Just the title, alone, is enough to give you the heebie-jeebies, isn’t it? I know it certainly was for me, when my teenage daughter suddenly began spouting off the wonders of keeping cockroaches as pets.
Of course, she knew she had a battle ahead of her – It took years and years of pleading and cajoling before I finally agreed to the tarantula.
However, I try to be a rather open-minded pet-savvy mom.
Before I let you get too creeped out, let me set your mind at ease and tell you that there is a vast difference between the cockroaches that have infested that dirty greasy spoon diner up the street and the ones that you keep as pets.
Did you know that less than 1% of all roach species are actually considered pests?
Also, before anyone starts spouting off about filth and disease, please note that pet cockroaches are actually raised in a controlled environment and are every bit as clean and safe as any other pet.
Amusingly, some even clean themselves, not unlike a cat, and some roach fanciers swear by them as a means of helping to break down fruit and vegetable waste, rather than sending it to get dumped in a landfill!
So Why Get a Roach?
People get interested in cockroaches for various reasons. Roaches are very easy to care for and are actually quite fascinating to watch.
If you’ve ever looked at one up close, you’ll find that some of them seem to almost resemble a Praying Mantis in some aspects.
A fact you might not know is that they also come in a wide variety of colors and patterns, and some can even reach lengths of up to 3 inches!
If bugs are your thing, chances are that you’ll find a cockroach that appeals to you.
As I’ve said before, cockroaches are also very clean insects and are one of the easiest insect species to care for. They don’t piddle on the rugs or scratch the furniture, and a whole colony of cockroaches can be housed in a single aquarium.
That makes them an ideal pet for people who have limited space or for those who don’t want to listen to a dog yap all day long – Most cockroaches are relatively quiet and, even the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach (yes, they do hiss) only vocalizes when he feels threatened.
This makes them ideal for the person living in a small apartment or the college student who wants a small pet to sit on their desk at the dorm. Compact and cool, that’s the cockroach. Can you hear the ad campaigns now?
Cockroaches – the new cat.
Okay, maybe they won’t catch on like wildfire, but if you have a rather odd teenager that’s looking for a pretty low maintenance pet (and you don’t want to have to deal with it extensively), you just might want to consider one of these gems.
Housing Your Pet Cockroach
Before you go rushing out to get a pet cockroach, it’s important to ensure you have a proper enclosure for them. The ideal housing for a cockroach (or a small colony of them) is a solid aquarium with a lid.
Usually, a 10-gallon aquarium will work well for this, and they are fairly inexpensive to buy.
If you start looking early enough, you can often find them at garage sales and thrift shops for a real bargain – Fish enthusiasts might toss out an aquarium with a little crack in the glass, but this kind of enclosure is perfect for cockroaches!
Next, you will need to figure out what kind of substrate, or bedding/floor, you wish to use for your cockroaches. Some people prefer dirt or peat moss, while others like to use aspen or coconut fibers.
Newspaper can also be used or, if you’re lucky enough to have a paper shredder, old bills and bank statements make great pet bedding!
You will also want to have something for your roaches to climb on and under. A few bark-covered sticks work well or, even less bother is to provide them with one or two cardboard egg containers – Roaches love to hide under them and chew on them. What a great way to recycle, right?
You will want to remember one important thing, however – Not all cockroaches may be considered pests, but all of them can be considered masters in the art of escape.
If there is a crack or a small opening, your cockroaches will do their best to get out. One way to prevent this is to buy a good lid that fits your aquarium well.
An even better way to prevent your roaches from escaping is to take some petroleum jelly and smear about a two inch barrier around the top of your tank.
Cockroaches will avoid crawling in the petroleum jelly and will stay away from the lid – This will also prevent them from hiding up under the top of your aquarium or trying to cling to the roof of their tank.
Remember the old saying – an ounce of prevention’s worth a pound of cure.
Some Popular Kinds of Pet Cockroaches
Roaches come in a wide variety of colors and sizes. Taking the time to research all the different kinds will help you to decide on what kind of cockroaches you would like to keep. Some popular kinds of pet roaches include the following:
1. Madagascar Hissing Cockroach – The king of the cockroach world, the Madagascar Hissing Roach is one of the largest varieties of cockroach in the world.
Additionally, he’s known to be one of the slowest moving and more docile of the roaches. Interestingly, as his name suggests, he does hiss when he feels threatened.
Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches can reach lengths of almost 3 inches and are usually brown to near-black in color with a red-to-orange abdomen.
2. Orange Head Roach – The Orange Head Cockroach is one of the more beautiful giants amongst cockroaches, reaching almost 2 inches in length as adults.
Sporting a vivid orange head and striking black patterns, these are a popular pet cockroach as they are not only beautiful to look at, but they are unable to climb smooth surfaces like glass. This makes them much easier to contain, which appeals to many fanciers.
3. Death’s Head Cockroach – Named for the strange markings on the back of the beetle’s thorax, the Death’s Head Cockroach is a popular pet cockroach, not only for his unique appearance, but also for the ease in raising them.
A hybrid or Brown-wing Death’s Head Roach is popular amongst those who raise roaches for pet food.
4. Zebra Roach – Known for his vivid stripes of white and black, this 1 inch roach is one of the prettier beetles of the roach world. Unlike some varieties of roach, the Zebra Cockroach cannot fly.
They can, however, scale smooth surfaces, so a liberal coating of Vaseline around the top 2 inches of your aquarium is essential to prevent escape.
5. Skunk Roach – The Skunk Roach is known for a couple of distinctive traits. The first of these would be the Skunk Roach’s beautiful rich maroon shade, which begins in the nymph stage and continues on into adulthood.
The second trait would be the distinctive odor that this roach gives off when he feels threatened or when he is injured. If you’re looking for a very striking roach, this is an excellent specimen.
But their ability to walk through petroleum jelly barriers means that you have to ensure that you have a lid that fits tightly, yet allows air circulation in your tank.
Interested in Owning a Cockroach?
If this article has sparked your interest or if you’d simply like to learn more, I highly recommend researching all the wonderful varieties of cockroach that are available in the pet trade.
Averaging around $3-$4 for the larger roaches, they are an inexpensive and easy-to-care-for pet. Read about the different varieties and if they require special care, as well as researching places to find pet cockroaches – You can often find very responsible breeders online.
Before ordering your cockroaches, however, be sure to research any special rules and regulations in regards to owning them.
Some southern states, for instance, only allow one gender of certain roaches to be kept as pets. Be sure to invest a little time and cover all your bases – Keeping cockroaches can be very rewarding.
But never forget that they are still living creatures. Be sure to treat them with care and promote a long and healthy friendship between you and your pet roach.
http://www.exotic-pets.co.uk/deaths-head-cockroach.html – Information on the unusual Death’s Head Roach
http://www.angelfire.com/oh2/Roaches/ – Information on pet roaches
http://petcaretips.net/cockroaches-pets.html – Caring for Roaches