Wondering if starting your own dubia roach colony is the best bet for keeping your exotic pets fed and healthy? Read on to learn everything you need to know about how to breed dubia roaches before getting started.
Pros and Cons of Starting Your Own Dubia Roach Colony
To breed or not to breed? That is the question! If you’re considering setting up your own dubia roach colony, we recommend weighing the following pros and cons before moving forward.
The Pros: Breeding Dubia roaches can provide a huge advantage for keepers of reptiles and other exotic pets. When correctly done, your feeder roach breeding colony has the potential to:
- Help you save money
- Create self-sufficiency
- Give you better control over your pet’s diet and nutrition
The Cons: With all the benefits of starting a colony, you may be wondering, “what is the downside to starting a dubia roach colony?” Here are a few things to consider before pulling the trigger on a colony of your own:
- Persistent exposure to roaches has been known to cause allergies in some people. If you have sensitive skin, respiratory issues, and/or are prone to allergic reactions, you may want to think twice before starting a dubia roach breeding colony.
- A roach colony takes up space. Consider whether you have a suitable place to put it where an adequate temperature can be maintained.
- Raising a roach colony is a commitment that can’t be forgotten or neglected. Roaches require daily feeding and their enclosures should be cleaned regularly for optimal health of the insects and your reptiles, so be sure the extra time commitment works for your schedule.
- Then there is the “yuck” factor. We think dubias are kind of cute, but some people just have a hard time with the idea of breeding cockroaches in their home, and who can blame them? It’s a social stigma that is not easily overcome.
If you’ve weighed the pros and cons and think breeding isn’t the right fit, hop on over to our sales page and order your feeder dubias today.
If you’re up to the challenge—read on! We’re going to give you the low down on how to kick-start your feeder colony the right way.
How to Create the Ideal Environment For Your Dubia Roach Colony
To promote a thriving brood of dubias, the environmental conditions of your operation need to be as close to “ideal” as possible. This means ensuring the proper temperature, humidity, lighting, and enclosure are all key to your success.
Let’s dig into the details…
Location, Location, Location
The first question you need to answer before getting started is, “where should I put my dubia roach colony?” Adjusting your dubia breeding environment is always easier in smaller areas than large ones. So, it’s vital to pick a large enough location for your enclosure/s, but not too big of a space to manage and adjust when need be.
Questions to ask yourself before choosing a location for your breeding enclosure:
- Will I be using natural lighting or artificial lighting?
- Is there good air circulation in this location?
- Are there uncontrollable temperature swings in this location?
- What is the humidity like in this location?
Keep reading for specific suggestions on the questions mentioned above!
Equipment You’ll Need
Once you’ve picked the perfect location, the next step is setting up your breeding enclosure. You will need: an enclosure to keep them in, shelter within the cage, and a food dish.
Choosing a Cage or Enclosure
We use and highly recommend dark, plastic Sterilite storage containers. An 18-gallon tote should do the trick for a small dubia roach colony.
Top 4 reasons why we love using dark plastic totes for dubia breeding:
- Because dubias can’t crawl up the slick plastic sides, they won’t escape.
- Plastic bins are much more affordable than acrylic or glass aquariums of the same size.
- The opaque plastic will make your dubias feel safer by blocking out excess light and offering more privacy.
- Plastic totes are easy to replace, carry, and clean.
You’ll most likely want to use a lid on your breeding enclosure to avoid accidents. An easy fix is to drill out some ventilation holes and be done with it. A fancier option that allows for more air circulation is to use a glue gun and some mesh screening to make a ventilation panel on the top of the enclosure.
Let’s talk about shelter. Roaches need a place within their enclosure to crawl, hide, and of course, breed. Egg cartons are a perfect shelter for your dubia roach breeding colony because they are easy to find and inexpensive.
Having a small serving container for their food helps keep the floor of the roach bin clean, and also makes it easier to keep track of how much they’re consuming. Remember that dubias can’t easily grip smooth surfaces, so be sure it’s something they can easily climb in and out of. We use cardboard hot dog trays, but you could also use small non-glossy paper plates. These have an added advantage of reduced cleaning time.
Don’t be surprised if your roaches eat holes in their paper trays and/or egg cartons. This is normal and won’t hurt them, but be sure to give them only untreated cardboard or paper. Also if they’re eating a lot of cardboard you may want to offer more food.
Learn more about how and what to feed your dubia roaches here.
The Cage Floor
Please note that if you give them plenty of egg cartons to hide in, dubia roaches don’t require litter in the bottom of the cage. We don’t use it in our facility but if you do decide to use litter, give them something that won’t cause impaction in your reptile should they accidentally ingest some. Please note that walnut shells contain a substance that is toxic both to insects and reptiles; we do not recommend using walnut shell bedding, ever.
Over time, the bottom of the cage will fill with bits of egg carton, uneaten grain, and roach droppings (frass.) This will need to be cleaned out periodically. Roach frass (or the frass mix from the bottom of your tub) makes excellent, mild fertilizer that can be used directly in your garden or for house plants without burning your plants. It’s also a great activating agent for compost. If you don’t garden yourself, consider giving your frass to someone who does – they will thank you for it!
Setting Up Your Dubia Roach Enclosure
Setting up your breeding enclosure/s is easy! All you will need is your food and water source on one end of the bin/s and shelter (egg cartons) on the other side.
What Temperature Is Best for Breeding Dubias?
Dubia roaches reproduce best when kept at around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. To keep your enclosure at an ideal temperature, we suggest using a heat cable or heat tape, adhesive under tank heater, or a ceramic heat emitter.
Note: For the safety of your roaches, their enclosure, and your home, be sure to use a lamp dimmer or thermostat. We have seen unregulated heat tape actually melt foil- backed insulation, so if you’re not sure whether your setup is safe, please consult a licensed electrician.
Ambient humidity in the breeding environment should be around 40-60% (with 60% being considered ideal). We suggest investing in a combination hygrometer/thermometer to monitor conditions and ensure your feeders stay comfortable.
If you live in a dry environment, you can occasionally mist your enclosure with clean, fresh water to keep the humidity up. Misting often will deteriorate egg cartons quickly, so if this is something you do frequently, be sure to keep extras on the ready. Another option is to use a humidifier near your enclosure.
Whatever you do—don’t let the humidity drop below 40%, or the ootheca (or egg capsule) will dry out and make your female roaches infertile.
Choose a location for your breeding enclosure/s that has good air circulation. Proper ventilation for your dubias is particularly important for their health. It’s also very important for yours!
Dubias prefer more time in the dark for optimal breeding conditions. Like all cockroaches, they actively avoid exposure to light. However, being exposed to a cycle of light and dark will help them maintain a normal circadian rhythm. No need to shine light on them, though – just the little bit coming in through their ventilation holes or screen lid will suffice.
You can choose a location with exposure to natural light for your enclosure, but using an artificial light source with a 12-hour light/12-hour dark time cycle will work perfectly fine if that isn’t feasible. If you do choose to use natural lighting, be sure to keep your enclosure out of direct sunlight to avoid overheating.
Dubia Roach Life Cycle and Breeding Timeline
Dubia roaches live for roughly 1.5 to 2 years, with females tending to live a couple of months longer than males. Within five days of emerging, an adult female dubia will begin mating.
Dubia roaches replicate sexually. Mating consists of a male roach depositing a sperm packet into the female. Once the female receives a sperm packet, she can no longer mate with any other male roaches.
You may be surprised to learn that dubias don’t lay eggs. Females develop their offspring inside long, tube-like egg sacks called ootheca. The female dubia expels her ootheca (gives birth) as nymphs send her signals that it’s time for them to hatch.
Soon after the female discharges her oothecae, the nymphs begin to emerge (typically, they will all hatch within 2-3 hours). Newly-hatched nymphs will appear white in color and measure about 1/8″ long. Nymphs will transform from white to gray within a few hours of hatching as their exoskeletons harden and dry.
Note: Be careful not to handle nymphs in these early stages as they are easily damaged and extremely fragile.
Fertilization to Hatching
Here are some facts about the breeding cycle of female dubia roaches:
- Roughly 19 days after adult emergence, females will exhibit a fertilized, immature ootheca.
- Female dubias will give birth to their first batch of nymphs 70 days after fertilized ootheca.
- If you start your breeding colony with mature females, you can reasonably expect newborn nymphs much sooner (sometimes right away).
- A female dubia roach can give birth to 20-40 nymphs at a time.
- In 120 days, newborn nymphs will mature into adults.
- The procreation cycle will be completed when females deliver their first clutch in roughly 70 days.
After Nymphs Hatch
After nymphs hatch, you can expect the following:
- Females will avoid mating for about a week after giving birth. In this time, the breeding female will replenish and renew her energy and prepare for the next round of nymphs by ramping up her eating.
- Nymphs will undergo seven instars (a phase in between molting). In this time, the shell will grow by 25% in between each molting and before the dubia roach ultimately matures.
How Many Roaches Are Needed to Start a Dubia Roach Colony?
Technically, you only need one pregnant female to start a dubia roach colony. Conversely, you can get started with one adult male and one adult female (or several pairs of adults). Ultimately the best bet is to estimate how many roaches you will need to feed your pets and reverse engineer your breeding program to meet those needs based on the typical lifecycle and breeding timeless discussed above.
Dubia Roach Care Guide
Once your dubia breeding colony is all set up, it’s time to let nature take its course. For tips on feeding, watering, and caring for your colony once it is up and running, please refer to our Dubia Roach Care Guide here.