Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches

3 Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches crawling over a small log

Are you looking for a unique pet that is low maintenance and easy to care for? If so, then the Madagascar Hissing Cockroach may be the perfect pet for you!

The Madagascar Hissing Cockroach (Gromphadorhina portentosa) is a species of large cockroach native to the island of Madagascar. They are one of the largest species of cockroach in the world, reaching up to 3 inches in length. They are also one of the loudest insects, producing a hissing sound when disturbed.

Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches are not fast runners, and can’t jump very far. The thing they are very good at is climbing walls, even glass walls in their cage. Many families put petroleum jelly at the top 1” of their enclosure to keep them from being able to climb out.

Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches are very docile, and are not aggressive towards people. They’re very active, and can be a lot of fun for children to watch. They are also very curious, and enjoy exploring their environment. 

These fascinating creatures have been kept as pets for centuries and are becoming increasingly popular as family pets. They are easy to care for and require minimal space, making them an ideal pet for those with limited living space.

The Madagascar Hissing Cockroach is an omnivore, meaning it eats both plant and animal matter. In captivity, they can be fed a variety of foods including fruits, vegetables, and commercial cockroach food.

They are very easy to care for, and require little maintenance. One of the best things about these cockroaches is that they can’t survive outside of their enclosure in a family home. Even if they manage to escape their enclosure there is no risk of an infestation because they don’t eat garbage or drink dirty water.

Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches are easy to find at reptile shops because they’re often used as feeder insects for reptiles. They’re also sold on Amazon. They’re not very expensive and you should be able to get 50 to 100 for around $10 to $15.

These unique creatures are also known for their distinctive hissing sound, which is made by forcing air through their spiracles (breathing holes). This sound is used to communicate with other cockroaches and can be heard up to several feet away.

Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches make great pets for those looking for a low maintenance pet that is easy to care for . They require minimal space and can be kept in groups, making them an ideal pet for those with limited living space. They are also fascinating to watch and their hissing sound is sure to captivate anyone who hears it!

Madagascar Hissing Cockroach Information

  • Average Length: 2 to 4 inches
  • Average Weight: Up to .9 ounces
  • Skin Appearance: Rigid outer skeleton
  • Skin Colors: Brownish to Black. 
  • Grooming Needs: Low
  • Shedding: 6 times until they become adults (5 months)
  • Sensitive to Touch: No
  • Biting Tendency: No
  • Tolerance to Heat and Cold: No 
  • Good Pet: Yes
  • Safe with Children: Yes
  • Good with Other Pets: No
  • Suitable to live in an Apartment: Yes
  • Good for Less Experienced Pet Owners: Yes
  • Weight Gain: Normal
  • Health Concerns: Mites, Molting Problems and Dehydration
  • Average Life Span: Up to 5 years in captivity

Physical Appearance of Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches

a close up of several Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches in their enclosure

Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches grow between 2 to 4 inches long making them one of the largest cockroach species. They have a hard exoskeleton that covers their entire body. Many cockroach species have wings but Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches don’t.

The males look different from the females. Males have large horns located at their abdomen. They use their horns to fight with other males. Male roaches have two large bumps on their dorsal surface that some people mistake for their eyes. Their head is located under the bumps and is protected by heavy armor. Female roaches also have these bumps but they are not as prominent as they are with males and their bumps are smoother.

Both sexes have a pair of modified external respiratory openings called spiracles. When Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches force air through these openings, a hissing sound is produced. They will make the hissing sound while fighting, mating or when they are disturbed.

Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches have six legs and there are special pads on their feet that let them climb most surfaces including glass.

Adult Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches have brownish or black bodies. Young cockroaches that are molting will emerge from their old exoskeleton white and their brown or black color returns once their new exoskeleton hardens.

Temperament of Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches

Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches are hardy, calm and easy to handle and are usually active during the night.

Hissing Cockroaches don’t normally bite but may make a hissing sound when you touch them at first. Their owners can handle them without problems.

Their Compatibility with Children

2 Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches climbing over a mound in their enclosure

These cockroaches are safe for children because they don’t bite or get aggressive. They might make hissing sounds when they’re handled. Always have your children wash their hands after handling Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches. There can be mites or mold on your Cockroaches that can cause skin irritations or allergies in children.

Living Space for Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches

Setting up a living area for Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches is easy. They can be kept in a glass/plastic tank or aquarium. The tank should have a secured mesh lid to keep the cockroaches from climbing and escaping. Because these roaches are great climbers, rubbing a layer of petroleum jelly near their lid can be a great way to keep them from climbing out.

Their tank should be placed in a warm area that is not directly under a light. They don’t like light, and like many Cockroaches they’ll try to hide when the lights come on.

Cage Size

A small 5 to 10-gallon tank can be used to house a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach. If you plan to keep more or want to breed them, a larger tank should be used.

Substrate

For bedding we recommend using wood chips, peat moss or sphagnum moss. These bedding options will let your Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches burrow and hide from light.

Lighting

a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach eating some food in their enclosure

As mentioned earlier Cockroaches don’t like light and will attempt to hide to get away from it. Like all Cockroaches they enjoy a dark environment, but this can make it difficult to see your pets. We suggest using a strip of LED lights and keeping them dim. If possible use a colored light, and try to keep it from shining directly into their enclosure.

Decorations

Several cardboard dividers or wire mesh should be added inside their enclosure. These decorations will create surfaces that your roaches can climb on. Hiding spots can be created with small boxes of cardboard, driftwood or empty toilet paper cores.

Best Climate for Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches

Giving the ideal climate for Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches is easy and doesn’t require a lot of effort. Keeping their tank warm, ventilated and slightly humid is enough.

Temperature

Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches prefer their enclosure to be just above room temperature between 72°F and 76°F. If the temperature is kept slightly higher around 80°F they will be more likely to breed and keep them more active. In their natural habitat the temperature can get upto 100°F, so don’t worry if it gets warm for them. If their enclosure’s temperature falls below 70°F it will make them much less active and dormant. Their enclosure’s temperature should never be allowed to fall below 65°F. 

If you have kept their enclosure in a warm room then an external heat source may not be needed. If your home is cold, or you just want your Cockroaches to be more active or want to breed them, then an external heat source should be used.

An under-tank heat pad or heat rocks can be used to keep the temperature warm enough for them. Keep the external heating source at one corner of the tank. This will create separate warm and cool areas inside the tank and let the cockroaches regulate their body temperatures.

Having a thermometer inside their enclosure will make it easy to measure the temperature of their enclosure.

Humidity

The ideal humidity range for Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches is between 60-70%. While they can survive at slightly lower humidity they won’t do as well. Mist their tank and substrate occasionally using a spray bottle. Misting and keeping a water bowl in their enclosure will help keep their tank humid.

Keeping a hygrometer inside the tank makes it easy to check the humidity.

The Attention a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach Needs

many Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches moving around in their enclosure

Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches are low maintenance pets that don’t need a lot of care. Keeping their enclosure clean and feeding them is the only attention that they need from you.

While they don’t depend on human affection they will allow their owners to handle them. Your Cockroaches should be handled with care because they are fragile and can be hurt if not handled correctly.

Health Issues

Common health issues are:

Mites

Mites on your Cockroach can be a controversial subject. Some places like Science Daily say that they’re good for owners because we’ll be less allergic to the Cockroach, and that it’s a symbiotic relationship and not parasitic. Others say that this only applies to specific types of mites, and it can be difficult to know what type of mites your Cockroach has.

The easiest method to remove the mites is to use the “shake and bake” method. This is where you put your Cockroach in a bag with a powder and then clean them up. People normally use flour or cornstarch, but some people have complained about how not all gets off when they try to brush it off, and the flour can get clumpy if it gets wet. Others prefer calcium powder because it doesn’t stick as well when you try to remove it.

The method involves putting a single Cockroach in a plastic ziploc bag for a few seconds and making sure they get the powder on them. The mites will stick to the powder and should release from your Cockroach when you clean them. Some people prefer to use a paintbrush to remove the powder, others like using a can of compressed air to blow the powder off.

It’s important to move your “cleaned” Cockroaches to a holding area and not put them back in their enclosure until it has been completely cleaned out. You don’t want to remove the mites, and then put your Cockroaches back to have new mites possibly climb on them.

Dehydration

Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches can survive a week without food or water. Make sure that their enclosure is very humid. They can dehydrate quickly if their home’s humidity level is too low. Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches have also been seen pushing tightly together to prevent dehydration during dry periods.

Madagascar Hissing Cockroach dehydration symptoms you’ll see:

  • Slow-moving
  • Shriveled body

Make sure they have enough clean water in their enclosure. The humidity level in their enclosure should be on the high side of what they like to prevent any more dehydration. 80% is a good level. Feed them foods with more liquid until they’re no longer dehydrated. Orange slices are one of their favorite foods and will help keep them hydrated.

Molting Problems

For insects that molt, molting is the most dangerous time for them. If the conditions are not right during the molting process they could die from being trapped in their old body.

Signs your Madagascar Hissing Cockroach is having problems molting:

  • Stuck in the old carapace
  • One or more legs fail to release from the carapace

Humidity is very important to molting. If you know that your Hissing Cockroach is about to molt it’s always a good idea to raise the humidity level within their enclosure. You’ll want the humidity close to 80% for molting. If your Hissing Cockroach is dehydrated it can also make molting difficult. Hissing Cockroach owners also have reported that if their Cockroach isn’t getting enough protein they may have problems molting.

If you notice that your Hissing Cockroach is stuck and unable to free themselves from their old carapace there are a few options. With a wet paint brush or Q-tip you can try to help moisten the area where the problem is.

If they have a leg that they can’t free and water isn’t helping get it out you can try to pull the old carapace off with tweezers. Be careful and don’t try to pull too hard because pulling too hard could damage or remove part of the leg. If the leg becomes damaged and doesn’t fall off on its own in a few days it should be removed. If left in place it’s very likely to cause problems in the next molt.

General Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches Care

Remove uneaten food and waste from their tank regularly. Replace their water bowl and replace the water with fresh water every day.

Check the temperature and humidity every day and make changes if needed.

Feeding Your Madagascar Hissing Cockroach

cockroaches love eating dog food

Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches are active eaters and feed on a variety of foods. While they feed on ripened fruits in the wild, in captivity they can be given dry foods like processed dog, cat, or fish food. These are high in protein and should be their primary food source. The food should be crushed up a bit so that it’s easier for them to eat it.

In addition to processed animal foods, fruits and vegetables help round out their diet with some sweets and greens. Orange slices, apples, grapes and banana peels can be fed to your Cockroaches. Vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes and potato slices are all good for them. Leafy greens like romaine lettuce can also be fed to them but avoid giving them iceberg lettuce because it has almost no nutritional value.

Only feed them small pieces that are less than one square inch. While some cockroach species eat decaying food, Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches will not. Remove uneaten food after a few days to keep the tank clean and prevent mold growth.

Keep a small and shallow water bowl inside the tank. There should be several stones inside the water bowl so they can climb out if they fall in. A plastic water container with a cotton ball can be used as a water source. Fill the plastic container with water and make a hole in it. Place the ball and it will start soaking water. This will let the cockroaches drink water without the risk of drowning.

Related Questions:

How do Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches Breed?

Female Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches give birth to younger cockroaches in a unique way. They produce eggs and after mating the females incubate the eggs in a brood pouch inside their body. Once the egg hatches the females push them out of their body. The period from conception to birth takes around 60 days. The nymphs or younger offspring undergo several molts before they become an adult, usually at around 5 months.

Are There Restrictions on Keeping Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches as Pets?

There are restrictions on keeping Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches as pets. Florida doesn’t allow shipping of Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches into the state. An individual needs to get a special permit if they want to keep these insects as pets. The permit is needed both for keeping them as a pet or for breeding purposes.

Can Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches Infest Your Home?

Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches are unlike other cockroaches that infest homes. While cockroaches can live in walls and feed on garbage, Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches prefer a clean living space. They like to eat healthy fresh foods and can’t survive in your home outside their living enclosure. Their need for fresh food and a specific living environment makes sure they don’t infect your homes if they escape their cage.