A huge majority of people in the world have grudges towards bugs—often viewed as an irritant, nuisance or harmful pest. There are some that don’t feel this way; they have the mind-set that bugs make excellent pets and enjoy keeping a few in their home aquariums.
Unlike many other household pets, bugs are low maintenance and easy to care for and they do make good pets. Bugs can be housed in a small jar or container because of their little sizes and their diet are cheap. Besides, many of them are notable for their unique lifeforms and intriguing characters.
Furthermore, if you are among the people that don’t fancy having fuzzy mammals, fish, dwarf shrimp, snails, amphibians, or reptiles as pets, then you should consider keeping a pet bug.
These bugs are neither fuzzy like mammals nor cuddly. However, they are fascinating, calm, and entertaining, so be rest assured that you will enjoy having them around.
For starters, there are a lot of options to choose from and I will discuss some of them extensively in this article. Keep reading for more information on bugs that you can keep as pets in your home, in addition to housing features and proper care tips.
Choosing the Right Pet Bug
Before you adopt a pet bug, you need to find out about its behavior, feeding preferences, and care requirements. That way, you would be acquainted with the do’s and don’ts as well as how to properly handle and take care of it.
Moreover, you need to consider your safety!
Some bugs are potentially harmful due to the powerful stings, toxins, secretions, and irritating hairs they possess and use to ward off predatory species or hunt prey. Pet invertebrates like tarantulas, earthworms, and scorpions have these features, so it’s up to you to handle them less often or to simply stay clear of such bugs.
Also, keep in mind that there are laws and regulations that concern the legality of pets in a particular area. Hence, it’s important to ascertain if your choice of bug is considered illegal in your locality before getting one.
In some countries, the law mandates individuals to purchase bugs from licensed reputable breeders or to obtain a permit before importing a bug, therefore you should check and ensure you do the needful.
Tarantulas are one of the best pet bugs one can possibly have. These are a group of large and hairy spiders, they are fuzzy, docile, and venomous—their bites are quite painful and can be compared to a bee sting.
Note: Although some tarantula species have weak venom that is not dangerous to humans unless you have an allergy, it is still not a pleasant experience.
There are over 800 documented species of tarantula, some are burrowers/ground dwellers and they happen to be more docile as opposed to arboreal species that are agile and faster. As with all Arthropods, they rely on their exoskeleton for muscular support, and also present are claws for gripping to surfaces and spinnerets for spinning silk.
Beginner species include Pink toe, Mexican Red leg, Chilean Rose, and Brazilian black.
This is dependent on the type. Arboreal species prefer a vertically oriented enclosure (a terrarium) whereas terrestrial species are more comfortable in a horizontally oriented one.
Usually, a 5-10 gallon tank (20 – 40 L) should be enough to house a male and female, be sure to cover the top with a secure lid to prevent these fuzzy bugs from escaping.
Provide lots of hiding places using hollow logs, cork bark, plants and ornaments, use a mulch-type substrate; this can be coconut fibre bedding or dampened sphagnum moss to retain humidity. Place a shallow water dish in the tank too.
Caring for Tarantulas:
They prefer a darker area and most species should be maintained a temperature range of 75 °F – 85 °F (24 °C – 30 °C). So, if necessary, install a heating pad underneath to keep the tank heated.
Tarantulas can be fed gut-loaded insects like
- fruit flies,
- dubia roaches. A
Always handle your tarantula with caution as its abdomen can rupture if it falls from a considerable height.
You can also read the article “Tarantula as Pets”.
Spiders are fascinating pets, and there are over 40,000 species of spiders in the world today. They possess segmented bodies with jointed appendages, all covered in an outer covering made of chitin and proteins.
Even though spiders are similar to tarantulas in almost every aspect, (that is so because Tarantulas are spiders), there are still differences between them.
|The main differences between Spiders and Tarantulas|
|Not always hairy-bodied||Always hairy-bodied|
|There are herbivory species||No herbivory species|
|They have 6 silk exuding tubes||Tarantulas have 2-4 silk exuding tubes|
|They usually use silk to capture prey||They usually use silk to create the lair|
|Short life span||Live longer|
In captivity, they should be left alone in the enclosure to roam about, eat and spin webs.
They can be kept in small jars, containers, and nano tanks; as they do not require much room to live in.
Tiny holes should be drilled in the enclosure to allow for gaseous exchange and make sure you keep the enclosure sealed to prevent escape.
Most spider species s are thermophilic, it means that they prefer to stay in a temperature range that will be close to 22 – 28 °C (72 – 82 F). Although they can tolerate a slight short-term decrease in temperature, it is not good for them in a long run.
At the same time, it is not recommended to overheat the terrarium as well. This situation can become especially dangerous for well-fed animals, in which the processes of decay of undigested food can start in the stomach.
Caring for Spiders:
Most spiders can be quite agile and won’t hesitate to disappear into thin air if taken out of the tank, so it’s best to leave them in the tank.
Obtain a pet spider only from a reputable breeder, a docile or mild-tempered spider is what you need, try to avoid venomous spiders.
Spiders should be fed regularly, food options include:
- mosquito larvae,
Lastly, keep a shallow water dish and place a stone in it to prevent the spider from drowning while drinking water.
If you are looking for an interesting little pet invertebrate to adopt, then you might as well consider a beetle. Beetles are a group of insects that form the order Coleoptera, and this comprises about 400,000 species.
Beetles are popular pets in some places, e.g. Japan, where the practice of keeping some species of beetle is common amongst young boys. For example, The brown rhinoceros beetle (Xylotrupes Gideon), Stag beetle (Prosopocoilus giraffa keisukei), Rhino beetle (Xylotrupes beckeri), Flower beetle (Smaragdina africana africana), Spotted Sun beetle (Pachnoda trimaculata), etc.
Ground beetles are recommended for pet keeping. They are one of the largest species of beetle in the world with more than 40,000 species. Most of them are shiny black or metallic in coloration and they possess ridge wing covers.
A glass or plastic tank can be used to house beetles, the enclosure should have a layer (2 inches) of humid soil (peat or sand) at the bottom, and decorated with a few pieces of wood or bark.
Provide a light source e.g. Incandescent bulb, and throw in some twigs where the beetles can crawl at intervals.
Caring for Beetles:
Ground beetles can be fed
- small seeds,
- fly larvae,
feed them almost every day. They can be handled, but this should be done gently.
It’s best to keep them in pairs, preferably a male and female. Overall, they are easy to care for and will breed easily in captivity.
4. Praying Mantises
Praying Mantises are captivating, and even a quick glance at this high-spirited bug will leave you in awe. So, lots of people will definitely want to keep them as pets.
Praying Mantises possess elongated bodies, triangular heads with bulging eyes supported on their flexible necks. The name ‘Praying Mantis’ refers to their upright stance with folded forearms which appears prayer-like.
Mantises are capable of mimicking leaves and twigs in their natural environment due to their camouflaging colors, it is beneficial for escaping predators and also as a stealth move in anticipation of prey.
Ideally, the enclosure needs to be twice as wide and three times as tall as the mantis. If the tank is lesser than this specification, the bug will become stressed. On the contrary, the mantis may find it difficult to locate its prey in a very large enclosure. For this reason, one square-foot enclosure should suffice.
The floor of the enclosure needs to be covered with a mixture of soil and sand to retain moisture. Mantises prefer warm habitats, hence, the temperature should be kept between 20° C to 25 °C (68 – 77 F).
Add some plants and twigs of varying sizes which the mantis can hang from during molts, and remember to carry out regular misting of the tank to provide the necessary humidity.
Caring for Mantises:
Mantises require a steady supply of live prey and this includes gut-loaded insects like:
- fruit flies,
- even smaller mantises.
Feed them adequately and they will stay healthy and live up to a year. Mantises can be handled but not when molting, they are extremely fragile during this period and may die from a physical touch.
You can also read the article “The Most Popular Praying Mantis Species Suitable As Pets”.
5. Hissing Cockroaches
As strange as this might sound, some species of Cockroaches can actually be kept as pets. There are about 20 known species which are collectively termed “Hissing cockroaches” and many of them are kept as exotic pets.
The Madagascar hissing cockroach Gromphadorhina portentosa is one of the largest species of cockroach, up to 3 inches (7-8 cm) at maturity, they are native to the Island of Madagascar in Southern Africa.
This bug can be identified by its dark reddish-brown or black coloration with a chitinous exoskeleton and six appendages.
The name ‘hissing cockroaches’ is due to the hissing sound they make when air is forcefully expelled through their spiracles. Madagascar hissing cockroaches are easy-going, wingless, and good climbers—capable of scaling smooth glass.
Housing Hissing Cockroaches:
These roaches can be housed in a 5-10 gallon (20 – 40 L) tank. Note that they can escape from the tank if they climb to the top, therefore, you need to secure the top with a tight-fitting and a fine mesh to allow for proper airflow.
An additional measure is to coat the first few inches with a lubricant e.g. petroleum jelly, this will help to restrict their movement on the tank glass.
They like a warm environment, hence, the environment needs to be kept at a minimum temperature of 25 °C (77 F).
In addition, spread wood shavings at the bottom and provide lots of hiding places using cork bark, egg boxes, hollow logs and cartons. They are nocturnal and do not appreciate bright lighting.
Caring for Hissing Cockroaches:
Hissing cockroaches will appreciate a varied diet of
- fresh fruit and vegetables—carrots, bananas, apples, peas, peaches and
- protein, they will even accept dry dog food pellets.
Be sure to provide clean water in a shallow dish and place a piece of cotton ball or stone in it to prevent drowning.
Millipedes are quite docile, slow, easy to handle, and require minimal care. Although the name “Millipede” means a thousand feet in Latin etymology, no known species has 1000 legs, they often have 300 – 400 legs while some have up to 700.
The species commonly kept as a pet is the Giant African Millipede Archispirostreptus gigas from lowland parts of East Africa, they have a life expectancy of about 5-7 years and can grow up to 15 inches (30+ cm) long and 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide.
As a rule, the enclosure should be larger than the millipede, it needs to be at least twice as long as the length of an adult millipede, and the top should be secured with a tight-fitting lid.
Keep the temperature range between 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (24 – 27 °C). Their enclosure should have humidity levels as well.
Furthermore, Millipedes are burrowers, therefore you need to fill the bottom with a layer (4 – 5 inches or 10 – 12 cm) of a damp mixture of peat and sterilized compost.
Caring for Millipedes:
Millipedes will benefit from regular consumption of veggies and fruits; feed them:
- bananas, etc.
For additional nourishment, you can dust their meal with a calcium supplement to keep them healthy and strong.
Provide fresh chlorine-free water in a shallow dish and place a large stone inside it to stop them from drowning.
Important: Handle millipedes with care, they are known to secrete irritating liquids from their pores, so remember to wash your hands after handling them to avoid itching or irritation that may occur as a result of contact with the liquid.
7. Stick Insects
Stick Insects are renowned exotic pets. In science, they are referred to as phasmids and this name is derived from the Greek word “phasma” which implies apparition or phantom. They are capable of replicating the forms of sticks, twigs, and leaves in the form of plant mimicry.
Carausis morosus (The Indian stick insect) is the most commonly kept stick insect species, it measures 4 – 5 inches (10 – 12 cm) long and can live beyond a year in captive care.
Housing Stick Insects:
The enclosure needs to be three times as high as the length of an adult stick insect to allow for successful molting. While the optimal temperature for stick insect is 75 °F (24 °C), species like the Indian stick insect can tolerate cooler temperature between 60 – 75 °F (16 – 24 °C).
Stick insects are active at night, so consider replacing the white bulb with a red one at dark hours, this works best for stick bugs. Don’t forget to mist the inside of the tank and the food plant material with water every day to provide the necessary humidity.
Caring for Stick Insects:
Stick bugs will accept fresh leaves of plants like bramble, ivy, oak, hawthorn, and lettuce. Always handle stick bugs with care, hold them by their body, and not their delicate limbs to avoid damages. The Indian stick pet cannot harm humans when handled, however, the same cannot be said of species like the American walking stick and Pink winged stick insect.
Scorpions are predatory arachnids of the order Scorpions. It is a fascinating animal and makes a great pet, although its care can be a bit challenging than the other bugs.
Scorpions possess eight legs (4 pairs of walking legs), claws, and a curvy segmented tail that bears a venomous sting, the potency of this sting varies among species.
A single large scorpion can be housed in a 10 gallon (40 L) tank while multiple scorpions will require a 30 gallon (120 L) tank or more, they need just enough space to roam about.
Nearly all species of scorpions found in the pet trade are burrowing species, hence, you need to spread 2 – 3 inches (5 – 7 cm) of a peat-like substrate on the bottom of the tank to allow them to burrow.
A temperature of 25 °C (77 F) is considered optimal, although some species can tolerate cooler and even warmer temperatures.
If needed, use a heating mat/pad to supply heat in the enclosure; place it under the tank and ensure that it goes no more than about 1/3 of the tank, this is to give the scorpion the choice of alternating between a cool and warm environment.
They will appreciate hiding spots in the enclosure and this can be provided with barks, rocks, broken ceramic pots, driftwood.
Another essential requirement is the maintenance of high humidity levels by carrying out daily misting, and keep in mind that the humidity level shouldn’t be too high to prevent mold and fungus from forming.
Caring for Scorpions:
Most scorpion species are not great for handling, so it’s best to leave them in the tank at all times. As regards to feeding, supply them gut-loaded & calcium dusted crickets (about 3-6 crickets per week), alternative food choices include other insects like mealworms, moths, ants, millipedes, and earthworms.
Interestingly, scorpions are capable of staying for extended periods without eating. Dehydration is quite common in scorpions, so make sure you provide a shallow water dish where they can drink from.
Recommended species are The Emperor scorpion (Pandinus imperator), Tanzanian Red-clawed Scorpion (Pandinus cavimanus), and Malaysian Black Scorpion (Heterometrus spinifer).
Note: Frequent handling of pet bugs will stress them out, hence you should desist from doing such.
You can also read the article “The Most Popular Scorpion Species Suitable As Pets”.
If you have a keen interest in keeping pet bugs in your home as a hobby, then you need to try out one or two bugs from our list.
These bugs are easy to handle, docile, and need minimal care. Most importantly, they require gentle handling and proper feeding to thrive and stay healthy.