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Cave roach enclosure, advice needed (Blaberus giganteus)

Discussion in 'Insects, Other Invertebrates & Arthropods' started by Fishkeeper, Apr 5, 2019.

  1. Fishkeeper

    Fishkeeper Arachnosquire

    I'll be copy/pasting this to two other places, and will link them up here in case anyone wants to see any other suggestions I might get.

    I have a 65 gallon aquarium standing empty except for a couple inches of water, and I think I want to make a giant cave roach habitat. But a really cool one- like the inside of a cave. I've been looking at pictures of their natural habitat, and they live in rainforest caves in Central America. I'm thinking of making a background that looks like fake rock, and providing light only from one smaller fixture, like the light is shining down through a hole in the ceiling. The substrate would be a nice, thick layer of coco fiber and hardwood leaves, and I'd put some wood in for them to chew on.

    My main concern is that the roaches will chew anything I use as a background. I don't want to use a cement background because it would be super heavy, and I don't want to work with clay, it's kind of a pain in large amounts. I'd thought about styrofoam with something over the top as sealant, but I'm worried the roaches would eat through the sealant and just start chewing.

    Who's kept these guys, and how do you keep them? Any sort of background?
  2. houston

    houston Arachnopeon

    I'm looking to do something similar! Having cave roaches in an actual "cave" is a very cool concept. My plan was to do a foam insert coated in grout, and then sealed with polycrylic (inspired by the diy bearded dragon hides I've seen floating around on Pinterest). Unfortunately I have no idea if they'd eat it. I would think not, if it's been sealed, but I've had them chew through the wire of a thermometer probe so I've no idea.
    I may end up making mine out of clay, though! This is mostly because I'm more familiar with the medium, but I am interested in seeing other replies from more experienced insert designers.
    I keep mine in about five inches of topsoil, with pieces of wood and pavers bricks (the type used to make retaining walls for gardens). In their next terrarium I will definitely be making features that have narrow gaps between them-- if they're not burrowing or eating, they're in the cracks between the pavers. No background, though I think having the vertical space would be beneficial for adults and I will be including it in their next environment. IMG_20190405_170315710.jpg
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Fishkeeper

    Fishkeeper Arachnosquire

    I'm not sure if I want to deal with clay. I tried a clay vivarium background once, and if you don't keep it evenly wet all over, the whole thing starts to dry, contract, and fall off. I don't know if making something out of clay, letting it dry, and then somehow fastening it in would work, but I do know that would probably be really heavy and hard to anchor.

    Foam covered in grout is what I'm thinking of, too. I don't think they'd want to eat grout?

    Do you find them to be hard to contain? I'm guessing/hoping that I could contain them just by making sure the lid is on tight and is kinda heavy.
  4. houston

    houston Arachnopeon

    Honestly, they're easier to contain than hissers. I've seen males flutter across the terrarium, but it's more a glide from a high point to a lower point than flying. They can't climb glass, either. I've left the lid off accidentally and left it haphazardly on and I've have no escapees-- the adults are more interested in each other, the large nymphs more interested in food, and the small nymphs more interested in hiding.

    Ideally, I would make my clay cave features in pieces sized appropriately for a kiln, fire them, and then use a heavy duty glue to bond them together. However, I don't have the resources at the moment to fire large pieces. Using dried clay instead will be heavy and more delicate to put together, since fired clay weighs less and is much stronger, but I don't plan on moving my terrarium around so that's not a big concern for me. Doing large pieces with varying thicknesses is difficult because, like you said, it dries weird and pulls apart. Better would be to coil build, or my favorite, making the structure and then hollowing it out to even thickness (maybe around 0.5 inches). I was at one point planning on majoring in ceramic sciences and arts, so I can nerd out about it a lot if given the chance, haha. When I start my build in earnest I'll probably end up making a thread about my process!

    I do think covering in grout would be enough. Several layers to make sure it's thick might be worth it, just for peace of mind.
  5. mantisfan101

    mantisfan101 Arachnodemon Active Member

    I doubt that they’d try to chew through the back, but my main concern is if you plan on siliconing the susbtrate onto the sturofoam, make sure that it is fully cured. Not much else to worry about though, maybe a dd a drainage layer and a few inches of coco fiber moxed with peat moss and add some small pieces of rotten hardwood. Place a few pieces of cork bark, manzanita, or drift wood and then finish it off by layering it with maybe 1.5 inches of leaf litter. I would recommend keeping it humid since I have heard that these guys are especially prone to mismolts. How many do you have? If you have an established colony you can out them right im but of you have only nymphs you might want to wait until you get a steady enough population to put them in. Also if you provide them with plenty of food I don’t think that they’ll try to eat aor chew through the background.
  6. Fishkeeper

    Fishkeeper Arachnosquire

    Oh, right! I'd forgotten momentarily that clay can be fired. The terrarium backgrounds I've seen with clay are all solid, and the whole thing is kept wet for plants to grow on, so it never dries. They can be beautiful, but are tricky to get right.
    We have some chicken wire. Maybe a framework of chicken wire, covered in a half-inch-thick layer of clay? The clay would probably hold on fairly well if the wire was embedded in it. It would shrink and crack as it dried, of course, but maybe I could fill in the gaps with silicone. Coat the whole thing in silicone mixed with sand for a more natural look, and that might just work. And, yes, I'd leave it a week or so to let the silicone cure and stop putting off fumes.

    I don't actually have any cave roaches yet. It's an idea, not a concrete thing I'm going to do. I definitely can't finish it until Fall, anyway, that's when the 10 hardwood trees in our backyard will be dropping leaves everywhere. Pick those up, spread them in the sun to annoy any bugs out, and they work great. Mostly pecans, plus what I think is an elm, and a couple of mulberries. I was thinking coco fiber and leaf litter mixed together, then a couple inches of leaves on top of that. Some bark on top to hide under, and then they have the whole background to use as surface area for molting.

    Maybe I can make a 'tree stump' out of cork bark and silicone.