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Pet Cockroaches and Crickets

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 26 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss
Pet Cockroaches And Crickets

To most people, cockroaches and crickets don’t immediately spring to mind as animals you’d keep as pets, but provided their fairly simple needs are met, they can make fascinating subjects for the terrarium.

Although both insects show remarkable abilities when it comes to escaping from their quarters, which puts some prospective keepers off, but give some thought to the security of their housing and select the right species to begin with and most of these problems can be avoided.

Cockroaches as Pets

Although cockroaches themselves have a rather poor reputation in most people’s eyes, it is largely unfounded – of the world’s 4,500 species only around 30 are officially classed as “pests” and amongst the remainder, there are some which can make really great pets. Of these, four of the best to keep are:

  • Death's Head Cockroach (Blaberus craniifer)
  • False Death's Head Cockroach (Blaberus discoidalis)
  • Madagascan Hissing Cockroach (Gromphadorhina portentosa)
  • Surinam Cockroach (Pycnoscelus surinamensis)

All of these large and attractive creatures come from warmer regions of the world and call for a minimum temperature of around 25C (77F); a heat pad underneath the tank tends to be the most usual way of achieving this.

Housing Cockroaches

Any suitably sized container, such as a plastic aquarium tank or transparent food box – with adequate ventilation – can serve as a cockroach-house, the only real essential being a securely fastened lid, since most species of cockroaches can climb vertical surfaces with great agility.

A layer of peat 2 – 4 inches (5 – 10cm) deep, with rotting wood and leaf-litter mixed in, forms a good flooring material; add some cork bark pieces, cardboard tubes or bits of old egg box to provide some hiding places and a shallow water bowl to complete the set-up.

Cockroaches are nocturnal, so if you want to be able to watch your pets, you’ll need to experiment with red light bulbs, or even black-lights, which should allow you to see without unduly bothering them.

Feeding Cockroaches

Cockroaches are omnivores – and remarkably good scavengers – so they tend to eat just about anything. Most species will thrive on a mixture of fresh vegetables, fruit and cereals, and some keepers add a little cat or dog food to their diet from time to time.

They aren’t finicky eaters, so unless it’s starting to go off, there’s no need to remove uneaten food; in fact they should always have something available for them to nibble on, since many species will start eating their smaller brothers and sisters if an easier meal isn’t on hand!

Crickets as Pets

Although many exotic pet keepers in the UK will naturally tend to think of crickets as live-food, rather than a pet in their own right, keeping crickets has a long history, especially in many eastern countries where it is believed they bring good luck to a household. Many young Japanese and Chinese children keep pet crickets so that their chirruping will act as a lullaby to send them off to sleep and the specially made cricket cages they use can sometimes be found in Oriental gift shops.

Two species in particular seem to make good pets, the House Cricket (Acheta domesticus) and the Field Cricket (Gryllus bimaculatus).

Caring for Crickets

Crickets need very similar conditions to cockroaches, though since they are able to jump, if anything, the security issue needs to be even more carefully thought through. Most kinds of crickets will live happily at around 20C (68F) but they always tend to sing better when they’re warmer – up to 30C (86F) being ideal. As an added bonus, at warmer temperatures, your pets will almost certainly start breeding.

Feeding crickets is again much the same as for cockroaches – and carries the same warning about potential cannibalism! Make sure you keep your pets well enough fed and you should avoid any gruesome incidents.

Simple to care for, both cockroaches and crickets can make interesting and fairly long lived pets – crickets often making it to a year old and some kinds of cockroaches can live to double that – which can often be relied upon to breed happily in captivity. If insects are your thing and you’re looking for something a bit different, then cockroaches and crickets might be just what you’re after.

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