Decomposition Vivarium

EulersK

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(this is a duplicate thread found here, but I need advice on millipedes in particular)

Alright, I've been maintaining a colony of springtails and isopods for a couple months now, and I have fallen in love. What I got as a cleanup crew for my spiders has turned into something I actually enjoy! And, of course, browsing the classifieds didn't help. I've come to the conclusion that I'd like to set up a vivarium with nothing but detrivores - a large microfauna of isopods and springtails with a handful of millipedes living with a live plant.

I am beyond a greenhorn in this. I wouldn't even know where to begin researching. I have a 10gal aquarium that I'd like to set up with a live plant and plenty of detrivores and possibly mushrooms.

Other than humidity concerns, are there certain isopods/springtails/millipedes that can't be kept together? Are there plants that I should stay away from or look for specifically? What type of soil should I be looking at? I currently have mine on 50/50 topsoil and sphagnum mix, and they seem to be thriving. I'm sure that I'm not asking the right questions... I don't know what I don't know, after all.

One last thing. I do maintain a B. dubia colony (several, actually) and fruit flies have become a constant worry for me. Enough that I had to change the substrate on all of my tarantulas to a peat moss mix to keep them from breeding in there. Is there a way to avoid this in the vivarium? Can heavy peat moss be used, even though it increases the acidity to the point that flies can reproduce?

As always, thank you for any help this corner of the site can offer :)
 

SlugPod

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I'd say the millipede species would depend on how deep you have the substrate.
Ideally, you want to have the substrate as deep as the millipede is long (a 4 inch milli would do best in at least 4 inches of substrate for example).

With a 10 gallon, you could have potentially very deep substrate.
Millipedes need certain ingredients if you will in their substrate in order to do well.
Substrates need decaying hardwood. You can achieve that in a few ways.
1) Easiest is to just buy some premade substrate specifically for millipedes. Bugs In Cyber Space has a milli substrate. NEHERP also has a nice milli substrate. (you'd want the one labeled AGB Mix)
2) Collect decaying / soft hard wood from areas you know are free of pesticides.
3) Buy some wood: I personally use Aspen and have bought it here.


You'd need some leaf litter too. Isopods breed better with leaf litter, so you might already have that.
If not again you could buy it (NEHERP has some leaf litter for sale) or collect it from an area you know no pesticides are used and just bake the leaves to be sure nothing extra gets into your vivarium.

I don't know that there are any species you shouldn't house together ; a lot of people have isopods / springtails and even multiple species of millis all in one enclosure and they do just fine.
As for plants I think what you'd want to avoid is anything that's a carnivorous plant, anything that could be toxic if they eat it (I don't know what all would be toxic to them, it's not something I've looked into yet. If you have local millis what you could do is see what plants they live around and use those if they're small enough).

I don't know about using heavy peat moss, I haven't seen anyone who does that thus far, normally most people have mostly coco fiber. Other people might be able to add more on that than I can since I haven't done it and don't know.
 

EulersK

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I'd say the millipede species would depend on how deep you have the substrate.
Ideally, you want to have the substrate as deep as the millipede is long (a 4 inch milli would do best in at least 4 inches of substrate for example).

With a 10 gallon, you could have potentially very deep substrate.
Millipedes need certain ingredients if you will in their substrate in order to do well.
Substrates need decaying hardwood. You can achieve that in a few ways.
1) Easiest is to just buy some premade substrate specifically for millipedes. Bugs In Cyber Space has a milli substrate. NEHERP also has a nice milli substrate. (you'd want the one labeled AGB Mix)
2) Collect decaying / soft hard wood from areas you know are free of pesticides.
3) Buy some wood: I personally use Aspen and have bought it here.


You'd need some leaf litter too. Isopods breed better with leaf litter, so you might already have that.
If not again you could buy it (NEHERP has some leaf litter for sale) or collect it from an area you know no pesticides are used and just bake the leaves to be sure nothing extra gets into your vivarium.

I don't know that there are any species you shouldn't house together ; a lot of people have isopods / springtails and even multiple species of millis all in one enclosure and they do just fine.
As for plants I think what you'd want to avoid is anything that's a carnivorous plant, anything that could be toxic if they eat it (I don't know what all would be toxic to them, it's not something I've looked into yet. If you have local millis what you could do is see what plants they live around and use those if they're small enough).

I don't know about using heavy peat moss, I haven't seen anyone who does that thus far, normally most people have mostly coco fiber. Other people might be able to add more on that than I can since I haven't done it and don't know.
Great info and links, thank you! I live in a desert. Great for finding tarantula stuff, not so much for what we're talking about here. I could go up to the mountain where there are plenty of trees, but at the end of the day, I can't guarantee that I won't run into pesticides. On top of that, the majority of what I'd have access to would be cedar and pine... which we know is a big no-no. What about cork bark, would they eat that? I've got literal buckets full of the stuff.

Honestly, step #1 would be finding out about peat moss. If I can't use that, then this whole operation goes out the window. I would like an actual ecosystem going on in here, possibly with breeding on their own. The peat moss may kill that outright.
 

mickiem

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Great info and links, thank you! I live in a desert. Great for finding tarantula stuff, not so much for what we're talking about here. I could go up to the mountain where there are plenty of trees, but at the end of the day, I can't guarantee that I won't run into pesticides. On top of that, the majority of what I'd have access to would be cedar and pine... which we know is a big no-no. What about cork bark, would they eat that? I've got literal buckets full of the stuff.

Honestly, step #1 would be finding out about peat moss. If I can't use that, then this whole operation goes out the window. I would like an actual ecosystem going on in here, possibly with breeding on their own. The peat moss may kill that outright.
I have added small amounts of peat to some of my enclosures with no ill effect. I don't know how they would respond to larger quantities. I have a bog garden (outdoors) which is mostly peat and I never see millipeds in that area of my garden. The cork won't hurt them but it also doesn't add benefit. I have a lot of isopods in one enclosure and I have not had babies there. Other people say isopods will not eat eggs or young; but my eyebrows are raised on this. As far as adults go, I don't think you would have a problem but if you are interested in breeding, it's a chance. I have also heard the isopods could harm a molting millipede but I have not seen that happen.

Whatever plant you get, just make sure to provide the correct humidity and light. I am eventually going to set up a display for a few adult millipeds and I am planning to put several mosses in it. I am going to grow mushrooms as well. Let me know if you do it and how it goes for you! My millies love mushrooms - I feed them dry and also fresh.

Humidity - If fruit flies become a problem for me, I just let the enclosures dry out a bit, but I have fruit flies off and on frequently. It helps to take fresh food out after 12 hours or so but even then, moist substrate = extra subfauna.

Hopefully someone with more experience using peat will weigh in; but I hope I helped a little. Good luck and do keep us posted!
 

EulersK

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I have added small amounts of peat to some of my enclosures with no ill effect. I don't know how they would respond to larger quantities. I have a bog garden (outdoors) which is mostly peat and I never see millipeds in that area of my garden. The cork won't hurt them but it also doesn't add benefit. I have a lot of isopods in one enclosure and I have not had babies there. Other people say isopods will not eat eggs or young; but my eyebrows are raised on this. As far as adults go, I don't think you would have a problem but if you are interested in breeding, it's a chance. I have also heard the isopods could harm a molting millipede but I have not seen that happen.

Whatever plant you get, just make sure to provide the correct humidity and light. I am eventually going to set up a display for a few adult millipeds and I am planning to put several mosses in it. I am going to grow mushrooms as well. Let me know if you do it and how it goes for you! My millies love mushrooms - I feed them dry and also fresh.

Humidity - If fruit flies become a problem for me, I just let the enclosures dry out a bit, but I have fruit flies off and on frequently. It helps to take fresh food out after 12 hours or so but even then, moist substrate = extra subfauna.

Hopefully someone with more experience using peat will weigh in; but I hope I helped a little. Good luck and do keep us posted!
I'm not sure why I didn't think of this before. I can modify my tank to have a thin screen top, fixing the fly problem. So nevermind with that.

I think I'm going to get a high humidity, low light plant. I know that it won't produce nearly enough food for all of the life, but that's what leaf litter is for. I'll be sure to update on how it goes!

See, I didn't know that isopods were omnivores. I thought they were strict detrivores. If it matters, I have P. scaber right now, the orange ones about 1/8" as adults. So you've got isopods and millipedes in the same tank with no issue? I obviously wouldn't want anything bad to happen to them! If breeding can't happen, oh well. I'd like it, but I can't have everything.

Thank you so much for the advice :) And now the fun part. Species suggestions? The scientific name escapes me, but I'm in love with those little feather millipedes I've seen a few times. They must be common, because they're dirt cheap. Whatever I get, they need to be able to handle relatively high humidity. The P. scaber require high humidity so far in my experience. What would be a good millipede for a beginner? In all, I should have no less than 5" of substrate.
 

SlugPod

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I consider bumblebee millipedes (Anadenobolus monilicornis) a great beginner.
It's the species I started with, they're colourful, will tolerate really humid conditions and are pretty forgiving.
With 5" of substrate that'd be a good species for that as well.

Florida Ivory Millipedes (Chicobolus spinigerus) Would be another good beginner. I don't personally have them (yet) but they tend to stay out more often, are very pretty and get a little larger than the bumblebees.

I wouldn't recommend scarlet millipedes (Trigoniulus corallinus) in my experience they're a bit more sensitive.
 

EulersK

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I consider bumblebee millipedes (Anadenobolus monilicornis) a great beginner.
It's the species I started with, they're colourful, will tolerate really humid conditions and are pretty forgiving.
With 5" of substrate that'd be a good species for that as well.

Florida Ivory Millipedes (Chicobolus spinigerus) Would be another good beginner. I don't personally have them (yet) but they tend to stay out more often, are very pretty and get a little larger than the bumblebees.

I wouldn't recommend scarlet millipedes (Trigoniulus corallinus) in my experience they're a bit more sensitive.
Noted :D It's good to see that millipedes are bounds cheaper than tarantulas. Thank you very much for the suggestions! The C. spinigerus definitely has my eye. How do B. lecontii fair for what I'm looking for?
 

SlugPod

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Noted :D It's good to see that millipedes are bounds cheaper than tarantulas. Thank you very much for the suggestions! The C. spinigerus definitely has my eye. How do B. lecontii fair for what I'm looking for?
You're welcome!
I'm not sure on the B. lecontii since I've never owned them myself.
If I had to guess though I'm sure they'd do just fine.

The rest should be rotten leaves and then compost/coconut fiber. Make sure to sterilize any wood/leaves you get, as it may contain mites, small centipedes, and other predators and parasites that you don't want in your enclosure.

Rotten wood and leaves are the important parts of the substrate, as they make up most of their diets. You can supplement their diet with dog food, fruits and veggies. Keep them moist and you should be good to go! :)
There's some care I found in another thread, [here]
Looks like you'll want MOSTLY rotten wood for them to survive. At least 60% if not more.
 

EulersK

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I love this side of the forum, so helpful :) I had no idea @Hisserdude kept millipedes as well. He's got his fingers in everything.

Okay then, looks like I need wood. I mean, could I just go to the forest and gather a bunch of bark? After baking it, of course. Obviously staying away from cedar and pine, are there any other considerations?And for leaf litter, I have a few houseplants. I obviously know that they haven't been exposed to pesticides, so would I be able to use those to feed the isopods?

There is a reptile expo in my area next week, I'm hoping to be able to pick up some leaf litter and/or millipedes while I'm there!
 

SlugPod

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@EulersK

I don't know that bark would be enough. It has to be soft / decaying wood and bark it typically too hard for millipedes to eat and it takes a lot longer to get to a decayed point.
You could MAKE some rotten wood for relatively cheap. Hisserdude has a great post on how to do it.
That might be your best bet and best way to get some rotten wood.

As for the houseplants I suppose it would depend on species.
Normally they only eat hard wood (at least as far as I am aware) matter. They will eat fruits, veggies, fish food, etc.
You could offer stuff like that a couple times a week, just make sure you get rid of anything uneaten within 24 hours other wise you might attract stuff you don't want.

You might be able to pick up some aspen bedding which would be good to mix into the substrate, I was at one today and they had some.
 

mickiem

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What SlugPod said... The bark isn't eaten by my millipedes; they just eat the softer, rotten wood. I just picked some cherry and oak up from along a creek today. I always make sure there are isopods or whatnot living in the wood so I know it is edible and still has nutritive value. The bark would be good to include; it just won't be counted as food. (I try to remove all the "life" from my gathered wood and then I sterilize it to make sure I don't introduce ants, centipedes, etc. that I always see on the collected stuff)

As far as leaves go; they also need to be older. Since oak trees hang on to their leaves longer, I take them off the trees and then store them in a large box outside. When I go to feed the pedes, I take the leaves from the bottom of the storage and they are pretty broken down. I have never had my millipeds eat fresh leaves (like spinach, kale, etc.) with gusto. I have put fresh birch and maple in and they didn't touch it.

I have never kept the feather millipeds but I understand they need a little cooler temps. Sounds like your set up would be good for them otherwise. That is a species I hope to add this year.

Millipeds are like the last stage detritivores. They want the work started and they will oblige in finishing the job.
 

Hisserdude

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I love this side of the forum, so helpful :) I had no idea @Hisserdude kept millipedes as well. He's got his fingers in everything.

Okay then, looks like I need wood. I mean, could I just go to the forest and gather a bunch of bark? After baking it, of course. Obviously staying away from cedar and pine, are there any other considerations?And for leaf litter, I have a few houseplants. I obviously know that they haven't been exposed to pesticides, so would I be able to use those to feed the isopods?

There is a reptile expo in my area next week, I'm hoping to be able to pick up some leaf litter and/or millipedes while I'm there!
Well I haven't actually kept many millipedes, (with the exception of Motyxia cf. tiemanni, which didn't produce viable offspring for me, and a few of the European pest Julids and Polydesmids), but I have read Orin's "Millipeds in Captivity: Diplopodan Husbandry and Reproductive Biology" front to back a couple times, so I know a little bit about their care needs. :)

Bark is completely inedible, you need what's under the bark, the wood, and it needs to be rotten to the point where you can break it apart easily with your hand and crumble it up. If you can't find enough wood where you live then you can either buy substrate from Bugs in cyberspace, or make some yourself like @SlugPod suggested by using wood pellets used for grilling.

I don't think houseplant leaves will work for them, they need leaves from hardwood trees, preferably ones that have been on the ground for at least a season.

Also, while most commonly kept millipedes appreciate a substrate of both rotten wood and lots of rotten leaves, Brachycybe need a substrate of just rotten wood I'm pretty sure, and I don't know if rotten sawdust will work for them, they might like chunks of rotten wood. Then again I haven't kept them, so sawdust may work just fine. :)
 
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EulersK

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Awesome, I think that'll do :D I can definitely find some rotting leaves and wood up in the mountains. And if I understand correctly, baking it will not destroy the nutritional value?

In the long run, I'll definitely be making my own. I haven't looked at the guide yet, but surely it's not a short process, and I'd like to get this going sooner rather than later.

Thank you so much everyone! I'll be sure to post updates on how this all turns out.
 

Hisserdude

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Awesome, I think that'll do :D I can definitely find some rotting leaves and wood up in the mountains. And if I understand correctly, baking it will not destroy the nutritional value?

In the long run, I'll definitely be making my own. I haven't looked at the guide yet, but surely it's not a short process, and I'd like to get this going sooner rather than later.

Thank you so much everyone! I'll be sure to post updates on how this all turns out.
Baking shouldn't destroy the nutritional content, most people bake their wood and leaves to kill off pests, so evidentially it's not a problem. :)

It's actually not too complicated, but the sawdust does take a month or two to ferment, so yeah just gathering the materials by hand would be quicker.

No problem, be sure to post pictures of any millipedes you get! :D
 

Chris52

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I think you should also know that Brachycybe are very small. I had three at one point, and they only got to about 3/4 of an inch. Not sure how much you'll see them in a 10 gallon. As stated above, they need a substrate of almost completely rotten wood.
 

EulersK

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I would actually prefer the small fauna. I find the concept of power in numbers fascinating. I want a couple large millipedes just for show, but I want this vivarium to be all about the little guys.
 

Hisserdude

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Because of course i have another question :D

I found two good substrates for a good price, but one is labeled for isopods and the other for millipedes. The ingredients seem very, very similar. Does it really matter which one I get?

http://shop.bugsincyberspace.com/Isopod-Substrate-bic798.htm

http://shop.bugsincyberspace.com/Millipede-Substrate-bic790.htm
Isopods don't need anything special in their substrate, they just need a layer of dead leaves on top of the substrate, so I'd just go with the millipede substrate so you can be sure the millipedes will be getting what they need. :)
 
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