Basic Millipede Care
Keeping your pet millipede happy and healthy
Millipedes eat their substrate so it is extremely important that the mix is nutritious at all times. Some people attempt to keep them on coir but as this has no nutritional value and can cause impaction, it is unsuitable for them. Although millipede substrate is available to buy, it is far more economical to make your own with very little effort required. A basic mix is as follows :
2 parts topsoil
2 parts dead leaves
2 parts rotten white wood
Some calcium dust
Sphagnum moss is also useful to add for humidity and the animals will eat it
Mix it all together and put in enclosure
When collecting anything from the wild, first make sure no pesticides or fertiliser etc has been added as this could kill your animals
Never use wood or leaves from pine or fir trees as this will also kill them
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 depth should be AT LEAST the millipedes length, preferably more.
A pet millipede enclosure can be as basic or complicated as you want. Your enclosure could be a terrarium, an aquarium, a RUB style box or something similar. Whatever you decide to use, please remember that the animals require a combination of good ventilation and humidity. In the case of plastic tubs as housing, simply melting or drilling some holes in the lid and on the sides should suffice. Your container should be AT LEAST 1.5 times the millipedes length in height, the width should be AT LEAST the length of the millipede and length should be AT LEAST 2 times the length of the largest millipede, again these are minimum requirements and more space is preferable. Obviously if you have an arboreal species you will need more height and will have to provide branches for climbing on. A water dish is not required as they will get any moisture they need from the substrate. A heat mat if required should be placed on the outside of the top third of the enclosure and NEVER UNDERNEATH as doing this would kill them.
Food and Upkeep
As stated above, millipedes eat their substrate so dead leaves and rotten white wood will need to be added at times. Generally when the substrate is starting to look more like soil and less like a forest floor it's time to add more. You should also feed a variety of fruit or vegetables in the evening every 2-3 weeks and remove any uneaten parts the next morning to prevent mould. They also need a source of protein 2-4 times a month which can be provided with the addition of dried dog or cat food or fish flakes. Again any uneaten food should be removed in the morning. Some of the following fruits and vegetables are often accepted :
Make sure these are always pesticide free, if in doubt peel them.
When millipedes moult, they usually burrow underneath the surface, sometimes for several weeks. It is important not to disturb them at this time as they become very delicate and the slightest movement can kill them. Occasionally they will moult on the surface, again don't attempt to touch or move them. They are sometimes mistaken for being dead at this time, if you are unsure, leave them for a couple of days, then smell them as a dead millipede is very strong smelling.
When handled, pet millipedes sometimes give off a substance that is yellow at first, then stains skin purple. This is completely harmless and will wash off in a few days. The flat millipedes do not do this and instead give off cyanide which is not enough to harm you but higher ventilation is required if keeping these species.
The substrate should always be damp but not soaking.
Baby millipedes quite often appear, just keep them with the adults as they don't need extra care
We are often asked if they can cohabit with other species. Different species of millipedes that get to around the same size and have the same care needs can be housed together, other additions such as springtails are a great addition to the setup too. We are also aware that some people also keep various beetles, isopods and roaches with them but again, that's up for debate as to whether it's a good idea or not
Some millipedes have mites, if they are reddish or brown in colour these are beneficial and no steps are needed to try to remove them. They will spend their entire life on the millipede and will not spread to anywhere else including to other animals. The only time they will leave the millipede host is if the millipede dies, they will then seek out another millipede host. These mites help to keep the millipede clean and healthy.
If you find slow moving white mites on your millipede, these are not the beneficial kind and in large numbers can cause harm or in extreme cases the death of your animal. These kind of mites thrive in overly moist conditions and feed on supplementary food including fruit, vegetables and protein sources. This can cause them to explode in numbers very quickly and the situation needs to be addressed immediately. We suggest in this situation to remove and stop feeding supplementary foods until the problem is under control and if necessary allow the substrate to dry out a bit. Also if your millipede is covered in them you can wash the millipede under a steady stream of warm (not hot) water and use a cotton bud to gently try to remove them. This is a last resort and shouldn't be attempted except in extreme cases. Having springtails in your enclosure should also help to control the problem.