The best housing for a millipede is an ordinary rubbermaid container. They maintain the same humidity for the millipedes (no drying out), are escape proof, easy to store, sanitary, and available in a variety of sizes. However if you would like to have a clear view of your millipede at all times you might still want to use an aquarium or a critter keeper. If you do this you can place a piece of cellophane over 90% of the top and place the cover on top of this to hold it securely in place. This will serve to keep the humidity stable.
The size of the cage depends upon the inhabitants. Giant African Blacks and other large varieties (over 8 inches) will need much larger enclosures than the smaller types or babies of only a couple inches in length. You can use the largest inhabitant to decide how big the cage needs to be. It should be at least as wide as the longest millipede and atleast twice as long. Example: your longest millipede is four inches long so the cage should be atleast 4 inches by 8 inches. Height is not important for millipedes - most of them will not mind a lack of climbing areas.
These are some examples of size/quantity judgements. In a 10x14 inch rubbermaid snap topper (which have nice secure lids) you can house:
- 2 Giants (greater than 7 inches)
- 6 medium sized (between 4 and 6 inches)
- 10-20 small (between 2 and 4 inches)
In a rubbermaid shoe box
sized container you could house about three medium sized 'pedes or 10 small ones. If you have a small number of tiny (<2 inches) millipede
s (not a large litter you have hatched) I recommend using even smaller containers like deli cup
s punched with a couple air holes (mold
develops fast in these). When you buy baby millipede
s it is difficult to keep track of them and be sure they're eating properly when they are in such large containers like a rubbermaid
shoebox. If, however, they were hatched with under your care I would recommend leaving them together until they're atleast two inches long.
Most millipedes do well with sphagnum peat moss as bedding. Certain types will eat this, and plus it has more nutrients than ordinary potting soil. It is also great for babies because they, too, will nibble on it. A fairly good sized bag can be purchased at Walmart for under three dollars. I recommend about a 2 or 3 inch depth, depending if your specimen type likes to burrow or not (see variety specifics below).
They will also appreciate having hiding spots above ground if they choose to stay there. Having hiding spots will also convince them to stay above ground more frequently and you can more easily watch them. Most millipedes will enjoy hiding among ordinary dried leaves, under pieces of dried bark, or even underneath moss. Luckily, you can find most of these things in your own backyard. You must, however, take care to avoid bringing in spiders, insect eggs, or other types of living critters that could be harmful to your pets. You might consider microwaving the bark or leaves in a bowl of water until they boil. This will kill all harmful pests. I personally haven't collected any live moss for my pets yet, but I plan on trying it later this spring. For moss it would be best to try and shake off as much dirt as possible and check it for clinging insects in the roots. I am not sure if this will take care of the pest problem but if you use moss you should atleast attempt to de-bug it as much as possible.
There are numerous other natural and artificial hides that you can find in the pet store for your millipedes. However I find that the more natural the substrate is kept, the happier they will be. I don't like using processed wood chips or chunks because this is not natural and could be rough on the millipede's exoskeleton. I also avoid rocks of any kind because of their crushing potential and they serve no functional purpose for the millipede. I am not saying that prepackaged wood is always bad nor am I saying you can never use rocks but I don't practice it myself. Conveniently, the recommended terrarium décor of sphagnum peat moss, bark, and leaves, are all inexpensive and easily obtained.
If you are not sure what type of food your millipede will eat, you should first try cucumber. Most types will accept this. I prefer cucumber over iceberg lettuce because it is contains more nutrients. I also recommend trying leaf lettuce (higher nutrition content), corn and squash for variety. Certain types also enjoy moistened dry cat food. Some of mine also like ordinary fish flakes sprinkled on the veggies.
If you keep the terrarium humid they won't need an additional water source.
It is also recommended that you offer a calcium source of some sort so that they have easier molts. Some people like to just put in a piece of ordinary chalk. Others will sprinkle reptile vitamin onto the veggies periodically. Avian cuttlebone is not recommended because apparently it has some trace chemicals in it that could be harmful.
Interestingly enough many types like to eat oak leaves (possibly maple or some other nontoxic types though I haven't observed it myself). If this is the case then you may find you will have to replace them frequently. Some types also seem to "develop a taste" for leaves and won't touch them for months or more and suddenly devour them all.
Your millipede doesn't require much care. You should remove the lid daily and inspect the general condition of the terrarium. If there is any large decaying food material (especially cat food which rots quickly when moist) you should remove it. Add more food if necessary. Small bits of cuke seeds or lettuce won't hurt to just mix into the substrate. Some burrowing types, in fact, especially like rotting foods mixed into the soil but types like the African giant blacks don't seem to prefer it over fresh items. I used to scoop out droppings with a spoon until I learned that the eggs are contained in dropping balls. I have since then left all droppings in the cage. They sometimes accumulate around the feeding area. If this is the case, you can rotate feeding areas to cause them to defecate in other areas of the cage. If the terrarium has dried out you should mist it with clean water.
If you don't see your millipede out eating and roaming about some evening (like they normally do) he might be molting. Depending upon his preferences, he will either dig himself under the dirt to molt or merely lay in an impression in the soil under some objects (bark, leaves, moss, whatever you have in there). If he merely chose to remain on the surface, you might see him laying there curled up when you lift something off him. If appears an unusual color or his "skin" is beginning to peel off, then don't disturb him. It is important that you leave him do this on his own.
The process could take anywhere from a week or less to up to a month. Don't panic, sometimes they take a long time. When he or she is done molting and ready to come to life again (just because they've molted their exoskeleton doesn't mean they're ready to come out) he will be hungry so be sure to keep putting food in the cage as he/she is molting.
At all times, the cage should be humid so spray it daily (but not directly on the 'pede) to keep it moist. The moisture also helps your millipede to molt. A dry pede cannot molt easily and could die. If they aren't getting enough calcium you will sometimes notice damages to the exoskeleton after a molt.
When your pede emerges from molting you may or may not find the remains of the exoskeleton. Sometimes they eat it, sometimes they don't. Be sure not to handle him for atleast a week because, like butterfly wings, their newly molted exoskeleton needs time to harden.
editor's note 05/31/2001: formated and hardlinked by Xamot