Giant African millipedes are gentle giants. Ranging in length from around 15cm to up to 30cm in length for the giant train millipedes these strange invertebrates can make fascinating yet easy-to-care for pets for people who are looking for something “a little bit different”. Due to their calm nature and ease of care they can even make suitable pets for children.
As one might expect of an animal from Africa, giant millipedes generally require a warm environment and so some supplementary heating is desirable during the colder months of the year and can easily be provided through a low-power and low-cost reptile heat pad.
Being invertebrates these creatures also generally like a moist, shady environment which minimizes the chances of them drying out which, in extreme circumstances, can lead to death.
In this way an old aquarium can make an ideal home, with a layer of damp compost placed on the floor as a substrate and leaf litter placed over this to provide not only a source of nutrition but also a substrate into which your pets can burrow and hide thus allowing them to live as natural a life as possible.
Giant African millipedes are herbivores and so will eat a range of plant-based food. As well as chewing on some of the leaf litter in their cage they will also take a wide range of fruits and vegetables. Providing a range of foods over the course of a week should enable you to ensure your millipedes receive a balanced diet and one should try to ensure there is food in the cage at all times.
However because fruit and vegetables go off quickly – particularly in a warm and humid environment – care must be taken to ensure that food is replaced regularly so that not only is fresh, healthy food easily available but also that old food isn’t left to rot in the cage potentially leading to bad smells or health problems for your pets. As millipedes are burrowers, and may try to move the food you provide it can be a good idea to place the food into bowls to make removing it as easy as possible.
There are risks with providing open water for drinking where a millipede may drown and so most keepers rely on a combination of moisture-rich food, regular spraying of the cage with tepid water and perhaps a bowl of damp cotton wool that giant African millipedes can drink from without any risks to their health. Once again bacteria and mould can quickly grow in this environment and so if you opt for the cotton wool technique this should be changed regularly to reduce the risks to your pets.
Most millipedes can be safely handled as they are unlikely to bite, jump or run quickly however it should be mentioned that some millipedes may give out dyes or toxins if they are stressed so care should be taken to wash your hands (or alternatively wear gloves) after any handling session.
Kept in this way giant African millipedes can make simple yet fascinating pets that are sure to be a talking point for visitors and they can live for some years in captivity and may even reproduce under the right conditions.