Care Sheet: Terrestrial Isopods (slaters, pillbugs and woodlice)
Species Profile Back to Top
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.
Housing Back to Top
Our recommended size: 5L - 1gal or more tub with screened/covered ventilation holes.
Humidity: Keep one end of the enclosure more moist and another end dry to maintain a moisture gradient. A clump of sphagnum moss on the moist end is recommended.
Temperature: Room temperature, do not keep in direct sunlight.
Substrate: 5cm deep mix of leaf litter, organic compost, coco-coir and flake soil.
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 mix of frass (isopod poop), it is time to replace at least 50% of the substrate with new materials. Replace bark and leaf litter as it is slowly eaten away.
Tank Mates: Isopods are mostly 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. Avoid placing larger or voracious species of isopods with animals that may be vulnerable while molting on the ground, such as tarantulas and scorpions.
Do not keep different species of isopods in the same enclosure. If you do, expect one species to out compete the other for resources!
Feeding Back to Top
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 Back to Top
Handling Back to Top
Reproduction Back to Top
Sexing isopods can be difficult at a glance, as they don't appear to be sexually dimorphic from the top. 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.