Care Sheet: Terrestrial Isopods (slaters, pillbugs and woodlice)
Common name: Pillbug, slater, woodlouse, roly-poly.
Size: Varied, most are 1-3cm
Lifespan: 2-3 years approx
Diet: Detritivore; vegetable scraps, leaf litter, dead plant matter.
Appearance: Dark/grey black. Can be selectively bred for speckling and orange colouration depending on species.
Use in hobby: Ornamental. Clean-up crew & composting.
Our recommended size: 5L - 1gal+ tub.
Humidity: Spray enclosure with water daily or every other day. Keep one end of the enclosure more moist to maintain a moisture gradient.
Temperature: Room temperature, do not keep in direct sunlight.
Substrate: 5cm deep mix of coco coir/fibre and sphagnum moss (optional).
Decor: Bark or cardboard for hides. A small layer of leaf litter on the surface. Isopods will eat these over time.
Maintenance: Generally no cleaning needs to be done, except for the removal of uneaten moldy food. If much of the substrate has been composted into a fine dirt mix, half of the substrate may be replaced with fresh new substrate. The old substrate is perfect for vivariums and gardening.
Tank Mates: Isopods are very peaceful and are able to be used in bio-active vivariums alongside millipedes and springtails. They may be predated on by reptiles, amphibians and predatory arthropods; ensure that you have a back up colony separate from these animals to avoid losing all your isopods.
Feed about twice a week or more as your colony grows. Isopods don't eat a large amount and have plenty of extra plant material to feed on within the substrate.
Make sure to rinse your vegetables well and use leaves/vegetation from sources without pesticides that may hurt your isopods. Food should be removed if it starts to mold.
Behaviour and Biology
Sexing isopods can be difficult at a glance, as they don't appear to be sexually dimorphic. On the underside, the male isopod will have visible sex glands that are absent on females; this may be difficult to see if your isopods roll up.
- After mating with a male, the female isopod lays her eggs into a pouch on her belly called the marsupium. There could be a dozen to a hundred or so eggs depending on the species.
- Eggs are carried for approximately a month, and hatch into small white young called manca. These young are born with 6 pairs of legs and stay in the marsupium.
- After their first molt, juvenile isopods gain their 7th pair of legs and leave the marsupium.
- Sexual maturity is reached at around 1 year of age for most species. Typically, females will breed up to 3 times a year.
- Isopods molt over time to grow into adults, but will continue to molt throughout their lifetime.