Equipment Comparison: Watering Systems

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Watering systems have historically used a couple of different base principles to work: osmosis/wicking, moistened substrates, and covered flowing water systems. When designing or implementing watering systems, keep the following in mind:

  • Crickets drown: As noted in earlier drafts, crickets are stupid and will drown themselves if possible. This is particularly true of pinheads. Barriers, walkways, and screens can all assist when there’s open water.
  • Physics operates differently at cricket scale: Especially at pinhead size, osmotic action, surface tension, and water viscosity take on whole new dangers. A pinhead touching a drop of water will be sucked into the drop and drown.
  • Water needs to be pure, but not too pure: Reverse osmosis and distilled water are too pure on their own for crickets. Differential testing at Big Cricket Farms with the help of Jakob Lewin (now founder of BuggingDenmark) confirmed a small amount of salt (or even Gatorade) result in crickets drinking more water and growing faster. Anecdotal reports from OG cricket farmers have mentioned microdosing Vitamin A in the water to aid proper wing development in adults. More differential testing is needed to determine appropriate levels of electrolytic solutions for optimal growth.
  • Standing water becomes filthy. Crickets will poop anywhere, including water dishes. Particularly for standing water systems, serratia marascens (a chitinase-producing, omnipresent bacteria responsible for “redbelly”) may also grow. Sick crickets may vomit into the watering systems, spreading disease.
  • Crickets will infiltrate flowing water systems if possible: Flowing water systems need multiple redundant ways to notice if any portion of the system is overflowing, as it is inevitable that some crickets will work their way into the system at some point and jam up a valve.
  • Water outside of the watering system is very dangerous. And smelly. Wet frass stinks unbearably and allows for rapid proliferation of microbes and molds. Avoiding spills is mission-critical.


Chart: Watering Systems- What (Sort Of) Works

Type Chicken Waterer &

Plastic Ring or Makeup Sponge

Foam Pad
Description Standard chicken industry waterer with a standing surface for the crickets. Water is continuously refreshed from the reservoir. A foam pad or wad of wetted paper towel.
Time between refills 1 day for small reservoirs, 2-3 days for medium, 3-5 days for large** 4-6 hours w/o reservoir
  • Easy to clean
  • Easy to set up
  • Inexpensive
  • Reuseable
  • Very inexpensive
  • Very simple
  • Uses commonly available materials
  • Won’t drown pinheads
  • Larger/shapeable surface area
  • Best for pinheads or very small populations
  • Spill easily
  • Heavy
  • Have to be refilled frequently
  • Standing water- greater chance of s. Marascens and other waterborne pathogens
  • Limited surface area = limited number of crickets can drink
  • Labor Intensive
  • Dries out quickly
  • May accumulate filth
  • Paper towels aren’t reusable
  • Somewhat labor-intensive
  • High turnover/quick replacement time.
Picture  unnamed.png
Variations Instead of foam, people often use:

  • Rolled paper towel
  • Coconut coir
  • Cloth
  • Cotton cloth
Link Donut

1-Gallon Chicken Waterer

Armstrong Cricket Farms


Type Packed substrates (coconut coir, peat moss, etc) Figure 8 PVC wicking systems
Description Substrates packed in ½ PVC pipes, laying trays, or other similar container. To refill, add water to substrate and mix as necessary. Common in Thailand. ~3” PVC with a slot cut in the top, assembled into a figure-8 shape. Cotton strip rope is used to wick water from the reservoir inside the pipes to the crickets. Best for large cricket containers
Time to Refill Varies, typically daily. Weekly
  • Compostable
  • Uses materials used elsewhere on farm
  • Low cost
  • Tends to stay cleaner [citation needed]
  • Great for pinheads
  • Easy- fits into other daily activities
  • Low refill rate
  • Inexpensive materials
  • Great surface area and distribution within the rearing space.
  • Low labor costs.
  • May grow mold more aggressively
  • OpEx purchase instead of CapEx
  • Adults will lay eggs in substrate.
  • Young crickets hide in substrate, resulting in loss every time substrate is changed.
  • May grow bacteria
  • Chance of water getting stagnant
  • As system ages, leaks develop.
  • *More data needed*
Picture  unnamed__1_.png


Type Screen-covered flowing water systems Wet Feed
Description Using corrugated plastic, u-shaped PVC pipe sections, etc, covered in loose screen. Channel/pipes are gently flooded, allowing crickets to walk on screen to drink. Pump (often Raspberry Pi and micropump) on one end and drop valve on the other refill and drain at periodic rates.
  1. Potatoes, carrots, squash, and other high water-content veggies are used as supplemental water.
  2. Specially formulated wet feed provides all necessary water.
Time to Refill Once per cycle Daily
  • Really cute. Crickets look like lions drinking on the Serengeti.
  • Largely automates watering system, greatly decreasing labor costs.
  • Self-cleaning for whole cycle.
  • Decreased contamination
  • Some bacteria cannot grow in flowing water.
  • Combines feed and water.
  • No risk of spilling
  • Decreased labor costs
  • Typically expensive
  • Moving parts- prone to breakage.
  • Prone to overflowing.
  • Can be messy
  • Feed may be expensive or require stabilization.
Picture unnamed__1_.jpg
Source: Entomo Farms
Source: Cricket Smart Farm


Type Misting banana leaves
Description Common in Thailand and rural farms. Banana leaves (or other water-resistant substrate) sprayed with a spray bottle.
Time to Refill Every few hours
  • Very inexpensive
  • Possible without power/very rural locations
  • Leaves may be free
  • Crickets will munch on leaves; extra feed
  • May drown pinheads
  • Very labor-intensive
  • Requires around-the-clock labor
  • Requires constant access to fresh leaves


Contraindicated Methods

  • Water gels: Although commonly used in reptile feed, the FDA has historically expressed alarm at people eating insects watered with gels. Additionally, if the gels dry back into crystalline or semi-crystalline form, crickets may eat these diminished crystals, only to have them swell back up when the cricket drinks again.


Chart: What Could Use More Testing

Type Description Add’l Questions
Microgreens Live-grown microgreens Is microbio contamination a concern?
Agar/Gelatin Systems As above
Misting Systems Light spray, similar to grocery store produce misting systems, onto a clean substrate below Wetting frass
Infrared Misting Systems Still proprietary to one farm Unknown
Aeroponic Misting System Using aeroponic misters to create very fine mists to aid direct absorption of water through spiracles Entirely untested


Watering System Design Considerations: Questions to ask yourself while designing a watering system

  • Reservoir capacity: how long can the system go without needing to be refilled?
    • Standing water systems typically range from overnight to 3 days (recommended), 6 days (realistic if you don’t have enough time in your day). The same standing water system that lasts a week for pinheads lasts a day for ¾” crickets.
    • Flowing water systems will typically need parts serviced before exhausting their water supply.
  • How long does it take to service? How often do components need to be replaced? 
  • Ideally, maintaining watering systems should be a minimal part of your day. In too many farms, it ends up being the bulk of the labor.
  • How long will the water (or substrate) stay clean enough to drink from?
  • How easy are the components to clean? How long does it take to clean them, and how long to dry?
  • How expensive is the system?
  • Where does the watering system fit into your existing operations?