Updated: Jul 12, 2021
Housing – We keep ours in modified shoe boxes, with two one-inch vents in the lid, however aquariums and plastic bins are also commonly used. Do not use cardboard, wood, or Masonite to house Isopods as the humidity they require will destroy the box. Do not use creature keepers as their ventilation is so good that you must water the substrate often and forgetting for only a few days could cause colony collapse.
Substrate – We use a mixture of peat moss and coco fiber, but many substrates work, including sand, gravel, potting soil, frass (insect poop), and manure, depending on the species.
Temperature – Reasonable room temperature (72-77 F) is good for most species.
Humidity – Varies from species to species, but generally small to medium isopods need high humidity and little ventilation, while larger species need more air flow.
Food – Isopods are detritivores, and generally eat dead and rotting matter. Old dead leaves are a staple (oak is particularly nutritious), and other foods include rotting wood, fruit scraps, fish flakes, dog or cat food (dry only), eggshells, and commercial “bug burger”. Offer a variety and remove any foods that are untouched or mold badly.
Water – We always include some sphagnum moss in our enclosures to provide ready drinking water.
Moving – The safest way to transfer isopods is by scooting them onto a flat piece of bark or a brown paper bag and tapping them into their new space, as attempting to pick them up can crush them if you aren’t careful.
Breeding – Isopods breed readily at appropriate temperatures. Luckily room temperature is usually in the breeding range. They are a good type of animal to learn selective breeding with, as the selecting process is harder than the actual breeding part. Isopod females lay their eggs in a fluid filled pouch on their underside and their young hatch and experience their first molt inside the pouch.
Isopods are crustaceans, not insects. More than half of the over 10.500 known species are aquatic, but there are still nearly 4000 known terrestrial species.
Isopods are made up of a head (their first segment), the pereon (the next seven segments each of which has a pair of legs called pereopods), and the pleon (the remaining segments) that ends in a small pair of dorsal appendages called uropods.
All isopods have 2 sets of antennae (total of 4), but on terrestrial species they often can’t be seen without a microscope.
Some, but not all, isopods are capable of volvating (curling into a ball).
Common names include: Pillbug (volvating species only). Armadillo bug, roly poly, slater, sow bug, woodlice, and potato bug.
Isopods are biphastic molters; they tend to molt half their exoskeleton, harden, and they molt the other half. So if it looks like your isopod hasn’t molted properly, it’s perfectly normal.
Isopods can actively cooperate, and in terrestrial species it seems to be related to moisture conservation.
Isopods are often used as cleanup crews, as they eat rotting, excess, and scattered food stuffs that can cause grain mite infestations if not removed. However, they aren’t magic; they prevent enclosure pests by out competing them, and in small numbers, or with a large amount of rotting material, they are ineffective, so spot cleaning may still be necessary in extreme cases. Micropods are the best cleanup crews as they breed rapidly and aren’t often hunted. Isopods SHOULD NOT be used with millipedes, beetle larvae, or some delicate species of roach, as they out compete them and will eat their vulnerable eggs or larvae. Isopods also shouldn’t be used with Vinegaroons, as they hunt them preferentially, regardless of size.