Anthropods in the terrarium
Not just for snakes and lizards anymore: Insects, arachnids and millipedes make equally fascinating pets that can be kept in your terrarium.
Anthropods represent the largest group of animals in the world. Insects, crabs, arachnids and millipedes all belong to this group. They are united by the fact that they have no bones, but have an exoskeleton instead. Many of these animals are perfectly suited to being kept in a terrarium. Millipedes and stick insects are particularly popular in Germany.
As the name “millipede” suggests, these animals can be identified by their distinctively large number of legs. According to current estimates, there may be as many as 80,000 species of millipede. Most millipedes we keep in the terrarium originate from tropical regions and stand out due to their extremely interesting shell colouration or unusual size. This includes the giant African millipede, which can grow to up to 30 cm in length.
These animals are primarily active in the evening or at night, live mostly on or in the ground and subsist mainly on dead plants and fruit. But they really like munching on fresh food too (please only buy organically grown varieties!). Algae and lichen are also on the menu, which is why many people like to call millipedes ”the cleaning squad” of the terrarium. In actual fact, these animals are of great significance for soil biology.
The substrate should be laid up to 20 cm deep in the terrarium, depending on the particular species and their needs – for giant millipedes this increases to a minimum of 50 cm. These animals also require a relatively high humidity level. To achieve this, the terrarium must be sprayed several times a week. But please be aware that the substrate only needs to be dampened and should not be soaked through. As millipedes require calcium to build their shell, it is advisable to combine the substrate with a little bird sand, crushed-up cuttlebone or VitaCal. It is also important to provide different options for taking shelter, such as wood, stones or cork bark, for your pets to seek out during the day.
Please be sure to moderate the temperature in the terrarium as, despite their origins, millipedes do not cope well in hot temperatures. Avoid radiant heaters or spotlights in your millipede terrarium, as well as heat mats, which warm the base of the terrarium. The temperatures your animals prefer will depend or their species and can vary between 20 and 28 during the day. At night, it should generally be between 18 and 20 degrees. Important: Millipedes can release a secretion which irritates human mucous membranes, meaning regular skin contact should be avoided. Take particular care to ensure that small children have no direct access to the animals.
Stick insects are often kept as feeder animals for reptiles. But more and more terrarium fans are discovering that these phasmids themselves can also make fascinating house pets. They prefer to stay in the upper regions of their rainforest terrarium habitat. Their home should therefore contain lots of plants and twigs in particular. Please bear in mind: Although these animals are small, they still need lots of space. For this reason, the terrarium should not be smaller than 30 by 40 by 30 cm under any circumstances. As with millipedes, they move very little during the day, only becoming active once evening comes.
Blackberry and raspberry leaves serve as a good basic diet for stick insects. They also like munching on rose, hazelnut, oak and beech leaves. These should be placed in the terrarium in a sturdy container with water. Cover the opening carefully so that the animals don’t fall into the water and drown. To provide stick insects with moisture, spray the leaves and the other twigs in the terrarium regularly, taking care never to spray the animals themselves directly.
As long as your pets feel at home, there is no reason why they won’t reproduce. When the time comes, the female will simply let her eggs fall from her ovipositor down to the base of the terrarium. Parthenogenesis is apparent in many species, meaning that a male is not required for reproduction. Depending on the species, the larvae hatch at between two to four months and can grow in their parents’ terrarium. However, your terrarium will not contain more than one generation for long: Stick insects generally have a life expectancy of only three to four months.
Call into your local store today to discuss your reptile’s personal needs with our Maxi Zoo Pet Experts