How many isopods should you start with?

So you’ve decided to get into keeping isopods as pets! Isopods, also known as woodlice or rolly pollies, can make great additions to a vivarium or terrarium. But before you run out and buy a bunch of isopods, it’s important to figure out how many you should start with. Starting with the right amount will help ensure your colony thrives.

What are isopods?

Isopods are small crustaceans that are closely related to shrimp and crabs. There are over 10,000 species of isopods worldwide, and they can be found on every continent. Most isopods live in damp, dark environments like under logs, leaves, or rocks.

Some popular isopod species kept as pets include:

– Powder blue isopods (Porcellio laevis) – A pale blue color with dots along their sides

– Powder orange isopods (Porcellionides pruinosus) – An orange color with white dots

– Dairy cow isopods (Porcellio laevis “dairy cow”) – White with black splotches

– Spanish orange isopods (Armadillidium klugii) – Reddish orange color

Isopods make low maintenance pets and are quite easy to care for. They feed on decaying plant matter and contribute to breaking down waste. Their small size and colors make them interesting to watch as they crawl around their enclosure.

How fast and large do isopod colonies grow?

Isopods are known for reproducing quickly and growing large colonies when kept in ideal conditions. Here are some key facts about their growth rate:

– Females can produce 20-30 offspring every 3-4 weeks.

– Offspring reach maturity in 2-3 months and start reproducing themselves.

– Colonies can double in size every 2-3 months.

– Colonies can reach up to 2,000+ isopods in the right setup in about a year.

– Isopods can live 1-2 years on average.

So you can see, the population grows exponentially when the isopods are happy and healthy. Make sure to start with enough isopods for genetic diversity, but not too many that they outgrow their habitat too quickly.

How many isopods to start with?

When getting your first isopods, a starter colony of 10-20 isopods is recommended. Here are some benefits of starting with this amount:

Genetic diversity

Having around 10-20 individuals from a breeder or store ensures you’ll have decent genetic diversity. Inbreeding can become an issue down the line if the offspring are all related. With more diversity, the colony stays healthier.

Establish a thriving colony

With more isopods in the beginning, the chances of them breeding and growing a prosperous colony are higher. You want at least a few males and females. Some mortality may occur when they’re settling in.

Avoid overcrowding

Isopods can rapidly overpopulate if care isn’t taken early on. Starting with too few limits genetic diversity. But starting with over 50 could lead to overcrowding issues down the road. Space and food resources get consumed quicker the more you have.

Spreads out reproduction

With a larger starting size, reproduction gets spread out instead of coming from just 1-2 females. This leads to steady population growth rather than sudden booms and crashes.

Tips for starting your isopod colony

Here are some useful tips to get your new isopod colony thriving right from the start:

Quarantine new arrivals

It’s smart to quarantine new isopods in a separate small enclosure for at least a month before introducing them to the main colony. This reduces the chance of diseases or parasites spreading.

Provide adequate moisture

Isopods need a damp environment with moisture to breathe through gills near their abdomens. Create moist hides and regularly mist the enclosure. Avoid soggy conditions though.

Offer variety of foods

Feed your isopods a diverse diet of vegetables, fruits, wood, leaves, and calcium sources. Rotate different foods to ensure a nutritious diet. Remove uneaten fresh foods within 24 hours.

Use deep substrate

A substrate depth of 4-6 inches gives isopods room to burrow and moult their exoskeletons. Coco fiber, organic potting soil, and leaf litter make good options.

Give them space

Resist overcrowding the enclosure. Make sure there are adequate hides and surface area for the isopods to spread out. Overcrowding stresses them and stunts growth.

Following these tips will help create an ideal home for your new isopod colony!

Setting up the right size enclosure

When starting your isopod colony, be sure to establish them in an adequately sized enclosure right away. Here are some guidelines for appropriate enclosure sizes:

Starter colony (10-20 isopods)

– Minimum of 5 gallons

– Roughly 12″ x 12″ floor space

This allows ample room for a starter colony to grow without being crowded.

Established colony (50+ isopods)

– 10+ gallon enclosure

– 18″ x 18″ floor space or larger

More space is needed as the colony expands to prevent overcrowding issues. Make sure there are adequate hides and surface area for all the isopods.

Mature colony (100+ isopods)

– 20+ gallon enclosure

– 2′ x 2′ floor space or bigger

A very large, mature colony will need a spacious home to stay healthy and happy. Crowding causes stress, poor growth, and increased cannibalism.

Bigger is better when it comes to giving isopods enough room to thrive. Resist cramming them into small spaces and upgrade their home accordingly as the colony grows. It will really pay off with faster growth and fewer losses.

Caring for your growing colony

Caring for a growing isopod colony takes some adjustments as the population size increases over time. Here are some tips:

Monitor moisture carefully

With more isopods, the substrate will dry out faster. Check moisture levels often and mist regularly to supplement moisture. Soggy conditions can still cause problems though.

Remove uneaten food promptly

Prevent molds and fouling of the substrate by removing any fresh foods within 24 hours. As the colony grows, food is consumed quicker.

Clean up waste and sheds

More isopods means more waste and shed exoskeletons. Scoop out decomposing waste before it builds up. Old skins can foul the substrate too.

Expand food amounts & variety

Feed more food total and diversify the diet as the colony grows. A bigger buffet table prevents any individual deficiencies and resource competition.

Do population control

Remove excess isopods and regularly pass on individuals to other keepers. This prevents severe overcrowding issues. Having some extra enclosures ready helps.

Staying on top of maintenance, food, moisture, and space will keep your expanding colony in great shape! Don’t let it outgrow your ability to care for them properly.

Common colony growing pains

Managing a growing isopod colony comes with some typical challenges. Being aware of these will help you address them promptly:

Declining growth rate

Slow population growth can signal issues like overcrowding, inbreeding, lack of food, or excess moisture. Evaluate conditions and make adjustments. Adding new genetic stock can also help.

Increased cannibalism

Isopods eating each other can point to moisture issues, lack of food, or excessive crowding. Make sure they have adequate resources. Remove guilty individuals if needed.

Crash in numbers

Sudden unexplained losses warrant close inspection of parameters like temperature, moisture, waste build up, and ventilation. A colony crash likely means something is off.

Lack of offspring

If adults seem healthy but aren’t reproducing, it may be a gender imbalance issue. Introduce isopods of the opposite sex. Diet deficiencies can also cause reproductive troubles.

Parasites or illness

Sick, lethargic or dying individuals need to be quarantined and treated promptly to prevent spreading. Look for any pests like mites too. Seek expert help if needed.

Stay vigilant for any signs of trouble and take action quickly to get an ailing colony back on track!

When to expand to additional enclosures

Once your isopod colony has settled in and begun growing, you may eventually need to expand into additional enclosures. Here are some signs it’s time to give them more space:

– Isopods are frequently observed crawling over and on top of each other

– Their growth rate seems to slow down for no clear reason

– You’re seeing increased nipping or cannibalism behaviors

– Uneaten food vanishes very quickly indicating competition

– Isopods frequently try to escape from the enclosure

– Molting struggles and high mortality rates occur

– The enclosure is at maximum capacity based on its size

As a general rule, it’s best to split off and move excess isopods before they become stressed and conditions deteriorate. Have spare setups ready in advance. Move only healthy individuals to avoid spreading issues.

Expand gradually in stages rather than all at once. Give the isopods time to settle in before shuffling them around more. Patience leads to happier, healthier colonies!

Splitting up your colony

When your isopod colony has gotten so large that it’s time to expand into multiple enclosures, how should you go about splitting them up? Here are some tips:

Divide by age/size

Split adults and larger juveniles off into their own enclosure separate from smaller babies and mancae. This prevents younger ones being outcompeted.

Separate by gender

Having all males or all females in an enclosure can help control breeding. Or do a mix with slightly more females to males for better reproduction.

Isolate sick/injured

Set up a quarantine enclosure for any unhealthy individuals to recover in without threatening the main colony.

Give each group hides & food

Provide adequate hiding spots and food sources in each new enclosure so all of the isopods’ needs are met.

Change up substrates

Vary the substrate, moss, or wood in each enclosure to diversify their environments. Mixing it up also helps track which group is which.

Allow time to settle

After splitting up your colony, allow at least several weeks for them to settle in before attempting to handle, count, or move them again. Minimal disruption helps.

With some planning and patience, dividing your colony into smaller groups in new enclosures can greatly improve their health and rapid growth!

Getting your isopod colony back on track

If your growing isopod colony runs into issues like declining growth, high mortality or cannibalism, don’t lose hope! Here are some tips to help get them back on track:

Review enclosure conditions

Take a close look at factors like temperature, humidity, substrates, hides, ventilation, and cleanliness. Make any needed improvements.

Reduce population density

Thin out the colony by removing excess individuals and moving them to new enclosures. Overcrowding causes many problems.

Isolate and treat sick

Set up a quarantine area to care for any sick or injured isopods until they recover. This prevents illness spreading.

Supplement food

Increase food amount, variety, and nutritional quality if isopods appear thin, lethargic or starving. Make sure everyone can eat.

Increase genetic diversity

Introduce new isopods from different sources to strengthen the gene pool. Inbreeding depression weakens colonies.

Give time to stabilize

Provide stable, consistent conditions and leave the isopods undisturbed for a few weeks after making changes. Adjustments slowly help.

Don’t lose hope if your colony struggles! Just go back to the basics of proper husbandry and nutrition to nurse them back to health.

When to stop expanding your colony

It’s exciting seeing your isopod colony grow and have to expand into new enclosures. But at a certain point, you need to stop adding more individuals. Here are some signs you’ve reached the limit:

– You’re having trouble keeping up with regular maintenance and feeding

– Your existing enclosures are packed to capacity already

– New additions struggle to successfully settle in and breed

– You don’t have room for more enclosures

– Your isopods are inbred and weak

– Colony health declines when adding more

– You can’t find enough people to adopt excess isopods

Part of responsible isopod keeping is recognizing when you’re at the maximum capacity you can properly care for. Stop expanding before quality of life for the individuals declines.

Instead focus your effort on maximizing health of your current groups. You can selectively breed and cull colonies to produce higher quality isopods rather than endlessly more.

Know when enough is enough and resist overextending your capabilities. It leads to better outcomes for all your colony members.

Signs of a healthy, thriving isopod colony

When your isopod colony is doing well, you’ll observe certain signs:

– Rapid population growth

– Minimal deaths and cannibalism

– Isopods active during day and night

– Varied age groups present

– Good body condition and coloration

– Isopods breed readily

– Little to no illness present

– Minimal waste accumulation

– No overcrowding or escapes

– Enclosure rarely runs out of food

The colony is clearly thriving when isopods of all ages look robust and are reproducing at a healthy rate. The habitat stays clean and free of issues indicating their needs are being met.

If you notice your colony displaying most of these positive signs, you know you’re doing something right! Use it as motivation to maintain the gold standard of care.


Starting and growing a thriving isopod colony does require some trial and error to get the conditions just right. Have patience and start with the recommended amount of 10-20 individuals in an appropriately sized enclosure. Slowly expand the colony by splitting them into new enclosures before overcrowding happens. Monitor their health and make adjustments to care. Recognize when you’ve reached the maximum size your capabilities allow for. Follow the gold standard signs of a thriving colony. With good maintenance and proper husbandry, your isopod colony can grow successfully!

Leave a Comment