Giant Orange Woodlice (Porcellio sp.) are one of the larger species of isopod commonly used as terrarium custodians or 'clean-up crew' and live and breed well in bio-active set-ups. As adults, they may attain a length of up to 18mm long. Giant Orange Woodlice are also useful as a livefood for many reptiles and amphibians and have the advantage of a high calcium content due to their calcarious exo-skeleton. If they are to be used as food, they are best served up in a smooth-sided dish in much the same way as mealworms or calci-worms. To thrive and become established in the terrarium, they need to be in a constantly damp and humid microclimate which normally means that they hide away for much of the time under branches, rocks or within the substrate. They are supplied in tubs as a starter culture of various sizes.
Although woodlice are more often used as a clean-up crew in bioactive enclosures, they can also be considered a prey item, given that they are readily eaten by some species of reptiles and amphibians. Their highly calcifi ed exoskeleton will provide invaluable nutrition, but they are, unfortunately, not produced on a large enough scale to become a mainstream food item. Although not strictly a livefood topic, it is important to briefl y discuss the work of the woodlice in your clean-up crew. It’s a dangerous misconception to think that a bioactive enclosure negates the need to remove faeces. Invertebrate cohabitees in a bioactive enclosure won’t consume or process anywhere near the volume of faeces produced by most pet species. Spot cleaning is still necessary. Woodlice and other bugs will better favour eating rotting vegetation and deceased invertebrates in the enclosure, rather than consuming vast amounts of reptile poo. It’s also important to note that bioactive enclosures need to be constructed in such a way that accommodates the clean-up crew invertebrate species, as well as the pet reptile or amphibian. Introducing woodlice to a vivarium fi lled with beech-chip substrate simply won’t qualify as bioactive.
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