Originally Posted by thedudeabides
With hydroballs you run into the same problem as charcoal in that it isn't as easy to get the springtails out of your cultures. This method makes that much easier than any other culturing methods I've tried and you can also make lots of cultures at the same time. As far as putting clay on hydroballs to culture this won't make getting them out of the cultures any easier and would also eliminate the ability to water feed. I use 8 oz deli cups with about an inch of clay in the bottom so it's not using a ton of clay anyway.
As far as feeding springtails I have never used anything other than brewers yeast and have always had good results. The couple times I've put strawberries or mushrooms in cultures I end up with grain mites.
Personally I feel that commercial food for springtails and fruit flies are unnecessary and a waste of money. The videos you see for advertisements of said products showing booming cultures can be accomplished by just adding a large number of flies/springs to the initial culture and those cultures will probably ultimately crash. Change my mind.
Sure, I'll bite
Regarding the addition of calcium carbonate and other potential minerals for your springtails: I never said that the springtails will grow better, I do this to increase their calcium content for the frogs who will eat them later on. Springtails need a certain amount of calcium to form their exoskeletons, and they can make do with the low amount that is present in yeast. But you can make them more nutricious for your frogs by making sure they have more calcium available. Same goes for most other nutrients, the springtails will grow perfectly fine with the amount that is present in yeasts, but your frogs will benefit more if the springtails are allowed more access to minerals. I totally agree that buying food for them is a waste of money, just get yeast and mix in a tiny bit of your preferred vitamin supplement for your frogs (for the reasons mentioned above) and you're good to go.
Same for flies, I agree that buying special product seems a bit unnecessary, however there have been studies showing that adding carotenoids to fly medium has benefits for frogs, so maybe just adding something like bell pepper or spirulina powder to your cultures will also give your frogs these benefits.
To get springtails out of my hydroball cultures I keep a piece of tree fern on top of the balls. There are always a lot of springtails crawling on this (I tend to sprinkle the yeast on this piece of tree fern) so I just take it out and tap it above a small jar. I never want to deplete my cultures completely so this method ensures there are always enough springtails left to continue production.
I also forgot to mention, a similar method has been used before but with plaster (mixed with a bit of charcoal for color) instead of clay. It's the preferred way of most research institutes to culture wild-caught springtails. The design is slightly different in that the bottom of the tube they use is open, so to keep your springtails moist all you have to do is place the tube in water so the plaster absorbs the moisture. Here is a link to the dutch forum which explains the plaster-tube method: