It is not often that you come across an animal in the pet trade so unusual and unique that you might have a hard time wrapping your head around how they could have possibly found a place in someone’s home. One such critter is the isopod (also known as pillbug). These are an ancient crustacean that have evolved from the ocean onto land, and happen to be able to thrive in nearly every ecosystem on the planet. That includes our own homes. Now, if you have ever been curious about keeping these guys for yourself, you may be asking certain questions at this point, such as “what do I feed my isopods”. With this guide, we hope to be able to answer some common questions about feeding these funky little guys. Additionally, we want to give some insight into some best husbandry practices.
How to Feed Isopods
Pillbugs are small, hardy detritivores. This simply means that they primarily subsist off of nature’s garbage. Be it old leaf matter, mites, animal wastes, or even insect shells, they’ll be happy to gobble it down.
In captivity, their food preferences will be much the same. However, you will need to take care to ensure that they have a varied, nutritionally complete diet. Especially if they’re being bred or used as a food source for another animal.
What to Feed Pillbugs at Home
Generally, you will primarily feed your isopods a constant supply of leaf litter substrate. You will likely find this substrate whereeve you find isopods for sale. This will also be the material that they nest and hide in. Two common options of litter for isopod enclosures include sea grape leaves and oak leaf. However, their diet should be varied and supplemented with a variety of other foods. This includes plenty of vegetable matter. Naturally, this can include a variety of things that you want to throw out of your kitchen.
An essential nutrient frequently neglected in isopod diets is calcium. To ensure that your pill bugs have enough calcium to properly grow their exoskeletons, try adding half a cup of calcium carbonate powder to their substrate mix. You can also add eggshells into their enclosure, which they will happily munch on for a long time. Most breeders use cuttlebone segments that they leave in the enclosure with the isopods.
To round out the dietary needs of your crustacean colony, you are going to need to provide them with a source of protein. This will help to produce larger, healthy isopods that grow at a faster rate. Protein sources can include animal wastes, the shells of other insects, or simply commercial fish food.
Feeding Dos and Don’ts
Feeding these crustaceans isn’t necessarily difficult. However, it is certainly possible to mess up if not done properly. In fact, if certain precautions and best practices aren’t kept in mind, you may potentially invite disease and poor nutrition into your pillbug enclosure. However, by understanding some of the basics of the isopod diet and how to properly feed them, you should have no trouble maintaining a happy, healthy colony.
Remove excess food if it hasn’t been eaten in 24 hours.
Feed them protein rich foods at least every few days.
Switch up foods so that they can get variety in their diet.
Leave in too much food. It can get moldy.
Feed them random leaf and wood matter from outside. It can contain various pests and pesticides that will harm your colony.
Feed them too little plant matter. Quality plant-based foods should make up the majority of their diet.
What to Feed More Than One Colony of Isopod
If you are looking into keeping more than one species of isopod, you may be wondering whether or not they have differing dietary requirements. Fortunately, pill bug diets seem to be a “one size fits all” situation for the most part. While it is possible that certain species have certain preferences over the other, you can feed one colony the same food as another. However, certain factors such as breeding behaviors and colony size should be taken into consideration. Especially when trying to determine the quantity and contents of their meals.
Final Thoughts on What to Feed Isopods
Knowing how and what to feed any pet is an essential part of good husbandry. It is true that the diet of these wonderful crustaceans is varied and relatively simple to provide for. However there are still best practices to keep in mind. Regardless of your reason for keeping them, knowing what to feed your isopods will be essential to the health of your colony and any other pet they may be supporting.