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What do isopods eat?

If you own reptiles, hedgehogs, or any variety of animal that needs to be kept in a vivarium, you may have heard of isopods. Perhaps you have heard of the wonders of bioactive enclosures. Maybe you’re trying to get a compost bit established for your garden.

Whatever may be the case, you may be curious as to what they’re all about, asking questions such as “what do isopods eat”. After all, that is an important thing to understand when trying to establish a colony of these guys.

To truly understand these not-so-creepy crawlies, let’s understand a little bit more about what isopods eat in the wild, and why.

What do Isopods Eat in the Wild?

As detritivores (eating anything that is decaying), isopods will basically eat anything rotting and on the ground. From animal droppings to rotting vegetation, isopods are happy to munch down on whatever others don’t use.

This gives them the incredibly important job of being nature’s “cleanup crew”, removing any wastes that can attract dangerous pests and pathogens from the areas. They also continue the nutrient cycle for plants that would otherwise be suffocated by their rotting leaves.

These crustaceans also aerate the soil like worms by making little tunnels in search of food and fertilize it with their own droppings. This makes the surrounding ground even more nutrient-dense.

What do Isopods Eat in Captivity?

If you want to start your own colony of these diligent garbage bugs, you have to properly feed them. Fortunately, finding the right food for them is fairly easy. First, they will need a layer of leaf litter at the bottom as a reliable food source and to simply live in. Two ideal options here are live oak leaf litter and sea grape leaves.

If you do decide to source decaying wood and leaves from outside, take some precautions. Simply sterilize this matter by putting it in the oven at 300 degrees for 30 minutes. If you wish to store it for later, simply put it in an airtight plastic container. You can use this to easily top off their enclosure.

When looking for wood to provide for them, you want to get a soft, moist wood, such as cork or spruce. This will both provide an important nutrient source to them and help increase the overall humidity in their enclosure. Of course, there are commercially available sources of food available for your isopod.

Supplemental Foods

Now, the fun part of owning a pet roly poly as they are also known will be supplementing its diet. Just like with the detritus they eat in the wild, isopods will enjoy eating any and all table scraps you can give them. From pet foods to fruit/vegetable peels and bread crusts, they will eat it all. If you need a more reliable food source for your isopod, you can also feed them balanced dry dog food. To ensure they get enough calcium, provide them with eggshells or commercially available cuttlefish shells (called cuttlefish bone).

When your isopods are in another pet’s vivarium, much of their protein needs will be taken care of by animal wastes. However, you should still leave wood/old leaves for them to munch on. If you have a bioactive setup, they will thrive on and contribute to the nutrients of the substrate.

How to Not Feed Them

When providing any supplemental food, be sure to only feed as much as your isopods will eat. This might be a lot less than you expect at first. Any uneaten food can produce mildew, mold, and attract unwanted pests that you would not want to introduce into your pet’s enclosure.

To prevent mold from taking place in your isopods enclosure, be sure to clear out any uneaten food after a couple of days. Try to feed them fruit sparingly. Moist, sugar-rich fruits are a paradise for harmful fungi and other pathogens. Remember, molds can quickly become an unmanageable problem that can spread and even harm your crawly companions.

Conclusion on What Isopods Eat

Most people assume that isopods for sale require virtually no effort to raise and keep happy. While these are low-maintenance, hardy pets, it’s still important to remember how to properly feed and care for them.

While these bugs do have a wide, easy to provide diet, it’s still important to understand how to provide a balanced meal. Especially before looking at isopods for sale. Naturally, how much you need to feed these guys will depend on the size of your colony.

Once you have one colony established and understand how to care for them, you may just decide to attempt raising more varieties. The possibilities are endless! 

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