Pet Isopods: The great crawling!

Children Isopods

A piece of nature in the living room: woodlice and co. can easily be kept in a terrarium. This can be particularly interesting for children and young people who are studying the habitat of insects and other invertebrates in class. Of course, they also have basic needs and requirements that can be met relatively easily, inexpensively and with a small investment of time. Even the holiday period can be easily bridged without neighbours, relatives or friends having to take care of the animals. The isopods therefore forgive any motivational gaps, but apart from that they obviously need to be fed and cared for regularly, just like any other pet.

(Oniscus asellus)

Armadillidium vulgare

(Armadillidium vulgare)

So isopods are definitely suitable pets and companions for children. No matter whether they live in the city or in village. In a terrarium, it is very easy to recreate the animals’ environment. Keepers can then observe how the animals grow and reproduce. There is no need to fear damage to the home, as the isopods cannot survive in normal indoor humidity, let alone reproduce.

Where can isopods be found?

It is best to go to a deciduous forest. Of course, you can also search in a coniferous forest, but the diversity of species in a deciduous forest is much higher due to the presence of leaves. It is promising if you do not look for woodlice there but for white rotten wood. White rotten wood is trunks or branches that have been lying in the forest for years and are rotting. The white rot fungus forms and slowly decomposes the wood. This decayed wood can easily be crumbled with the fingers and it smells slightly of mushroom, not unpleasant, but rather like a delicious mushroom soup in autumn.

(A spot with white rotten wood/dead wood is an ideal place to find isopods)

If you turn these trunks or branches over, you will automatically find very different isopod species and pill millipedes. The pill millipedes (Glomerida) form an order within the group of millipedes and therefore do not belong to the isopods. Due to their short, high-arched body and the ability to curl up in case of danger, pill millipedes are often confused with woodlice. However, pill millipedes differ from woodlice by their largely identical segments and the ability to hide the head with the first dorsal shield inside the sphere when curling up.

I recommend you start with woodlice (pillbug, as they are easier to keep, the reproduction rate is higher and above all the development time is much faster. My experience also shows that woodlice always go well with children!

Pill millipede (no head visible)

Pillbug (you can still see their head and eyes)

How do we set up woodlice in the living room?

The size of the breeding container or terrarium depends on the number of animals. For me, a number of 12 animals has proven to be optimal and I have always been able to achieve very good results. With this number, our Insektenliebe isopod starter set is completely sufficient. Deciduous forest humus is an excellent substrate. If you are new to keeping isopods and do not yet have any experience, you should start with a substrate height of 3 cm. Mix a handful of white rotten wood into this substrate and place a nice large piece of cork bark on top of the substrate so that the isopods have a place to hide. Next to this piece of cork bark, place feeding foliage on top of the substrate. The white rotten or dead wood and the leaves cover the basic food needs of the isopods perfectly. A corner with forest moss has proven to be an optimal moisturiser and should not be missing.

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What do our new isopods eat?

When it comes to food, isopods are easy to care for: since there are already leaves and white rotten wood in the container, you only need to feed them a little. You can do this with carrots, courgettes, sweet potatoes, Chinese cabbage or even a boiled egg. I would advise against vegetables and fruits that contain a lot of water, as they simply go mouldy too quickly. This is not necessarily harmful to the animals, but it is permanent for you and not pretty to look at.

From time to time, proteins should be offered in the form of isopod food. You should only put a very small amount of this in the container so that the animals eat it immediately and completely before mould develops.

Cuttlebone is really important as a source of calcium. We are more familiar with cuttlebone from bird cages. But isopods also need this fortification for their shells. The cuttlebone shells should therefore always be available in the container so that the high calcium requirement for the development of the isopods is present. Alternatively, you can grind eggshells and offer them to the animals. However, my experience shows that these are not as well accepted as the softer cuttlebone shells.

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How do we care properly four our woodlice?

The care is done twice a week. In the half of the terrarium, where the moss corner is located, it is best to spray the surface of the tank with a hand sprayer. The isopods like to visit this area to moult. You can never say how often you need to spray as factors such as ambient temperature, tank size, substrate height and the amount of ventilation in relation to the box all play a role. You should make sure that the substrate as a whole is and remains tobacco moist. The substrate should not be wet but also not dry. If you are on holiday for 2 weeks, it makes sense to keep the box cool and dark. A cellar room is a suitable place for this. A beetle jelly is suitable as a food source for a longer period.

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