While cockroaches are not a common household pest within the UK, nevertheless they still have a reputation as a prolific and hard-to-eradicate uninvited guest! In many countries of the world where cockroaches live in large numbers, cockroach infestation and the problems that go with it can cause significant issues for homes and businesses. However, despite the fact that the sight or even idea of having cockroaches in the home is often met with disgust, it is certainly fair to say that these hardy and complex animals are incredibly interesting, and fascinating to learn about and observe.
Cockroaches of various varieties can even be kept as pets, safely enclosed in a secure tank of course! If you are interested in keeping an exotic pet that is relatively low maintenance and not dangerous, the Madagascan hissing cockroach (Gromphadorhina portentosa) is certainly worthy of consideration. This breed of cockroach is relatively large, very hardy, docile and easy to handle, and makes an interesting and educational pet for young and old alike.
The Madagascan hissing cockroach gets its name due to the hissing sound that they make when disturbed, as part of their mating rituals, and sometimes, for no clear reason at all! They will often hiss when picked up, but this defensive mechanism is as far as the threat goes, and they will not bite you! They are native to Madagascar, an island off the east coast of Africa, and live on average for two to three years, although they can live for as long as five years.
They grow to around three inches long at a maximum, and are a reddish-brown to black in colour.
The Madagascan hissing cockroach is at its happiest in a colony of several cockroaches together, for which you will need a glass or plastic tank (such as a fish tank) of around ten to fifteen gallons capacity. The most important consideration when keeping cockroaches is securing them so that they cannot escape into the home, and so a secure and well fitting lid is of course essential! The floor of the tank will require an appropriate substrate, such as vermiculite, pet-safe wood shavings or specially designed jungle bedding. You should provide some hiding places within the tank as well, such as bark, driftwood or some cardboard tunnels.
As the Madagascan hissing cockroach is a tropical animal, the average room temperature of UK homes is likely to be a little low for them to be comfortable and thrive. You will usually need to provide a heater for their tank, to keep the temperature stable at between 24 and 32 degrees Celsius during the day, and not below 18 degrees Celsius at night. Cockroaches do not like bright light, and should not be kept in direct sunlight or in a tank with a powerful light in it or directed onto it.
While the Madagascan hissing cockroach does not need to live in a particularly humid environment, neither should it be too dry, and so the substrate of the tank should be lightly sprayed with a misting of clean water once a day.
You will also need to clean the tank regularly, and replace the substrate now and again, as well as of course removing any uneaten food, providing clean water, and cleaning the tank and bowls themselves.
Madagascan hissing cockroaches need a diet that is rich in calcium, to support the healthy growth of their hard exoskeleton. Cockroaches will eat more or less anything that you offer them, and some exotic pet retailers actually sell a specially designed complete food for cockroaches.
If you plan to feed your cockroaches a selection of foods, a good balanced diet could consist of cereals such as muesli, fresh fruit and vegetables such as apple, banana, lettuce, tomato and cucumber, and even dry dog food!
Food should be given in a low-sided shallow bowl, and fresh water is of course essential. Ensure that the water dish is also shallow, to avoid inadvertently drowning one of your pets if they should climb into the bowl!
Madagascan hissing cockroaches are easy to handle and not dangerous. Despite their fearsome-sounding hiss, they very rarely bite! Cockroaches can be fast moving when the urge takes them, so only handle one at a time, keep the lid of the tank secured on the others, and keep a close eye on where your cockroach is at all times! Handle them with care, as they can be hurt easily by overzealous handling, and of course, if they are dropped or fall.
Some mainstream pet shops stock exotic pets such as cockroaches, although your best chance of buying healthy specimens comes from shopping at a specialist exotic pets retailer or buying from a private seller. You can browse Madagascan hissing cockroaches for salein the Invertebrates section here on Pets4Homes.
As with any animal large or small, it is important to research thoroughly before making a decision to buy, in order to ensure that you understand what is required of their care and that you are able to look after them appropriately.