Over the past six months, my tarantula collection had grown a great deal in both the quantity of Ts kept and the size of individual specimens. I now had several adult/sub-adult Ts that required larger prey items, and I was looking for an alternative to the crickets. I decided that it was now time for me to start raising my own food source. So, a couple months ago, I purchased my first dubia roach starter colony of 125+ roaches. After doing some online research on dubia husbandry and breeding in which I discovered dozens of enclosure designs and roach-chow recipes, I was ready to set up my own colony.
What follows is what I have come up with to house and feed my roaches. This is, by no means, the only way to do it, nor can I take credit for coming up with these designs or methods. This is, however, what is currently working for me.
Start with a 7 gallon Sterilite Stacker Tote
I picked up my 7 gallon Sterilite at my local Walmart. You can definitely use a larger size of container, and many do, but I needed something that would fit comfortably on a shelf that I already used. Although these containers are offered in clear plastic, you want something that blocks most of the light out (roaches, as you may know, are NOT fond of the light).
UPDATE 11/2016: My colony grew rather quickly, so I now use a 58-quart Sterilite container.
Add some ventilation.
I always have some of these convenient plastic vents on hand from Round Vents , so I used them for my enclosure. These 3″ vents only run $1.32 each, and I find cutting two holes to install the vents MUCH easier and faster than drilling dozens of air holes. However, either way would work.
To install them, I just used a 3″ hole saw and my cordless drill to make a hole on either side of the container. I used hot glue around the edges then just popped them in. (Again, you can drill a series of holes, and it will serve the same purpose and cost a bit less).
Start saving those egg cartons!
You’ll need something inside the enclosure for the roaches to climb on and hide in. Cardboard egg cartons or egg trays work perfectly. If you have the forethought (and you eat a lot of eggs) save some of the ones you get when you buy eggs from your local grocer. You can also find them at tractor or farming supply stores. I bought mine at a local Agway. Many use the 6 x 6 egg trays, but for my smaller enclosure, the regular 2 x 6 egg cartons fit better. The larger trays can be purchased in bulk online.
Roaches need food bowls, too.
It makes it MUCH easier to clean and feed your roaches if you supply food bowls. For mine, I used two Ziploc small square containers (5″x 5″), which I trimmed down with a pair of scissors to fit better and to add an entrance for the smaller roaches. One of these I fill with fresh organic fruit (nectarines, oranges, peaches, strawberries, grapes, apples, etc.). The other I fill with my homemade “roach chow”.
Carefully fit everything into the enclosure.
On one end, stand up the egg cartons. I have two rows of five in mine, and the roaches seem to do fine. At the other end, place the two food bowls with the openings facing the egg cartons. When you get your roaches, carefully dump them on the egg cartons; they will quickly scramble down between them to hide.
A word about roach food.
It’s a fact: roaches will eat just about anything. As a result, there is no set, scientific diet for your feeder roaches. Do a quick search online, and you’ll find dozens, if not hundreds, of possible food choices. Moistened dog food, chicken mash, crushed cereal, organic tabbouleh…all are on the menu. While researching, I stumbled upon this cheap, simple recipe for “roach chow”, and so far it’s worked great. There are only two ingredients.
Flaked fish food.
Just drop the oats and flakes in a blender (I do about 60/40 oats to flakes), blend to a powdery mash. Simple. I purchase large canisters of both, then blend up extra so that I always have it on hand. As both the flakes and oats can be purchased at Walmart for a few dollars, you can make enough food for months without hurting your wallet. I supplement the roach chow with fresh fruit to provide a more balanced diet. For water, I spray down one side of the enclosure just above the fruit dish every night, which has been fine and keeps things from getting too moist.
UPDATE 11/2016: I have altered my roach chow recipe a bit. I now use oats, corn meal, and fish flakes in a 40/40/20 ratio or so. I drop these in a blender, grind them up good, then store them in an airtight container.
I also don’t offer fruit as often anymore, as it spoils very quickly (especially during the summer) and attracts fruit flies. I’ve switched to mostly carrots, potatoes, and some apples.
The hotter, the better.
If you want happy roaches and an ever-growing supply of feeders, you’d better be prepared to jack up those temperatures. Dubia thrive in warm environments.
and you’ll need to keep them in the mid 80s to mid 90s if you’d like them to mate and reproduce. As these temps are too high for many T species, you will likely have to keep your feeders in a separate room. During the dog days of summer, I keep mine in my attic, where temps are almost always around 88-90 degrees.
UPDATE 11/2016: They do not need temps in the high 80s to low 90s to reproduce. Mine are kept much of the year in the 70s, and they still have young. That said, you get more offspring the warmer you keep them. If you can’t get your room temperatures up high enough to stimulate faster reproduction, you can use a heat mat on one side of the enclosure to raise temps inside. If you’re using a Sterilite bin, try mounting the heat mat on a wall, then position the cage next to it.
Keep in mind that high temperatures will cause fresh fruit to rot very quickly, so be sure to change the fruit bowl often to avoid fruit flies and decomposition.
In the winter months, they should really be kept 65-70 minimum. However, although this will be high enough to keep them alive, they will not be reproducing.
Cleaning is breeze.
My wife and I clean our colony every week, and we’ve found that it’s quite simple. Just lift out the egg cartons and place them in an empty cardboard box while you work. Remove the food dishes and any stragglers, then just dump the feces (which is tiny and dry) into the garbage. Use a damp cloth to clean up the bottom, dry it, then put everything back in. They are actually quite clean overall, and produce no real odor.
Simple and cheap!
So, there you have it. Again, this is not the only way to keep roaches, but this is how I’m currently keeping mine. It is also quite inexpensive to put together, costing around $20 for everything. However, feel free to experiment or do whatever works for you. Dubia, generally speaking, are quite hardy and will adapt to other food sources or set ups.