Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

Millipedes, Cockroaches, Beetles and More

©1995 Melissa Kaplan




Yes, people really do keep cockroaches, and not just free-roaming around their kitchens. The most interesting ones, the Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches, are not generally available as household pets. Technically, in the state of California, in order to obtain and keep them, one must have a permit from the Department of Agriculture. Such permits are only granted to educators, researchers and scientists.

Because roaches reproduce like, well, cockroaches, particular care must be taken to avoid accidental breeding between males and females (unless, of course, you are breeding them for food for other animas), and taking appropriate measures to assure females who have been kept with males do not escape. Hissing cockroaches are ovoviviparous - they bear live young. Often. A lot of them. Most of the 3,500 or species live in the warm and humid tropics. Some have become domesticated by man, and has followed (actually, been transported) by man where ever man has gone. The ones we are most familiar with, and spend a great deal of money trying to eradicate, are the American and German cockroaches.

Housing and Feeding Your Cockroaches
Hissing cockroaches are kept very much like millipedes. House on orchid bark on which clumps of dry and damp sphagnum moss have been placed. Mist the moss and sides of the tank every day. Feed poultry mash, natural (low fat) granola, oatmeal into which reptile vitamins have been mixed, and offer pieces of fruit, dark leafy greens. A small jar lid of water may also be offered. Clean the tank at least monthly.

Birth Control and Tank Security
If you are going to have male and female cockroaches, and do not want to start your own population explosion, you will have to keep them separated. One way to do so while at the same time keeping them close together for easy comparison is to place the female inside a firmly sealed aquarium or "critter carrier" (clear plastic carriers with brightly colored tops) with her food and water supply. Then, place her aquarium inside a much larger aquarium in which you have the male with his supply of food and water. His aquarium, too, must be securely fastened. Using this "double-bagging" method will help assure that a possibly pregnant female does not get out. Keeping them separate assures that the female will not become impregnated while you have her. Another method of keeping the two sexes separated is to house them in two separate aquariums. For ease in comparing the two sexes, the aquariums can be placed side by side. Feed your roaches high-quality dog kibble or rabbit food pellets. Water should be offered: either use a piece of fruit (apple, strawberry, orange, grape halves) or place a new piece of sponge in a shallow dish, then pour water into the sponge every couple of days to keep it moist. The kibble or rabbit food can be used as the substrate as well as the food. Roaches can also be kept in pine or cedar shavings or orchid bark. The food can then be offered in a pile or scattered throughout the aquarium. Replace the soiled sponge with a piece of fresh sponge every couple of months.

Note: Hissing cockroaches make great food for insectivorous lizards. You just may not want to tell your friends (or landlord) that you are breeding them on purpose...!

There are over 6,500 species of millipedes, most living in tropical climes where some species reach a length of 8 inches. California is home to the Luminodesmus sequoiae, a luminous millipede. Contrary to their name, millipedes do not have 1000 legs. Their class name Diplopoda is more accurate - they have two pairs of legs on each body segment. Most millipedes possess 30-40 body segments, bringing the average number of legs to a total of only 120-160 legs. This arthropod's legs are found on the underside of it's cylindrical body. Each segment is covered by a hard chitinous exoskeleton. As the millipede grows, it sheds its old, too small exoskeleton, emerging from the old wearing the new. One of nature's scavengers, millipedes eat decaying plant matter, finding its way about with its antenna, chewing up food with its single pair of jaws. When frightened, the millipede curls itself into a tight flat spring-like coil, with it's head tucked neatly, and inaccessibly, in the middle. Millipedes can be held by placing your hand under it's body and supporting it's body as it moves along. Millipedes are not the same as centipedes.

Centipedes, members of the class Chilopoda, are venomous carnivores, killing their prey by injecting a venom when biting with their one or more mouthparts. Centipedes have only one pair of legs per body segment; the largest centipede may have up to 173 body segments for a total of 346 legs. Centipede bodies are flat in shape, and their legs emerge from the sides of each segment. Unlike millipedes, centipedes move very fast. Both are terrestrial.

Housing and Feeding Your Millipedes
Place orchid bark in the bottom of a glass or plastic aquarium. Place a few clumps of damp sphagnum moss in difference places in the tank; also place clumps of dry moss in tank. Millipedes may be kept at room temperature in rooms that get no colder than 72 degrees during the day. No special lighting is required. When the substrate is soiled or wet, remove and replace with fresh material.

Feed dark leafy greens, pieces of apple or potato. Since they are scavengers, millipedes may wait until the food has begun to rot a bit before eating it, so don't be too hasty to clean out uneaten food. Drinking water must be provided by misting the sides of the tank and some of the moss every day. Remove really rotted food, replacing it with fresh foods every couple of days.

Do not be surprised if you find yourself raising a crop of fruit flies in with your millipedes. So long as there are no other food sources around, the flies will stay in the millipede tank. When you disturb the tank for whatever reason, the flies will fly out and about, but will eventually return to the tank.

With thanks to Steve "Bugs Are My Business" Kutcher, keeper and educator extraordinnaire.

Need to update a veterinary or herp society/rescue listing?

Can't find a vet on my site? Check out these other sites.

Amphibians Conservation Health Lizards Resources
Behavior Crocodilians Herpetology Parent/Teacher Snakes
Captivity Education Humor Pet Trade Societies/Rescues
Chelonians Food/Feeding Invertebrates Plants Using Internet
Clean/Disinfect Green Iguanas & Cyclura Kids Prey Veterinarians
Home About Melissa Kaplan CND Lyme Disease Zoonoses
Help Support This Site   Emergency Preparedness

Brought to you thanks to the good folks at Veterinary Information Network, Inc.

© 1994-2014 Melissa Kaplan or as otherwise noted by other authors of articles on this site