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Isopod Care Guide

What are they?

Known as Roly-poly, pill bug, wood lice, sowbugs and many more the only thing isopods have more of than names is species! With 10,000+ species they make a very cool and unique pet to collect. Porcellio, Armadillidium, Cubaris, Nagurus, and Trichorhina are the most common genera of Isopods in the hobby. These tiny crustaceans are detritivores meaning they eat dead organic material so they make a great clean up crew for your reptile enclosures! Fascinatingly, these creatures date back to the Carboniferous period, making them ancient inhabitants of our planet. They thrive in moist environments, mimicking their native habitats which span forests to caves, where they play a crucial role in decomposition and soil health. Isopods vary in size, from a mere few millimeters to up to 16 inches in aquatic species, and can live up to five years, depending on the species and environment.


This article will teach you how to care for isopods. If you have any corrections, comments or questions, please leave them in the comments. I'd love to hear from you! I have provided a video from my YouTube channel here for those that prefer to learn from videos. I also have Isopods for sale available here.

Enclosure

You can keep isopods in 2 ways. As mentioned before they can be kept as a clean up crew for your reptile enclosure. Isopods will help break down animal waste, left over food, and decaying plant matter. The second way is to keep the isopods in their own enclosure (I always recommend setting up a colony first and then taking some of the offspring for all your reptiles' enclosures.) . A simple plastic container or glass terrarium works well, with size depending on the colony's needs; a standard 10-gallon tank is a good starting point for most hobbyists. The substrate, a crucial aspect of their habitat, should be a mix of organic soil, coco coir, and decomposing leaves, with a depth of 2-4 inches to allow for burrowing and moisture retention. Maintain the substrate's moisture to mimic a damp forest floor without becoming waterlogged, and consider adding pieces of bark, moss, and rocks to replicate natural hiding spots.

Isopods thrive in temperatures ranging from 68-78°F with humidity levels between 70-80%. They are generally nocturnal, requiring a habitat that reflects their natural preference for cooler, moist environments. A balance of shaded areas and access to moisture is essential, eliminating the need for direct lighting or UVB.


Diet and Hydration

Isopods are detritivores, feeding primarily on decaying plant material, which makes their diet relatively simple to manage. Offer a variety of organic matter such as dead leaves, wood, and vegetables, supplemented with calcium-rich foods like cuttlebone to support their exoskeleton development. Hydration is provided through the moist substrate, but a shallow water dish or misting the enclosure can help maintain the necessary humidity.

Incorporate occasional treats such as fruits or commercial isopod food to diversify their diet, ensuring they receive all the necessary nutrients. Observing their feeding behaviors can also offer insights into their health and well-being, with active foraging being a good sign of a healthy isopod.


Handling

Isopods, while not typically handled due to their size and habitat, can be gently interacted with if necessary. Excessive handling can cause stress, so it's advisable to limit direct contact. When handling is required, use a soft brush or scoop them gently to avoid harm. Observing their natural behaviors provides the most enjoyment and the least stress for these fascinating creatures.

In creating a care guide for isopods, the aim is to emphasize the simplicity yet importance of replicating their natural environment as closely as possible. By understanding their needs, from the enclosure setup to their diet and minimal handling requirements, enthusiasts can ensure their tiny, ancient companions thrive in captivity.

 

These care guides that I write are used daily and followed as law here at Shadow’s reptiles.

 I am constantly working on improving them which in turn improves the quality of care for my animals and for my customers and their animals. I appreciate any and all feedback more than anything. In trade for your corrections, questions, and comments I promise to keep all care guides updated with the best possible care tips I can offer linked with updated YouTube videos and the products that I use for my animals.


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Meet the author

I have always been passionate about animals and their care. As the founder of Shadow's Reptiles (An online pet store), I feel responsible to share my knowledge through my educational animal shows, blogs and videos. I have dedicated part of my life to educating others on the unique needs of reptiles and animals in general. I aggressively research all animals that are coming into my care and I write these care guides as proof to myself that I am knowledgeable enough to care for said animal. I don't know everything but I do however know that I go above

and beyond with my animals' care and if I am confident enough to post a care guide for you to read I swear that it is the best possible way to care for your animals on the internet. Why? Because I am constantly updating and testing new methods, I follow these care guides every single day with hundred of animals that I love more than life itself. Unfortunately I can not do it alone, I will need your support!

 

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