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Aquatic larvae in captivity?

Does anyone have any experiencing raising aquatic larvae to adulthood in captivity?


I've had plenty of success myself, but it's probably due to extensive knowledge of the natural habitat, as well as only being 20-30 feet from where I catch them.

I've raised quite a few insects to maturity. I try to mimic the natural habitat as much as possible, including providing plenty of shelter, proper filtration, proper water and even mimicking the food chain. I've raised dragonflies and damselflies, mayflies, midges, mosquitoes, caddisflies, and even some aquatic beetles. The best way to do it is is to make the container a 'chunk' of the native habitat. I had plenty of substrate, which was a mix of the lake silt and pea gravel (note, the lake bottom was all silt and mud). I provided vegetation from the lake, along with any grazers on that vegetation (isopods, nematodes, snails, etc.) I also provided everything from the surrounding macroinvertebrates and a mix of lake water and tap water (deep well water that is only filtered, not softened). It takes quite a bit of work to keep up this mini habitat, but my success rates were around 60-70%. Along with an aquarium tank, I provided an 'emergence cage' above the tank and provided plenty of surface objects and sticks to allow the emerged adults to get away from the water. I even provided a basking lamp so they could easily dry their wings and bodies. Without proper surface objects, many of the emerging adults drown.

Parasites and predators that sneak into the habitat are always an issue, especially with my 'whole capture' method. I simply observe this behavior and appreciate it.

You can compile a group of information from various websites involving the study of various macroinvertebrates, as I did. It also takes a lot of trial and error. It definitely helps when I have a lake in my back yard. Not that I don't value these creatures lives, but sometimes some sacrifices eventually yield important information.

Hello, I'm researching aqu
I'm researching aquatic insects and emergence. Research project from Northern Arizona University, will be raising aquatic insects..... what insects do you want to raise?

Hi Joe, I'm interested in
Hi Joe,

I'm interested in raising dragonflies, damselflies, and mayflies.

Catfish, your photos
Your photos are great and I saw this posting from a while back. I work for a volunteer water monitoring program. One thing we train volunteers on is identifying aquatic insects. I am wondering if you would allow me to use some of your pictures in our training materials? Please let me know if you are interested.

Aquatic photos
Hi -- sure, I'd be happy to help out with materials for your program on identifying aquatic insects. Let me know how I can help.

Super Cool!
Mostly what I am looking for are high quality photos of different aquatic insects. Please email me at and I can get you more info.

Hi, Is this hobby or resea
Is this hobby or research? Which species of drag, dams, and may. Can you id diptera? Great success on 1st round of emergence collection. Need help.....
what equip do you have? what size of tank do you have and how many? How many do you want raise? Please tell me what you know.

Hi, Joe, My interest is i
Hi, Joe,

My interest is in photography. Recently I've been capturing naiads, placing them in little mini-aquariums, which I construct out of microscope slides, and photographing them. After I photograph them, I return them to the local ponds where I captured them. I typically keep them for 24 hours before returning them to the wild. During that 24-hour period, I've been keeping them in small, open specimen jars. It occurred to me that if I could set up some kind of larger aquarium/habitat for them, I could keep them until they emerge, and then I could photograph them during emergence. I think that would make for some interesting photography. So that's my interest. As for identifying them, some 10 years ago I did some aquatic larvae photography. At that time I used slide film, not a digital camera. (I only recently got a digital camera, primarily because it became too difficult to get slides developed.) Anyway, when I was photographing aquatic larvae ten years ago, I would attempt to identify the specimens using loupes and identification keys that I found in books. (The larvae I photographed were predominantly dragonflies, damselflies, and mayflies.) But I haven't been doing that kind of ID work with my current photography (I've just been uploading files to BugGuide). So that's my interest -- I'm thinking about whether it's feasible to set up a small habitat of some kind that could support naiads to the time they emerge. The larvae seem quite hearty. I remember 10 years ago, I captured some mayfly larvae and kept them for a couple of days in open specimen jars, into each of which I had inserted a little twig. On the morning of the second day, I woke up to find mayflies flying around my apartment. They had emerged overnight. (I wonder if the fact that they hadn't eaten anything for a couple of days had a bearing on the timing of their emergence.) As for helping your research, I don't know whether I could be of much help. (I'm a medical editor by profession.) Could you use some photos in your research? Maybe you could send me some live larvae and I could photograph them for you.

Best wishes,


Catfish, Water temp is cr
Water temp is critical for life cycle of aquatic emergence. I dont think mayflies emerged from lack of food.
Pics would be awesome!!!!!! As I start getting a species list together I can send them to you!!! I dont have much on Odonata but a good variety of mayflies. Would love to get some great emerging pics for presentation of my research.
I live in Flagstaff Arizona, sending you live samples depends on how far away you live.... I'm actually starting two 10 gallon tanks for invertebrates. I had one going but had large hemiptera (true bugs) balastomada which a predators killed everything in my tank... odonata, tricoptera, coleoptera and even crayfish!!!!

If you pics of mayflies especially these families:

As I find more I will let you know!!!!
Thank you,

Hi Joe. Wow, this is real
Hi Joe.

Wow, this is really neat.

I've been working on my technique for photographing naiads in natural-like underwater environments, and I'm making a little progress. Of course, during emergence, after the naiads crawl up out of the water, conventional (ie, nonaquatic) macro photographic techniques would be used. There's no reason (barring some unexpected photographic mishap, most of which can be controlled for) that I couldn't get you some really nice, high-magnification, close-up shots that would show some really amazing detail. That would be really cool.

I got to tell you, I'm really excited about this. I am into far-out behavioral shots of bugs. I used to live in New York City. I would go to the Willow Lake Natural Area in Queens, which was in walking distance of my apartment. One day while there, I met Guy Tudor. Guy is the author of "The Birds of South America, Vols. 1 and 2." He's a lifetime-achievement award-winner of the National Audubon Society and is also the president of the New York City Butterfly Club. Of course, I didn't know anything about him at the time I ran into him at Willow Lake. He saw I was there photographing bugs. We talked a bit, and he told me about the butterfly club and asked me if I would be interested in joining. (It turned out that its members include some of the most prominent naturalists around, including the people who manage of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.) Meetings were held once a month at Guy's home in Queens (as chance would have it, he lived within walking distance of my apartment). So I started attending. The highlight of each meeting (aside from refreshments) was when people showed their slides (this was 10 years ago, before everything went digital). So one night I showed them three slides of a tiger beetle (Cicendela duodecimgutata) in the act of burrowing. I photographed the beetle right there at the Willow Lake Natural Area (a two-minute walk from Guy's home). It was a happy moment for me, because none of those world-class naturalists had a clue as to how I could possibly have gotten those shots. They all knew that that tiger beetle wouldn't let anyone get near them under any circumstances, and to get those shots, my lens had to be only a few inches away from the bug while it was burrowing. I finally told them the story -- I had been at the lake doing some on-the-scene natural-light photography of naiads, using my little microscope-slide mini-aquariums that I'm so fond of. It so happened that near where I was photographing the naiads, there was a population of tiger beetles. I managed to capture one, using a jury-rigged net. I then placed the beetle in one of my microscope-slide boxes (which I had half filled with dry sand). I put the beetle in the "mini-terrarium," and I then put a loose slide over the top the box, to prevent the beetle from flying off as I got my camera set up properly. The box was sitting on a big rock. Now, this was in July, and the summer sun was shining right down on the glass box. This caused the temperature in box to rise (something I hadn't thought about). After I took a few shots of the beetle through the side of the box, the bug began to burrow into the cool sand to escape the heat. I took the covering slide off the top of the box and got three good shots of the beetle as it burrowed. In the slides, you can't see any of the edges of the terrarium (with slides, you can't open Photoshop and crop the image like you can a digital file). In the slides, you only see the back of the beetle (its 12 spots readily apparent) as it burrows away in light-brown sand. So I'm really into getting good shots, especially shots that stump people who know something about photography and insect behavior.

Anyway, I'm really enthusiastic to get some cool shots of emergence, and the fact that such shots would be useful to you in your research is all the better.

Now, I'll keep my eye out for mayfly larvae, but I haven't found any mayfly larvae around here at all ("here" means Lewes, Delaware, which is near Rehoboth Beach, on the Atlantic coast). I am finding a lot of damselfly and dragonfly naiads.

I know what you mean about hemiptera. Once, I put an adult water boatman in one of my mini-aquariums to photograph it. I took some slides, then I put a small dragonfly naiad into the same mini-aquarium to photograph it as well. The boatman immediately had the naiad for lunch. (I've got a slide of the it somewhere in an archive box.)

Do you know whether dragonfly larvae eat little boatmen? (Whenever I collect, I always turn up a lot of little boatmen, which I thought might be useful as food for the larger dragon larvae.)

So do please send me your species list (odonates would be good, since odo naiads seem to turn up all over the place around here).

Best wishes,

Dave Terry (aka, Catfish).

PS -- Some of my friends call me Catfish because they think of me as a bottom-feeder. What can I say? That's where the naiads live. But I'm not solely into naiads. I'm also into robber flies. Yesterday I saw a female robber, and she was really great. She was HUGE -- she might have been 20 cm, head to tail. She was standing in late-afternoon sunlight, and her tibia were strikingly bright -- like a rich, orangey-yellow -- they were certainly brighter than the Efferia albibarbis and Triorla interrupta that I've seen around here. She was just standing on the sidewalk as I walked past. At first I thought she was injured, or perhaps even dying. I also thought she may have lost her left-rear leg. I didn't have my camera with me (actually, I was walking home after collecting naiads when I saw her). It occurred to me that maybe I could capture her and photograph her. So I decided to walk right up to her to see if she was able to fly, and she was. She took off as I walked up. I don't know what species she was.

Take care,


Catfish, Dragonflies and d
Dragonflies and damsel flies larvae are predators while mayflies can be collectors or scrapers depends on which species you want to raise....never the less mayflies should be raised in another tank from odonata(dragonflies and damselflies)

Hi Joe, Thanks for the in
Hi Joe,

Thanks for the input.

Might I ask what kind of controlled environments you use in your university research?

Let's say I were to set up a small freshwater-tropical-fish-type aquarium, but instead of inhabiting it with tropical fish, I inhabit it with damselfly and dragonfly larvae (not mayflies). Could I set up an aquarium exactly as I might set one up to keep tropical fish? For example, could I use the same type of plants that pet stores sell for tropical fish aquariums? Could I put in an under-the-gravel-type filtration system without endangering the larvae? Would there be a need to control for algae? If so, could I do so using algae-eating tropical fish or snails that pet stores sell? What would I feed the larvae? Is there some type of food that would satisfy both dragonfly and damselfly larvae? Could I keep the individual dragonfly and damselfly larvae in a common tank, or would I need to divide the tank so that each individual larva had its own separate area within the aquarium? Or perhaps I could keep dragonfly larvae together in one area, and damselfly larvae together in separate area, so that they did not mingle? Among a group of, say, damselfly larvae, would there be a problem with cross-species predation? (For example, would narrow-winged damsel larvae of the same species leave each other alone but prey on broad-winged damsel larvae?) Any advice on these matters would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks very much, Joe.

Best wishes,


I believe you can have damsel fly larvae with dragonfly larvae. I'm going to set up my tanks this weekend.... during my observation that I should have seperated the two I will let you know!!!! Yes keep mayfly larvae out of drag and dams tank!!! Unless you have so many that you can use to feed them. I'm not sure about small boatman for drag and dams..... try it....just keep an eye on your count, if they increase and grow in size remove them. Check your e-mail

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