Cockroaches. Filthy insects that carry diseases, infest homes, are unsanitary, and just plain disgusting. Right? Wrong!
Most cockroach species are not pests, despite popular belief. They can actually make interesting pets. But I'm not here to tell you how to keep pet roaches. I'm going to tell you how to set up a colony of roaches to feed to your reptiles, fish, and inverts.
Why? Simple. Feeder roaches have taken the herp hobby by storm over the past couple of years.The species of roach I will be talking about is Blaptica dubia, or the Guyana Orange-Spotted Roach. They are an all around better feeder than crickets, as the below chart shows:
-Can chew through some plastic
-Hard to catch if they escape
-Can't climb smooth glass/plastic
-Don't make noise
-Don't have much of a smell (unless you put your head right over the container)
-Easier to breed
-Fairly slow, and so easy to catch if they happen to escape (which is very unlikely)
Still not so sure? There are plenty of resources on the internet that will say the same thing. Should you decide to keep a colony of roaches, your pets will love you forever.
Step 1: Materials
Roaches aren't too demanding about their containers, but there are some important things you should consider like space, hiding places, food, water, humidity, and temperature.
-A plastic or glass container
-A piece of cloth/mesh/netting
-A reptile heating pad
-Lots of hiding places (egg crate, toilet paper rolls, small boxes, crumpled newspaper, etc.)
-Hot glue gun
Step 2: Setting Up the Container
Cut a hole in the container, either on top or on the side. Then cut a piece of cloth/mesh/netting slightly larger. Glue the cloth/mesh/netting in place.
Step 3: Climate, Food, and Water
All roaches sold as feeders are tropical species, which means they usually come from warm, humid environments. Orange-Spotted roaches are one of them. In order for them to thrive and breed, they will require heat and humidity. To accomplish this, you'll need to buy a reptile heat mat. (CAUTION: Make sure the heat mat you bought is safe to use with the material that your container is made out of!) To maintain humidity spray the container with water once every other day, careful not to get the their food wet. Wet food creates mold, and mold will kill your colony faster than almost anything.
Speaking of food, your roaches are not picky at all about what they eat. However, I recommend dry foods, fruits, and vegetables. Anything else could cause the container to smell, and we don't want that. You can feed them leftover bird food (pellets, not seeds), dog food, cat food, fish food, cereal, etc. The possibilities are almost endless.
They will be able to get water from the misting, but I like to keep a dish of water crystals in their container just in case. These are fairly cheap and have the consistency of jell-o. The advantage of these over a water dish is that roaches are particularly poor swimmers. Even a fairly shallow dish of water will make short work of a curious roach. Water crystals won't allow them to drown and won't grow harmful bacteria.
As far as hiding places go, like I said in the intro, anything will work. Toilet paper rolls, crumpled newspaper, small boxes. Their favorite, though, is cardboard egg crate.
Step 4: Buying the Roaches
Roaches are more expensive than crickets, but they are well worth the cost. If you plan to breed them, I recommend starting with no less than 100. And make sure you're given half adults, half nymphs. The adults for some reason breed easier when there are nymphs in the colony.
When you get them home, make sure their container is ready to go. Open up the bag/box that they're in and let them loose.
They have a lifespan of approximately 2 years, compared to the cricket's 8-10 weeks. They also take a few months to mature, which means that if your pet needs smaller prey, you won't have to hurry to feed off the nymphs.
Roaches can also be gutloaded and dusted just like crickets, and can even use the same gutload formula as crickets.
Step 5: Telling Them Apart
Orange-spotted roaches are sexually dimorphic, which means the two genders have easily visible differences.
Wings extend across entire back
Extremely short wings. Don't extend beyond the first few segments.
Step 6: That's All, Folks!
Well, this ends my instructable. Message or comment with any questions.