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How to Start and Maintain a Madagascar Hissing Roach Colony
If you're looking to find an easy, nutritious, stable food source for your pet reptiles, Madagascar hissing cockroaches are a great option. They're healthy, easy to care for, and they don't stink like crickets.
In this guide, I'll give you all the basic tips you need to start your own Madagascar hissing roach colony. From basic setup to long-term care, everything you need to know is listed below.
The Madagascar hissing cockroach (or Gromphadorhina arthropoda) is a fairly easy insect to care for. Their basic needs are a steady supply of food, places to hide, and warm temperatures.
Hissers need constant temps above 68 degrees fahrenheit to survive and be productive. The ideal conditions for Madagascar hissing cockroaches is a temperature in the low nineties (90-95° F) and roughly 60% humidity.
The life cycle of the Madagascar hissing roach is very simple. They are born at about 1/4" long in a brood of roughly 30. They will grow and mature slowly, molting eight times throughout their lives. Hissers are considered full size after their seventh molt. This takes around three months on average.
Hissers reproduce two or three times a year. Because they grow slowly, it can take a while to get a colony established to the point where you can start feeding the roaches to your pet. But don't worry - once the colony is ready, you'll have insects of all sizes to choose from.
Getting your Colony Started
To create a Madagascar hissing cockroach colony, the first thing you need is a container. A large tupperware tub is the perfect size. Hissers are masterful climbers, so you'll need to coat the rim just below the lid in something slick. Vaseline and oil are common choices.
Next, you need to give your roaches a place to hide. Disposable egg cartons work great for this. You don't need to give them substrate, just some structure to hide in with food that is sufficient.
Last, you need a heat source. A heat lamp on the lid of the enclosure will work well. If this isn't enough, you can add a heat mat underneath the bottom of your tupperware as well.
Once your enclosure is done, you can add the adult roaches. We recommend starting with the adult madagascar roaches when establishing a colony. They will breed faster, which will help them acclimate better as well.
Care and Feeding
As for food, dry cat food works great. Once a week or so, give your roaches some fruits and vegetables from the kitchen. Leafy greens, apples, and carrots are all great options.
If they don't eat all the vegetables you give them, make sure you remove the leftovers. You want to prevent mold from growing in your colony. If your roaches eat dead or rotten material, it can cause problems for your pets when they eat the roaches.
You can also increase the nutritional content of your hissers with gut load mix. This powerful formula contains all the vital nutrients your reptiles need, in addition to the protein and fat in your roaches.
Just add some to their food at intervals and monitor your reptile's stool for nutrient deficiencies. If gut loading is not doing the trick, you can also try dusting your roaches before giving them to your pet.
As your roaches begin to age, they will start reproducing. Wait a few cycles for your colony to become stable before using them as feeders. If you start removing them too early, you may see their numbers decline.
Once you have a solid colony going, you can begin picking off the smaller roaches to use as feeders. Depending on what you have, you may select larger roaches or even adults. One reason Madagascar hissing cockroaches are favored by reptile owners is that their large size is well-suited to big reptiles.
Although they have an admirable size compared to other feeder insects, they don't provide the nutritional punch. Here's how the madagascar hissers compare to dubia roaches.
Cleaning Your Madagascar Hissing Roach Colony
After a few weeks, roach droppings (or frass) will start to build up in the enclosure. This can attract parasites. So you'll want to clean it two to four times a month.
To clean your roach colony, you need a separate tub or aquarium on hand. You can simply lift the egg cartons out and put them in the spare container. Then, pick out any stragglers that might be hiding in the frass.
Once your roaches are out, you can dump out the frass (preferably in the garden - this stuff makes great fertilizer). Spray the container down with body safe disinfectant and allow it to dry completely. This is also a good time to replace egg cartons that are too chewed up to keep using. Then just move your roaches back and you're done!