How Many Dubia Roaches to Start a Colony?

Dubia roaches have become one of the most popular feeder insects for carnivorous exotic pets. Not only are they easy to keep alive – meaning better value for money when buying from a pet store – but they’re also quite easy to breed in the home. 

That said, there are a few important points you should address before starting your own roach colony. One of the most important of these is how many dubia roaches you need to start a colony. That’s exactly what we’ll be addressing in this guide today. 

In theory, given the right conditions, even a single adult pair of dubia roaches are capable of reproducing. However, to create a long term source of live food for your lizards, tarantulas and more you may want to be a little more strategic…

Dubia colony

Buying Dubia Roaches

Most dubia roach breeders supply mixed tubs or even bags of roaches. Typically these are mixed genders, meaning you should receive a decent number of males and females from a single order.

However there are a number of considerations when deciding on the ideal number to start your own colony…

How Many Dubia Roaches Will You Be Using?

It is a sad reality that it can take time for a dubia roach colony to really start regularly producing new offspring. Clearly it will also take time for these babies to grow and develop into adults, ready to start the next generation. 

A key consideration here is therefore how many dubia roaches you’ll be pulling from the colony.

The ideal answer is “zero”.

In a perfect world you’ll set up your colony and allow most of the roaches to carry on undisturbed. The more that are allowed to reach maturity without being fed to your pets the more young will be produced, and hence the faster your colony will grow. 

If, however, you expect to regularly pull out dubias to feed your other pets then you may well want to scale up your initial purchase.

Take into consideration that it could well be 3-6 months before the next generation reaches full size. How many “spare” roaches will you need in the meantime to see you to that point?

What Sizes Will You Use?

The bigger the roaches you use as feeders, the longer it’ll take for any babies produced to reach this size.

On the other hand, feeding smaller baby roaches to your pets prevents them from ever reaching adult size, and potentially producing babies of their own. 

How Much Available Space Do You Have?

Dubia roach colonies don’t take up too much space, but of course the more space you have available, the more roaches you’ll be able to keep successfully.

Assuming you have a reasonable amount of space available, it might be wise to start a number of colonies at the same time, each in a separate tub, to maximise your chances of success.

What is Your Budget?

While the dream of setting up a dubia roach colony is that it becomes “self perpetuating” and produces a never-ending supply of feeder insects, the number of dubias you start with can also be affected by your budget.

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The reality is that dubias can be surprisingly expensive to buy.

In this way you may be limited as to how many dubias to purchase based either on your budget, or simply how much cash you’re willing to risk. 

How Much Patience Do You Have?

Starting a roach colony with adult or subadult specimens is likely to be the quickest way to start producing young roaches.

Unfortunately, larger roaches also tend to be more expensive. For the same price you could purchase far more smaller dubia roaches. Of course, then you’ll have to wait for them to grow and develop, before they reach maturity.  

If you’re thinking long term then you may want to consider buying tubs of immature dubias and simply giving them suitable time to start producing.

In this way you can not only keep costs to a minimum, but also when all the babies you buy reach maturity you’ll end up with far more breeders.

Male:Female Ratios

Most expert live food breeders agree that adult male dubia roaches can be aggressive towards one another. This can lead to scuffles within a colony, resulting in fewer babies being produced.

It is generally recommended to have just one adult male dubia to every 3-5 adult females. Such a ratio should minimize arguments, and so maximize production of young roaches. 

Assuming that on average a tub of roaches is likely to have roughly a 50:50 mix of females to males, it may mean sacrificing a proportion of the males that arrive in order to achieve this optimal ratio.

This will mean you ideally want to buy quite a few more dubias than you actually want for your starter colony. In this way you can feed the excess males to your pets, and still have enough left to start producing baby roaches at a healthy rate. 

Adding & Removing Dubia Roaches from You Colony

It is a mistake to consider your new dubia roach colony as a “fixed” number of insects.

On the one hand, you may be picking off individual specimens over time to feed to your animals.

On the other hand, there’s really nothing wrong with purchasing additional tubs of dubias over time, adding these to your existing colony, or setting up new ones.

In this way the number of dubias in your colonies can swell and decline over time. This is perfectly natural and acceptable. 

How to Get Your Dubia Roaches Breeding

Just because you’ve purchased a number of adult dubia roaches doesn’t necessarily guarantee you a non-stop supply of baby roaches.

Over the years experts have isolated a number of factors that can affect how many babies your colony produces. It’s worth bearing these in mind when starting your own colony…

Darkness

Dubia roaches dislike sunlight. Quite the opposite in fact – they have a strong preference for darkness.

Placing your dubias in a clear tub near a window is therefore likely to cause them undue stress, reducing their breeding results.

It is recommended that your roach colonies are kept away from direct sunlight, ideally in a shady room or part of the house.

Some breeders even take this a step further, and instead of using clear containers to house their dubias they use coloured plastic. Some people, for example, use black plastic bins with ventilation holes drilled in the lid, to almost entirely block any light from their colony. 

Hides

Like most other cockroaches, dubias are never happier than when they’re hidden away somewhere safe. Open cages and tubs don’t offer suitable places to hide, so again can impact the breeding success of the females. 

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Providing suitable places to hide away and feel safe can have a massive impact on the success of your colony. Cardboard egg trays are the most usual solution, with them being stacked vertically and in close contact with one another. This creates little dark, secretive hiding places in the dips where the eggs would normally sit. 

These egg trays can easily be bought on Amazon and delivered to your door. Being cardboard they’re cheap to buy and easily recycled when it comes to replacing them. 

Temperature

Dubia roaches like a warm environment. The hotter they’re kept – within reason – the more active your colony is likely to be and the more youngsters will be produced. In extreme cases, if your home is particularly cool, you may find that your female dubias refuse to produce any young at all, or that any young produced die soon after hatching. 

A temperature of around 77’f / 25’c is a good target to aim for, with a few degrees either side still being perfectly acceptable. 

Depending on the ongoing temperatures in your home it may be necessary to consider some form of artificial heating in order to achieve these targets. That said, this in itself can increase the costs of producing dubia roaches at home, at which point it might be cheaper and easier to just buy in additional feeder insects when you need them.  

Male:Female Ratio

As stated previously, you’ll ideally want one adult male dubia roach for every 3-5 females.

This means that you’ll probably want to consider feeding a fair number of the adult males you receive to your pets.

Keep a rough eye on gender ratios as you slowly work your way through the adult males, until you achieve the recommended target.

Experimenting With Dubia Roach Colony Numbers

As is clear, there are so many different factors that can affect your dubia roach colony that it’s almost impossible to generalise about how many dubia roaches to start a colony.

From the environmental conditions available in your home, to gender ratios, to the speed at which you pick out specimens to use as live food, two different breeders can experience wildly different results.

If you’re serious about starting your own dubia roach colonies then my suggestion would be to get prepared so you have all the supplies necessary to start multiple colonies at once.

I’d then buy a couple of tubs of adults (some 30-50 adults) and let them settle into one tub.

Then just watch and wait… 

Richard Adams

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