Here you’ll find a comprehensive care guide to the Madagascan Cockroach. Read on for everything you needed to know about keeping Gromphadorhina portentosa – the Madagascan Hissing Cockroach (sometimes known as the Madagascan Giant Cockroach) as a pet.
Wait, do people really keep cockroaches as pets? Yes they do!
If you like inverts and want an unusual pet then why not consider the Madagascan Hissing Cockroach (Gromphadorhina portentosa) – they make an interesting really easy to keep pet suitable for children or adults. Some people even keep and breed them as large lizard food, along with many smaller species of roaches and this care guide will suit whether you’re keeping your Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches as pets or as feeder food.
As the name suggests the Madagascan Hissing Cockroach come from the island of Madagascar where they live in the leaf litter of the forests. When they come into contact with something unexpected they hiss – making quite a lot of noise for such a small creature. This scares off some predators in the wild but despite the noise they make, they are very peaceful creatures in captivity, docile, not overly fearful and do not bite or harm people at all. You can pick them up and handle them freely and unlike smaller species, they are not too fast and are easier to handle. Most people assume that they hiss through their mouths, but they actually hiss by forcing air through spiracles, which are respiratory openings on their abdomen. Males will also hiss at each other when fighting, or at females when breeding, but females will only hiss if threatened.
Madagascan Hissing Cockroach Fact Table
|Common Name||Madagascan Hissing Cockroach|
Madagascan Giant Cockroach
|Scientific Name||Gromphadorhina portentosa|
|Size||2-4″ in length|
|Lifespan||3-5 years in ideal care conditions|
|Diet||Dry pet food, vegetables, fruit|
Like any animal I would recommend you wash your hands after handling! Roaches have a waxy coating and their feces can be home to mold species, so you definitely need to wash your hands thoroughly after handling and ensure you keep their enclosure clean.
Housing for your Giant Madagascan Cockroach
Housing them is a simple affair, just make sure your enclosure is escape proof as they can climb most surfaces, including glass. I would recommend a glass terrarium or aquarium with a secure fitting lid, or a plastic faunarium such as those sold by exo-terra. The large flat faunarium is great for a small colony and we’ve put together an invert starter kit that has everything you need, but you can use any well ventilated tub if preferred and see the heating section to assess whether you need a full array of heating.
You can decorate the enclosure freely as you prefer. They will live in a wide range of substrates, I have seen people successfully use coir, orchid bark, beech chips, soil / sand, wood shavings / aspen or even gravel! My preferred is a natural enclosure and coir is very inexpensive so I recommend that. If you want to go bioactive, you certainly could.
Provide bark and hiding places for them as well as a food and shallow water bowl. They will climb and explore so if you create a natural looking enclosure you are likely to see natural behaviour.
Here are some suggestions for items you need to purchase if you decide not to buy a full setup, allowing you to be flexible with your needs:
Cockroaches tend to live in large colonies in the wild, proportionate to the available food sources. Their entire focus in life is on feeding and breeding. It is quite interesting to watch adult Madagascan Cockroaches interact, but it’s not beneficial to their health to live in a colony and they can be kept fine alone.
If you do keep a large amount of males, they can fight which can cause injury, death and make them rather noisy at inconvenient times such as the night when they are most active, so not ideal for the bedroom unless you find the sounds of fighting cockroaches to be soothing!
If you keep males and females together you will get a large amount of offspring, which you may want to avoid if keeping them as pets, although we will always take offspring back so you’ll never find yourself overrun. Many people who have a lizard will use the young as livefood. But if breeding you do want to be 100% sure that your enclosure is escape proof even for small cockroaches.
Females do not hiss at each other (but will still hiss at you if disturbed) and are very placid and docile, so if you are purely keeping these as pets and want to see a group, then we’d recommend keeping females, but ultimately you can keep one alone without any problems.
Temperature, Heating & Lighting
Hissing cockroaches require an optimum temperature of around 80 – 85F during the day and 75 – 80F at night. If your temperatures go over 90F then you increase their activity levels, which also increases the amount that they tend to fight with each other, eat, defecate and ultimately their lifespan. If the temperature goes lower than 70F then they are unlikely to breed and become very sluggish. Some people will keep them lower in temperature to avoid having too many offspring – although if you are just looking for a pet species, you are best getting either a single cockroach or a colony of females.
You may need a small heat mat but it will depend on your room temperatures. We always recommend a thermostat with a heat mat to avoid overheating and burning either the animals or the plastic if underneath the enclosure.
Madagascan Cockroaches do not need any lighting and you’ll see them more often in the dark. If you want to watch them at night, you could use an infra-red light bulb to illuminate their behaviour.
Room humidity is usually fine for them. It is important not to have the enclosure to humid as mould can grow, but it shouldn’t be dry either A shallow water dish and the food you provide should be adequate humidity.
The diet for these giant hissing roaches is very similar to all roaches and very easy. They will eat almost anything carbon based! To keep them in good health something with a good amount protein is best and the easiest way to supply this is simply with dry dog food. They can also eat cat food or bird food, but dog food tends to have the best nutritional makeup for them. This should be supplemented around two to three time a week with some fresh vegetables and greens, some of the most popular includes spring greens and leafy lettuce such as romaine, apples and carrots. They will also eat most types of fruit – but be careful when feeding fruit as it can cause higher humidity levels and tends to rot quickly, so make sure you always remove any uneaten parts and keep the enclosure clean.
Sexing – How to sex Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches
Hissing cockroaches can be visually sexed. Although it’s easier to tell as adults, the segmentation described below can identify the sex on young cockroaches as well.
- Larger in body.
- Will hiss at other males when fighting, and females when mating
- Have thicker antenna
- Have larger horns
- Have three small segments at the rear of their abdomen
Above is a photo I’ve taken of an adult male Madagascan Hissing Cockroach.
- Smaller in body.
- Will only hiss if threatened / disturbed.
- Have thinner antenna.
- Have small horns.
- Have one large segment at the rear of their abdomen.
Above is a photo I’ve taken of an adult female Madagascan Hissing Cockroach.
If you’re not sure you are welcome to send us an email or Facebook message with a clear photo of your hissing cockroach. If it is not an adult, please include a photo of the abdomen from below, and we can confirm what sex it is for you. This might be important if you don’t want to breed and only want to keep females as pets.
Breeding Hissing Cockroaches as Reptile Food
Whilst we do think that this species is an interesting and unique pet, they are also nutritious reptile food. Cockroaches are an excellent treat for a great deal of lizards and other invertebrates and they are high in protein so healthy to eat. It’s more common to breed smaller species of cockroach as they’re a better size and available much cheaper, but the Magagascan Hissing Cockroach might be suitable as a larger prey item. Even so, you would generally feed them as nymphs rather than adults.
If you’re looking to buy other cockroaches for feeding, we sell boxes of Dubia Roach for £2.50, suitable for feeding straight out of the box.
If you are breeding these as reptile food then you will most likely be keeping them in higher quantities than as pets. In this situation it’s best to have a sparser enclosure that you can easily clean out on a regular basis. Keeping good hygiene is absolutely critical to avoid bacteria, mold and smells – all of which can affect the colony as well as not being pleasant for you. Egg cartons and toilet rolls make easy, disposable hides but get damp so should be changed regularly. For breeding, you’ll want to keep the temperature between 80-85F.
Be especially careful that your enclosure is escape-proof for the nymphs, which will be much smaller than the adults. You will want to remove the cockroaches when a couple of months old to be used as food. Otherwise this is an easy species to breed and you shouldn’t have to do anything special other than provide optimum conditions and a male and female. If you’re not providing a fully natural enclosure and if you’re using higher temperatures to stimulate breeding, you are likely to have adults with lower lifespan.
If you are not breeding them as food and find yourself inundated with babies and don’t know what to do with them, you are always welcome to give any unwanted cockroaches back to us at Reptile Cymru and we can help you separate males from females so the problem doesn’t re-occur.
I hope you have found this care guide on Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches useful. If you have any questions just leave a comment and I’ll be happy to answer them!