Madagascar hissing cockroaches (Gromphadorhina portentosa), as their name indicates, come from the island of Madagascar. In the wild, these large and impressive 2-3 inch herbivorous insects live inside rotting logs. They are also somewhat long-lived insects, with a lifespan of up to five years, although they more commonly live 2-3 years. The hissing sound that gives the Madagascar Hissing cockroach its name is made by forcing air out of modified breathing tubes, called spiracles, in the abdomen.
Hissing roaches, or Hissers, as they are commonly called in the pet hobby, make easy and wonderful pets. Unlike their more well-known pest species cousins, Madagascar Hissing cockroaches are clean, quiet, and won’t infest your home. They don’t bite, aren’t very fast-moving, and can’t fly.
Acquiring a Madagascar Hissing cockroach (or two or three), is fairly easy if you know where to look. There are several companies online which specialize in feeder insects and insect collectors who offer them for sale, as well as breeders who occasionally offer them through websites such as eBay and Craigslist. They are also very affordable pets, selling for an average of $1-5 each for adults. If housing more than one Hisser, avoid housing males together, as they are territorial.
Housing your new pets is also easy. A 5-10 gallon aquarium will easily house several roaches. Make sure the cover is secure, as roaches are good climbers. For substrate, Zoo Med Eco Earth Loose Coconut Fiber Substrate, mixed with a little organic topsoil is ideal. Add plenty of places to hide, like bark, small logs, or even toilet paper rolls or egg carton sections, since roaches prefer dark areas. Hissing cockroaches are native to a tropical climate, so ideal temperatures are between 70 and 90 F.
Feeding a variety of foods is ideal for these vegetarians. Carrots, apples, squash, celery, bananas, and other similar fruits and vegetables are all on the menu. Remove and replace any uneaten foods every couple of days. Your cockroaches will get a good amount of their moisture from their food, but adding a water source is a good idea. The best and easiest way to offer water is by using polymer water crystals, such as Miracle-Gro Water Storing Crystals.
Quick Hisser Facts:
- The hissing sound is made when alarmed or feeling threatened. Males also hiss to females during courtship and to other males in a territorial display.
- Males have a noticeably larger set of bumps or “horns” on their pro-thorax than the females. Males will use these bumps to ram each other in territorial battles much like rams or bulls.
- Hissing cockroaches are among 4,600 cockroach species which are not considered a pest. Only four cockroaches have caused problems with people: German, Oriental, American and Brown-banded.
- Hissing cockroaches give live birth to nymphs after 60 days gestation. The nymphs can live safely with their parents, and reach adult size in 3-5 months.
- To help keep these great climbers in their enclosure, apply an inch wide ring of Vasoline or olive oil around the top of the tank.