There are nearly 4,000 species of Cockroaches (Dictyoptera, Blattodea) in the world, of which only 25 to 30 (or less than 1%) have any pest status.
The rest are innocent members of the earth’s fauna… and some of which make great pets.
Housing a pet cockroach in captivity poses two main problems. Firstly, most species come from tropical countries and therefore need to be kept at a minimum of 25C to be happy.
Secondly there is the problem of pet cockroaches escaping and infesting the house. This problem is easily overcome by careful selection of species and cage structure – the cage needs to be escape proof.
As most species of cockroach are good climbers, a tight fitting lid is required with a good quality fine mesh to allow for air flow. For smaller and faster moving species, access can be obtained via a cloth or mesh sleeve which can be tied tightly closed when not in use.
The best method is to house them in a specially heated room, but for most people this is not possible. Another alternative is to keep the cage in an airing cabinet.
The most common method is to use a heatpad. These come in a variety of shapes and sizes and it is best to talk to your local seller as to what you need. A good general estimate is that the pad should rest comfortably under the cage/aquarium, so that two thirds of the bottom of the cage is directly over the pad.
This allows a gradient of heat to arise, giving the cockroaches some choice over what temperature their experience. The use of a thermostat can make things easier, but it isn’t really necessary for most of the commonly kept species.
You also need a mixture of surface objects to offer hiding spaces (most cockroaches are nocturnal); egg boxes and the inner part from toilet and paper towel rolls are good for this.
All known species of cockroach are omnivorous (this means that like you and me, they eat nearly everything) though in captivity most species do well on a mixture of dried feed/grains etc. and fresh vegetables or fruit. Though a lot of people find they have success feeding them on dog food as well.
I feed mine mostly on rolled oats and fruit like bananas and apples, though they especially like over-ripe peaches and plums when I can get them. Though they don’t need fresh food every day, it is important that they always have enough to eat – otherwise they will start eating the cage as well as each other.
As a general rule, breeding will take care of itself. Eggs are normally laid in an ootheca (nature’s answer to the polystyrene egg box). Some species will secrete these in the corners of the cage or other accessible nooks and crannies, while others will carry the ootheca around with them – either inside or partly extruded from the body until it is time for the young to hatch.
Some species are parthenogenetic (the females give birth to other females only, etc. etc. and no males are ever seen) i.e. Pycnoscelus surinamensis.
Pet Cockroach Species for Beginners
The following species of cockroach are recommended as pets for the beginner.
- Surinam Cockroach Pycnoscelus surinamensis
- Madagascan Hissing Cockroach Gromphadorhina portentosa
- Death’s Head Cockroach Blaberus craniifer and Blaberus discoidalis
If you want to know more than this buy a copy of either Phil Bragg’s or Nick Baker’s cheap but excellent little books An Introduction to Rearing Cockroaches for adults or Your First Millipede and Cockroach, aimed at children specifically.