Hissing Cockroaches are large, wingless cockroaches that may be the best starter cockroach species. They're relatively common, inexpensive, and very interesting additions to any collection. Additionally they make great food items for reptiles, large tarantulas, and large centipedes. Hissing cockroaches have a tough exoskeleton for protection from predators. They do not possess wings like many other cockroach species, but are excellent climbers. They can also produce a loud hissing sound meant to scare away potential predators. Hissing cockroaches are hearty insects and do not really require any special handling, just remember that they are living creatures and need normal, common sense care.
Size and Longevity
Hissing Cockroaches generally live 2 to 3 years as adults, but some adults can live for up to 5 years. They can obtain sizes up to 3 inches with good care.
You have many options when it comes to housing cockroaches. You can keep them in an EXTRA LARGE CRITTER KEEPER, 10-gallon glass tanks, rubber storage tubs with ventilation holes, or a 5 gallon bucket with a well ventilated lid. If using a tub or bucket, be sure to cover your ventilation holes with a fine metal mesh to prevent escapes or pest insects from entering. With any housing option, it is recommended that you line the top two inches of the enclosure walls with a thick layer of petroleum jelly as hissing cockroaches can climb almost anything. This sticky barrier will prevent escapes and reduce losses.
Be creative, and pick something that works best for you. Always be sure to provide adequate ground space to allow room food and water dishes, while still allowing of plenty of standing room for the cockroaches.
Heating and Lighting
With cockroaches, no special lighting is needed. Any ambient room lighting will be sufficient. Maintain moderate temperatures (between 70 to 85 degrees F) for hissing cockroaches of all sizes.
Substrate and Furnishing
There are a couple of good options out there for bedding. ORCHID BARK and COCO SOFT (a coconut husk product) are two of the most popular choices and the among the most cost effective.
Cockroaches need lots of climbing areas and places to get away from each other. The best way to accomplish this is by stacking egg crate in the cage either vertically or horizontally. You can also use CORK FLATS or CORK ROUNDS in the same manner, and this will produce a more natural looking environment.
Here’s another good tip to keep in mind; it can be hard to collect cockroaches off of big pieces of egg crate to feed to your animals. Try providing a few used paper towel tubes and/or toilet paper rolls in which the cockroaches will hide. These are much easier to shake cockroaches out of and into any transport container you wish to use.
Water and Humidity
Cockroaches typically do poorly with low levels of humidity. You need keep them in a relatively humid environment, as they are from Madagascar, which is a tropical rainforest. Mist the cage down every other day to keep humidity levels up. If you live in a dry climate it is recommended that you mist your cage once a day.
Cockroaches are primarily herbivores but are very opportunistic scavengers and will eat anything you feed them. As with all feeder animals, cockroaches nutritional value comes from what they eat, so whatever you feed them goes directly into your animal. With that in mind, you will want to feed the cockroaches a food source that is very nutritious. This process is known as “gut loading”. A good way to gut load your feeder insects is with pre made gut loads such as NATURE ZONE TOTAL BITES, which are a vitamin supplement, food and water source all in one.
Hissing cockroaches can be fed a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables but do not feed head lettuce, as it is lacking any significant nutritional value. Stick with romaine and other leafy greens, as they are more nutritious. Carrots seem to be a universal favorite, while oranges, apple, bananas, tomatoes, celery, squash, peas and pea pods, and others can be fed as well. Remove uneaten food after a few days to avoid spoilage.
If you have a picky herp that won’t touch its dry pelleted foods, try feeding it to the cockroaches instead, as they will eat anything! This way the diets are still being used and transferred to your animal with the feeders being none the wiser. Additionally, you don’t waste anything. Don’t use things like fish flakes or dog food and cat food for your roaches. These products were not designed for your reptiles, and they can cause your animal more harm than good in the long run.
Cockroaches are difficult to sex as juveniles, but when they reach adulthood it becomes easy to tell the two genders apart. The males have prominent bumps on the pronotum (the shield-like plate behind the head of the insect), and the females do not.
Adult Cockroaches will breed quickly if provided with the right conditions. To induce breeding in hissing cockroaches, keep the cage in the low to mid 80’s day and night. As a general rule breeding will take care of itself when conditions are right. Eggs are normally laid in an ootheca or egg case. Females carry the ootheca (egg case) internally for about 70 days, after which time up to 60 young are hatched over a two-day period. The parents and offspring will commonly remain in close physical contact for extended periods of time. Nymphs, or baby roaches are about the size of watermelon seeds when born, and will go through about six molts before reaching adult size.