What are Isopods?

The term ‘microfauna’ literally translates to “small animals”, and refers to small arthropods, such as springtails and isopods (aka rollie-pollies, pill bugs, wood louse). These invertebrates serve several important functions in the home vivaria: they act as tank janitors, helping to break down dead plant matter and uneaten food. They also provide the vivarium inhabitants with an extra in-house snack, and aid in nutrient cycling. This week, we will focus on isopods, also known as rollie-pollies, potato bugs, pill bugs, and wood louse. Isopods inhabit most anywhere in the world, but for the purposes of the vivaria, mainly tropical species are used.

Types of Isopods

There are thousands of species of isopods, but we mainly work with 4 different species: dwarf whites, purple, dwarf gray striped, and giant orange.


From left to right: Dwarf Gray Stripe, Dwarf White, Purple, and Giant Orange isopods.

Dwarf White Isopods

These isopods are very small and softer bodied (less calcium?) than the other species we work with, making them an excellent prey animal. They also tend to reproduce fairly quickly, making them one of the easiest isopods to culture. These are considered to be the ‘original’ isopods in the trade, as they have been cultured the longest.

Purple Isopods

Purple isopods really are not all that purple – they are more of a light grayish- purple at the best. They are a smaller species, being just a little larger than the dwarf white isopods. These are fairly slow to culture, but do culture faster than the Giant Orange isopods.

Dwarf Gray Striped Isopods

Dwarf Gray Striped isopods culture faster than any other isopods we’ve worked with. Not only do they populate a culture quickly, but they also reproduce exponentially in the vivarium, often out-competing other varieties of isopods. These are probably the best isopods to culture as a food source.

Giant Orange Isopods

As the name suggest, Giant Orange isopods are large and bright orange. They are slow to culture, but reach a much larger adult size compared to most other isopods in captivity. These make great tank janitors, as adults are generally too large for most species of dart frogs to consume. They will eat waste, leaf litter, and uneaten food in the vivarium, while the frogs consume baby isopods.

Isopods, although not necessary to successfully keeping dart frogs, certainly make proper husbandry easier. They play an important function in the home vivaria – mainly as nutrient cyclers and an additional food source, and also function as an excellent secondary source of calcium. They are simple to keep and culture at home.

Looking to add isopods to your feeder insect collection or habitat? Check out the Isopods that we have for sale!

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