Madagascar Hissing Cockroach — A Complete Guide For Keeping

Gromphadorhina portentosa (Schaum), also called the Madagascar hissing cockroach, is only found on the island of Madagascar. Madagascar is the fourth biggest island in the world. It is off the east coast of Africa. It has a warm to subtropical climate that makes it possible for a huge variety of animals to live there, including some of the biggest insects in the world. On Madagascar, this bug is mostly eaten by lemurs, birds, and lizards that are bigger than them. This species would make a great bug pet because it is big and mostly tame. For those who want to learn about its life cycle and how to care for it, read on below.

The MHC is a rare species of roach that lays eggs that hatch inside the body of the female. This makes it look like the female is having live babies. After the eggs are fertilized, the female takes care of them in a special pouch on her body. Under lab settings, a pregnancy lasts for about 60 days. After the eggs hatch, the female pushes the nymphs out of her body. The roach changes slowly from eggs to nymphs to adults. The nymphs look like adults but are smaller. The nymphs go through six changes of skin, called “nymphal instars.” It takes the roaches about four and a half months to reach sexual maturity.

Like other cockroaches, the MHC is negatively phototactic, which means it moves away from light, because of this, it is most active at night. The MHC is also an omnivore, which means it eats anything. However, peanut butter, bananas, and oranges are especially tasty to them. When this species lives in groups called colonies, there is a clear social order. Males will set up a territory on a rock or similar structure and guard it for a few months. He will only leave it for short amounts of time to get food and water. Female MHC are social and live in groups. They have not been seen fighting with each other or with males. In the protected area, females and nymphs are allowed, but only one male. There may be several adult females and many nymphs of different sizes, but only one male. When a male comes into the area of another male, a fight will happen. One male will try to get the other one to leave his area. During the fight, there will be a lot of moving and hissing, but the loser won’t get hurt. Male MHCs show off and hiss to draw females as part of their complicated mating behavior.

What it is and how it works

The Madagascar hissing cockroach (MHC) is 2 to 4 inches long and weighs between 1/4 and 7/8 of an ounce. The roach has a lot of hard skin, which makes it look dark or black all over. As soon as the molting process is over, the MHC will turn white until its shell hardens. During this time, the cockroach shouldn’t be touched because it is still weak and could be hurt. This type of cockroach doesn’t have wings like many others, but it can move very quickly. Figure 1 shows that the male roach has two big bumps on the back of its prothorax. People often mistake these tubercles for eyes at first glance, but the head is actually under this area and is covered by the heavy armor of the prothorax. These bumps are also on the female MHC, but they are not as big and are more smooth (Figure 2). Both males and females have a slightly changed second belly spiracle, which is a breathing hole on the side of the body. By pushing air through these spiracles, they can make a hissing sound when they are mating, fighting, or if something bothers them. The bugs have special pads on the bottoms of their feet that let them climb almost anything, even glass.

Setting for living

The MHC isn’t too hard to take care of and makes a great pet. Pet owners should keep their animals in a place that is dark, damp, and out of the way. Most of the time, lab colonies are kept in big, dark trash cans with cardboard separators or wire mesh to give the roaches more places to climb. Entomologists who study roaches usually keep them in tanks made of glass or plastic, like hamsters. As bedding, they can crawl under wood chips, moist peat, or sphagnum moss to hide from the light. You can add small rocks or tubes to give the roaches a territory to protect. The cage needs a screen cover or some other type of safe lid. MHC can climb up any surface because its feet are padded, so it’s important to make sure the cage is shut well. Make sure your pets have enough air circulation and don’t let the medium (where they live) dry out too much. The right amount of humidity will be in the roach’s cage if you mist the medium with water every so often. The cage should be put somewhere warm (72 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit). Higher temperatures (80 F or higher) make the MHC more active and likely to breed, while lower temperatures (70 F or lower) slow it down and make it less likely to do anything. Do not keep these roaches in temperatures lower than 65 F. In their natural home, high temperatures often go above 100 F, and the MHC does best in warm places.

Because they are cold-blooded, MHC may need an outside source of heat to keep their metabolism going. There are several ways to do this. One easy way is to keep the temperature in the room between 80 F and 85 F. This is not possible, though, unless there is a different room set up like an insectary. A heat tape or heating mat that sticks to the bottom of the tank is a better way to heat the water. Another choice is “hot rocks,” which are fake rocks with a heating element inside. These heaters are made for reptiles and can be found in most pet shops. By putting the gadget at the end of the aquarium, a temperature gradient will be created, which will help the insects control their own body temperature. A second heat source isn’t needed unless you want to make more bugs or the room isn’t warm enough.


The MHC is an opportunistic eater that often eats ripe fruits that fall to the ground in Madagascar’s rainforests. This fruit will give the MHC most of the water it needs, but sometimes it will also drink dew from plants nearby.

MHC that are kept as pets can eat a wide range of foods, such as dry, processed foods for dogs, cats, fish, chickens, monkeys, and rats. Fruits and veggies, such as orange slices, banana peels, carrots, apples, grapes, sweet potato peelings, and potato slices, can be added to the diet to make it healthier. Use small pieces (one inch square or less) and don’t give them too much wet food, because fermentation gases in high amounts are bad for them. The MHC colony at Oklahoma State University stays healthy by eating dry dog food and drinking water every day. This colony has been going for more than sixteen years, and many families have grown up and done well. A cotton wick is used to bring in water. Water is put into a plastic bottle with a tight lid. The lid of the container is drilled with a small hole, and a wick is put through the hole and into the water. Then, as the wick soaks up water, roaches can drink from it. Cotton can be rolled into the right lengths to make wicks. They can also be made out of nylon tights or other materials that can soak up water. A small dish or cup of water could also be given. Put a small sponge in this kind of container so that smaller roaches don’t fall in and die.


After you’ve had your roach colony or roaches for a while, you might start to see small, light-colored bugs moving on them. The MHC sometimes has mites, which are like fleas on dogs. These mites only live on bugs and don’t hurt them or people. When they are there, it usually means that the cage isn’t clean. Leaving food or dead roaches around the house can attract these bugs and give them what they need to live. Mites can be taken off a roach by putting it in a plastic bag with a little flour and gently shaking it. Mites fall off of the cockroach and land in the flour. Remove the bug, tie up the bag, and throw it away. Spray the roach with regular water from a plant mister or wash bottle to get rid of the extra flour. You can also brush the roach with a small paintbrush to get rid of mites. If the mites come back, repeat the process. Do not try to kill the mites with a miticide, as this will also kill your pet.

When dealing with an MHC, pick it up gently by the thorax (the hard, bumpy part behind the head), or just pick up the container and dump the cockroach onto your hand. Be careful not to pull on the bug, because its feet have pads and hooks that hold on tightly. If you pull too hard, the bug might get hurt. Do not use your hand to try to hold the roach down. The legs have sharp spines that can be used to defend themselves and can also draw blood. Just let your pet go from one hand to the other easily. The MHC won’t bite and isn’t very fragile, but you should always be as careful as you can.

Showings and Taking Notes

Madagascar hissing cockroaches can be used in classrooms or at home to learn or watch insect life processes, behavior, and even art. These big bugs are great examples to show how basic or advanced testing ideas about insects work.