Keeping your pet isopods happy and healthy
Due to the fact that isopods are detrivores (eat dead organic matter) care must be taken to ensure that their substrate remains nutritious at all times. Their substrate should also retain a good degree of moisture to prevent the animals desiccation. They will eat their substrate so a good mix would consist of topsoil, dead leaves and rotten white wood from deciduous trees. Oak is best but beech, sycamore and others can also be used. Evergreen trees should never be used as this is toxic to these animals. Sand or gravel is not a necessary addition unless shore species which need a very wet area are being kept. Sphagnum moss is also a useful addition as it will keep humidity levels high, provide food and hiding places for the isopods.
When collecting anything from the wild, first make sure no pesticides or fertiliser etc has been added as this could kill your animals.
There is a large debate in the hobby about whether anything gathered from the wild should be sterilised which I won't go into here but if you choose to do so you can freeze it for 48-72 hours, dampen it and bake it in the oven for an hour and a half or dampen it and microwave it for a minute.
The substrate does not need to be particularly deep, 2 or 3 inches is usually fine.
Isopods can be housed in a wide variety of enclosures, the most important considerations are space, a tight fitting lid and humidity retention. In general, these animals dry out very quickly so require high humidity. For this reason, whatever enclosure is chosen, it is important to ensure that it is waterproof. Many people find the easiest thing to keep them in is a RUB or other plastic tub with a lid. If you choose to do this, simply melt a few small holes in the lid to create ventilation. Do not make so many that the enclosure dries out quickly.
The enclosure should be large enough for the animals to run around in comfortably without being crowded. Height is not something that needs to be taken into consideration as these animals do not usually climb, instead preferring to hide underneath the tank furnishings. If additional heating is required, a heat mat can be placed on the top of one side of the enclosure (NEVER underneath) although this is unlikely to be necessary as most species are happy at average room temperature.
The animals will get their water from their food and substrate so a water bowl is not necessary. Also by not including one, you eliminate the risk of accidental drownings.
Isopods love to hide underneath things. In general, they avoid light as much as possible so keeping them in a dimly lit area and providing plenty of hiding places is essential. Cork bark is ideal for this purpose as is cardboard. Many keepers use egg cartons to provide shelter. This has the added bonus of being a source of cellulose for your pets to feed on.
Food and Upkeep
As said above, isopods will feed on their substrate and also on cardboard. However they do require more than that in their diet. Calcium must be provided, this can be sprinkled over their substrate when necessary. An alternative to calcium dust is cuttlefish bone which also doubles as an extra hide for them.
Fish food or dry dog or cat food should be offered once a week with any uneaten remains removed within 24 hours to prevent mould build up which can easily kill the isopods.
Scraps from various fruits and vegetables should also be offered once or twice a week and again, the remains removed before they grow mould.