Madagascar hissing cockroaches are one of the easiest insect pets to keep. If you are interested in keeping Madagascar hissing cockroaches at home but are clueless on how to take care of them, here’s a useful guide for you.
To keep Madagascar hissing cockroaches as pets, put them into a small aquarium with some carton papers. Feed your roaches with cut fruits or vegetables every day and ensure they have access to water at any time. Maintain the temperature above 75 °F (24 °C). Keep the housing away from direct sunlight, and keep it moist by misting.
While taking care of the pet Madagascar hissing cockroaches is easy, there are a few more things that you need to know, so that you can understand their needs better. If well taken care of, the Madagascar hissing cockroaches can live for 2-4 years.
You can use a 5 gallons (20 L) aquarium to house 3-4 Madagascar hissing cockroaches. Fill the aquarium with a layer of coir (around 0.5-1 inch/1.25-2.5 cm thick) and put in some egg carton papers.
If you don’t have egg carton papers, use some cardboard papers and fold them into a zig-zag manner. The roaches like to hide inside the carton and the coir as that provides them a sense of security. You can also decorate the housing with a few logs and branches.
Madagascar hissing cockroaches are good climbers. I usually spread a layer of vaseline (at least 4 inch/10 cm width) along the upper inner wall of the aquarium to prevent them from escaping. Reapply the vaseline every 3-4 weeks, or if you see them walking on the vaseline without much challenge.
Make sure you also use something to cover the aquarium in case the vaseline fails. Consider using a cover with holes for ventilation, such as a mesh lid, so that the roaches can breathe. The reason I use both the vaseline together with a lid instead of the lid alone is because if not, the roaches may go near the lid and escape when you open the lid.
Clean your housing at least every month with mild soap. The coir and carton papers should be disposed of and replaced with new one. When cleaning, keep your roaches in another temporary container.
Food and Water
Compared to many other common roaches, the Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches are bigger. Naturally, they require more food than others. However, unlike the normal roaches from your kitchen or the manhole, they do not feed on kitchen leftovers.
Instead, they prefer fresh fruits and vegetables. You can cut a thin slice of banana or orange – approximately 0.5 square inch in size, and put it into a sauce plate to feed the roaches. You should feed your roaches once a day in the evening, and remove any unfinished food the next morning. You can alternate between dry cat/dog biscuit and fresh fruits/vegetables so that the roaches have enough nutrients.
Fill up a small tray with clean water and put it into the housing. I usually put a sponge into the tray so that the roaches can drink the water from the sponge. Without a sponge, there is a risk of spillage, and the water tray may get messy due to the coir. You can also choose not to put the sponge. Top up some water as soon as the sponge dries up, and clean the sponge if it gets dirty.
Temperature, Humidity, and Lighting
The Madagascar hissing cockroaches are adapted to a hot and moist environment. Try to keep the aquarium at between 75-86 °F (24-30 °C). A higher temperature will make them more active while a lower temperature makes them sluggish.
If you are using a heat mat or heat rock, put it at 1 end of the housing so to create a heat gradient along the housing. This allows the roaches to choose how much heat they need. To keep the housing moist, spray it with a garden sprayer once a day.
Like many other roaches, the Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches prefer to stay in the dark and are active at night. Always keep the roaches in the dark when you are not observing or handling your roaches.
Handling the Roaches
There are some needles (known as spines) on the leg of the Madagascar hissing cockroaches. Be careful when handling the roaches so that you are not injured by the spines. Always hold the thorax (the part between their head and abdomen) of the roaches when handling them.
Because of their sticky foot and hooks on their foot, sometimes the roaches may hold tightly onto something when you are trying to pick it up. When this happens, do not use force so that you do not injure them.
Some people are allergic to roaches. Handling roaches or smelling them may make them sneeze or develop rashes. Make sure you and your family members are not allergic to the roaches before you keep them. If you are not sure, keep only 1 roach to see if anyone is allergic to it before you commit to keep more of them.
Try not to touch the roaches after they just molt. The newly molted roaches is white in color. At this stage their exoskeleton has not hardened yet, and hence they are very vulnerable.
Always wash your hand after handling the roaches.
Breeding the Roaches
Breeding the roaches is simply. Obviously you need both adult male and female. 1 male can mate with multiple females, so you may consider keeping 1 male together with 2-4 females.Typically, the roaches will give birth to 3 litters in a year, and each has 20-40 babies.
To sex the roaches, look at their thorax (the body part joining their head and abdomen). You will see 2 big and prominent bumps (called tubercles) on the thorax of the male Madagascar hissing cockroaches such as in the photo below. Meanwhile, the tubercles of females are way smaller and not as conspicuous. You need to keep the temperature above 80 °F (27 °C) for them to breed.
A pregnant female Madagascar hissing cockroach carries the eggs within her abdomen until the eggs hatch. It takes about 2 months for the eggs to hatch. The baby roaches (called the nymph) will molt 6 times to turn into adults in about 6-8 months. They grow slower if the temperature is lower.
If you are in Florida, you may need a permit to breed the Madagascar hissing cockroaches. Always check with your local authority on whether a permit is required to breed them.
Here’s my recommended shopping list to get you started with this hobby. Note that I get a small commission when you buy the items through the links in this page. This helps me to maintain the site without incurring additional costs to you.
I also recommend you to check out my recommended books to learn more about keeping roaches.
Sometimes you may see mites on your roaches. They seem to feed on molds on the body of the roaches. While the mites do not cause harm to both the roaches and yourself, you can remove them by brushing them off into a plastic bag.