I breed Madagascar hissing cockroaches at my house. Not that it is a particularly hard thing to do; a male and female with enough heat and food will easily produce thirty babies in the course of a few months. Cockroaches are generally seen as pests, and to be fair, some of them are. The german cockroaches that invade our houses are a nuisance species and health hazard in large amounts. My cockroaches are my pets. They are interesting to watch and they have some very unique social dynamics.
I keep them in a Sterlite container with a 7-inch diameter hole cut out of the top. I covered the hole with screening and placed a heat lamp on the screen. The heat lamp uses a 75 watt ZooMed red heat bulb, which I use to control the internal temperature. Cockroaches are more active when its warm, so by turning it on and off I can control how much they need to eat and, more importantly, how much they breed. Their temperature should not drop below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. I have had the best breeding success at 85 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The bottom of the container has fine coconut husk and small amounts of sphagnum moss. They have a water dish with moss inside it and multiple PVC tubes for hiding. Cockroaches dislike direct light so they spend a lot of their time hiding during the day.
They drink water from the dish, but a large portion of the water they get comes from their food. Hissing cockroaches love fruits and vegetables. Carrots, romaine lettuce, oranges, apples and spinach are what I typically feed them. They occasionally get oatmeal, soybean meal and crushed cuttlebone for additional nutrients. I will sometimes dust their greens with vitamin dust to fill in the gaps of their diets, most importantly the lack of calcium.
They can be kept in groups, but it is important to have multiple hiding places. Males are territorial around females and will often chase each other. It is important for the males being chased away to have a place to retreat. If you are worried about escapees, petroleum jelly can be used on the sides of the container to prevent them from climbing out. Cockroaches of all ages and sizes can be kept together, and females will actually take care of baby cockroaches in their enclosure.
Hissing cockroaches get their name from their ability to hiss like a snake. They do this by forcing air out of their spiracles (holes on the side of the abdomen where they breath.) They will also hiss at each other as a form of communication. Males tend to have hairier antenna and two bump-like “horns” above their head. Hissing cockroaches are ovoviviparous, meaning females have eggs but they are incubated inside her body. She then gives births to her babies. The babies are born white but darken as their exoskeleton hardens.
This species is very suitable for classrooms and as pets due to their ease of care and gentle temperament. They are wingless, so flying is not a concern. Adults do have spines on their legs which can be painful, so young children should not be allowed to handle cockroaches. These fascinating animals are a great way to teach kids and young adults about insects and biology.