What Do Silverfish Eat? (6 Tips To Get Rid Of Them)

You know your home is overdue for deep cleaning once you notice small critters hiding in the corners. Hopefully, you don’t have to deal with some really nasty pests such as rats and mice, but there are also some insects and bugs that are equally as gross.

One of such pests is silverfish. These silvery insects are quite hated among most homeowners, and personally, I get goosebumps on my skin when just thinking about them. Although they aren’t as harmful as most other pests, they can still cause damage to your property.

In order to efficiently get rid of these nasty creatures, you should learn more about their habits and what they like/don’t like. Read this article and you will find all the important facts like what silverfish eat, where they live, etc.

Facts About Silverfish

Silverfish is a small, wingless, and primitive insect species. This creature got its name from the silvery grey color of its body and from its fish-like movements. Silverfish is a nocturnal insect, which means it is most active during the night.

Silverfish is typically 0.5-1 inch long, and it has long and thin antennae. On its rear side, the silverfish has cerci, appendages that serve as sensory organs. This insect is agile, fast-moving, and avoids light.


Silverfish is an example of cosmopolitan species, which means it lives on every continent, except Antarctica. It prefers moist areas with a relative humidity between 75% and 95%. In urban areas, silverfish can be found in various cracks in bathrooms, basements, attics, sinks, kitchens, bathtubs, and showers, as well as in classrooms and old books.


Silverfish has a unique mating ritual. Before a pair of silverfish mates, they perform that ritual in 3 phases. In the first phase, the male and female stand face to face, with their antennae touching.

In the second phase, the male starts running away, and the female chases him. During the third phase, the male and female stand by each other’s side. A male’s tail is right by the female’s head, and vice versa.

The male starts shaking his tail against the female and he releases his sperm capsule. The female uses an organ called the ovipositor to take the sperm capsule into her body and fertilize her eggs.

Approximately, the female silverfish lays up to 60 whitish, oval-shaped eggs in various crevices. The eggs hatch in the next two weeks to two months. The newly-hatched nymphs will have a whitish color but will look like smaller adults. As they grow, young silverfish will molt several times, achieving the silvery grey color of the adult specimens.

Fun Facts

Silverfish are considered to be one of the earliest insect species, existing for more than 400 million years. That means that they appeared 100 million years before the first dinosaurs.

Silverfish are quite long-lived as they can live for 3-6 years, with some of them living for more than 8 years. They are hard to kill as they are resistant to many bug sprays and poisons.

Due to their relatively small size and unusual bodies, silverfish can easily climb up walls and even walk on ceilings. They are also to jump up to 2 feet high.

However, although they are fast runners, they can only run fast when moving horizontally. Also, their speed is their only defense mechanism against possible predators, because they have no fighting skills.

While most insects only molt in their larvae or juvenile phases, silverfish continue to molt their whole life, molting 17-66 times. That’s why you are able to find their old scales around their hiding places.

What Do Silverfish Eat?

Silverfish 1
Image Credit: Encyclopedia Britannica

These primitive insects feed on protein, starches, and other carbohydrates. However, that doesn’t mean it will be easy for you to get rid of their food sources. Not only do they feed on grains, vegetables, flour, sweets, oats, cereals, and pet food, but they are also capable of digesting cellulose.

This means silverfish will happily nibble on paper, linens, cotton and other fabric, book bindings, cardboard boxes, carpeting, clothes, and your other belongings. They will also eat toothpaste, glue, and silk. They were also spotted feeding on dead insects.

Silverfish are scavengers that will eat anything they find that has the right type of polysaccharides. They will even feed on human detritus, such as hair, dead skin cells, scabs, and even dandruff.

Some other things that silverfish will eat include coffee, shampoo, and coffee.

How do Silverfish Forage?

Silverfish don’t have eyes or ears, but they still have some senses that help them determine whether it is light or dark. Their long antenna also helps silverfish to find areas with high enough moisture, where they prefer to scavenge for their food.

Silverfish have a sense of smell developed enough to help them find foods rich in starch or protein. Interestingly enough, silverfish will avoid places that smell of citrus, cinnamon, or lavender.

Another interesting silverfish feeding habit is that they can go for up to 300 days without food, almost one whole year. They will survive on the water while they wait and look for food sources.

Feeding Habits Of Baby Silverfish

Once they hatch, young silverfish quickly adopt the feeding habits of the adult specimens. That means they feed on grains, vegetables, fibers, hairs, paper, glue, and all the other weird foods.

Are Silverfish Harmful?

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Image Credit: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Silverfish aren’t carriers of any known diseases, and they won’t bite you, your child, or your pet. However, silverfish infestation is a nuisance that will gradually destory your belongings and your home if you don’t deal with it soon enough.

Some signs of a silverfish infestation include yellow stains, holes, debris, scales, and tiny black pellet that are actually silverfish feces.

Apart from making your house look dirty, silverfish will bite through your clothes, books, documents, and even money. They are also known to chew on wallpaper from your walls, in order to reach and eat the glue underneath.

What Attracts Silverfish The Most?

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Image Credit: Turner Pest Control

One thing that attracts silverfish the most is probably high humidity. Although they can spend some short time in dry areas, they will want to get back to more damp areas as soon as possible.

Apart from high humidity, silverfish prefer to live in the dark than being exposed to light. That’s why you can often find them in pantries, closets, garages, laundry rooms, etc. Apart from high humidity and low light, silverfish look to live in warm places.

Of course, silverfish will flock to places where they have enough food sources, such as crumbs, food remains, and other sources of starch and protein.

How Do You Get Rid Of A Silverfish?

  • The first thing you should try is to make sure your home isn’t a good place for silverfish to live in. That means, you need to try to lower the humidity as much as possible, even if it means using dehumidifiers.
  • Check if there is enough lighting in your home, and try to ventilate every room as often as possible. This will help get rid of any excess humidity, and the breath of fresh air will certainly help keep various pests at bay.
  • If there are any crumbs, food residues, and other food sources that might attract silverfish, get rid of them. Make sure your pipes aren’t leaky and fix them if they are. Also, try to fill in any crevices where silverfish might hide.
  • If that fails, you can use various silverfish traps that will help you catch the silverfish and get rid of them. Some of these traps are sticky and others contain a powder that will kill silverfish almost instantly.
  • Use cedar, lavender, or citrus oils in a diffuser or spray bottle. This will annoy any silverfish in your home and they will soon look for an exit.
  • If all of the above fails, you can always call professional pest control and they will help you get rid of these nasty little pests.

What Are The Predators Of Silverfish?

The next time you think of killing spiders that have nested in the corner, remember that they naturally feed on silverfish. Some other silverfish predators include centipedes and earwigs. However, the downside of keeping spiders, centipedes, and earwigs for killing silverfish is that they are also considered pests.


I don’t know about you, but the more I read about silverfish, the more repulsed I feel. Makes no wonder, they are disgusting insects with quite weird feeding habits. Silverfish will feed on anything that contains protein, starch, or fibers.

Not only will they feed on food remains like many other pests, but they will also eat paper, wood, linen, fabric, books, and any item that contains cellulose or other fibers.

While silverfish won’t make you sick or attack you, they are still a nasty sight, and for many, they are a sign of a dirty house.

How do you deal with silverfish? Do you have any tricks to prevent them from coming into your home, or do you know how to efficiently get rid of them once they are in? Share in the comments!

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