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How long do isopods live as pets?

Isopods are small, unique crustaceans that have adapted to live on land as detritivores. If you have ever considered owning these ancient not-so-creepy-crawlies, you may be asking yourself questions such as “how long do isopods live as pets”. You may even be wondering about their general growth and development. With this guide, we will take a deep dive into how long these crustaceans live, what influences their lifespan, how they develop, and what daily life by their side might look like. By the end, you should have a better idea of what to expect when owning these guys, and how to successfully carry your colony from generation to generation.

How Long Do Isopods Actually Live

The answer to the question “how long do isopods live” is a little less straightforward than it might seem at first. In ideal conditions, isopods can have a lifespan of around 2-4 years. However, various factors of your husbandry will impact their quality of life and how they breed. Certain other factors like the species of isopod you’re caring for will also need to be considered.

How Isopods Live: Housing

While housing an isopod will be relatively simple, it’s still important to get it right. It’s not always as easy as sticking them in a plastic container with air holes. Certain elements of their environment, e.g. humidity will have to be accommodated for. 

While you are likely not going to be keeping one singular isopod, it’s important to remember that they should not be isolated. Isopods are social crustaceans and will need to remain in a colony to thrive. To learn more about properly housing your isopod, read “Isopod Care: Housing, Feeding and Breeding“.

How Isopods Live: Diet

Generally, you should supply your isopods with a constant supply of leaf litter. This will provide them with an area to breed and nest in. Two common options of substrate for isopod enclosures include sea grape leaves and oak leaf. From there, you can supplement their diet with other foods such as kitchen scraps and calcium supplements. Whatever you feed your isopods, it’s important that you not leave rotting foods that they’re not eating in their enclosure. This can attract dangerous pathogens and pests. When feeding, be sure to take out any uneaten food items within a few hours after providing it to them.

Note: It is advisable that you not provide your isopods with random leaf litter from outside. This can contain pesticide residue that will harm your colony.

How Isopods Grow

Newly hatched isopods are known as mancae , which are distinguished from adults by missing certain limbs on the thorax known as pereopods. These usually take about 3-4 weeks to come in. At this time, your baby isopods will be vulnerable and have exceptionally soft shells. This will cause them to remain hidden close to their mother or in various small burrows until their shells have hardened after a few molts. During this period, you may want to keep your newly hatched mancae in a container separate from the colony. 

From this stage, your isopods will take around 12 weeks to reach adulthood. This means that they have reached sexual maturity, realized their full size, and acquired their adult appearance. If you are looking to successfully manage a colony in the long term, you may want to wait until your isopods have sustained a healthy population before feeding them to another pet.

If you notice that your colony is having a difficult time thriving and proliferating, you may wish to consult an expert. While some isopods are more difficult to breed than others, you should start to see your colony expand within a few months of acquiring your first batch of specimens.

How Isopods Live

These crustaceans live relatively simple lives. You can expect them to spend most of their time hiding under rotting leaves and other detritus. This helps them to retain moisture and avoid predators. In drier climates, they will spend more of their time hiding in an attempt to keep moist. When confronted with a threat, they will defensively roll up into a tight, secure ball (hence the name “pill bug” or “roly polly”). This is not a crustacean that seeks conflict or will act aggressively toward you.

Is There Such a Thing as Too Many Isopods?

When trying to maintain a healthy isopod colony, it’s important to remember that there can be too much of a good thing. Having too many isopods in one container can stretch resources to their limit and spread disease. This can prevent your isopods from living the lives they deserve. As a responsible isopod breeder, you have to find ways to keep your colony’s population at a healthy level. You can accomplish this through several methods. This includes euthanizing sick or undesirable specimens in the freezer, feeding them to another pet, or simply selling them.

Isopod FAQ

When looking into isopods for sale, it’s natural to have some questions about their basic behaviors and needs. Here are a few answers to some frequently asked questions about isopods.

Q: Do isopods bite?

A: The mouthparts of isopods are generally too weak to cause pain or break skin.

Q: How many isopods do I need to start a colony?

A: Around twelve.

Q: Can isopods be sensitive to light?

A: Isopods are generally not fans of light, and it is best to keep them in a dark, quiet area.

Q: Do isopods need a water bowl?

A: No. Isopods typically receive the water they need through the humidity in their environment and daily misting.

Final Thoughts

These crustaceans make wonderful, easy-to-care-for pets for a variety of homes. However, it is still important to understand what you’re getting into before seeking out isopods for sale. Asking questions like “how long do isopods live” is simply part of that process. As long as they’re properly cared for, these useful detritivores are bound to brighten up your home for years. Even longer if you manage to properly maintain a colony.  

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