Hissing Cockroach Care

Hissing cockroach care is surprisingly simple, as these fascinating armoured roaches tend to be incredibly hardy in captivity.

With just a few simple steps you’ll be well on your way to keeping Madagascan giant hissing cockroaches successfully.

In this guide we’ll cover all you need to know, based on my years of caring for and breeding Gromphadorhina portentosa at home.  

Cages & Housing

A huge range of different cages can be used successfully when caring for hissing cockroaches. The key considerations are that the container should offer excellent ventilation, prevent escapees, and provide sufficient space for your cockroaches to move around. 

Be aware that hissing cockroach care is made slightly more challenging by the fact that this species can climb well. This means a close-fitting lid is essential at all times, as is a cage that prevents your cockroaches squeezing through any tiny gaps. 

Critter Keepers

Critter Keepers are solid plastic containers with removable grill lid. These can work well, though you’ll need to be careful that if your cockroaches have babies (see later) they can’t sneak out of any of the ventilation slots. 

Lee's Kritter Keeper, X-Large Rectangle w/Lid(Assorted colors)
  • Rectangular Kritter Keepers have self-locking lids with hinged viewer/ feeder windows
  • Capacity: 5.90 GAlarge. Size: 15 3/4-inch large by 9 3/8-inch width by 12 1/2-inch height
  • Kritter Keepers have well-ventilated lids in assorted colors

Exo Terra & ReptiZoo Terrariums

Possibly the most beautiful potential hissing cockroach cage is the Exo Terra. These glass vivariums look amazing and are ideal if you want to build an attractive display for your pets.

As with Critter Keepers, however, be sure any babies cannot escape through any tiny gaps. 

REPTIZOO Glass Mini 8 Gallon Reptile Terrarium 12" x 12" x 12", Small Habitat Cage Breeder Enclosure for Leopard Gecko Tarantula Young Lizard Insects, Top Screen Ventilation & Feeding
  • Features with full view glass, this small Patend Design 8 gallon glass terrarium is convenient for feeding and having fun with your reptile or small animal pets.
  • Compact and flat-packed design mini reptile tank with top opening to prevent escape and easy feeding. With a transparent PVC tray in the bottom for holding water and substrate
  • The full screen top ventilation with thinner mesh wire allows more UVA UVB and infrared heat penetration.

Plastic Storage Containers

Possibly the easiest solution is to repurpose a plastic household storage container of some form.

Clear plastic food containers, sweet jars and deli cups can all be used depending on the size and number of hissing cockroaches you plan to keep.

Ventilation holes can be drilled in most very easily, or a section can be cut out and replaced with metal gauze attached using a hot glue gun or aquarium-safe silicone sealant. 

Cage Decor 

Opinions differ as to the ideal cage decor for hissing cockroaches. The best setup involves simply adding some cardboard egg trays, placed vertically, against one another. This allows your hissing cockroaches to hide away from view during the day.

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For others this substrate-free arrangement is far from optimal. Many people – myself included – prefer a more naturalistic setup. In these cases a substrate can be added to the base.

Coco fibre works well – it looks good, it’s lightweight, it’s renewable, and it permits burrowing. Try to add a depth of at least twice that of your biggest hissing cockroach so they can fully bury themselves if they so desire.

If egg crates don’t appeal for visual reasons, other hides can be used. Personally I have started to use pieces of cork bark with great success. Simply scatter a range of bark pieces on the floor of the cage, allowing your cockroaches to choose the area that suits them best.

Food & Feeding

Feeding is very simple when it comes to hissing cockroach care. This is because giant hissing cockroaches are omnivores and will eat almost anything you put in front of them. 

Some keepers like to offer various grains, such as dried bran or the crumbs from the bottom of breakfast cereal boxes, as a good staple. To this is added a range of fruits and vegetables. Personally, kale is one of my staple foods, as it offers moisture but doesn’t often go mouldy in the cage. 

Food should ideally be provided in a food bowl, so that it doesn’t dirty the substrate. Fresh fruits and vegetables should be changed daily to prevent them going mouldy. 

I also provide “jelly pots” for my hissing cockroaches, and find that they tuck in with great relish. 

Water & Humidity

While some articles on hissing cockroach care recommend high humidities, this is something that I personally avoid. A moist, humid environment can increase the chances of mites and fungi. I simply ensure good ventilation at all times and I don’t spray my hissing cockroaches at all.

I do, however, try to keep a shallow water dish in the cage, so my cockroaches can drink on demand. A jar lid works well.

If you have to fall back to a deeper bowl – such as a rodent food bowl – then consider adding cotton wool, bug gel or stones. These will help reduce the chances of your cockroaches getting stuck and drowning. 

Heating & Temperature

Giant hissing cockroaches come from Madagascar, where they enjoy a warm climate year-round. As a result, your pets will generally appreciate being kept warm. A temperature of at least 68‘F / 20’C is recommended. It may be that your home stays this warm anyway, but if not you may need to consider some form of artificial heating.

If you need to heat your hissing cockroaches then probably the easiest and cheapest option here is to use a reptile-safe heat pad. This can be attached to the outside of the cage, against one side.

If using artificial heating then be sure to prevent your pets from overheating. There are three factors that can help you to achieve this:

Provide a thermal gradient – Don’t heat the whole cage; instead just warm one side. In this way, some parts of the cage will be warmer than others. Your cockroaches can move around to the area that suits them best, and if they get too warm they can move away from the heater. 

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Use a thermostat – Thermostats specially designed for heat mats are cheap to buy and can help to prevent your cage from overheating. 

Check temperatures with a thermometer – Whenever artificial heating is provided to an exotic pet I recommend investing in an infra-red thermometer so you can take regular temperature readings to ensure all is as it should be. 

Providing suitable warmth is also a key ingredient in the successful breeding of hissing cockroaches (see later).

Artificial Lighting

Hissing cockroaches are primarily nocturnal, though there may still be some activity during the day. As a result, no artificial lighting is required for Gromphadorhina portentosa. Indeed, I would suggest you position your hissing cockroach cage away from any bright light, where your pets will feel far more comfortable. 

Temperament & Handling

It should come as no surprise that hissing cockroaches get their name from their ability to hiss. They produce this noise by expelling air through their spiracles. This is typically a warning produced by larger specimens when they feel threatened. 

Interestingly, this hissing is largely all bluff. Even a cockroach that is hissing can be easily picked up and held on the hand. In my experience they pose no danger to you, and may even be held safely and successfully by children.

Note that whilst the adults are like little tanks – heavily armoured and slow moving – the youngsters are far more nippy. They are so quick to dart off that it is best to save any handling for adult specimens in your collection. 

Breeding Hissing Cockroaches

Hissing cockroaches breed readily when the conditions are right. By following the above steps you should be in the perfect position to start your own hissing cockroach colony. 

All you’ll need are at least one male and female, being kept in the right conditions. Hissing cockroaches give birth to live young – often dozens at a time. If you’re very lucky then one morning you’ll peer into your hissing cockroach cage and find lots of tiny little babies measuring around 1cm in length. 

These baby roaches are just as easy to rear as the adults, but being small and fast moving I personally like to transfer them to a new container where they are easier to manage.

Some 6 months or so later your baby roaches should have achieved adult size and may themselves start to produce young.

For those of us who maintain carnivorous pets like tarantulas or lizards, breeding hissing cockroaches as a source of food can be a low-effort way to save some money and prevent routine trips to the pet store for more feeder insects. 

Richard Adams

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