Millipedes and Foliage, Other Inverts, and Substrate Composition

Edoggerson

Arachnopeon
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Hello! I have been planning my first millipede vivarium in a 20-gallon tank (I know, way too big for simple millies). Since it's so big, I was thinking about making an open-top bio active vivarium. From a bit of research, I've found that most bryophytes like peat moss will fare very well in a hardy environment. That being said, will the open-top to the tank be enough to normalize the humidity in the tank? I don't want to deprive the millies of any humidity, nor plants.

I've also seen from previous threads that isopods will stagger millie breeding and possibly cause some unrest, so should I split my colony into two when I purchase them and attempt to breed one group? Again I understand 20 gallons is massive for these guys, so I'm wondering if it'll be big enough that isopods and millies can co-exist.

Beyond actual life, I've been putting some time into researching substrate composition, and thought that 1/4 NATURAL TOPSOIL (ones without chemical b.s. in them), 1/4 coco fiber, 1/4 aspen/oak pellet, and 1/4 dead, properly prepared leaves from my nearby forest would do me good. Would there be enough nutrients to support plant life properly?

Thank you for all of the help, and please feel free to ask questions here too for anyone else that needs some advice on keeping these guys!

To extend my original post, I was thinking of a very fine grate at the top to allow air passthrough, but far too fine for anything like the millies or isopods to make their way through. not sure how I'd be keeping it attached for it to be removable, when I put in food.. Suggestions are greatly appreciated! I was also thinking of a very thin layer of gravel at the bottom, enough to sustain some moisture.

Are there any other bugs that would do well in such a large tank? I'm not very keen on spring-tails, because they're going to explode in population very quickly.
 

Albireo Wulfbooper

Arachnodemon
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Your substrate will dry out faster with an open-top tank, but that just means you'll have to add water more often. Won't be a problem for the animals as long as the sub stays moist.
The plants will be fine nutrient-wise - the millipedes and isopods both turn decaying organic matter into beautiful plant fertilizer. If you add the plants after the critters are established (or concentrate sub from an established population around the plants), so much the better - they'll have lots of good nutrients available from the moment they get planted. Do be aware though that the pedes and pods will both happily munch on some plant types :)
 

Edoggerson

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Your substrate will dry out faster with an open-top tank, but that just means you'll have to add water more often. Won't be a problem for the animals as long as the sub stays moist.
The plants will be fine nutrient-wise - the millipedes and isopods both turn decaying organic matter into beautiful plant fertilizer. If you add the plants after the critters are established (or concentrate sub from an established population around the plants), so much the better - they'll have lots of good nutrients available from the moment they get planted. Do be aware though that the pedes and pods will both happily munch on some plant types :)
So do you think it's wise to stick with 50% coco and 50% wood pellets, then consistently sprinkle dried leaves on top? And since it'll dry out faster, do you think 3-4 times a week? My friend has some experience with vivariums, but wasn't sure based on my climate. I'm in a very cold area, and the house is usually 68-69 degrees.
 

Albireo Wulfbooper

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Scheduling watering is useless - you just have to check the moisture level of the substrate and adjust as needed.
I don't keep millipedes, and I have been keeping isopods a little less than a year, so take my advice with a grain of salt - I am not an expert. I did do a bunch of reading up when I first started keeping them, and I ended up deciding on a mix of wood, peat, coco fibre, and soil. I have pothos, some kind of delicate little fern that's definitely getting nibbled, and some kind of weird viney thing with tiny leaves. I dunno, they were cheap so I don't care if they get eaten. I add oak and maple leaves periodically - not on any schedule, just when I see that a large proportion of the last batch has been eaten. I also add the occasional supplemental food - bug burger, fish flakes, potato slices, etc. My apartment is super dry and quite warm, so at this time of year I usually have to water every week even with the top mostly closed off, but I don't do it on a schedule, I just look and feel, and add when it needs it.
 

Edoggerson

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Scheduling watering is useless - you just have to check the moisture level of the substrate and adjust as needed.
I don't keep millipedes, and I have been keeping isopods a little less than a year, so take my advice with a grain of salt - I am not an expert. I did do a bunch of reading up when I first started keeping them, and I ended up deciding on a mix of wood, peat, coco fibre, and soil. I have pothos, some kind of delicate little fern that's definitely getting nibbled, and some kind of weird viney thing with tiny leaves. I dunno, they were cheap so I don't care if they get eaten. I add oak and maple leaves periodically - not on any schedule, just when I see that a large proportion of the last batch has been eaten. I also add the occasional supplemental food - bug burger, fish flakes, potato slices, etc. My apartment is super dry and quite warm, so at this time of year I usually have to water every week even with the top mostly closed off, but I don't do it on a schedule, I just look and feel, and add when it needs it.
That sounds pretty fair! I don't want to over complicate things for my first ever buggies, but we live and learn I guess. What wasn't clear to me was the peat. Is peat stationed between layers of substrate, or just placed on the surface as a sort of brush? Also, do you have a brand suggestion? If it goes in the substrate, I'm going to experiment with gravel at the very bottom. Thanks for the detailed input!
 

Albireo Wulfbooper

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I mixed my peat in a bit but let it clump in some areas more than others so there are some areas that hold more moisture and some areas that are a bit drier. I also put a few clumps of peat on the surface toward one end. I have 5 species of isopods with slightly different preferences, so I wanted their environment to have some variability that would allow them to choose their optimal niche. I've also provided them with some larger cork and wood bark chunks, and some cholla to climb on if they want a drier area away from the substrate.

Oh, and brand doesn't matter as long as it is definitely all natural and organic - I just choose stuff that's made for animal enclosures to be on the safe side.
 

Edoggerson

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I mixed my peat in a bit but let it clump in some areas more than others so there are some areas that hold more moisture and some areas that are a bit drier. I also put a few clumps of peat on the surface toward one end. I have 5 species of isopods with slightly different preferences, so I wanted their environment to have some variability that would allow them to choose their optimal niche. I've also provided them with some larger cork and wood bark chunks, and some cholla to climb on if they want a drier area away from the substrate.

Oh, and brand doesn't matter as long as it is definitely all natural and organic - I just choose stuff that's made for animal enclosures to be on the safe side.
Ok! Sounds good. I'll be sure to make follow up threads as I start to get everything ready to go. The pet store is gonna be my best friend for a while.
 

goliathusdavid

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Your substrate mixture sounds pretty good, though I would also mix in supplemental calcium (Repashy calcium powder is what I use). I saw in the other version of this posting that you were debating between the four part substrate mixture and the 50\50 coco husk\hardwood pellets. Frankly I think either would be fine though the four part mix might last you longer. Personally I do a mix of coco husk, oak flake soil (fermented decaying hardwood), sphagnum moss, calcium, and dead oak leaves mixed into both the substrate and on top. Also depending on the species, sand can be a good addition (I'm thinking particularly for Orthoporus and Narceus gordanus. Its also a good idea to every so often add a sprinkling of your hardwood substrate to the top, in addition to dry leaves as this will refresh nutrients.

I am a big advocate for highly ventilated tanks and think you are headed in the right direction but do want to note that this will require a regimented misting schedule. I politely disagree with @Albireo Wulfbooper in terms of the effectiveness of misting: if the top layer is consistently moist (established by misting once or twice a day depending on humidity levels) water will not be able to effective evaporate from the bottom layers. It is also a good idea to mist the sides and corners of the substrate particularly heavily, as they are often forgotten and are therefore where evaporation is most likely to occur.

On housing isopods and millipedes together, I would advise against it even an enclosure as large as a 20 gallon. I would instead advocate for A LOT of millipedes, and if you're dying for isopods, housing them in a separate tank. If you don't mind me asking what species and number are you thinking about?
 

Edoggerson

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Your substrate mixture sounds pretty good, though I would also mix in supplemental calcium (Repashy calcium powder is what I use). I saw in the other version of this posting that you were debating between the four part substrate mixture and the 50\50 coco husk\hardwood pellets. Frankly I think either would be fine though the four part mix might last you longer. Personally I do a mix of coco husk, oak flake soil (fermented decaying hardwood), sphagnum moss, calcium, and dead oak leaves mixed into both the substrate and on top. Also depending on the species, sand can be a good addition (I'm thinking particularly for Orthoporus and Narceus gordanus. Its also a good idea to every so often add a sprinkling of your hardwood substrate to the top, in addition to dry leaves as this will refresh nutrients.

I am a big advocate for highly ventilated tanks and think you are headed in the right direction but do want to note that this will require a regimented misting schedule. I politely disagree with @Albireo Wulfbooper in terms of the effectiveness of misting: if the top layer is consistently moist (established by misting once or twice a day depending on humidity levels) water will not be able to effective evaporate from the bottom layers. It is also a good idea to mist the sides and corners of the substrate particularly heavily, as they are often forgotten and are therefore where evaporation is most likely to occur.

On housing isopods and millipedes together, I would advise against it even an enclosure as large as a 20 gallon. I would instead advocate for A LOT of millipedes, and if you're dying for isopods, housing them in a separate tank. If you don't mind me asking what species and number are you thinking about?
That's a good question in the last part. I saw bumblebee millipedes as the most accessible and cheapest as of now, but I do have a site near me that sells all sorts. I'd have to contact them for a full list.. which do you suggest for a beginner? I'm sure none are inherently "difficult" to manage. Beyond bumblebees, I think ivory and whatever else at my local pet store as long as I fully understand the specie's specific liking and accommodate for them. If it's possible, I'd like to breed my millipedes as the big group gets settled in. It's a long process, but I think the time frame between settling and actual breeding would be a good buffer for getting plants and various terrain items in place.

As for the substrate, I was absolutely considering crushing up a lot of spare eggshells and adding them! It's going to be quite a lot of substrate anyway, so I'm thinking I buy 14ish quarts of coco fibers to start, and a gallon or so of topsoil (so stuff lasts). Do you think it's a good idea to bake the topsoil I buy? I'm gonna be sure to check for it to be as pure as possible, no additives hopefully. The whole grate thing stumps me; I'm thinking a good bet would be just to hold down the grate with something until I can figure out a kind of hinge mechanism, or just buy a piece of plywood and do a DIY grate holder or something-er-other.
 

Polenth

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I'd suggest fitting an acrylic lid and then putting in some vents, rather than having the whole lid as one giant vent. If you've not bought the aquarium yet, you can get ones that come with a clear lid, and then just put the mesh over the holes intended for the filter and such.

The plants are likely to be fine for nutrients, but may get eaten. The critters will mix the substrate, so you're not going to have layers.

No telling really if the woodlice will eat all the millipedes or if they'll be able to co-exist. I'd suggest avoiding protein-hungry ones like species from Porcellio and Porcellionides. Less snacky ones include Armadillidium and Philoscia muscorum.

Green banana cockroaches (Panchlora nivea) would be something a bit different, but keep in mind that they can fly, so the lid needs to have no open holes.

Keeping some animals back for single-species backup colonies is a good idea. There's a risk with any communal that one species will out-reproduce the others, even if nobody eats anybody else.
 

goliathusdavid

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On species, bumblebees are a great beginner species but they don't do very well with temps below 72 degrees, as they are tropical. Therefore considering the above stated temperatures I would lean towards Tylobolus species (from the pacific northwest) or Narceus americanus (a PA native) which can deal with colder temps. You may not be able to find them in a pet store, but they are pretty readily available online, though larger and a bit more expensive. If you want to do bumblebees or other Florida species however, heat lamps are also an option (though you have to be VERY careful about maintaining a high moisture level). Really any USA native species are pretty easy to care for as long as you know their species requirements (which can be found out either here, or through a simple google search).

Baking topsoil is generally a good idea. It seems like substrate wise you have a really good plan outlined. As for the grate I don't know what you're enclosure looks like but I use plastic mesh for my millipedes (and MANY layers of it for roaches). Never had an escape yet, though as previously stated I have to be diligent in misting.
 

Edoggerson

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On species, bumblebees are a great beginner species but they don't do very well with temps below 72 degrees, as they are tropical. Therefore considering the above stated temperatures I would lean towards Tylobolus species (from the pacific northwest) or Narceus americanus (a PA native) which can deal with colder temps. You may not be able to find them in a pet store, but they are pretty readily available online, though larger and a bit more expensive. If you want to do bumblebees or other Florida species however, heat lamps are also an option (though you have to be VERY careful about maintaining a high moisture level). Really any USA native species are pretty easy to care for as long as you know their species requirements (which can be found out either here, or through a simple google search).

Baking topsoil is generally a good idea. It seems like substrate wise you have a really good plan outlined. As for the grate I don't know what you're enclosure looks like but I use plastic mesh for my millipedes (and MANY layers of it for roaches). Never had an escape yet, though as previously stated I have to be diligent in misting.
Yes, I'm going to have a problem with this. Due to temperature constraints and the fact that it's always piss cold, the temperature in my house will be 66-70 degress (yes I know I live like a polar bear). Do you know of any websites that sell hardy types? <ADMIN NOTE: If you want to share a website, please do so privately via conversation> I can't seem to find any <edit>. Do you think a low-wattage heating pad is the way to go? If I must be that careful with them, I really don't mind misting twice or even three times a day.

I'd suggest fitting an acrylic lid and then putting in some vents, rather than having the whole lid as one giant vent. If you've not bought the aquarium yet, you can get ones that come with a clear lid, and then just put the mesh over the holes intended for the filter and such.

The plants are likely to be fine for nutrients, but may get eaten. The critters will mix the substrate, so you're not going to have layers.

No telling really if the woodlice will eat all the millipedes or if they'll be able to co-exist. I'd suggest avoiding protein-hungry ones like species from Porcellio and Porcellionides. Less snacky ones include Armadillidium and Philoscia muscorum.

Green banana cockroaches (Panchlora nivea) would be something a bit different, but keep in mind that they can fly, so the lid needs to have no open holes.

Keeping some animals back for single-species backup colonies is a good idea. There's a risk with any communal that one species will out-reproduce the others, even if nobody eats anybody else.
I'm rather afraid of the survival of the millipedes before even introducing any other kind of life beyond plants. Those kinds of pillbugs live natively around me! Even by observing their lifestyles it's easy to see that they're very slow to eat and reproduce.
 
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goliathusdavid

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If Narceus americanus or Tylobolus are out of stock <edit> you may have to wait a bit for them to come back in stock. But with those two particular species I don't think it would be long. I would avoid insect-sales, I had a bad experience with them and they're not the right place if you're trying to start a large colony. You can also check the classifieds here!

As for heating pads, I don't use them myself but they do get the job done (though be careful NEVER to put them under the enclosure as millipedes burrow to escape warmth and so you would end up frying them). I have used a low wattage heat lamp for bumblebees before (as well as for a goliath beetle) and as long as you monitor moisture, they are effective.
 
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Albireo Wulfbooper

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Your substrate mixture sounds pretty good, though I would also mix in supplemental calcium (Repashy calcium powder is what I use).
Oh, I forgot to mention the calcium supplement! You can also use cuttlefish bone - just crumble it up and toss it in. Dirt cheap, easy to find in pet stores.
 

Edoggerson

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If Narceus americanus or Tylobolus are out of stock <edit> you may have to wait a bit for them to come back in stock. But with those two particular species I don't think it would be long. I would avoid insect-sales, I had a bad experience with them and they're not the right place if you're trying to start a large colony. You can also check the classifieds here!

As for heating pads, I don't use them myself but they do get the job done (though be careful NEVER to put them under the enclosure as millipedes burrow to escape warmth and so you would end up frying them). I have used a low wattage heat lamp for bumblebees before (as well as for a goliath beetle) and as long as you monitor moisture, they are effective.
This sounds pretty enticing. I was looking at a heat mat but am not sure how the lower substrate would do with it. I will definitely look into low wattage heat lamps!
 
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Matts inverts

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Perfect, what type of millies, I would not put isopods if you are breeding, I would also put 1/10 sphagnum moss to keep the humidity for the tank, the tank would not be to big for orthoporous ornatus or ABGs. For plants I recommend broms to help with moisture in the tank. You can also ad some Beatles if they are a decomposer or a fruit Beatle. Spring tails are recommended to fight mold and fungi

I kept pothos with my O. Ornatus and it is good because it is hardy and the millies know not to eat it
 

goliathusdavid

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20 gallon would work for a TON of Orthoporus but that's not a species known to breed in captivity. As for AGBs, they are almost impossible to source and require PPQs.
 
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goliathusdavid

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Actually, that is no longer true. ALL exotic millipedes, including Archispirostreptus gigas require PPQ 526 permits for interstate movement. Many exotics do not require containment facilities but they all require permits to possess and move across state lines. Importation permits have to go through both USDA\APHIS and FWS and due to the mites wild specimens carry (that pose a threat to agriculture) AGB importation was almost totally banned. I think a few zoos may still be importing but I don't know of any hobbyists with permits to acquire them from outside the US. And as previously stated, even acquiring them within the US requires permits.

Additionally, even those with permits have a lot of trouble sourcing this species, given its reluctance to breed in captivity.
 

Edoggerson

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Actually, that is no longer true. ALL exotic millipedes, including Archispirostreptus gigas require PPQ 526 permits for interstate movement. Many exotics do not require containment facilities but they all require permits to possess and move across state lines. Importation permits have to go through both USDA\APHIS and FWS and due to the mites wild specimens carry (that pose a threat to agriculture) AGB importation was almost totally banned. I think a few zoos may still be importing but I don't know of any hobbyists with permits to acquire them from outside the US. And as previously stated, even acquiring them within the US requires permits.

Additionally, even those with permits have a lot of trouble sourcing this species, given its reluctance to breed in captivity.
This is gonna sound totally uninformed, but I have a couple of locations close to me that rotate stock all the time. I'm putting a lot of hope that they may have some large supply of a particular species or genus. Bumblebees may be in the question, I ordered a heating mat plus temp controller for the back face of the tank.
 
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