Madagascan Hissing Cockroach
Food: any fruit (not citrus or kiwi) and vegetables, not too much at a time as it encourages mites. About a 5cm section of banana or similar, depending on the size of your culture. Banana is their favourite. They also like salad (not tomato). Their main diet is gerbil food (preferably without seeds as they donít eat them and they make a mess of the tank), and dry cat food every now and then.
Overfeeding is not a problem Ė they wonít eat themselves sick, but try and get it about right soís you donít have to clear it out so often. Enough food lets them get adult more quickly and grow their new exoskeleton. A jam jar lid is useful for putting food in.
Every now and then they like some dead leaves gathered from deciduous trees, and microwaved for 1 minute. You want to get a carrier bag full of dead leaves, preferably dry, and pile them into the tank at one end to burrow in and eat. Sometimes it makes them very excited and you can hear them running around like mad things (which they probably are!).
Leave any exoskeletons in the tank as the cockroaches eat them to regain calcium and other nutrients. If you see evidence of roaches eating each other, they are not getting enough food. Give them quite a bit more, so that they can leave any they donít want.
Temperature: they like between 25 and 30 degrees. The digital stick-on thermometers are very useful for sticking on tanks, can be bought at any reptile or fish shop. Heat mats will usually keep the temperature above 25 degrees, but if it doesnít, a supplementary ordinary desk lamp will help. In the summer, switch off the heat mats, but if they are still below 25 degrees obviously turn it back on. To really get them breeding, a good temperature is absolutely necessary. A good temperature lets them mature more quickly.
Humidity: The humidity level should be about 70-80%. A humidity gauge is useful. If humidity is difficult to keep up, cover the holes in the lid with cling film or tin foil to reduce air circulation. Spray them daily with a new (not used for anything else) plant spray. Spray the sides of the tank in particular so that they can drink from it. Spray again if they have drunk all the water they can reach/. If you have a particularly large colony, you may need to spray the roaches themselves. So that roaches can have a constant supply of water, some people like to use a jam jar lid with cotton wool and water in it (the cotton wool stops them drowning). Itís a good thing not to use tap water for this or the spray, because it kills off the gut flora which helps them digest their food. It eventually dies out so that the roaches die. I use cheap Tesco bottled spring water.
Setting up the tank: you will need two dishes, one for food, one for water and a thermometer and perhaps humidity gauge. Youíll need a heat mat and possibly a desk lamp. They like to have high points, so you will need some logs (either bought or microwaved first to kill mites or bacteria etc) for them to climb on. The log will need to be propped up on one end to make the high spot higher and to make a space for them to hide underneath. I use coconut-fibre substrate, which can be bought from reptile shops. They donít burrow, so you donít need much, only about a 1cm depth all over. TIP: put a 3cm deep layer of Vaseline around the top of the tank. This makes them slip down to the bottom of the tank Ė otherwise, they escape.
Maintaining the tank: Any uneaten food must be taken out. Give them 2 nights to finish it, if thereís any left, take it out. A window-cleaner scraper is useful so that you can see what your roaches are doing. Any dead roaches must also be taken out immediately. Change the substrate when it is mostly cockroach poop, or if it starts to smell or has mites in it. Mites are pale yellowy-white.
If you want to find out more about their life cycle or behaviour, look at my website: www.rachelmcleod.com/cockroaches.
If you have any questions, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.