What do Madagascar hissing cockroaches eat? Answering this question takes more than just jotting down a list of foods and moving on. In order to understand their needs, you need to understand where they come from, the role that they play in ecosystems, and your goals in raising them.
What Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches Eat in the Wild
Gromphadorhina portentosa can be found naturally in the tropical forests of Madagascar, where they are detritivores. Detritivores play an essential role in their local ecosystems, tidying up, keeping pathogens in check, and renewing the soil. Madagascar hissing cockroaches scavenge the forest floor at night, helping with the natural process of decomposition by consuming fallen fruit and decaying plant and animal matter.
How to Feed Your Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches
When keeping Madagascar hissing cockroaches as pets, feeding them is a fairly simple task. As detritivores, Madagascar hissing cockroaches are far from picky eaters, and they can do well on a wide variety of foods, including:
- Bananas (whole)
- Oak leaves
- Orange slices
- Pearl barley
When choosing fresh produce to feed to your hissing cockroaches, buy organic whenever possible, as pesticide residues can be harmful.
Don’t let them go hungry, or else they may start to cannibalize. Fortunately they tend to eat less than other similarly sized cockroaches. However, keep in mind that females need access to plenty of protein for successful reproduction. Sources of protein like grains, dog kibble, rat chow, or fish flakes can be a helpful addition to the diet for this reason.
Although Madagascar hissing cockroaches are more often kept as pets, they are also valuable feeders for large insect-eaters like savannah monitors and tegus. Keep in mind that what you feed to your feeder insects directly affects the quality of nutrition that your pet reptile gets in turn. For example, starving feeders will be less nutritious than those fed on a low-quality diet, and those on a low-quality diet will be less nutritious than those fed a thoughtful, high-quality diet. One of the main tasks of raising feeder insects is making sure to maximize their nutritional value through gutloading.
You can gutload Madagascar hissing cockroaches in much the same way as you would dubia roaches. Although they need plenty of protein for breeding, feeder roaches should have a low-protein diet. Too much protein in a gutload can lead to excess protein consumption for reptiles, leading to gout, which is a very painful disease where a reptile’s kidneys lose the ability to process protein properly, resulting in uric acid crystals getting deposited in the joints. This is a particular concern for insectivorous reptiles like leopard geckos or young bearded dragons. For this reason, if you plan to use a pre-formulated gutload, aim for less than 20% protein (dry matter basis).
A good Madagascar hissing cockroach gutload should be plant-based as well. This is consistent with the majority of a hissing cockroach’s natural diet, and plant-based diets tend to be low in protein and rich in vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids. Carotenoids are a bonus, because aside from acting as antioxidants, they also help brighten your pet’s natural coloring!
Here is a list of foods that you can use to gutload Madagascar hissing cockroaches:
- Dubia Diet
- Bee pollen
- Collared greens
- Dandelion greens/flowers
- Hibiscus greens/flowers
- Spring mix
- Sweet potatoes
As with your pet reptile, it’s best to offer a variety of high quality foods to your dubia roaches. This creates a more balanced diet for the roaches, since they tend to self-select for nutrition. In other words, they eat what they need when they need it. Remove roach food immediately once it starts to mold.
If you have just purchased the feeder roaches, make sure to gutload them for at least 48 hours (preferably longer) before offering to your reptile.
Do Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches Need Water?
Madagascar hissing cockroaches primarily get their water from the food they eat. Making sure that they have access to plenty of moisture is important to their health, as well as the health of the reptile that is eating them if you’re using them as feeders. Well-hydrated feeders promote well-hydrated reptiles, which can help lower the risk of food- and substrate-related impaction.
You can provide water to hissing cockroaches by making sure they have a steady supply of moisture-rich fruits and vegetables, or you can use an artificial method like water gel crystals or a water-soaked cotton ball. If using the cotton ball, make sure to replace it daily to prevent bacterial growth. Avoid using a water dish, as you may end up with drowned roaches.