Basic Isopod Requirements

Basic Isopod Requirements

Terrestrial isopods are invertebrates (animals without a backbone) with seven pairs of walking legs. As part of the crustacean family (relatives to lobsters, crabs, and shrimp) terrestrial isopods breathe through their gills (underneath them) and require humidity to breathe. They are typically seen in cool, damp dark places under rocks, rotting wood, and decaying vegetation. 

There are thousands of different known isopod species and they are scientifcally categorized into different families. We will touch on a few that we like to work with:

  • Armadillidium - this family rolls into a ball and their uropods (the rear tails) end flush with the rear of their body. 
  • Porcellio - this family does not roll into a ball and has uropods that stick out beyond their body.
  • Cubaris - most people identify this family with their cute faces. They are typically shy and roll into balls.

The list can go on and on, but here are some basics to help get you started. These are practices that have been successful for us:

  • Place your enclosure in an area that receives indirect light (Most pods move away from light).
  • Optimal Room temperature (67 - 78°F)
    • Though certain species prefer the upper temperatures.
  • Provide a "hydration station".
    • We do this by putting sphagnum moss in 1-2 corners of the enclosure and keeping the moss moist (you should have a wet side and a dry side of the enclosure).
  • Provide adequate ventilation.
    • Too much ventilation will dry out the enclosure too quickly.
    • Too little will not provide enough oxygen and increase the likelihood of mold.
      • Isopod droppings (frass) produce ammonia that can end up being toxic if there is not enough oxygen. This is also the leading cause of replacing the majority of substrate 1-2x per year by many keepers.

  • Provide a calcium source of some kind (egg shells, bone, calcium carbonate powder, limestone, cuttlebone, oyster shells, etc). Without it, they might become cannibals to get their calcium.
  • Provide Leaf Litter and wood (preferably dead organic matter).
    • Isopods main diet is the nutrients in their substrate, rotting wood, and decaying plant material (check out our "Leaves and Wood" article for more information).

  • Supplemental Food Sources: It is recommended to occasionally add supplemental food including proteins and organic veggies. Depending on what pods you house, depends on what supplemental foods they prefer. 
    • We recommend researching your specific pods and testing with some organic leftovers. Some like carrots & cucumbers, while others prefer chicken and dried minnows.
    • We hosted some cautions in our "Why Isopod Colonies Crash" article. Check it out!

We also recommend researching isopod husbandry. As a caretaker, husbandry is the term for the way you care for and breed your isopods. Having good husbandry is an essential responsibility for your isopods.

Not sure which species to get? We made some recommendations for these common questions.

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