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Breeding Isopods: A Guide to Successful Isopod Breeding

If you are a reptile fancier, or happen to keep small pets that need specially maintained vivariums, it is likely that you’ve already heard about the wonders of isopods. Also known as rolly pollies, pill bugs, or sowbugs, these critters are a wonderful addition to a variety of homes. They are excellent at managing animal wastes and pests such as mites. Of course, many simply enjoy keeping them around as an unusual pet. Many even choose to start breeding isopods for various reasons.

Whether you want to invest in isopods as part of care for another pet or you simply want to keep a cool pet, there are still a variety of factors to keep in mind. In this guide, we will discuss the basics of isopod husbandry. Additionally, we will get into the various levels of difficulty that may be associated with keeping certain species.

Isopod Breeding

Keeping and breeding isopods is not typically a difficult task. The gestation period of most pill bugs is around 50-60 days, and they are happy to lay their mancae. As long as you keep them in proper conditions with the appropriate levels of humidity and food, they will continue to breed. These are known as easy keepers. However, isopods are a varied group of animals, and there are plenty of exceptions to this. After all, there are over 10,000 species of these special crustaceans in the world. Some of which we are lucky enough to be able to keep in captivity. It is natural that they would have different needs based on the environments they come from and breeding programs that created them. Of course, any sudden change in the environment or care of your pets can temporarily cause issues with their reproduction.

Let us start by talking about some pill bugs with more advanced needs when trying to get them to reproduce.

Properly Keeping Isopods

As with any animal, breeding isopods is going to require that you keep up with proper husbandry practices. There are a variety of factors that will go into how well your colony is able to proliferate. This includes:

Diet

Primarily, your pill bug colony will require a steady supply of leaf litter. After that, you will supplement their diet with a variety of other foods to supplement their diet. After all, breeding isopods will require that your specimens are optimally fed. This will include providing a variety of food wastes and a reliable source of protein. Quality protein sources for your colony include fish flakes, dried brine shrimp, and animal wastes.

When feeding, be sure not to leave too much food in the enclosure. This can lead to uneaten food attracting pathogens and pests. To prevent this, simply clear out uneaten foodstuff as needed.

Temperature

As with most bugs, isopods thrive in a specific temperature range. Most prefer that the thermostat be kept at around 72-80 degrees fahrenheit (22-26 degrees celsius). However, some prefer it slightly cooler or warmer than that. To ensure that your isopod enclosure is consistently at the right temperature, keep a thermometer in it. Be sure to always keep your vivarium at above 40 degrees fahrenheit (4 degrees celsius). This is the point where isopods are known to stop breeding.

Humidity

Naturally, some isopods prefer slightly wetter or arid climates depending on the species. The level of moisture in your pill bug enclosure will be essential to how they thrive. If you live in a drier climate, it will be especially important for you to monitor the humidity in their environment. To help keep your moisture level up, we would advise that you spray the enclosure with water whenever your layer of leaf litter looks dry. Keeping moist moss will also help to prevent things from drying out.

Setup

Certain aspects of your actual setup, such as the size of your bin will be important in getting your isopods to breed. This will include your bins size and how many hiding spaces they will have to proliferate. We would recommend starting off with a 6 quart bin, and inserting plenty of egg cartons for them to crawl around in. You also want to make sure that they have plenty of ventilation.

Intermediate Breeders

As previously stated, most isopods have similar needs when it comes to their care and breeding. However, there are some genuses that have more advanced requirements. Certain pill bugs are fairly picky when it comes to their breeding environments, and reproduce at very different rates. There are some pill bugs that are seasonal breeders, only reproducing 3-4 times a year. Primarily in the springtime. In other words, it can take 6 months or more until you see your first babies. Yes, these sowbugs require a notable amount of patience. They also need their enclosures to be properly managed and monitored to ensure that they are living in the proper conditions.

Some isopod species that we would consider to be intermediate keepers include porcellio werneri, magnificus, and bolivari.

Advanced Breeders

Some varieties of isopods, such as Merulanella sp or Cubaris sp are particularly difficult to breed. In this group are the famous rubber ducky and shiro utsuri isopods. This is due to the fact that there is little to no information about successfully keeping them. They are new to the hobby, slow to breed, typically look stunning, and expensive. Many of these genuses also happen to come from highly involved breeding programs in Asia. If you are looking into breeding these types of isopod, we would recommend trying to gain some experience in successfully raising other varieties first.

There are even certain isopods that are infamous for only laying one or two groups of mancae a year. This is the case of the Helleria Brevecornis (the largest terrestrial isopod). They are known to reproduce once during the female’s lifetime. Because of this, the males display a behavior known as “mate guarding”. This is the practice of the male latching onto its potential mate’s back. This can continue for months at a time until she is ready to mate.

With the difficulties that come with raising certain varieties of these crustaceans, we certainly would not discourage anyone from learning more about them. If you wind up successfully caring for them and do interesting things with your program, you may even create a whole new exciting species!

Taking Caution When Breeding Isopods

Remember, breeding isopods can be an unpredictable, risky undertaking. Especially if you’re putting a lot of money into it. Before investing in rare, difficult to breed isopods, we would always recommend that you do your research first. Read forums about specialty care, and talk to plenty of people experienced in raising the pill bugs you’re looking for. There is also no need to jump into the more advanced stuff right away. Raising more common, easier to care for isopods will certainly help with getting you to understand what is needed.

Remember, the last thing you want to do is invest in a bunch of expensive, cool bugs only for things to fall apart.

To keep on top of your colony’s health, here are some metrics you can observe:

Activity level.

How much they’re eating.

The condition of their food. Specifically, make sure that it is not molding.

That they’re reproducing at a good rate. Remember to keep the natural reproduction rate of your particular species in mind.

If you are beginning to see some issues with your colony, you can always adjust your care in the direction you think is best.

Managing Your Colony When Breeding Isopods

When taking care of a pill bug colony, there will come a time when you have to manage certain organisms. Overcrowding can cause huge issues for your program, spreading disease and spreading resources thin. If your colony is growing a bit too big, you do have a few solutions to manage reproduction, namely:

Selling them.

Creating a new colony in a different container.

Adjusting food levels.

Introducing predators.

Humanely euthanizing them in a freezer.

No matter which path you choose, do not release nonnative isopods into your local ecosystem. If you are considering introducing specimens of a native species into your area, consult a vet first. The improper release of any species can cause serious issues for local flora and fauna. It may even be illegal depending on where you live.

Final Thoughts on Isopod Breeding

Keeping an isopod colony can be a highly rewarding, fun endeavor. However, it will require some research and paying attention to your pet’s needs. This will remain true regardless of which isopods for sale you decide to go with.

If you do have aspirations in creating a new species of isopod, we say go for it. However, it is important that you absolutely master excellent care for these animals. We would also recommend that you do plenty of research on genetics. Additionally, be sure to talk to plenty of other breeders beforehand.

When done correctly, breeding isopods can lead you into a fun, exciting hobby. It may even lead you into providing a new level of care for your other animals.

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