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The Speckled roach (Nauphoeta cinerea), makes excellent live food.

Why Roaches?

These are easy to keep and breed, requiring much less maintenance than crickets and grasshoppers. Nauphoeta cinerea adults reach 30mm in length but in a modest sized 'colony' will have nymphs of all sizes, making providing a suitably sized prey item easy.

I acquired 20 roaches earlier this year and with very little involvement there are now around 100 roaches over 2mm in my 40 x 20cm container. I provide cereal and gerbil food (hamster, rabbit or guinea pig mixes are all the same from a cockroaches point of view) permanently and simply add a small amount of fruit, veg, rice, bread and other scraps every few days. Even this isn't really necessary and the roaches can be left unattended for weeks on end with very little detriment.

These roaches have wings at the adult phase, but don't fly. They are not an invasive species and will not infest human habitation.

This species of cockroach requires nowhere near as much protein in its food source as crickets do and will rarely cannibalise its nest mates. You might notices roaches that have died of other means with nibbles out of them, however. Also, unlike field crickets, adults are not territorial and will not fight and keep you awake with chirps and clicks!

What do I keep them in?

For a modest number of roaches a large plastic tub or medium sized plastic aquarium will do fine. As with crickets, floor space is the most important factor. This is easily increased in tall containers by adding cardboard egg crates, cardboard toilet roll tubes etc. Mine are in a 40cm high plastic bin from Ikea which cost me £2. I've filled this 3/4 the way up with cardboard. This will happily house 200 adult roaches and hundreds more nymphs when stacked with cardboard as I have described.

My roaches are now on a heatmat being kept at 32°c. If kept below 18°c the roaches might not reproduce, but this in itself can be useful for controlling population levels. A heatmat is unnecessary if the ambient room temperature is in excess of 24°c around the clock but the warmer they are (within region) the faster they will reproduce and develop.

Despite not being able to fly, Nauphoeta cinerea can climb plastic with ease. To present escapees, make a lid with muslin or a tite. You don't want humidity in your environment and because water will condense on a plastic or glass lid, these aren't suitable. If you are concerned about escapees, a thick line of Vaseline will prevent the roaches crossing. You'll need to reapply this every few weeks however and is not a replacement for a material lid.

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