024 at 7:39 PM, clownbaby said:

possibly semi-aquatic insects (like stoneflies and mayflies)

Yeah, not sure you can do either, but it’d be very cool. Both require clean moving water. Some mayflies can do okay in softly moving water, but not a lot. And technically not semi aquatic. Larvae are fully aquatic. Same as dragonflies and damselflies. You could actually have dragonflies and damselflies larvae in your aquarium. But you’d have to leave the lid off for them to emerge. Predacious diving beetles could work. But they’d eat everything else. Same with giant water bugs. (I had one of those frozen in a jar in my freezer for. 30 years. My wife was mostly not amused 🤣 ). Water boatman would work. Water striders could work but you’d need a lid on top. I think the diving beetle would be really cool as a pet.

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On 6/2/2024 at 8:48 PM, clownbaby said:

is there a difference with finding isopods outside versus buying them at a pet store? A local store sells them but I'm kinda cheap and there are tons in my backyard haha

Mostly just the type and color of isopod you might get. All the isopods I currently own are Armadilidium vulgare collected from outside, they are gray with a black line and a few spots on them, not the most color. In the past however I've purchased some commercial species and they were an amazing Velvet Orange. Mostly just comes down to personal taste, both can be amazing pets.

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On 6/2/2024 at 6:08 PM, Tony s said:

Yeah, not sure you can do either, but it’d be very cool. Both require clean moving water. Some mayflies can do okay in softly moving water, but not a lot. And technically not semi aquatic. Larvae are fully aquatic. Same as dragonflies and damselflies. You could actually have dragonflies and damselflies larvae in your aquarium. But you’d have to leave the lid off for them to emerge. Predacious diving beetles could work. But they’d eat everything else. Same with giant water bugs. (I had one of those frozen in a jar in my freezer for. 30 years. My wife was mostly not amused 🤣 ). Water boatman would work. Water striders could work but you’d need a lid on top. I think the diving beetle would be really cool as a pet.

Hey, YOU'RE the entomologist! 😂 I would love any advice. The water will have movement btw, just not a "filter" (leftover 20g fountain pump I plan to use). I would love to raise aquatic insect larvae, let me know if I can please!!! Fun summer project 🙂 

One thing I would love to do --whether for actual scientific research or just for my own fun-- is to study the Columbia River Tiger Beetle. Some point in my life. I really don't want such an amazing beetle to face extinction, which unfortunately it does. I wouldn't keep it as a pet right now of course, I would want to study it in its 'natural habitat', which I do not even know where that is (Idaho, I think? Eastern Washington? Somewhere closer to the Snake River.) 

Any-way, let me know what aquatic bugs I could study and keep.  I [somehow] have a water treader in my main 30 gallon. Her name is Millie -- I do not know how a) she has not been eaten** and b) why she hasn't flew away*... I also don't know exactly how she got there, but I did take some water starwort from my friend's wetland area (with permission), maybe she hitch-hiked then? Still, I didn't notice her till three weeks ago and the starwort has been floating for over two months. I keep my back door open constantly, to let my dog have free access even though we have a dog door he just refuses to use it, and my 30 gallon is right by the back door. Maybe she flew in? But then I have a lid... this hobby is a fun and exciting, yet sometimes a huge mystery. 

Water boatman and backswimmers really are super cool to me, especially how they hunt. I would easily be able to provide live foods and etc, so that isn't my concern, just I want to provide the best care I can.

*maybe because I feed her fruit flies everyday? also, I thought Millie was a clever name. Water treader. Millie. Treader Millie. Tread-mill. har har hahahahah 🙂 😂😁

**my black neons are probably going to eat her once I put them in. I fed them grindal worms and oh. my. goodness. These critters are like 1 inch piranhas! 

Quote

 (I had one of those frozen in a jar in my freezer for. 30 years. My wife was mostly not amused 🤣 ).

Uh, can I hear the story of this?!

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On 6/3/2024 at 4:54 AM, Unemployed Fish Nerd said:

Isopods are always great for this type of project, and I also keep ants in vivariums/paludariums and have had great success so far! Ants aren't for everyone but if you love bugs like me, you might want to give it a shot!

Stores:

https://www.statesideants.com/ for US

https://special-ants.store/ for EU

https://www.antshq.co.uk/ for UK

Golly I would love to do this, but I do not think my mom would be cool with me having ants in the house haha. She barely wants me to have any insects, so I won't fight... I will take what I can get!

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I'm not here to rain on anyone's parade, but I also don't want your reality to fall short of expectations. I keep a few vivariums for a couple species of dart frogs, and they do have springtails and isopods. And I keep separate cultures of both so the vivs can be replenished on occasion. I can tell you that you basically don't ever see either. So if you're looking for something that's fun to watch and interact with, I don't recommend these. Sorry. 

A classic old-school science experiment is the ecosystem in a jar. Grab some substrate from a local water body, along with some water from same, maybe some rocks and/or wood, some plants if they exist there, and put it all in a jar. Give it some weeks to settle, and when the water clears see what you have. I think you'd get good value-viewing from something like that. 

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I second diving beetles. Sunburst diving beetles are super colorful and could be exactly what you want for the water section. I've never kept them but I believe they also come onto land occasionally.

Some species of springtails or isopods are more outgoing than others so just do your research! I keep various species of springtails and some of the ones that I think could be fun for a vivarium are (in order of easiest to hardest):

  • Pseudosinella violenta "Bylas Ant Springtails" - Personally, I think they are the perfect clean-up springtail. They're white so they stand out and they will inhabit all levels of the soil. They are a bit jumpier and faster moving then the "Tropical White" Folsomia candida that most people use for clean up crews but I like them better since they will happily run into areas that are drier looking for food.
  • Ceratophysella sp. Lilac "Albino" - The albino ones are actually highlighter yellow. They are a decent clean-up crew. They are a soil dwelling springtail so you won't see them constantly until the population grows but they will swarm food on the surface which is fun to watch. 
  • Yuukianura aphoruroides "Orange Springtails" - All the same things as the Albino Lilac but neon orange instead! They are more expensive though and IMO a bit harder to keep.

The springtail hobby is super fun and easy too so I would keep a culture on the side and periodically add some into the display. I keep 9 species of springtails so feel free to ask or I can point you to some good resources!

From my experience, I think some of the better isopods would be Porcellio laevis "dairy cow", Porcellio laevis "milkback", or Armadillidium maculatum "Zebra". Of the ones I keep, these three are the most day active and easy to keep. They are all fast breeders and after some time adjusting to the light or when population gets bigger, a few will spend their time above ground.

Definitely do your research on all of these species' care and habitat requirements though!

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On 6/2/2024 at 5:48 PM, clownbaby said:

Yes, I would LOVE to have isopods! I think they'd do fine, I watch a lot of aquarium and terrarium builds and they seem to thrive in classic-type terrariums ! Dumb question: is there a difference with finding isopods outside versus buying them at a pet store? A local store sells them but I'm kinda cheap and there are tons in my backyard haha

I forgot to mention in my above reply but collecting isopods outside should be completely fine! Just make sure to ID them and find out their moisture requirements. Honestly, if they look like a standard grey roly poly and you live in the US, most likely Armadillidium vulgare and they're super hardy (probably how they've become naturalized in so many places around the world)

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On 6/3/2024 at 12:50 PM, TOtrees said:

I'm not here to rain on anyone's parade, but I also don't want your reality to fall short of expectations. I keep a few vivariums for a couple species of dart frogs, and they do have springtails and isopods. And I keep separate cultures of both so the vivs can be replenished on occasion. I can tell you that you basically don't ever see either. So if you're looking for something that's fun to watch and interact with, I don't recommend these. Sorry. 

A classic old-school science experiment is the ecosystem in a jar. Grab some substrate from a local water body, along with some water from same, maybe some rocks and/or wood, some plants if they exist there, and put it all in a jar. Give it some weeks to settle, and when the water clears see what you have. I think you'd get good value-viewing from something like that. 

Yes I do know springtails, woodlice, etc are hidden and secretive. I moreso meant I would add them for bacterial control and decomposition, as I will have terrestrial plants and a terrestrial area, not necessarily 'entertainment'.That's why you gotta dig in the leaf mold to find em! Although there is PURE joy seeing springtails bounce around!

I have done many little ecosystems in a jar, I love them so much! But part of what I want is just to observe aquatic insects, larvae, microfauna, etc for my own personal learning and study. Think of this less of a 'pet' type of thing, maybe more of a long-term science project that I do for fun because I am an incredibly nerdy dork 😂 ... thank you for the tips and advice I really really appreciate it!

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Posted (edited)
On 6/3/2024 at 5:05 PM, clownbaby said:

Yes I do know springtails, woodlice, etc are hidden and secretive. I moreso meant I would add them for bacterial control and decomposition, as I will have terrestrial plants and a terrestrial area, not necessarily 'entertainment'.That's why you gotta dig in the leaf mold to find em! Although there is PURE joy seeing springtails bounce around!

I have done many little ecosystems in a jar, I love them so much! But part of what I want is just to observe aquatic insects, larvae, microfauna, etc for my own personal learning and study. Think of this less of a 'pet' type of thing, maybe more of a long-term science project that I do for fun because I am an incredibly nerdy dork 😂 ... thank you for the tips and advice I really really appreciate it!

I remember hearing someone once saying something to the effect of, since Neocaridina shrimp have a relatively short lifespan, don't think of the shrimp as pets, think of the tank/colony as a whole as the pet. It sounds like that's the mindset you have about this terrarium/vivarium.

Edit: I'm glad you understood what I was getting at, because re-reading what I wrote it sounds awfully presumptuous!

Edited by Rube_Goldfish
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On 6/3/2024 at 2:05 PM, clownbaby said:

Yes I do know springtails, woodlice, etc are hidden and secretive. I moreso meant I would add them for bacterial control and decomposition, as I will have terrestrial plants and a terrestrial area, not necessarily 'entertainment'.That's why you gotta dig in the leaf mold to find em! Although there is PURE joy seeing springtails bounce around!

I have done many little ecosystems in a jar, I love them so much! But part of what I want is just to observe aquatic insects, larvae, microfauna, etc for my own personal learning and study. Think of this less of a 'pet' type of thing, maybe more of a long-term science project that I do for fun because I am an incredibly nerdy dork 😂 ... thank you for the tips and advice I really really appreciate it!

Totally get the nerdy side! I mean I have 20 cultures of bugs going on right now hahaha. But a fun project idea could be to do an eco-system vivarium based on things you find in your yard or neaby, like start with collected mosses and hardscape and slowly add bugs you find outside to see how they interact? 

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