Aquarium for bugs?

Hello Roger.

I have an extra aquarium, in addition to the one I keep fish in that runs 79F. So, I've been kicking around the notion of raising bugs - let's say, for now, caddis since they are hearty. Maybe stones, maybe mays, but I figure that will come with time and experience as they are more persnickety about environment.

So, pretty easy for the most part I think, but I have a few questions and I'm sure you'll be the right person to ask as I'll likely end up with answers to questions I didn't think to ask...

1) temperature - how do I keep the temp in the right zone to raise insects? Given that trout streams vary a lot, from really cold in winter to pretty warm in summer, how much does this matter? I'm supposing room temp is a bit warm, mid to high sixties... am I wrong?

2) flow - I want to hood the aquarium and have a filter in place to keep it reasonably clean as well as provide flow. How much flow depends on the bugs, right? I mean, given that net spinners like setting nets to capture stuff vs cased caddis which tend to congregate in slower areas of streams, etc... do I need to have an aquarium set up for a specific flow for specific bugs and another aquarium if I want bugs that are totally different in terms of flow requirements and/or liking?

3) food - um... mainly little guys eat algae and stuff we can't see with the naked eye, right? Do I need to feed nymphs? Do I need to do something to cultivate the food chain in the aquarium? I'm clueless on this topic.

If there is a good resource or resources on the web for getting started, my google searches haven't turned them up yet. Perhaps you can either tell me what I need to know or point me the right direction.



Staff member
Hi Jim-

Nice to hear from you. Sorry to disappoint, but raising aquatic insects has never been an option available to me, so I don't have any first-hand information. Having said that, I will still attempt to answer your questions based on what I have heard from others.

Presumably, you will be stocking this aquarium by collecting insects from a local stream. So, most of those insects will probably be well on their way toward maturity, and won't need to be raised for more than perhaps one third of their larval life.

With regard to temperature, there is a point below which aquatic insects become dormant and do not grow, but that should not be an issue with an inside aquarium. And of course, there is also a temperature above which aquatic insect larvae will not survive. I suspect most aquatic insect larvae would not last very long at room temperature, and that you will need to invest in a thermostat-controlled water cooling device. I would suggest taking the water temperature where you collect the insect larvae, and setting the thermostat to that temperature.

Although you don't mention providing a constant source of dissolved oxygen, that is also necessary. With regard to flow, yes, that would depend on the type of aquatic insect larvae. I would expect stonefly nymphs and mayfly nymphs to be most sensitive to the need for water flow.

I seem to recall hearing that use of chlorinated water needs to be avoided, so would suggest using water from wherever you collect the insect larvae to put in the aquarium. As long as you do that, I assume it would also serve to cultivate the food chain in the aquarium.

It is also my impression that some aquatic insect larvae have never been successfully raised in an artificial environment, but I am unable to provide specific examples. Also, please be warned that if you put any predatory insect larvae in your aquarium, they will quickly dispose of all others.

I hope this gives you enough information to chew on, and get started, as I expect it will be very much a trial-and error experience. As a source of additional information, I will refer you to my good friend, Jason Neuswanger at, as he has the first-hand experience with rearing aquatic insect larvae, which I unfortunately lack.

Teenage Entomologist

Gotta love the pteronarcys.
I'm only 14. but I have a lot of experience with raising aquatic insects. I first had the idea for my science fair project, and since I live in northern California, there are a lot of Salmonflies in my area. I caught like 6 and put them in my aquarium. They all hatched during the middle of the night, and they lived as adults for a week or so. Then I caught a hellgrammite, which survived for months, but needed a food source. I caught a few caddis out of a frigid little trickle of a creek, which were green and about a #12. they all died within a week. The only option is getting an aquarium chiller, which are about $200.00. For now, I would catch some darners and a few lake born caddis. Good luck!

Jim Speaker

Active Member
Thanks for the tips. I will have to get myself a cooling temp control. I will definitely post some pics, but it's going to be a little while. Seems like the perfect winter project. ;)


I kept my 10 gallon bug aquarium in my garage and never had a problem with the bugs dying from water conditions. I did have a problem with some of them hatching and flying out the garage door.

I was "raising" a collection of mayflies and caddis when I did something really stupid. I added two golden stonefly nymphs. Within 3 days, there was no bug in the aquarium other than the two stonefly nymphs.

I never witnessed them attacking the other nymph during the day so evidently they were night stalkers. I've heard the only bug more deadly to smaller nymphs than a golden stonefly is a dragonfly nymph.

So, when you start your bug aquarium, you may want to choose your bugs well.

Oh, I did add additional air tubes to the filter system to created lots of bubbles and thus more oxygen in the water... the bugs seemed to like that extra oxygen. They were all collected from a small stream so I tried to mimic those conditions as best I could.

Here's one of the carnivorous suckers:


Teenage Entomologist

Gotta love the pteronarcys.
Dude, I caught Salmonflies, 5 of them( I live in Northern California). They all hatched the first night, and I watched them hatch out of there exoskeleton, it was awesome! Now, I caught 5 Claassenia sabulosa short winged golden stoneflies. Those things are fast, and they hatched in like 1 minute. I couldn't keep myself up sometimes to watch them hatch, and it was a day before I seen him crawling on my door. Here's a picture of the golden stone adults

Your stonefly looks like a hesperoperla Pacifica. I had one of those things and it ate all my Caddis.


The stonefly is actually a genera Hesperoperla and Calineuria .... which is the common golden stone bug type critter in The Willamette Valley and Central Oregon.