Feeding an insectivore is expensive. Over time, insects bought from pet stores or bulk online purchases can become burdensome to reptile keepers on a budget. The best way to reduce this leak of funds may be to breed your own feeders! And—as many people in the reptile community have come to agree—Dubia Roaches are the best feeders (and breeders) on the market.
Blaptica dubia’s popularity as a feeder insect has skyrocketed in the last few years. The reason for this? When compared to crickets, who are known to be quick and easy breeders, dubia roaches match the pros and lose the cons: Crickets are loud—dubia roaches are silent. Crickets stink—dubia’s are almost odorless. Crickets are prone to escaping—dubia roaches are slow, flightless, and can’t climb smooth surfaces. Finally, crickets lay eggs—but dubia roaches are livebearers, relieving caretakers of their egg hatching responsibilities. The trials of breeding insects are almost abolished when you start a dubia roach colony. It turns out, in insect heaven, roaches are the angels.
Breeding dubia roaches is easy compared to other insects, and reptiles love them too! Dubia roaches are an excellent source of nutrition for your beloved cold-blooded friends. According to dubiaroach.com, the Barrow-Agee laboratory in Tennessee found that dubia roach nutritional value looks something like this:
Large Dubia Roaches- 65% moisture, 23.4% protein, 7.2% fat, 800 mg/kg calcium.
Compare that to the nutritional value held by other popular feeders, seen here:
Crickets- 77% moisture, 15.4% protein, 3.3% fat, 275 mg/kg calcium.
Super Worms- 57% moisture, 19% protein, 17% fat, 177 mg/kg calcium.
Silkworms- 83% moisture, 9.3% protein, 1.1% fat, 177 mg/kg calcium.
So, the only question left is—how do you breed dubia roaches?
Everything You Need To Breed Dubia Roaches
Are you convinced yet? In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about how to raise dubia roaches. To establish a breeding colony that keeps up with your reptile’s voracious appetite, you must create a habitat which provides everything a roach could wish for. Happy roaches make more babies!
What you need for a Dubia Roach Breeding Kit:
The most important thing you need is a container to house your colony in. If you start out with only a handful of roaches, starting with housing of around a foot in length might be easier to maintain. However, you’ll have to upgrade once the population increases. The ideal ratio is no more than 250 roaches / 1 sqft. Many people start off with large tubs, which their colony eventually grows into. This container is perfectly fine as a dubia cage.
If you pick the right materials, dubia roaches won’t be able to climb the sides of your container, making escapes much less likely. A smooth plastic, completely untextured, is ideal. Most Rubbermaid and Sterilite bins work well. Lids are not completely necessary, but if you provide a cover, it must allow ventilation.
Glass housing can work, but most people prefer to use plastic tubs because they’re lighter (which means easier to clean and move around), they won’t shatter (imagine dropping a glass tank full of hundreds of roaches), and they hold heat better. Also, you should look for housing that allows for darkness, so an opaque material is best suited.
2. A Heat Source
Dubia roaches require high temperatures for breeding, which we’ll get to later on in the article. So, unless you have a space in your house that stays around 90 degrees, you’ll require a heat lamp, heat strip, or under tank heater for the bin. The Zoo Med Reptitherm Under Tank Heater is fine for that.
Note: Always remember to check the plastic and the temperature from time to time. All heat sources in your house can be dangerous and it is better to be on the safe side.
Stressed roaches will lose breeding productivity—if they breed at all. In order to make your dubias feel safe, you’ll have to provide a hide. Any cardboard works, but for a large colony, egg crates are the best option.
How to Set Up a Dubia Roach Bin
After you’ve collected the components of a Dubia Roach Kit, it’s time to set everything up.
Take your container, and start placing the hides inside. Egg cartons should be placed vertically, side by side. This allows ample space for hiding roaches, but it also allows roach feces (called frass) to fall to the bottom of the container, which keeps the hiding space clean.
Then it’s time for heat. For plastic bins, keep in mind that the heat source can potentially melt the tub. Make sure to monitor temperatures and keep heaters out of direct contact with your container, regardless of its material.
For a heat lamp, keep it positioned above the plastic by at least 5 inches.
Under tank heaters and heat tape can be placed on the side of the container or the bottom. To control temperature, either leave a small space for ventilation or put the heater on a lamp dimmer to turn the wattage down as needed.
Then, just place the lid—if you’re using one—over the bin. However, the plastic lids that come with a large tub will have to allow adequate ventilation. To achieve this, the original bin’s lid can be altered by cutting a large portion from it and adding mesh/screen. If your roaches are able to reach the screen, make sure it’s made of metal, as they can chew through fiberglass and plastic wires.
And you’re done!
Get Some Adult Dubia Roaches
If you want to start to breed dubia roaches, of course you are going to need a couple of adult roaches. You can get adult roaches which are ready to breed on Amazon. They really have everything, lol.
Don´t just buy a reptile feeder box full of dubias and expect them to breed. You should make sure to have more females than males. On Amazon you can get 10 females and 5 males which is optimal to start your colony.
Dubia Roach Husbandry
After you set up a nice home for your roaches, you’ll need to maintain good husbandry to keep them breeding. Here are my dubia roach breeding tips:
Though dubia roaches can be kept anywhere between 72-95 degrees as feeders, you’ll need to keep them around 90 degrees for optimal breeding. Any temperature below this will result in less breeding activity. At 68 degrees, dubia roaches will stop breeding completely. As I already mentioned, a heat lamp, heat strip, or under-tank-heater will bring your colony to the right temperatures.
Dubia roaches also need some humidity, as they come from tropical areas. Though roaches are hardy, they can have trouble molting their shells in conditions of low humidity, doing best around 60%. To achieve this, you probably won’t need to mist. As long as they have moist foods and water in the bin, humidity is likely to stay fairly high in the enclosed space. Keep in mind, you don’t want to let the cage get too moist, as mold and fungal problems may occur.
Once you’ve achieved a suitable microclimate, you’ll have to think about maintenance of the bin. Ideally, the bin should be kept dry and clean. Empty out old pieces of food, and eventually, you’ll need to sift out the frass (feces). Newly emerged nymphs are known to hide in and feed on frass, so it’s best to leave some of it in the cage at all times. But, you don’t want there to be a build up. In order to clean the bin effectively, most people agree that you shouldn’t use a substrate of any kind. This doesn’t really add any perks to your bin, and it complicates cleaning significantly.
To clean your cage, you’ll have to remove the frass, dead roaches, old skins, and food particles while avoiding throwing out many of your nymphs. For a healthy, established colony, losing a few nymphs in the cleaning process won’t make a huge difference. However, when you’re just starting out, you won’t want to waste your roaches. The best way to do this is to separate the hides from the container you’re cleaning. In most cases, the majority of roaches will be inside the hides. But, quite a few small nymphs will hide on the bottom of the cage, burrowed in the frass. Many people take buckets, puncture small holes in the bottom, dump in the frass, and shake. The feces will fall through the holes, while the roaches are left inside the bucket.
Another important note about dubia roaches, is that they prefer the dark. It’s best to give your roaches as much darkness as you can manage. If you use a clear bin or a glass tank, try to keep your roaches in a dark area of the house and make sure to turn off any lights around them at night. Too much light will stress out your roaches, ultimately leading to less reproduction and a failing colony.
Dubia Roach Diet
While dubia roaches can survive on a variety of diets, you should carefully consider what you throw to them. On one hand, some foods are likely to increase breeding productivity. And on the other, you’ll want to feed to your roaches things that you’d feed to your reptiles, since eventually, the roach will become a meal.
Though there’s a myriad of preformulated roach diets to choose from, fresh foods like fruits and vegetables lead to increased breeding productivity. Dubia roaches eat anything they come across in the wild. But in captivity, people have noticed that they gravitate towards orange food. Oranges, in particular, have been said to make happy, breeding bugs. But, they also like carrots and yams. The reason for this may be that orange foods contain carotenoids, which are healthy for insects.
If you don´t want to have too much work with feeding your dubias, get the Lugarti Dubia Premium Diet. It is 100% plant based and the manufacturer decreased the protein in it (which is good!).
Best Dubia Diet
Lugarti Dubia Premium Diet
In general, consider your roaches to be vegetarians, and offer whatever variety of fruits and vegetables you find at your disposal. Some people think it can be helpful to offer food containing a lot of protein. However, it has been suggested that roaches are able to metabolize adequate amounts of protein from vegetables. Offering too much protein may lead roaches to convert it into uric acid, which will be stored in their bodies. This can eventually make them ill, and for reptiles fed on these acid filled roaches, grout may occur.
So, you should feed your roaches a variety of things, leaning towards orange foods and making sure to offer slices of oranges when you can. From time to time, it won’t hurt to offer something with protein, such as dry dog or cat food, but don’t over-due it.
Obviously, you’ll need a source of water for your insects. However, it’s best not to leave a standing pool of water in a bowl, as nymphs may get stuck and drown. I’ll go over each hydration option:
The first option is to buy these Miracle-Gro Water Crystals. These will hold water for a few days to a week. When they dry out, it’s just a matter of dumping the old and offering fresh crystals. You can buy them in bulk, and they last as long as they’re stored in a sealed container.
Alternatively, you can buy sponges. Sponges are reusable, so it’s a matter of purchasing them once. However, you’ll have to keep them clean, and they don’t hold water as long as the crystals, so you’ll be cutting down the cost while increasing the maintenance. When choosing a sponge, be mindful of harmful chemicals that may be inside commercial options. Natural sea sponges are suitable, but they can be pricey. A cheaper option is Mr. Clean Magic Erasers, which are widely available and cheap. Make sure it contains no added cleaning agents before placing it in your roach bin.
If you offer food with a lot of moisture, such as grapes, oranges, or other watery fruits, an additional water source might not be needed at all. I’ve also found that a light misting can provide hydration as well, as roaches will drink a water droplet. However, misting your tub too much might cause soaked cardboard and frass to mold, so I wouldn’t use this as your primary source of hydration.
Dubia Roach Allergy Risk
Dubia roaches make excellent feeders and breeders. However, allergic reactions to the roaches or their frass have been recorded. Keeping a large colony of roaches and interacting with them on a day to day basis may not result in allergies at first, but some people develop minor or severe reactions over time. If you decide to breed a colony of any species of roach, pay attention to any irritation of the skin, eyes, wheezing, coughing, or sneezing in response to your insects. It should be warned that anyone with asthma may be affected by roach allergies more than others. Children may also be at higher risk.
And that’s how to breed dubia roaches quickly, easily, and without much effort on your part. Not only are they delicious to your pets, but they’re also highly nutritious. In many ways, they’re a win all around. When a touch of time and effort goes into creating an ideal—if simple—habitat for these small creatures, you might end up with an unending supply of feeders that can last the rest of your reptile’s life.