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Caring for Millipedes 

Introduction

Millipedes have become a popular pet in the invert industry. There are approximately 12,000 species. They are known to be the largest Myriapoda group. In comparison, there are only 8000 species of centipedes in the world. Often, Millipedes are confused with Centipedes. They are both in the Myriapoda Subphylum. However, Millipedes have two pairs of legs on each segment, whereas centipedes have one pair of legs. Centipedes tend to be flatter than Millipedes. The biggest difference is their diet; Centipedes eat insects, often injecting venom into their prey, whereas a millipedes' diet mainly consists of dead leaves, calcium for exoskeleton development, and the occasional fruit or vegetables. We will go through this soon.

Enclosure

Millipedes are one of the easiest inverts to keep. They also do not require a vast enclosure like reptiles and amphibians. However, do bear in mind, that bigger millipedes will need more space than smaller species. For example, the Giant African Millipede(Archispirostreptus Gigas) reaches up to 14 inches, so I highly recommend you use a glass Vivaruiam for this species and other larger varieties. The recommended size for a Giant African Millipede enclosure is 30cm long, 30cm high, and 30cm wide. 

Generally smaller species of Millipedes can be kept in medium/large plastic tubs, providing they have enough air holes, and lots of soil to burrow into. A good smaller species of Millipede to keep is the Ivory Millipede(Chicobolus spinigerusor) or my personal favourite, the Armoured Millipede.

The wonderful thing about Millipedes is that they can be kept in groups. However, I wouldn't recommend keeping a larger species with a smaller one, unless you are keeping them in a large tank. I kept my Giant African Millipedes with the Ivory Millipedes and the Armoured Millipedes; there were no signs of aggression between any of the species.

Some people keep them in really small containers with no depth, which I highly disagree with, as they need enough room to burrow and hide. 

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Ivory Millipede(Chicobolus spinigerusor)

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African Millipede(Archispirostreptus Gigas). I kept these in with a variety of exotic beetles. Sun Beetles(Pachnoda Margiata) and Rainbow stags(Phalacrognathus muelleri) are good Coleoptera to place in a big tank with Giant Millipedes. Just remember not to place aggressive stag beetles in there with millipedes!

Assess beetle behaviour first. And also, never put two stag beetles together!  Interested in Rainbow Stag Beetle Care( Click here :                                 

I found the Glass Stag Beetle(Odontolabis lacordairei) to be more aggressive than the Rainbow Stags. The Rainbow Stag's mandibles are very small in comparison to the Glass Stag Beetles, and will not have the strong will to nip you. Whereas, the male Glass Stag has larger mandibles and has medium spikes protruding from the bottom. These spikes when pressed into your skin can be very painful. I will discuss this more on another page. 

 

Let's focus on Millipedes!

Armoured Millipede. 

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Spike the Glass Stag Beetle. 

Substrate and Diet

The substrate is not only for coverage and burrowing, but it is also the best way to provide essential nutrients and food. A good substrate has to be moist, but not too wet. A heavily drenched substrate can cause mould to form, therefore killing your millipedes. However, too dry and your Millipedes will become dehydrated. 

That is why choosing the correct type of substrate is so crucial. A bad substrate is really dry coco soil. Coco soil is notoriously terrible for withholding moisture and dries up very quickly. 

I recommend standard potting soil, but be aware that some contain harmful chemicals and pesticides, so make sure you get a potting soil free of chemicals, one that is organic. However, some may read organic but may have some extra ingredients added to the soil, so do check the ingredients label on the back or ask if you are unsure. 

In terms of diet, Millipedes are Detritivores, meaning they consume decomposing matter, in this case, leaves and rotten wood. I have found that leaf litter is better for millipedes, it is softer. Pine should be avoided at all costs, as they contain sap which is harmful to your millipede. I use Oak leaves as the main source of food. Remember, all food collected from outside must be sterilized using boiling water to eliminate bacteria and dispose of any potential predators living within. 

 

Millipedes require calcium to maintain a healthy and strong exoskeleton. I tend to use calcium powder and sprinkle some within the enclsoure(not too much as too much phosphorus can be toxic). Another good way to provide your millipede with calcium is to use crushed cuttlefish bone. You can obtain these from pet shops(often found in the bird section) or order online. 

In addition to the calcium and rotten leaves, millipedes need an occasional selection of fruits and vegetables. I would provide these once or twice a week. I wouldn't recommend putting the calcium powder on the fruit or vegetables, as this will put the millipedes off their food.  Remember, fruit and vegetables must be rotting.  

How to Mix the substrate correctly

The calcium and rotten leaves can not simply be left on the surface, they must be placed beneath the soil, as that is where millipedes spend most of their time. They do come up to the surface at night to search for food, however, they do prefer the safety of the underground. There are other methods of doing this, but this is just a simple, effective way to ensure your calcium and rotten leaves are adequately layered. This is to help the millipede access food at different depths and areas of the enclosure. As mine is a tank, it is filled to the brim with soil. 

Bear in mind this is for a large tank, but it could work for a medium or big tub too. This is the method that works best for me.

1. Layer 1: Before putting this down, place some rotten leaves and some calcium powder right at the bottom of the enclosure. Unsure that leaves cover most corners, edges and the centre. Moisten substrate with a water sprayer or soak in a tub to provide humidity. Spread the soil carefully over the enclosure, ensuring it's not too clumpy as the millipede may struggle to burrow. 

2. Layer 2- Add more rotten leaves, and this time a sprinkle of calcium powder or crushed cuttlefish( whichever you prefer). Ensure calcium powder is spread over the surface of the soil area.

3.  Layer 3- Rotten leaves and some rotten wood pellets( No Pine or Confier! This stuff is toxic!). Spread the food out over the surface, again to ensure the millipede can access from just about any point of the enclosure. 

4. Layer 4- More calcium powder or cuttlefish crushed up, and a layer of leaf litter. Then put the last layer of soil on top. 

Of course, this depends on how thick you make each layer. For example, if I made each layer really thin( I don't recommend this), then I would need more layers of soil. But, if  I had really thick layers, I may not even need four layers. This doesn't have to be an exact science, it isn't, it's just an estimation and a guideline for you to use.  As long as the food( Calcium and the rotten leaves or wood) are spaced out and burrowed down below the surface, you can't go wrong with layering your enclosure. 

Behaviour and handing 

Millipedes are generally very docile and do not bite, unlike Centipides which bite and inject venom.  Handling them is very easy, and fun too! Just gently pick them up by the midsection and place them on your skin. Let them wander around over your hands and arms. 

However, I strongly advise you not to hold them too close to your face (especially the mouth, nose, eyes, and ears) as they can secrete toxins. If they were to enter your mouth, you will be very ill. You MUST wash your hands after touching millipedes, and before touching your mouth, eyes, and nose. Otherwise, it will lead bad diarrhoea and sickness. 

Youtube Video 

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