Madagascan Hissing Cockroach (Gromphadorhina portentosa) make great pets.
There are more than 4,500 described species of cockroaches (Dictyoptera, Blattodea) in the world, of which only 25 to 30 have a pest status, some of the rest make great pets.
Housing cockroaches in captivity poses two main problems:
- Most species come from tropical countries and therefore need to be kept at a minimum of 25°C.
- The risk of the cockroaches escaping and infesting the house. This problem is easily overcome by careful selection of species and an escape proof cage.
As most species of cockroach are good climbers a tight fitting lid is required with a good quality fine mesh to allow for air flow. For smaller and faster moving species, access to the cage can be obtained via a cloth or mesh sleeve which can be tied tightly closed when not in use.
The best method is to house them in a specially heated room, but for most people this is not possible, an alternative is to keep the cage in an airing cupboard. However, the commonest method is to use an electric heatpad, these come in a variety of shapes and sizes and it is best to talk to your local retailer as to what you need. A good estimate is that the pad should rest comfortably under the cage/aquarium so that two thirds of the cage is directly over the pad. This produces a temperature gradient giving the cockroaches some choice over what temperature they experience. The use of a thermostat can make things easier but it isn't really necessary for most of the commonly kept species.
The floor of the cage should be covered with wood shavings for leaf litter species such as Gromphadorhina portentosa or with peat-free compost for burrowing species such as Pycnoscelus surinamensis, as well as a mixture of surface objects to offer hiding spaces; egg boxes and the inner roll from toilet and paper towel rolls are excellent.
All known species of cockroach are omnivorous though in captivity most species do well on a mixture of dried feed/grain and fresh vegetables or fruit. A good diet would be rolled oats and fruit like bananas and apples though they especially like over-ripe peaches and plums. Although they don't need fresh food every day it is important that they always have enough to eat otherwise they will start eating the cage as well as each other. You should also removed any uneaten fruit before it goes mouldy.
Water should be made available in a shallow bowl filled with cotton wool which should be changed as it gets dirty; alternately water can be supplied in mini inverted drinkers similar to those used for poultry.
As a general rule breeding will take care of itself, eggs are normally laid in an ootheca or egg case. Some species will secrete these in the corners of the cage or other nooks and crannies while others will carry the ootheca around with them, either inside or partly extruded from the body until it is time for the young to hatch. Some species are parthenogenic (the females give birth to other females and no males are ever seen) i.e. Pycnoscelus surinamensis. Other species have both males and females. For example the Madagascan Hissing Cockroach Gromphadorhina portentosa - the males have prominent bumps on the pronotum (the shield-like plate behind the head of the insect), females do not.
- Surinam Cockroach (Pycnoscelus surinamensis)
- Madagascan Hissing Cockroach (Gromphadorhina portentosa)
- Death's Head Cockroach (Blaberus craniifer)
- Blaberus discoidalis
Further information on Cockroaches.
Remember: it is important that you know the needs and requirements of your pet before you obtain the animal. You should never, ever obtain an animal before researching its needs and preparing the housing and conditions.
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