A million millipede questions.

artchic528

Arachnopeon
Joined
Jun 15, 2011
Messages
16
Hey there, I am interested in keeping a pair of AGBs ( African Giant Black Millipedes ). I have been for a while. I am gathering the things needed for them and needed to ask a few, well quite a bit more than a few, questions.

What type of substrate can I use? I have heard of using either coco fiber, peat moss, or garden soil. I have a few bricks of Eco Earth brand coco fiber, a huge bale of peat moss and some Scotts Miracle Gro Garden Soil. The coco fiber and peat moss I know are safe, but what of the garden soil? It has plant food granules mixed throughout that worries me. Are the plant food granules a potential hazard to millipedes? Also, do I need to add leaves and wood shavings to it? I can pick up some aspen shavings from Petco when I am there next if need be and use the leaves from the mulch pile out back. There are plenty there. I know that they borrow so I'd need at least a few inches of substrate. Does this mean the substrate needs to constantly be moist for retention when they make their underground tunnels and chambers? Do AGB make chambers and tunnels? I read somewhere that some species of millipede make moulting chambers so this is why I asked.

I plan on getting a couple AGBs from this online store called Sargent Welch. Is that a reputable place? How large are the millipedes that you get? I want to get a male and a female so as to breed them. What are the chances of getting both if I order two? I don't have much more than enough money available for purchasing two, so I need to know my odds. I know how to tell a male from a female but how big does a millipede need to be before its sex can be determined?

As for the setup, I am eventually going to house them in my 29 gallon tank, which has a heating system already set up. Does a temperature of 70-80 degrees and a humidity of 70-80 percent sound okay? Is it okay to keep them in a 10 gallon tank temporarily, or should I move some things around and put them in the 29 gallon tank right away? The 29 gallon is currently being occupied by three land hermit crabs, though I suppose I could put them in a 10 gallon despite it being a little on the small side for the largest. They require more space than you'd expect!

On to the millipede's prospective diet. I plan on feeding them chunks of potato, some red lettuce leaves, and what ever veggies and greens are on hand. I suppose they need to be thoroughly washed to remove any pesticides, though organics are better. Do I need to add any thing else, like a calcium supplement? Would eggshells be good for that or do I need calcium powder?

For water, I will have a shallow dish. Does the water need to be treated with conditioner? I have API Tap Water Conditioner for my betta's water. I suppose I could use that if needed.

Anything I am forgetting? I know that AGBs build nests lined with their fecal matter. Do they need anything special to do so? I know that the females can lay up to 100 or so eggs per clutch. What are newly hatched millipedes called? I know that they are small upon hatching and only have one body segment. Or is it more than one? Do they molt in their eggs before hatching? I know that they grow a new segment when they molt and that it takes several molts to achieve their full segmented adult form. They keep on molting when they are adults, right?

Oh, and when handling, are they any special precautions to help minimize staining of fingers from their secretions? How long will the staining last? A few days or can it be washed off right away? It is the secretions, meant to irritate the mouth and eyes, that stain your fingers purple and not their fecal matter, right? I have heard it both ways. I also know that they coil up as a mode of defense when handled, but repeated handling will slowly cause them to be more relaxed. How long does it usually take to get them relaxed with being handled?

One last thing, I heard that they live, on average, for about 5-10 years and get around 10 or so inches long. Is that right? I am willing to make the commitment to them, its not a problem at all. Just need to know what I am getting into here.

Sorry for all the questions but I very new to all this and want to go about it correctly. I'd hate to have one pass away due to a mistake on my part.
 

Fyreflye

Arachnoknight
Old Timer
Joined
Mar 15, 2009
Messages
271
A million questions, indeed! I don't have the answers to all of them, but i can give you the basics. Also, you'll want to make good use of the 'SEARCH' feature on these forums- use keywords like archispirostreptus gigas or AGB, and read up on all the threads about them in the Myriapods section. I also recommend getting a good book- Giant Millipedes: The Enthusiast's Handbook by Orin McMonagle is very informative without being very expensive.

On to the answers! For some of these topics (like substrate and diet), you'll notice that different people will have different opinions on what is 'best.' This is why it's good to do as much reading and research as possible.

Substrate- either coco fibre or peat moss would be fine, you can even mix them. I use peat moss on my pedes because that's just what i have at home. Peat moss is also fairly good at staying moist longer, and you can get a big bag of it for pretty cheap at most any gardening/home store. I would not use the Miracle Gro soil, i would expect that it's probably doused in plant food 'chemicals,' and you want to stay away from anything that isn't natural. You do need to add some leaf litter, it is an important part in the pede's diet. I don't know if shavings from the pet store would be good or not, i've never tried them. You have a mulch pile in your yard? If you know for sure that it comes from hardwoods that have not been treated with pesticides, go ahead and use it. You'll want to 'clean' it up first, to wash off any chemicals and kill and bugs or parasites that might be hiding out. Boiling, baking, freezing- there are many different methods, we can go over it if we need to. :)

Housing- floor space is more important than depth- you want the length of the enclosure to be at least twice as long as your biggest pede, and anywhere from 3 to 6 inches of substrate, depending on the size of the pedes. For two AGBs, a 10 gallon tank should work just fine. If you want a larger colony, go ahead and use the 29g tank. It depends on how big your pedes are- you want to avoid transferring them and changing their soil after they reach breeding size. If your pedes are babies when you purchase them, it's okay to keep them in a smaller container until they grow. You'll want to keep their soil damp, they like it that way. I generally just mist my enclosure once a day or so, and randomly pour some water into one side of the tank when it's looking a bit dry. You don't want to flood them- you never know when a pede might be in the middle of a molt, and you don't want to disrupt that. Yes, they do molt in little chambers underground. What sort of heating system are you referring to? Heaters will cause your soil to dry out quicker, and aren't usually needed. If you live in a warmer climate, or keep your house at a moderate temperature, you may not need one at all. Some people only use heaters in the winter.

Diet- various fruits and vegetables, leafy greens and leaf litter. Pedes tend to love cucumber, just use it as a snack, not a main diet. Be sure to wash their food really well, almost all produce is covered in pesticides. You also need to be sure that they are getting calcium and protein in their diet. Crushed egg shells work well for calcium, and some people will use a cuttlebone (cuttlefish bone). The powdered supplement is good, but i've heard reports that some pedes are not interested in their food when it is dusted in the stuff. Alternatively, you can mix a bit of the dust into their soil. For protein, people commonly use tropical fish flakes, hermit crab food (which you already have!), or even good quality dry dog food. Just leave a bit out in a small container, try to keep it dry so it doesn't get moldy. For water, just make sure you change it frequently- sitting water can grow bacteria. I use bottled water because my local town water is filthy. If you have a filter on your tap, that should be fine. If not, you can pick up a gallon of spring water at the store for like $1, and use that on your critters.

Handling- just be gentle with them, and you should be fine. Some species of pedes are prone to being more defensive than others, but A. gigas isn't one of those. You will want to always wash your hands before and after touching them (for your protection and theirs), but you may not see much secretion. I don't handle mine very often at all, but I can't recall any of my AGBs ever secreting on me. One defecated on me recently, but that's not the same thing. :) Their feces are little round balls, much like a rabbits.

I don't know much about baby millipedes (called pedelings, or plings for short), though it's a topic i'll have to get familiar with soon, at the rate my AGBs are growing.

Do you mean Sargent Welch, the science supply store? I had to look them up, and i'm kind of curious and confused. They are selling 'live giant millipedes' that they say are A. gigas, for only $28. AGBs are somewhat rare right now, since the U.S. banned them from being imported a few years ago. It's possible that they are unaware of how desirable this species is right now, or that they have it mislabeled, and are selling something else.
 

Elytra and Antenna

Arachnoking
Old Timer
Joined
Sep 12, 2002
Messages
2,251
Please post a picture when you get the millipede, I'm very curious to see what kind and size it is. Gool luck!
 

J Morningstar

Arachnoprince
Old Timer
Joined
Sep 13, 2003
Messages
1,314
Under NO circumstances use anything with miracle grow, also add leaf litter to the soil for nutrition, it should be oak leaves but the "bug dealers" out here have it for sale so do that.

---------- Post added at 03:20 AM ---------- Previous post was at 01:39 AM ----------

well when they get here I'll tell you Orin. :D

---------- Post added at 03:22 AM ---------- Previous post was at 03:20 AM ----------

I think they are Cameroon Browns, or the morph of AGB's that...well were just browner than my others.
 

artchic528

Arachnopeon
Joined
Jun 15, 2011
Messages
16
Yes, I meant Sargent-Welch. So they sell the brown variation of AGBs? Interesting. How big are they when they arrive?
 

J Morningstar

Arachnoprince
Old Timer
Joined
Sep 13, 2003
Messages
1,314
They are shipping Monday or so, as soon as I have my grubby little hands on them I will tell you all. They do look like the Chocolate brown AGB's I used to get, IF their photo was at all accurate. The slight ridges on the body also looked like the Cameroon Browns I used to get sometimes.
 

Bark

Arachnoknight
Old Timer
Joined
Mar 26, 2004
Messages
267
Handling- just be gentle with them, and you should be fine. Some species of pedes are prone to being more defensive than others, but A. gigas isn't one of those. You will want to always wash your hands before and after touching them (for your protection and theirs), but you may not see much secretion. I don't handle mine very often at all, but I can't recall any of my AGBs ever secreting on me. One defecated on me recently, but that's not the same thing. :) Their feces are little round balls, much like a rabbits.
I have been secreted on. You just wash it off, though it will leave a stain on your skin for awhile. The worst part of handling/keeping AGBs are the mites. The red mites are supposedly ok, but for whatever reason I could never keep the population of them in check. I think that is the main reason mine would never breed even though they made woopie 24/7

Edit:
Holy crap, I just saw the current AGB prices. I have been gone too long.
 
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J Morningstar

Arachnoprince
Old Timer
Joined
Sep 13, 2003
Messages
1,314
The secretion is sometime burning to the skin, and dyes it a nice shade of plumb, it can/will actually peel off the next day a little, also to wash ones hands is a very good idea before and after, if they smell at all like food they will nibble at you, and if over 5 to 10 inches will eventuall if you do not stop them, draw blood. I admit this takes over 20 seconds of straight munching but I had it happen once.
 
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