A growing pet peeve of veteran isopod keepers is the common name “giant orange”. Much to our dismay, this is one of the first isopods that many people keep when first starting out, and the name continues to spread and make identification more difficult. It’s a commonly seen culture offered for bioactive setups both online and at expos, boasting both size and color for visibility so new keepers can observe their attentive custodians. The worst part about “giant orange” cultures is the poor naming it encourages. Many “giant orange” cultures are sold under just that label – “giant orange isopod” – with no species attached, so many keepers don’t know what species they have and it can be very confusing when they attempt to branch out into other species.
“Giant orange” was among the first isopod mutations offered on the market (if not the first), about 15 years ago. Bioactive enclosures became popular in the 1970s, but “giant orange” may be responsible for highlighting what isopods have to offer due to their flamboyant appearance. These “giant orange” isopods were a mutation of the species Porcellio scaber, which generally presents with a gray tone in the wild. The name “giant orange” is especially misleading because this strain of scaber is not any larger and the color is the only aspect that is affected.
The “giant” portion of the label is what causes so much frustration among vendors who try to label their isopods correctly, because not only are these animals average for the species, there are a number of other species who also have orange mutations and are larger! The first species that comes to mind is Porcellio magnificus, which is the second longest isopod worldwide. An adult magnificus may be as much as 3x larger than an adult P. scaber, male magnificus have been clocked at a length of 4cm. Wild magnificus naturally present with a vibrant orange color throughout their body. The babies even look neon orange on occasion and have cute white little antennae. Thankfully, magnificus aren’t sold under the ”giant orange” label, but this is likely because the scientific name magnificus is impressive enough in itself.
Porcellio laevis has an orange mutation that has been isolated in the last 5 years. This mutation of laevis was isolated in Europe and has since been imported and distributed in the US. Being a relatively new mutation to the US, it is not mislabeled as often in the US markets, but in Europe orange laevis cultures are being labeled as “giant orange isopods” with increasing frequency. Laevis are 25-30% larger than scaber, so this is slightly more accurate, but unhelpful when keepers begin seeking out identification for their animals (and still incorrect as magnificus are larger).
The orange mutation of Porcellionides pruinosus has even been mislabeled as “giant orange” isopods on some occasions. This is especially entertaining because adult pruinosus are about half the size of adult scaber. This incorrect label probably stems from casual keepers of isopods for bioactive purposes assuming that all orange isopods are the same species. Orange isopods in general are very popular in the bioactive community and generally regarded as being the same.
Currently, most ethical keepers try to appropriately name their cultures with the scientific name of genus and species, followed by the mutation in quotations. In regards to the “giant orange” mutation, no cultures are specifically recognized as being “giant orange”. The old orange line of P. scaber is now labeled as “Spanish orange” due to the original country it was believed to be isolated in. There is also a “ÚSA orange” strain of scaber that was isolated in the US. Orange laevis are labeled as just P. laevis “orange”. P. magnificus doesn’t have a common name or strain to note and is typically labeled with its scientific name. Porcellionides pruinosus is usually presented under the label “powder blue” due to its dusty appearance, so naturally the orange mutation is correctly labeled as “powder orange”.
Due to the sensitive nature of many animals kept in bioactive enclosures, it is very important to correctly label isopod species. The wrong isopods can be harmful to small, sensitive animals. Different isopods require different care, and may perish if placed in the incorrect conditions. Please label and keep cultures responsibly.