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Why keep isopods?

The most common question we get from either those new to the hobby or new to invertebrates in general is "Why isopods? What do you do with them?" Like most people, our interest in these animals started as a means to make our lives easier by using them as cleaners in bioactive setups. A properly designed bioactive setup only needs to be "cleaned" every 10 years or less, after all. Isopods are "like cleaner fish in aquariums, but for reptiles" as Ben likes to say.

After acquiring our initial cultures of isopods, we began to learn as much as we could and collect species from our surrounding environment. After attending an expo, the true obsession set in when we discovered the sheer number of patterns, species, and colors that isopods are available in the hobby. I remember seeing "orange dalmatian" scaber for the first time and just being astounded. Once we joined some isopod groups, our horizons were expanded even further seeing the stunning species native to Spain, specifically the giant P. hoffmannseggi.

Isopods are strongly intertwined with the reptile hobby for other reasons as well. The variety of sizes and high calcium content make isopods a reliable source of feeders for micro species of gecko, frogs, and their offspring. The dwarf species Trichorhina tomentosa, in particular, is popular for this purpose. Many keepers also find isopods to be a great source of enrichment and offer them to their larger reptiles to stimulate natural hunting and digging behaviors. Larger species such as P. laevis and P. dilatatus are favorites among keepers of bearded dragons and larger geckos such as chahoua.

Possibly the most attractive part of keeping isopods is they are described as a "hoarder's dream". They enjoy cramped spaces, don't require light or heat, and require minimal maintenance. They can be stacked, ignored for weeks, and still thrive!

Isopods also function as a stand alone pet in their own right. Keepers of all ages enjoy both the common grey species found in their back yard, and the colorful, exotic species either isolated from naturally occurring mutations or collected from countries world wide. They are a true "starter pet" for children, since they need minimal maintenance and live only a short period of time. When it comes to isopods, there's a little bit of everything to catch the interest of people from all over.

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