How to Breed Your Own Isopods: Part 1

Posted by Diedra Blackmill on Jul 11th 2019

Rolly poly

If you’ve read our article on getting a few tiny janitors for your bioactive terrarium, you may be wondering what you can do to keep a steady supply of isopods around. We’ve got you covered.

Take a look at how you can set up your own breeding habitat for isopods…

Prepare breeding area

Now, a typical terrarium is not the best or most cost-effective solution for an isopod breeding area. But you can’t just lock them in a box because they do have certain living conditions that need to be met for successful breeding.

For instance, they are going to need some source of airflow. So here is an inexpensive solution for creating a breeding area that keeps the critters in while allowing air to pass through. You’ll need:

A locking plastic tub.

A tub of about 19-quarts size works well. You can also make multiple tubs if you’re going to have several groups of breeding isopods, whether it’s different species or you just plan for a large quantity.

You don’t have to get the kind with the locking top, but it definitely helps prevent runaway isos, as well as maintaining humidity levels, which is important to these invertebrates.

Soldering iron or a drill.

Now, what you’re going to do is create three rows of five holes on each of the tub’s short ends. Don’t put the air holes on the top because that does not create the appropriate level of airflow in the habitat.

You can do this by melting through the plastic with a soldering iron, or you can simply drill through. You’ll want to position the holes high enough that they are above the level of the substrate you’ll be putting in the tub. Be sure to keep the area well-ventilated when you are melting plastic.

Daniel Carter holding isopod tank

Photo from Daniel Carter

The holes should be roughly one-half inch in diameter.

But isn’t that big enough for isopods to escape through? Very observant of you. That’s why we need the next items…

Fine mesh and a hot glue gun.

Gluing mesh over air holes

Photo from Daniel Carter

You guessed it. All you have to do is cover those holes from the inside with fine wire mesh. Attach a square of mesh with a hot glue gun over each set of holes. Air gets in. No isos get out.

Gather and prepare substrate materials

Once the tub is ready, here’s what you put inside:

Organic potting soil or substrate mix.

Put a loose layer of soil in the bottom of the tub--about two inches. This is the first layer. You don’t want to pack it densely because that makes it difficult for isos to burrow in.

Leaf litter.

Put a layer of leaves over the soil, and then rake it through the soil to mix it. Of course, do not collect any materials from areas that are treated with pesticides. These are DANGEROUS to your isopods.

Sphagnum moss.

You can buy this terrarium moss at your local herp shop. Rehydrate the moss with dechlorinatedwater before adding it to the tub, enough to allow it expand without being soaking wet. Mix this through the rest of the substrate mixture, as well.

You can also put a little moss on top of the soil.

Palm bark or cork bark.

Next, bury some palm or cork bark in the substrate, and put a few pieces on top. These provide them with places to hide both on the surface and under the substrate mix.

Finally, use a spray bottle to add more dechlorinated water to the environment. Spray different areas in different amounts, creating moisture gradients so the isos can choose which moisture level they prefer to be in.

Daniel Carter holding completed isopod breeding habitat

Photo from Daniel Carter

Now your isopod breeding habitat is ready. Keep watching our blog for How to Breed Your Own Isopods: Part 2 (adding the isos).

This method is courtesy of Daniel Carter’s video, “HOW TO CARE FOR ISOPODS! - Setting Up BREEDING COLONIES of SIX Easy Roly-Poly Species.”

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