Can you keep a pet isopod?

Isopods (also known as pill bugs or rolly pollies) are an ancient marine crustacean that have developed the ability to survive and thrive on land. Being detritivores, they play an essential role in the maintenance of any ecosystem they reside in. Like many, you are likely curious about the ins-and-outs of caring for these critters. But first, you may be wondering: 

Can Isopods be Kept as Pets?

This question can be answered with two smaller questions: “are you capable of keeping isopods”, and “are they legal”. 

To answer the first question, you have to consider a few different factors. Are you able to dedicate a small dark space to them? Can you keep their enclosure moist, even in dryer months? Are you willing to take the time needed to feed and manage your colony? While these aren’t difficult tasks, they should be taken into consideration. 

As far as legality is concerned, yes. Rolly pollies can be kept as pets everywhere in the United States. However, there are some restrictions towards the selling and transport of certain species. Before thinking about selling or breeding isopods, be sure to read up on your local laws.

However, regardless of how many you keep, it is important to remember that releasing them into the wild should never be an option. If your colony is becoming unmanageable, there are a variety of ways to maintain it, including: 

  • Euthanizing certain specimens in the freezer.
  • Reducing their food intake. 
  • Introducing predators. 
  • Creating a separate colony from a portion of an already existing population.

While these crustaceans may not be the most difficult pet to acquire and maintain, it is important to remember that -most of the time- they are an invasive species. It is your responsibility as their caregiver to make sure they don’t cause damage to your local ecosystems and remain in captivity.

Why People Keep Pet Isopods

It’s no secret that pill bugs have become incredibly popular both within the pet-keeping sphere and outside of it. People who own various reptiles, arthropods and hedgehogs love keeping them as part of a bioactive setup. This is essentially a method of maintaining a vivarium in which natural processes maintain their habitat. In the humble isopod’s case, it is there as part of a “cleanup crew” consuming various wastes and pests. They also make for a nutritious, enriching snack. These crustaceans also happen to make excellent compost generators. They break down any food wastes that you want to get rid of and leave aerated soil in return. 

Of course, many people simply enjoy keeping them as pets. There are a variety of expensive, purposely bred isopods (such as the Cubaris sp varieties) that have developed unique appearances meant to be appreciated.

Final Thoughts

Isopods frequently make a wonderful addition to a variety of homes. If you happen to be seeking out isopods for sale, understanding the nuances of these wonderful creatures and what they can be truly used for can set you up on the path to success.