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Giant African Millipedes as Pets: Care and Feeding

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Jessica is an experienced pet mom with dogs, cats, rats, fish, axolotls, a gecko, chickens, and ducks.

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What Are Giant African Millipedes?

If you are looking for a quiet, interesting, exotic pet, the giant African millipede might be the pet for you! Giant African millipedes are large arthropods, and they are usually around 4-12 inches in length. They are either dark brown or black, and they have two eyes and two antennae. They can have 40 or more body segments, and each segment has two sets of legs. This means that they can have up to 400 legs!

They are very large for millipedes and pretty easy going, the shape of their jaw makes them unable to deliver a harmful bite. Although they can’t cause a painful bite to a human, they do have a few defense mechanisms. The first is that they can roll up into a tight ball, and the second is that they can secrete a fluid made of hydrogen cyanide that is irritating to the skin. Since they do secrete venom this may be a pet that you don’t handle often, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t rewarding to keep! It is definitely an awesome experience to get to witness the behaviors of such a unique creature.

Rolling into a tight spiral is one of their defense mechanisms.

Rolling into a tight spiral is one of their defense mechanisms.

What Kind of Enclosure Should I Keep Them In?

Giant African millipedes do well in a glass enclosure. Glass allows the heat to escape so that their enclosure doesn’t get too hot. A 10 or 15-gallon glass tank with a lid is a great choice for these pets, but if you want to use a larger aquarium it is definitely ok to go bigger!

You want to choose an enclosure that is at least three times the length of the millipede, and at least twice the width. Make sure that your tank lid is escape-proof, as they have been known to push open the lids to their enclosure. You can do this by weighting the lid, taping it down, or making sure the lid is very tight.

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What Do They Need in Their Enclosure?

Their enclosures are actually pretty simple, there are just a few things that they need to have.

Substrate

Millipedes feed on their substrate, so this part is pretty important! It should be a mix of soil, wood, and leaves. A mixture of soil and peat moss makes a good base, and it should be about 3 to 4 inches deep because they love to dig. You can cover the top with leaf litter and pieces of wood, just remember to freeze anything you bring in for 24 hours to avoid introducing anything harmful to your enclosure.

Heating and Light

There is no need for an additional light source for your giant African millipede because they are nocturnal. You also don't need a heat lamp because their ideal temperature is from 70-80 degrees. If your house is colder than 70-75 degrees then an under-the-tank heater with a thermostat will work well, just make sure to keep an eye on the humidity. Sometimes keeping the heater on the side of the tank can prevent the substrate from getting too dry.

Humidity

Giant African Millipedes are native to the rainforests of subtropical western Africa, so they need about 60% humidity. You can achieve this by misting the substrate. You can either buy a humidity gauge or just try to keep it so the soil is wet for a week, but there is no condensation on the sides of the enclosure. With humidity, there needs to be adequate ventilation in the terrarium to make sure the substrate does not get mold.

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Can I Keep More Than One Giant Millipede in an Enclosure?

Giant African Millipedes are not aggressive towards one another, so it is fine to keep a few of them in the same enclosure. It is important to make sure that they still have enough space and they don’t have to compete for food. Another thing to keep in mind is that millipedes will breed quite quickly, so if you don’t want babies you should only keep millipedes of the same sex.

Male millipedes will have gonopods (male reproductive organs) on the 3rd or 7th segment. The gonopods replace the legs, so they should be easy enough to spot. An easy way to look for gonopods is to put the millipede in a clear cup or put them on a clear surface, and then look from underneath.

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What Do They Eat?

They will eat the plant matter in their substrate, but they also eat fruits and veggies. They can eat most fruits and veggies—bananas, cucumbers, leaf lettuce, melon, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes are all good choices. Just make sure not to rinse their food in chlorinated tap water. You only need to feed them once a day. Just leave their food in a shallow dish in the morning and pick up whatever is left at night.

They will get most of their water from the humidity in their substrate, but you can still give them a very shallow dish of dechlorinated water. Be sure to keep a large stone in the water dish to prevent them from drowning.

They do need calcium. This can be provided by dusting their food with a calcium supplement, or you can just leave a cuttlebone in their enclosure.

Sources

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2021 Jess H

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