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New to roaches - can anyone give me a little info please?


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Hi. I am completely new to roaches, have never kept them before. I will openly admit to having been one of those people who was more than a little grossed out by the idea of keeping and handling them. However, last week I went to a reptile shop with my partner to buy crickets for her Water Dragon and I was having a nose around.

I came across a tiny little unlabelled tub (same size as the tubs they sell the crickets in) pushed to the back of a shelf hidden away from view. Being the nosey sort that I am, I asked if I could have a look and the shop assistant told me sure I could look, but I would have to open it myself because there were cockroaches in there and she didn't like them. So I opened it and was fascinated by what I found. 3 large adults and about 20 nymphs of varying sizes. The girl told me they were "Deathshead Cockroaches" but the black splodge didn't look very skull-like to me so as soon as I got home I set about looking them up. From what I have seen and read, I think they were Blaberus Atropos - large, fairly fast, not at all shy, black splodge on the back of the head, almost clear 'bits' down the sides the whole length of the body... She said they started off with just 2 adults in there.

Anyway, it got me thinking... can anyone tell me more about these? How should they be kept, in what size colonies etc? And what do you do when they get breeding - how do you control the size the colony reaches? I would be worried about rehoming the 'surplus' nymphs because it's not as if there are thousands of people screaming out to own them.

I am very interested in going back for these little guys that she said just weren't selling but they didn't seem to want any more either. But I don't want to bite off more than I can chew and end up being over-run with roaches. Also, I would want to handle them and these seemed very fast - are they a good beginner species or not really?

Any help, advice or opinions greatly appreciated.

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Well, you are in luck. Most petshops do not carry Blaberus species, just one of the 'hisser' varieties if that.

You can buy them without fear of being over run with them as they do not reproduce so fast that you will have so many thousands- it is not considered a "pest" species. As the larger roaches go they do reproduce well, but nearly as fast as many of the roaches that normally are considered "pests" in north America.

As for the surplus (if you should ever get that many) - many people either feed them to a tarantula or reptile of some sort. I personally destroy them in a two stage process that I can describe later if you need to know. On rare occasion I put some up for sale, and there are enough people in the reptile hobby or tarantula hobby that you can find someone who needs them for feed items.

As for how to keep them, they are generally reared in either a plastic tub of some sort or in a 'bucket cage'. Descriptions of both on on this board if you do a search. They generally eat fresh fruit and veggies, fish food, dog food, etc. I feed them mostly fruit and fish food pellets.

As for the colony size you can limit it to whatever you want from a small colony of 40 or so to a huge colony of 1000 or so. Its all up to what you like and what works for you.

It is a relatively good beginner species and like I stated- do not worry about population control. They reproduce by the dozen and not by the hundreds...

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Thankyou for your help.

So basically then, when the colony has reached the limit I would like, the options are to rehome (sell), destroy or use as feeders? Is this common practice for roach-keepers?

Are they male/female or are they hermaphrodite?

Is this species handle-able easily or are they likely to scuttle off at top speed and be uncatchable?

Do they mostly hide or can they be kept in a glass tank for clearer viewing? If I understand correctly they are fairly 'shy' but was wondering whether they would be visibly active with blue-light conditions. This is what I use for my hermit crabs who are predominately nocturnal as it simulates moonlight.

Do they need heating? I live in England and it gets pretty chilly here. My crabs, for example, don't need heat in the summer but they do need it in the winter to keep the tank at an even 24ish degrees.

Edit to add: This is probably going to sound silly, but... do they fly? Just asking because the clear 'panels' along their sides sure look like wing casings.

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