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When Isopods Arrive Dead in the Mail

Updated: Dec 28, 2020


Rest in Peace.

Despite vendors’ best efforts, animals do sometimes unfortunately arrive dead when delivered to their new owners. When this happens, it’s called DoA – or “Dead on Arrival“. This may be due to a variety of reasons; most often it is due to a drastic temp fluctuation, sometimes poor handling, and sometimes poor packaging. It’s a stressful event for everyone involved.


So, the animals are dead. What now? Hopefully, the vendor has a policy called a “Live Arrival Guarantee” or LAG. Some vendors have stricter policies than others, but for most it’s pretty simple: open the package once received, inspect the animals, and send photos of dead animals to the vendor and arrange either a refund or a replacement. Sometimes packages are mark Hold for Pickup, or HFP, and are placed in a holding area for 5-30 days with the designated mailing service. Most vendors require that these packages be picked up within 24 hours of arrival. Once the package is in the customer’s hands, vendors typically require contact within 1 hour if there is an issue.


Even though some are in pieces, this photo shows a vendor everything they need- isopods clearly dead and visible.

The photos of dead animals are the most important aspect of contacting a vendor. Clear, bright photos of the animals either laid out on a counter or in the container is the most helpful for vendors and customers. The animals must be visible to verify the animals are dead, which may be important for claims purposes or documentation. It’s good practice to lay out animals clearly because the pricier animals can represent hundreds of dollars lost. Most vendors will typically include an overcount of 10-20% in preparation for losses, so customers don’t have to stress about making sure they got what they paid for.


Every isopod in this photo is alive. Got dang fakers!

Some isopods can play dead, and this can be alarming for new keepers who are unfamiliar with these animals. Trichorhina tomentosa, or dwarf white isopods, are particularly notorious for this, often playing dead at a brisk bit of wind. These guys are actually really tough- surviving extended periods of temperatures as low as 40F with no deaths. Other dwarf isopods also play dead; some examples include A. lentus, spiky Canary, and dwarf purple. Determining if the animals are alive takes a bit of time but is pretty simple: spread the animals and their packing material out in the designated enclosure and return to check on them 20-30 minutes later. This is the easiest method, because it allows the isopods to warm up to room temperature gradually, and an opportunity to hide. If they are alive, the isopods will be absent and burrowed into the substrate. If not, well…they’ll be exactly where they were before. Due to how notorious dwarves are at playing dead (and scaring the beans out of new keepers) vendors may request a video to verify that the dwarves are dead.


A. lentus demonstrating the spread-eagle "C" shape.

Mock dead isopods also have a much different way they hold their body in comparison to dead isopods. Isopods that are still alive will hold themselves rigid and flat, with their legs perfectly spread out. Animals that are dead will already be decaying, legs may be mishappen and falling off, and the body will be softened. Dwarf white will curl their body defensively into a “C” shape. Unless completely dried and desiccated, an isopod that is firm to the touch is still alive.


Dead animals are a sad experience for everyone involved in the transaction, and most vendors genuinely care and want to get healthy animals to their customers. Keeping a cool head throughout the experience is beneficial to everyone involved and makes it easier to come to a resolution. Review any vendor’s terms dictating what needs to be met for LAG to be fulfilled carefully to avoid any misunderstandings (ideally before any transactions take place). The guidelines in this article should assist for a quick concise resolution.

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