Isopods: Fascinating Invertebrate Pets with Surprising Diversity

Isopods, commonly known as woodlice, pill bugs, sow bugs, or roly-polies, have unexpectedly gained popularity as invertebrate pets. These small crustaceans, distantly related to crabs and shrimp, come in a remarkable variety of species. With over 3000 known species worldwide, at least 45 native and naturalized isopod species thrive in the United Kingdom.

Simple Needs, Surprising Adaptations

  1. Humidity and Ventilation:
    • Isopods breathe through gills, similar to their aquatic relatives. Consequently, they require a damp environment.
    • Different species have varying humidity requirements. Larger Mediterranean isopods, for instance, benefit from ample cross-ventilation and a small, moist retreat for rehydration.
    • While UV light isn’t essential for their survival, research on this topic remains limited.
  2. Feeding Habits:
    • Isopods are detritivores, primarily consuming dead and decomposing plant and animal matter.
    • To meet their dietary needs, consider providing abundant leaf litter.
    • Occasional treats like fruit, fish flakes, and even dog biscuits can be offered to keep them content.

Woodlice, with their intriguing adaptations and diverse species, offer a fascinating glimpse into the world of invertebrates. Whether you’re a seasoned pet enthusiast or a curious beginner, these little crustaceans are worth exploring!

Clean Up Crew

When we’re talking about our bioactive systems we often refer to the ‘clean up crew’ (sometimes just written as CUC), or ‘cleaner bugs’. These are the various species of animals that live in the soil of the bioactive vivarium to break down waste products into plant food. Dead leaves, rotting wood, shed skins and faeces are all processed by these helpful little creatures, and as a bonus some of them may well end up as a meal for the intended main tenant of the habitat.

Tropical grey woodlice

These are a tropical species (Porcellionides pruinosus) that grow to around 1.3cm, and will consume any organic matter. They are large enough to provide a food source for crested and gargoyle geckos, and if given plenty of shelter and food will breed prolifically and provide an ongoing food source. They do appear to be particularly fond of dead leaves.

Dwarf white woodlice

Another tropical species (Trichorhina tomentosa), these are the smallest of the three species we sell. Adults are 5mm long, and the babies are (obviously) even smaller, so make an excellent food source for very young lizards or dartfrogs. Probably the best at tolerating higher temperatures, they go dormant if it gets too cold but soon revive if the temperature rises again. Their best feature is that of all the species they seem to be very fond of poo! They will also feed on moulds and fungi, and reproduce readily.

Giant orange woodlice

These are a colour morph of Porcellio laevis, a common woodlouse species. At an adult size of 1.8cm, these are enormous compared to the other two species and are even large enough to provide a nutritious snack for a bearded dragon. Just like the previous two species they thrive on waste material around the vivarium, and will soon build up numbers if there are plenty of damp areas for them to hide. 

Current Stock List:

  • Lava Isopods
  • Skeleton Isopods
  • Panda King Isopods
  • Clown Isopods
  • Crystal White Isopods
  • Dairy Cow Isopods
  • Magic Potion Isopods
  • Dwarf White Isopods
  • Spikey Isopods