Millipedes are pretty incredible arthropods. These insects are known for having hundreds of legs and peacefully munching on decaying wood and leaf litter on the forest floor. There are over 12,000 species of millipedes in the world, and fortunately for us nature lovers, quite a few of them make great pets! Easy to care for, inexpensive, and colorful, we’ll focus on 3 species that are well suited for the beginner.
Three Types of Millipedes
Smokey Oak Millipedes
The Smokey Oak Millipede, also known as Narceus gordanus, is sometimes called the Smokey Ghost Millipede. It’s native to the southeastern US, where it inhabits areas with plenty of leaf litter and decaying wood. This millipede is large for a North American native, growing up to about 4 inches.
Scarlet Millipedes are a smaller (about 2.5″-3″) millipede that has naturalized in Florida. These guys were originally native to Malaysia and Indonesia. Trigoniulus corallinus is also sometimes called the rusty, red, or rusty-red millipede. It’s a small and hardy species and really stands out in a vivarium.
Bumble Bee Millipedes (Anadenobolus monilicornis) have become naturalized in the southeastern US after being introduced from South America by the tropical plant industry. These small, hardy, and very colorful millipedes reach about 2.5″ in length and are very easy to care for.
Housing your Millipede
Millipedes are easy to house. You’ll want the enclosure to be at least as wide as the animal’s length, and at least twice as long for optimal wiggle room. Keep in mind this is minimum housing size. Your pede will feed primarily on its substrate, so the more space for substrate the merrier. Plastic Critter Keepers or small tanks work well – even plastic storage containers can be easily modified with some air holes for use.
The single most important thing about housing millipedes is their substrate. Substrate acts as a place for the millipede to dig, eat, hide, drink, and live in. For a millipede, substrate = life. Substrates should consist of a mix of soil, wood, and leaves. Josh’s Frogs Milli Mix is specifically designed to be the best substrate for your millipedes. Over time, any substrate will be exhausted of calcium. Add a bit of Josh’s Frogs MicroCal directly to the substrate to add or replenish lost calcium.
Temperature and Humidity
Keep the substrate about 4″-6″ in depth. Ensusre it is moist at the bottom and allow it to very slightly dry out at the top. Humidity is a very important aspect of millipede keeping. Millipedes will drink from standing water – some people provide them with a small water bowl. But misting, providing a moist substrate, and providing fresh food will keep them hydrated. Critter keepers and other open-air products can dry out quickly, but do look a bit nicer than plastic shoe boxes. If you go with a cage with a lot of ventilation, you’ll want to mist daily. You’ll be fine keeping your millipedes at room temperature. For most species, 72F to 78F is ideal. Supplemental heating in the form of a low wattage heat mat can be used if needed, but take care that it doesn’t dry out your millipede’s habitat too quickly.
Feed the Pede
Millipedes will primarily feed on their substrate – they love decomposing wood and leaves! This should make up the bulk of their diet, making it necessary to change out spent substrate (appears as little dirt balls) with fresh substrate on a regular basis. You’ll also want to provide the occasional fresh fruit or leafy greens, as well as Repashy Bug Burger, which provides a much-needed source of calcium. Remove food if it ever becomes moldy. Offering a bit of food once a week or so (in addition to their substrate) is plenty.
Things to Keep in Mind
Remember that millipedes are toxic – never allow young children to handle them unsupervised! As long as millipedes are not eaten and hands are washed after touching millipedes, they’re pretty much harmless. Many species will spit up a bit if startled – this can easily dye your skin and take several days to fade. Millipedes commonly host symbiotic mites that help keep the millipede clean. These mites live on the millipede and eat waste or bits of food that can become caught in the millipede’s legs. These mites are harmless, so don’t be concerned if you see some!
Easy to care for, inexpensive, and colorful, these three species are well suited to the beginner invertebrate keeper! Links of Interest
A giant millipede from Africa. Millipede literally means one thousand feet. This is however not the case, most species have in the region of 200-300 when they are adult. They are fairly easy to keep as pets and the exotic forms of millipede make appealing pets. Millipedes belong to the Class Diplopoda.
The housing in which millipedes need to be kept is simple. They require soil, some shelter, moisture and food. The size of your cage should be at least twice as long as the longest individual you are to house. Chose your cage — a small aquarium or large sweet jar is ideal, and ensure that the cage is escape proof (millipedes are able to push and lever hard so make sure that the lid is not easily removed). Humidity should be kept high, and the soil in the cage should be kept damp. With the plastic aquariums this can cause a problem as the lids on these tanks tend to be very well ventilated, which allows the soil to dry more quickly. To prevent this you can glue or tape a plastic bag inside the lid and pierce a few holes on the bag. It may also necessary to provide some heating for your millipede, especially when the weather is colder or if the house is not heated. This can be done using a heat mat under the tank. However, a warm airing cupboard is an alternative. Whichever method is used remember to check the moisture of the soil regularly.
Millipedes are easy to cater for. They feed happily on the substrate soil or peat-free compost mixed with dead leaves. This can be added to by giving all sorts of food items from the kitchen such as potato peelings. It is worth trying numerous different types of food and seeing what your millipedes like best. Other vitimins and minerals are needed for your milliede to stay healthy. These can be given by adding a few flakes of fish food or rabbit pellets each week. Calcium is very important in the diet and this should be given in the form of cuttlefish, which is usually given to aviary birds. Water should not be necessary unless you are keeping the cage fairly dry. However, you can place a damp pad of cotton wool in the cage from which the millipedes will drink, or you can mist the cage using a hand sprayer (make sure it has not contained any pesticides) daily.
The most difficult thing in breeding most species of millipede is ensuring that you have a male and female as they are extremely difficult to sex. The best thing to do is to buy as many as you can afford and house. One way to detemine the sex is to look at the seventh segment of the millipede. Males have a specialised set of legs on this segment which are tucked away in pouches. The females and immature millipedes do not have these. It is difficult to know whether your millipede is adult or not, so a specimen which you think is an adult female may turn out to be an immature male!! If you find a specimen which has a gap on the seventh segment, select a specimen that is the same size or bigger that has not got the gap, and hopefully this will be an adult female. If you keep the cage nice and damp they should breed. The females lays her eggs in a chamber which she builds under the soil and will hatch out into tiny baby millipedes. Further information on Millipedes. Remember: it is important that you know the needs and requirements of your pet before you obtain the animal. You should never, ever obtain an animal before researching its needs and preparing the housing and conditions.
Want to know more?
If you want to know more about insects and other creepy-crawlies then join the AES today. Millipedes are popular pets. They propel their long tubed body with their many legs, always in search to munch on decaying organic material. These animals are perfect pets for kids. If you are careful, you can let them walk on your hand. But for most of the time, they will be in their own optimized habitat. But, how do you make a millipede habitat that is perfect for your little friend? Keeping them is quite easy, but there are some things you just need to have right for your millipede to be healthy and happy. This article provides a checklist of how you can make the perfect habitat for your millipede in 6 easy steps! A millipede needs a reasonably sized enclosure that is at least 3 times its body length in width and 2 times the body length in height. A good quality substrate is the most important part of the millipede habitat, and they need an environment that is lightly humid with a temperature ranging between 72°F and 78°F (22°C – 26°C). Want to know how to set up a millipede enclosure? With the use of 6 easy steps, you can create the perfect habitat for your millipede so that you can enjoy your leggy pet for many years. Let’s get to it then.
How to set up a millipede habitat? The 6 easy step checklist!
With this checklist, we discuss all aspects you need to know to set up a proper habitat for your millipede. They don’t need much, but if you do not provide the basics they need, they will become unhappy and don’t have a long life. The advice provided here is suitable for most millipede species; however, it is always important to research your millipede species and make little adjustments if necessary. So, that is step 1!
1. Research the needs of your millipede
Every animal has its own needs. The need for certain care, the need for a certain food, the need for a certain environment, and the need for a certain space. So it is important to research the needs of your species on forehand before making decisions about the millipede habitat. Questions that need to be answered is where they live in the wild. What is the climate there (temperature and humidity? Do they like to climb? How large will they become? What is their average lifespan? This way, you get a basic understanding of your new pet. For many millipede species, there are care guides or care sheets where people describe the species’ needs. Know that not every millipede has the same needs. On this website, we have described some millipede species ourselves. If you are completely new to keeping millipedes, I advise you to read our guide on the basics of keeping and caring for millipedes. It provides you with the fundamental knowledge about what it takes to keep millipedes as a pet.
2. Find a proper millipede tank (type and size)
There are not many tanks specially made for millipedes, but most reptile terrariums are perfectly fine to house a millipede. You can also choose an aquarium, acryl tank or plastic container to keep your millipede. Keep in mind that these latter types of enclosures often need some adjustments to make them suitable. There are two important aspects that the enclosure need: A proper size and good ventilation. Although there is more to think about, let’s discuss these first two.
The enclosure size
The general rule for every millipede is to find an enclosure that is at least three times the adult body length in width and two times to body length in height. This the minimum for when you keep one millipede. If you like to keep more millipedes in the same enclosure, you should look for a larger tank. Remember when you want to keep more than one millipede, that the floor space is more important for millipedes than the height of the enclosure. This means that if you plan to keep a millipede that has an adult body length of 6″ (15cm), you should have an enclosure that is at least 18″ (45cm) wide and 12″ (30cm) high. I like to keep them in larger enclosures than the minimum. Although some species don’t walk that much, I like to provide space for them to keep them happy. A larger enclosure also means that there is room for the substrate. But more on that later.
Besides the size of the enclosure, good ventilation is also important to have. Without proper ventilation, stagnant air will accumulate moisture and make the substrate too wet, which in turn cause bacteria and mould to grow exponentially. Your enclosure needs proper ventilation for your millipedes to stay healthy. Terrariums are often equipped with enough ventilation. Many terrarium models have a mesh lid and ventilation on the front or the backside. If you use some other type of tank, like a plastic container or an old aquarium, you must create this ventilation yourself. You can drill multiple small holes or make large holes and cover them with wire mesh.
Other useful features
Some other features can be helpful. The first thing is that the enclosure has no holes or gaps where millipedes can escape. Especially with smaller millipedes — especially when you breed with them — they can easily push themselves through little gaps if, for example, the lid does not close off that well. It would be best if you have a solid bottom plate to place enough substrate in the enclosure. The enclosure must at least be able to hold a substrate layer of 2″ (5cm). Preferably the enclosure has good access to the enclosure with a large lid on top or doors at the front, so you can easily feed the animal(s) and clean plus misting the enclosure.
3. Substrate is a life changer (you can’t do without!)
I can’t say it enough, but the substrate is one of the most important elements of the habitat setup. For millipedes, the substrate means life. It sounds very serious, and it also is. Millipedes are detritivorous, which means they feed primarily on decaying organic matter. Besides that, they live primarily in or on the substrate where they rest, sleep, reproduce, lay eggs, and moult. Therefore millipedes need a proper layer of a good quality substrate in the enclosure. A layer of around 2.5″ (6cm) will do. In my opinion, coconut fibre mixed with partly decaying leaves and rotten wood is the best substrate you can provide to your millipede. As already mentioned, the substrate has many perks for the animals. For a full guide on what substrate is best, how to make the substrate, and how to maintain it in good condition, I recommend you to read: Substrate For Millipedes: What You Should Know.
4. Furnishing and decorate the enclosure
When you have a proper-sized enclosure filled with a good layer of substrate, you are halfway there. Now it is time to furnish the enclosure and decorate as you like. Apart from some hiding places — although the substrate can be already enough — there is not much they necessarily need. However, you can decorate the enclosure with wood, twigs, live plants, artificial plants and some pebbles. Don’t use weighty objects. When they are hiding under there, it can squeeze and damage the animal. Some millipedes actually like to climb once in a while, so offering some climbing opportunities is a good practice. Especially bumblebee millipedes and African black giant millipedes can regularly be seen climbing on twigs and other objects.
5. Create and maintain the correct environment
At this point, the habitat is actually finished and ready for your new millipede to move in. There is only one last step that is also pretty important for your millipede to keep them happy: provide a nice climate. That means you need to regulate three things: humidity, temperature and lighting. We touched on this topic earlier that a millipede needs a slightly moist environment. They like a humid habitat and moist substrate. With that, I really mean moist, not (soaking) wet. You can keep the environment moist by mist spraying water into the enclosure. Try to keep the substrate damp, and every time it has dried up, you spray again. Normally this will mean you have to spray every or every other day. You can regulate the temperature in two ways. You can use a light bulb as a heating source or a heating pad. I prefer using a light bulb as a heating source for two reasons: first, it also lights up the enclosure and makes a normal day and night cycle and second, it does less dry out the substrate. When you use a heating pad below the enclosure, it heats up the substrate, and the moisture in it will evaporate much quicker. If you want to use a heating pad, you could also mount it to the backside of the enclosure. Millipedes can be kept in a normal day/night cycle. Use a normal light bulb for this, and not (direct) sunlight. If you place the enclosure into direct sunlight will quickly heat up the enclosure up to temperatures lethal to millipedes. You can compare it with leaving a dog in a car that’s parked in the sun with all windows closed. Try to find a location that has a pretty steady temperature.
6. Introduce your millipede to its enclosure
Your millipede’s new home is ready. Now it is time to place the millipede carefully in the enclosure. Because it is all new to him or her, it will quickly burrow itself in the substrate. This is perfectly fine, and it will probably not show itself for several days. Give your animal some time to get used to its new environment. Never dig up your millipede when it is not absolutely necessary. This can be very stressful for the animal. Now you can enjoy your new pet’s home, observe its beautiful behaviour. When you have multiple millipedes, you may find little baby millipedes after a while. Many millipedes are quite easy to breed in captivity. You can read more about the care of millipedes in our millipede care guide.
7. BONUS: Communal setups
Keeping millipedes with other animals is possible. This is called a communal setup. Not all animals are suitable to be kept together. The basic rule is that the animals will not fight each other or compete on food or space. If you are interested in keeping different species together, it is best to find animals that live in other layers of the enclosure or have completely other diets. Suitable species that you can keep with millipedes that I know are successful are flower beetles, snails, and stick insects. However, you can also keep tree frogs or geckos together with millipedes if you like. If you like to know more I recommend you to read our article about communal setups with millipedes. Share this page!
Giant African Olive Millipede [Telodeinopus aoutii] Care Guide
Life Cycle And Lifespan Of Giant Millipedes Explained
Giant African Millipede Care: A Complete Practical Guide
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