An appropriate introduction for the novice to Roaches as Pets
By: the Invertebrates at
Pet Care Tips)
Say the word roach and many people will flinch. Most
of us have never heard of any roaches but the ones that make
pests of themselves in human dwellings. In truth, though,
there are nearly four thousand species of roaches in the
world, and only around thirty have been considers as pests.
Roaches don't cost much to maintain in captivity, breed and
eat well, and don't bite their keepers. Plus, there are many
species that are actually very colorful and attractive, have
interesting, complicated and well-developed social
structures, and make excellent insect pets.
Although roaches look a lot like beetles, roaches belong to
the Dictyoptera or "net wing" group, as do their relatives
the mantids (Praying Mantis). Most people would call them
"bugs," but that's not totally accurate either, since
scientifically only one group of insects are truly bugs, the
The roach species that is most commonly found in pet
stores is the Giant Madagascar Hissing Roach. It, like
most of the other roaches considered as pet species comes
from a tropical climate. Hissing Roaches are so popular
as pets because they are very large and make an interesting
hissing sound when disturbed, by forcing air out through
their spiracles (holes along their sides used for
breathing.) They also are easy to care for and so make a
good pet for the beginning insect keeper.
Some other species that are common pets are the Golden
Roach, Green Banana Roach, and a few other species
that have interesting size, coloration or habits. Look for
more articles on this website that focus on individual
species or groups of species for more detailed information.
Keeping roaches as pets is fairly simple, with two main
1. Most roaches climb well, many can even climb the glass
walls of a terrarium, and some species also fly, so you will
need a secure top to the tank. Also, many species can live
and reproduce under normal home conditions, just as the
German Roach and other pest roaches, and it would not be
amusing to have to call a pest exterminator to remove the
pet roach infestation from your home. Since excess humidity
can lead to mold, fungal and bacterial infestations that can
kill your pet, a small aquarium with a tight-fitting fine-
mesh screen top that provides plenty of ventilation is the
2. The very tropical species, which are also the most
interesting as pets, require consistently warm temperatures
of at least seventy-seven degrees Fahrenheit (twenty-five
degrees Celsius), so unless you live in a tropical climate
yourself you will need to provide heat in the tank if you
don't have a special heated room for your collection of
tropical pets. The easiest way to provide heat for your
roaches is probably to put the tank onto an electric heating
pad so that about two-thirds of the tank is on the pad, and
the remaining one-third will stay cooler and so give your
roaches a choice of environmental temperatures.
Beyond those two issues, roaches are mostly amazingly simple
to keep. For tank decoration, you can simply provide a
substrate of wood shavings for roaches that live naturally
in leaf litter, or several inches of peat for the burrowing
species. Add a few driftwood pieces or other items such as
empty paper rolls or the like to provide hiding places.
Roaches are all omnivorous. A healthy diet for most
species would be something like very ripe apple pieces or
other fruit and a little rolled oats. Every other day should
be often enough for feeding, but be sure they have enough
food to prevent cannibalism and remove all old food
immediately to prevent mold. For water you can put in a jar
lid filled with cotton balls. That way you can keep the lid
wet and the roaches can drink without the risk of drowning.
Just change the cotton and wash the lid when it looks dirty.
Or, if you have many roaches, you may want to buy one of the
inverted water bottles sold in pet and feed stores.
Your roaches will likely take care of breeding with no help
needed from you. Most roach species produce egg cases which
the female will hide in nooks in the cage, cement to cage
fixtures, or carry around with her, depending on the
species. A few species give birth to live young, and there
are a few species of roach that are parthenogenic, females
reproducing without the need for a male, and in some
species, never producing a male.
A few species that are recommended for beginners:
* Madagascar Hissing Roach (Gromphadorhina portentosa) -
These roaches grow up to three inches long and are wingless
and live-bearing. They can live up to five years, and are
the most popular pet roach species.
* Surinam Roach (Pycnoscelus surinamensis) - The Surinam
roach is about three-quarters of an inch (two
centimeters) long and is shining brown to black with a pale
white band across the front of its body. This roach is
parthenogenic and gives birth to live young.
* Giant Death's Head Roach (Blaberus craniifer) - The
true Death's Head Roach (another species, the Discoid,
is sometimes misnamed as the Death's Head Roach for some
reason.) is native to Central America and has markings on
top of the thorax that some think look like a strange skull
or vampire face. This large roach grows up to three inches
(seven to eight centimeters) long, has wings but doesn't
fly, and can't climb glass, which is a boon to its keepers.
More Stuff on Pet Roaches