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This is my guide to a foolproof, thriving dwarf white woodlice culture.

Background
This guide is intended for the feeders sold as dwarf white tropical woodlice, which I believe are actually Trichorhina tomentosa. I believe I read that Trichorhina tomentosa was first identified in the late 1800's as a hitchhiker in Germany found among some new world orchids. I believe that these guys are either hermaphroditic or parthenogenic... I don't think that mating is required to make more of them. The eggs are kept moist under their body near their gills and hatch after a few weeks. At 28C, I observed that it took a newly hatched woodlouse about 2.5 months before it produced babies, but it wasn't full grown at the time and I don't think I was feeding it the correct food at the time. It takes them about 2 weeks to have a clutch of eggs.

Methods
I have tried a number of techniques to grow these guys over the last year and a half and have finally settled on one which I think is the most productive. I tried the method on Alan Cann's website (Woodlice), but it didn't work too well for me. Here we go...

Make sure that your culture size fits the population size (ie make sure you have enough woodlice so that mold cannot overtake the culture). A small culture can be pretty productive. Unlike tropical springtails, as long as these guys have food and shelter they will continue to reproduce and be productive (tropical springtails secrete a substance which inhibits further production, so populations will eventually quit being productive unless you split them). The easiest way to kill a feeder population is to overfeed it and let mold get the upper hand, so it is better for them to be hungry than over fed.

This technique is easier than setting up a fly culture. It involves growing them on bird bedding and feeding them dogfood. The dogfood will mold over and once it does, they will eat the moldy pellet until there is nothing left. They will also eat the bedding, at which point you know it is ok to split the culture. At the end, all of the bedding has been turned into "dirt".

Here is a culture which has eaten all of the bedding. I fed about half of the population out before I took this picture. The dirt in the bottom usede bedding that took up the whole container before they chewed it all up. It is full of woodlice (they burrow into the dirt).


This is the inside of the old culture. The woodlice are burrowed in the dirt.


And this is what the jar looks like after I took out the dirt. You can see some woodlice remained in the bottom.


Now that the culture is empty, it is time to add some bedding. I used this product, which appears to be similar to shredded cardboard corrugation. It is sold for birds, but I've also seen it used in display cases before. I tried using cardboard as substrate but they were much less productive on the cardboard.




Now add 1 pellet of food. I usually add about a pellet every two weeks, after the old pellet had been completely consumed. I use this organic dogfood, which cost me $3 and has lasted for over a year. I also toss these pellets into my cages to feed the microfauna and give the frogs a place to pick off springtails and isopods.


And here is the finished culture. Just add bedding, dogfood, some old culture and spray it a few times. It should not be sopping wet. It looks wet in this picture because it hasn't soaked in yet, but there is dry bedding underneath. The fact that it is pretty well sealed up should keep the humidity near 100%.



You need a few small holes in the lid or the woodlice will die of anoxia. Very small holes should be sufficient. The pellet will mold over after a day or two, then the woodlice will then chew it all up (unlike springtails which will just eat the mold on the outside) and the pellet will turn into dirt after about a two weeks, at which point you should add another. If you ever notice it drying out, just spray it a few times. I spray it about once every 3 months.

Conclusion
I have tried a number of other substrates (cardboard, coco coir, peat, orchid bark, plaster) but they seem to grow the fastest in this setup. They are still much less prolific than flies, but require less work. I feed them out when a culture is exhausted by either just putting some of the old culture into the viv, or removing the old substrate and banging the empty jar, which has a bunch stuck to the sides.
Good luck and let me know how it works out for you.
-Mark
 

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Sooooo..................how much for a starter culture of the woodlice to get things going :)

What temps do you keep the culture at?

How many weeks would you say it takes to go from a new starter culture to when you would either feed it out to your frogs or split it to start some new cultures?

Thanks.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Sooooo..................how much for a starter culture of the woodlice to get things going :)
There are several sponsors here that sell cultures at a reasonable price.

What temps do you keep the culture at?
I keep mine at room temp, which is abot 68F currently. They will grow fastest if kept a little above 80F.

How many weeks would you say it takes to go from a new starter culture to when you would either feed it out to your frogs or split it to start some new cultures?
With any feeder, the time until you split them depends on the number of bugs in the starter culture. This means that if you have a culture with large population, you can feed out fairly regularly. I would guess that the culture I just set up will be done in about 2-3 months. That means that with 3 cultures going I can feed out about once a month. I bet if you wanted to grow a bunch you could feed out much more frequently.They do pretty well in viv conditions though, so they will persist in the viv for a while (and eat back your mold). Like I said, not as productive as flies, but they are an easy thing to keep in the closet and feed out occasionally. I started the culture shown above with 4 adults in July or August.
-Mark
 

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Well, I already know they dont eat the moldy dog food. I tried that once, didnt work. I have just been harvesting decomposing leaf litter from an old vivarium, and also I add in fish flakes.
 

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nice to see new methods of culturing woodlice, but IMO separating the cardboard and substrate from the woodlice looks like it would be a nightmare.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
nice to see new methods of culturing woodlice, but IMO separating the cardboard and substrate from the woodlice looks like it would be a nightmare.
You don't seperate the cardboard. You wait until they have consumed it all and then pull out whats left (a clump of dirt) and it is full of them. You can either just break it up and put it in dish or brush them off.
Have you had success with another method?
 

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Im trying a stacked cardboard method. Too early to see if its working though.
This would be great for producing "seed" for vivs. just dump the clump in and youre done
 

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Has anyone tried the method the guy uses in this video? I am new to culturing woodlice and would like to hear what the best methods are before I start up my own cultures. Thanks for any input.
 

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Has anyone tried the method the guy uses in this video? I am new to culturing woodlice and would like to hear what the best methods are before I start up my own cultures. Thanks for any input.
My method for orange's is similar. Alan knows what he's talking about though, so that's a good site to use for reference.
 

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As far as the bedding you use (ECO Bird Bedding), could you also use ECO Bedding for Small Pets? It looks to be made by the same company and appears identical as the bird stuff pictured here. I just ask because I havn't been able to find ECO bird bedding.
 

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As far as the bedding you use (ECO Bird Bedding), could you also use ECO Bedding for Small Pets? It looks to be made by the same company and appears identical as the bird stuff pictured here. I just ask because I havn't been able to find ECO bird bedding.
It looks like exactly the same thing to me. By the way, I set up 13 of these as a test, with 25 subadults and adult white dwarf Isos in each culture. They are doing great so far...crawling with babies!
 

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I plan to get some going soon myself. Good to hear this method is working for you. I hope that I have the same success though I will definately not be culturing on that big a scale! Maybe one day so time to get my practice in now!
 

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Mark,

Just wonering if you're still using this method to culture your woodlice? Any changes/tweaks you've made to your process?

I just got a few cultures in and I'm interested in giving your simple method a try.

Thanks.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Yeah, this method still works well for me. The only problem I have is that the cultures get worms in them, but they aren't much of a problem unless the culture is too wet. I've found that using dogfood as the only food source gives more predictable results than including food scraps.
 
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