Explore the Giant Canyon Isopod (Porcellio dilatatus Care)

The Giant Canyon Isopod is a fitting name for this absolute tank of a crustacean. 

Large and in charge, these critters make a fantastic terrarium cleanup crew. They’re also one of the hardiest species on the market, so they’re a great choice for setups of all kinds.

Come with me on a journey through the Giant Canyon Isopod. Learn their strengths and weaknesses, how to best care for them, and how to put them to good use in a bioactive setup.

Let’s go!

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Giant Canyon Isopod: Size, Appearance, and Behaviour 

Fully grown, the Giant Canyon Isopod can reach up to around 2cm in size. So these big boys will need a relatively large culture setup or terrarium to roam free.

That said, in terms of raw size, the Giant Canyon Isopod is no longer the reigning champion.

Oh, they’re stockier than the average isopod, but compared to the Titan Isopod (Porcellio hoffmannseggi), these guys don’t look so giant anymore.

With a uniform muted brown (sometimes blueish) coloration, Giant Canyon Isopods are not the flashiest of isopod species either… But to be fair, they’re mainly employed for their solid bioactive capabilities rather than kept as an isopod pet.

Their strong burrowing nature is arguably the final straw when it comes to pet suitability.

Nobody wants a pet that hides from them all day, right? But that trait does come in useful when trying to keep a steady isopod population in a vivarium with a predatory animal (e.g., frogs or lizards).

Plus, Giant Canyon Isopods are very hardy and adaptable.

They’re found all over Western Europe and have easily transitioned to North America.

So they’ll do well in a tropical terrarium, but they also like it on the dryer side. Making them one of the few cleanup crew options in an arid terrarium.

👉 See the Giant Canyon Isopod for sale.

Essential Giant Canyon Isopod Care 

Enclosure

Giant Canyon Isopods LOVE to burrow.

You’ll typically find the majority of your culture hanging out in the first few inches of substrate. So you’ ‘ll need a suitably tall container that can accommodate a deeper substrate for them (3-4 inches deep would be ideal, but a little more certainly can’t hurt).

A Tupperware box can work great; I’d opt for one of the more cube-like shapes than a standard shoebox fit. A little plastic takeout box isn’t going to cut it here either.

If you’re taking the DIY approach, just make sure to drill some ventilation holes into the box.

Porcellio dilatatus isn’t particularly sensitive to ventilation requirements, but every isopod enclosure needs fresh air access. 

Drilling up around the top of the sides is best to provide airflow (while also being out of reach of any climbing isopods). I’d cover any holes with mesh or fabric just to be extra safe!

Habitat & Substrate

A healthy bioactive substrate mix should form the basis of any isopod habitat, but it’s particularly important with this species.

That’s because Giant Canyon Isopods are heavy substrate feeders.

They make light work of any organic components in a substrate, so a high concentration of earthworm castings can really help here. It’s also an excellent material for them to burrow in – win-win.

Mix with sphagnum moss and orchid bark (plus coco coir if you need to bulk it out), and you have a solid isopod substrate mix.

Of course, they’re not going to be enough to keep them satisfied. Maintaining a generous amount of leaf litter on the surface is essential, as a thriving colony will tear through it quickly.

Alder leaves were shown to be of particular benefit in a 1999 scientific study.

Image Credit: EZBotanicals on Etsy.

👉 Grab a bag of Leaf Litter from Etsy.

Finally, be sure to add some cork bark or other decaying softwoods in there. Though Giant Canyon Isopods typically spend their time beneath the substrate, they also enjoy hiding under the wood. Plus, it’s yet another solid food source for them.

Giant Canyon Isopod Humidity & Temperature

The Giant Canyon Isopod is adaptable and can comfortably handle a reasonably wide range of temperatures and humidity. 

The standard room temperature should be absolutely fine. Just make sure you’re managing at least the minimum moisture/humidity levels for routine isopod care.

They’ll do well in both tropical and arid conditions for bioactive setups. Naturally, they’ll do best in a moist environment, but they’ll also manage in a dry habitat (provided they have a wet area to retreat to). Some damp sphagnum moss is an easy way to provide this.

Feeding

Porcellio dilatatus certainly has an appetite to match its size. 

We’ve already covered that they’ll quickly take to eating their habitat, so it can be helpful to provide some additional food sources to keep them going a bit longer. 

Thankfully, they’re not picky eaters.

You can feed them any vegetable scraps you may have in the kitchen. Just keep the portions small, so they can eat them all in one go (you don’t want anything molding over).

Giant Canyon Isopods will appreciate a healthy supply of protein and calcium too.

Crushed egg shells are a cheap and easy way to get them their calcium fix, and as for protein, fish food is a convenient solution.

Giant Canyon Isopod Breeding

With ample space and food, Giant Canyon Isopods can breed pretty quickly. 

Though they can handle dryer environments, if you’re trying to establish a culture, you’re better off providing a good amount of moisture and humidity. 

I’d always recommend maintaining a separate culture even if you’re planning to seed a vivarium with these – just in case.

Where to Find Giant Canyon Isopods for Sale

Giant Canyon Isopods are an established bioactive vivarium species.

So these days, they’re pretty affordable and readily available online.

You can find them over at Rubber Ducky Isopods.

Along with your ten juvenile isopods, you’ll get a startup system full of leaf litter, peat moss, and isopod superfood. The perfect headstart!

Image Credit: Rubber Ducky Isopods

That’s a Wrap

Okay, so the Giant Canyon Isopod may not be the showiest or the most popular, but it’s a hardy species that can do tasks that only a few isopods can.

Are you a fan of Porcellio dilatatus? Let me know in the comments.

For another large isopod with a voracious appetite, check out the Dairy Cow Isopods. Or another giant Porcellio? See Porcellio werneri (the Greek Shield Isopod).

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