Isopods Unleashed: Top Beginner-Friendly Picks for Unique Pet Keepers

When it comes to keeping exotic pets, isopods might not be the first creatures that come to mind. However, these little crustaceans are gaining popularity for exotic pet enthusiasts. Isopods, also known as woodlice or pill bugs, are relatively low-maintenance pets. In this guide, we will introduce you to the best isopod species for beginners, providing insights into their care and why they make excellent choices for novice keepers.

What Are Isopods?

Before delving into isopods, let us first understand what they are. Isopods are small, segmented crustaceans that belong to the order Isopoda. They are distant relatives of marine crustaceans like crabs and lobsters but have adapted to terrestrial life. Isopods are typically found in damp and dark environments, such as under rotting logs or in leaf litter. They are detritivores, which means they feed on decaying organic matter, which plays a crucial role in nutrient recycling within ecosystems.

Best Isopod Species for Beginners

Now that we have a basic understanding of isopods, let’s explore some of the best species for beginners. These isopods are known for their hardiness, ease of care, and fascinating behaviors:

1. Porcellio Scaber (Common Rough Woodlouse)

wood lice

Size: Small to medium, ranging from 0.5 to 1.2 inches (1.2 to 3 cm)

Color: Variable, often grayish or brownish with distinct rough textures on their exoskeleton

Why They’re Great for Beginners: Common rough woodlice are adaptable and can thrive in a wide range of conditions. They are prolific breeders and can establish a thriving colony quickly.

2. Armadillidium Vulgare (Pill Bug or Roly-Poly)

Armadillidium Vulgare

Size: Small, typically around 0.5 inches (1.2 cm)

Color: Dark gray or brown with a distinctive ability to roll into a ball when disturbed

Why They’re Great for Beginners: Pill bugs are known for their behavior of rolling into a ball when they feel threatened. They are easy to care for and can coexist peacefully with other isopod species.

3. Porcellionides Pruinosus (Powder Blue Isopod)

Porcellionides pruinosus

Size Small to medium, ranging from 0.3 to 0.6 inches (0.8 to 1.5 cm)

Color: Distinct powder blue with a white, powdery appearance on their exoskeleton

Why They’re Great for Beginners: Powder blue isopods are not only visually striking but also hardy and prolific breeders. They thrive in a variety of terrarium setups.

4. Oniscus Asellus (Common Shiny Woodlouse)

Oniscus asellus

Size: Small, typically around 0.4 inches (1 cm)

Color: Shiny and dark brown to black

Why They’re Great for Beginners: Common shiny woodlice are known for their peaceful nature and can cohabitate well with other isopod species. They are excellent detritivores that help break down decaying matters.

5. Armadillo Officinalis (Spanish Armadillo)

Armadillo officinalis

Size: Small to medium, ranging from 0.4 to 0.8 inches (1 to 2 cm)

Color: Dark brown or black with a hard, armor-like exoskeleton

Why They’re Great for Beginners: Spanish armadillos are named for their appearance, resembling the armored mammal. They are robust and can adapt to various environments.

Isopod Care Tips

Now that you know which isopod species are suitable for beginners, let’s delve into some general care tips to ensure your isopod colony thrives:

Enclosure and Substrate:

-Use a well-ventilated container like a plastic or glass terrarium. Provide a substrate of organic material such as coconut coir, peat moss, or leaf litter. This substrate should retain moisture but not become waterlogged.

Humidity and Moisture:

– Maintain a stable humidity level of around 70-80% by spraying the substrate with dechlorinated water regularly.Ensure there are hiding spots and damp areas in the enclosure to mimic their natural habitat.


-Keep the enclosure at a temperature between 70°F to 80°F (21°C to 27°C). Isopods are sensitive to extreme temperature fluctuations. However, it is important to maintain appropriate temperature and humidity levels for the specific isopod species you are keeping. Further conduct research on your Isopod species for their respective care as this information can vary depending on the species’ natural habitat.


-When feeding isopods, it’s essential to monitor their consumption and remove any uneaten food promptly to prevent mold or fungal growth. Offer a varied diet of decaying leaves, wood, vegetables, fruits, and occasional fish flakes or calcium supplements. Additionally, provide a shallow dish of fresh water for hydration. Ensure that the food you offer is free from pesticides, herbicides, or any harmful chemicals that could harm your isopods. 


– Isopods are nocturnal and do not require special lighting. Ambient room light is sufficient.

Social Behavior:

– Isopods, like many other creatures, exhibit various social behaviors within their colonies. While they are not as complex in their interactions as some other social animals, they do display intriguing behaviors that are worth exploring. Here are some key aspects of isopod social behavior:

1. Aggregation: Isopods tend to aggregate in groups, especially in their hiding spots or under shelter. This behavior provides safety in numbers and helps them conserve moisture, as they are sensitive to desiccation.

2. Communication: Isopods use chemical signals to communicate with one another. They release pheromones that convey information about their presence, reproductive status, and potential threats. These chemical signals can influence the behavior of other isopods in the vicinity.

3. Hierarchy: Within an isopod colony, there may be a subtle hierarchy based on size and dominance. Larger individuals may establish themselves as dominant and have better access to resources. However, isopods generally do not engage in aggressive or territorial behavior like some other social animals.

4. Cooperative Nesting: Some isopod species engage in cooperative nesting, where multiple individuals work together to create and maintain a communal nest. They share the responsibility of caring for eggs and young, ensuring their survival.

5. Social Tolerance: Isopods are generally social and tolerant of one another. They can coexist peacefully, even in mixed-species enclosures, as long as there are ample hiding spots and resources to go around.

Key Takeaways

Isopods are intriguing creatures that make excellent pets for beginners. Their low-maintenance care requirements, peaceful and cooperative social behaviors, and ability to thrive in captivity make them an ideal choice for those looking to venture into the world of exotic pets. Whether you choose common rough woodlice, pill bugs, powder blue isopods, shiny woodlice, or Spanish armadillos, you’re in for an exciting experience as you care for these tiny crustaceans in your very own isopod enclosure.