feeder-insects

12 Kinds of Roaches That You Can Feed to Your Reptile

November 09, 2020

different kinds of roaches for reptiles

When you hear the word “cockroach,” you probably think of the German cockroach (Blattella germanica), which is notorious for infesting human homes. If you’ve kept insect-eating exotic pets, you may also be familiar with the dubia roach (Blaptica dubia) and the discoid roach (Blaberus discoidalis). But this is just the tip of the iceberg — there are around 4,500 known species of cockroaches, and most of them are not pests. In fact, cockroaches are essential to ecosystems all over the world, and provide a high-protein food source for many birds, reptiles, amphibians, and just about anything that eats insects (including some humans!).

If you have a pet insect-eating reptile, amphibian, or arachnid, it’s important to provide them with as much of a variety in their diet as possible. Variety is the key to balanced nutrition, because different bugs have different nutrients, so when your pet receives a variety of different foods, they get a wider spectrum of nutrition than they would if kept on just one or two types of insects. This translates to better health for your pet, and possibly even a better appetite as well.

Although dubia roaches and discoid roaches are the most commonly used as feeders, there are several other options available that you can add to your rotation:

Dubia Roach (Blaptica dubia)

Also known as: Guyana Orange-Spotted Roach

Nutrition

  • Moisture — 65.6%
  • Crude Protein — 23.4%
  • Crude Fat — 7.2%
  • Crude Fiber — 2.9%
  • Ash — 1.2%

Size

Ranges from ¼” as newborn nymphs to 2” adults.

Pros

  • Among the least expensive roaches
  • Easy to find
  • Available both live and canned
  • Easy to care for
  • Meaty (more filling)
  • Unable to breed outside of enclosure
  • Poor fliers
  • No distinct odor
  • Reproduce quickly

Cons

  • Illegal in Florida and Hawaii
  • Hard shell can make them difficult to eat for smaller species

We breed and sell high-quality feeder dubia roaches! Get yours here.

Discoid Roach (Blaberus discoidalis)

Also known as: False Death's Head Cockroach

Nutrition

  • Moisture — 66%
  • Crude Protein — 20%
  • Crude Fat — 7%
  • Crude Fiber — 3%
  • Ash — 1%

Size

Ranges from 1/4” as newborn nymphs to 2” adults.

Pros

  • Legal in Florida
  • Hardy
  • Meaty (more filling)
  • High moisture content, helps prevent dehydration
  • Diverse amino acid content
  • Good calcium-phosphorus ratio
  • Low odor
  • Poor climbers
  • Don’t fly
  • Faster than dubias, may trigger more enthusiastic feeding response
  • Prolific breeders

Cons

  • Faster than dubias, so may be harder to catch

Red Runner Roach (Blatta lateralis)

Also known as: Rusty Red Roach or Turkestan Cockroach

Nutrition

  • Moisture — 71%
  • Crude Protein — 18%
  • Crude Fat — 6%
  • Crude Fiber — 2%
  • Ash — 2%

Size

Ranges from 1/8” as newborn nymphs to 1” adults. Comparable to crickets.

Pros

  • Good for feeding to smaller reptiles/amphibians/arachnids
  • Good alternative to crickets due to their quick movement and comparable size
  • Triggers enthusiastic feeding response
  • Can’t climb glass/plastic
  • Have wings, but generally don’t use them
  • Low odor
  • Soft shell

Cons

  • Illegal in Florida
  • Fast moving, can be difficult to catch
  • Will cannibalize if they don’t get enough protein
  • Have limited ability to jump
  • Prone to escape, particularly the nymphs

American Cockroach (Periplaneta americana)

Nutrition

  • Moisture — 74.9%
  • Crude Protein — 16.9%
  • Crude Fat — 3.3%
  • Crude Fiber — 3.2%

Size

Ranges from 1/8” as newborn nymphs to 1” - 1.5” adults.

Pros

  • Most commonly available canned, which is legal everywhere in the US
  • Canned roaches can’t infest
  • Canned roaches don’t have special care requirements
  • Soft shell
  • Good for feeding to smaller reptiles/amphibians/arachnids

Cons

  • Strong, distinct odor
  • Very fast
  • Both males and females can fly
  • Live are not readily available
  • Canned roaches may not trigger feeding response
  • Live roaches can potentially cause infestations after escaping

We sell canned American cockroaches! Get yours here

Madagascar Hissing Cockroach (Gromphadorhina portentosa)

Nutrition

  • Moisture — 69.2%
  • Crude Protein — 19.5%
  • Crude Fat — 6.3%
  • Crude Fiber — 2.6%
  • Ash — 4%

Size

Ranges from 1/4” as newborn nymphs to 3” - 4” as adults.

Pros

  • Big enough for large insect-eaters (ex: savannah monitors, tegus)
  • Commonly kept as pets, so easy to find
  • Can't fly (no wings)
  • Low odor
  • Long-lived (up to 5 years)

Cons

  • Requires permit to own in Florida
  • Can be relatively expensive
  • Can be difficult to buy in bulk
  • Very skilled climbers, so will escape if given the opportunity
  • Hissing noise can be startling

Green Banana Roach (Panchlora nivea)

Nutrition

Data not available.

Size

Ranges from 1/2mm as newborn nymphs to 1/2" - 3/4” as adults.

Pros

  • Legal in Florida
  • Adults are brightly colored, which stimulates appetite in reptiles
  • Great for reptiles that enjoy eating flying insects (ex: chameleons)
  • Soft bodied
  • Reportedly very “tasty” according to reptile reactions
  • Slow growing, so will stay at your target size for a while
  • Highly prolific breeders

Cons

  • Illegal in Hawaii
  • Adept fliers and climbers (high escape potential)
  • Require high humidity to keep
  • Tend to be more expensive

Lobster Roach (Nauphoeta cinerea)

Nutrition

Specific data not available. However, one paper suggests that lobster roach nutrition is comparable to that of the American cockroach.

Size

Comparable to dubias. Ranges from 3/16” as newborn nymphs to 1 ¼" - 1 ½” as adults.

Pros

  • Low odor
  • Soft-bodied
  • Easy to keep and breed
  • Highly prolific breeders
  • Unable to fly
  • Low infestation potential

Cons

  • Illegal in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Oregon, and Hawaii
  • Adults will squeak when grabbed, which can be startling
  • Able to climb glass and plastic (high escape potential)

Orange-Head Roach (Eublaberus posticus)

Nutrition

Data not available.

Size

Ranges from 3/8” as newborn nymphs to 3” as adults.

Pros

  • High meat-to-shell ratio
  • Good for larger insect-eating pets
  • Maroon-colored nymphs said to stimulate feeding response
  • Prolific reproduction
  • Long-lived (up to 5 year lifespan)

Cons

  • Illegal in Florida and Hawaii
  • Will cannibalize if don’t have access to enough moisture
  • Needs high-protein diet, not a good “staple” feeder
  • Needs to be kept at 50%+ humidity
  • May produce a defensive musk when disturbed

Surinam Roach (Pycnoscelus surinamensis)

Nutrition

Data not available.

Size

Ranges from 4.5mm as newborn nymphs to 3/4” - 1” as adults.

Pros

  • Legal in Florida
  • Good for smaller insect-eaters
  • Quick movement promotes enthusiastic feeding response
  • Very easy to care for
  • Not picky eaters (prefer vegetation though)
  • Reproduce frequently

Cons

  • Can climb plastic and glass (high escape potential)
  • Able to jump
  • Known to infest houseplants
  • Quick movement can make them hard to catch

Pallid Roach (Phoetalia pallida)

Nutrition

Data not available.

Size

Ranges from 3mm as newborn nymphs to 3/4” - 1” as adults.

Pros

  • Legal in Florida
  • Soft-bodied
  • Good for smaller insect-eaters
  • Good cricket alternative
  • Can’t survive outside of enclosure
  • Can’t fly
  • Not picky eaters
  • Don’t move too quickly

Cons

  • Illegal in Hawaii
  • Good climbers (high escape potential)

Little Kenyan Roach (Blaberidae sp. “Kenya”)

Nutrition

Data not available.

Size

Among the smallest roaches in captivity. Nymphs are roughly the same size as Drosophila melanogaster fruit flies, or 2-3mm long. Adults are less than 1/2" long.

Pros

  • Good for the smallest insect-eating pets
  • Poor climbers
  • Can’t fly

Cons

  • Illegal in Florida and Tennessee
  • Can be difficult to acquire

Death’s Head Roach (Blaberus craniifer)

Note: The Death’s Head Roach is often mixed up with Blaberus fusca, the Dusky Cave Roach, producing hybrids. This is not a problem though if you’re looking for feeders, as they’re hardy and prolific.

Nutrition

  • Moisture — 79%
  • Crude Protein — 11%
  • Ash — 0%

Size

Ranges from 1/4" - 1/2" as nymphs to 1 ½” - 2” as adults.

Pros

  • Legal in Florida
  • Adults are suitable for larger insect-eaters
  • Soft-bodied despite large size
  • Comparable to discoid roaches
  • Easy to care for
  • Can’t fly

Cons

  • Can jump and glide
  • More expensive
  • Can be difficult to acquire
  • Need lots of moisture/humidity and warmth to survive

Can you feed wild roaches to your pet reptile/amphibian/arachnid?

No! 

Although this seems like an easy way to save money, you don’t know what those wild roaches have been eating or what pathogens they might be carrying, especially if you find one in your house. You wouldn’t eat food that you found on the ground, so why would you feed a household pest to your pet?