Lava Isopods: The Hottest Bioactive Critters? (Porcellio scaber)

Lava Isopods are a hot classic that never goes out of fashion.

Regarded as one of the original isopod morphs, they’ve long been prized for their stunning mottled magma coloration. Each is a unique blend of orange, red, and black hues.

Plus, they’re also a Porcellio scaber, which are tried-and-tested bioactive custodians. 

With credentials like that, it’s no wonder they remain a popular choice for pets and terrarium cleanup crews alike!

If you’ve found a burning desire to know more about these charming critters, you’re in the right place. Find out how to care for Lava Isopods and how to use them in your next project.

Lava Isopods

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Lava Isopods – A Quick Overview

Take one look at the Lava Isopods, and you’d think they’re straight out of Mount Vesuvius.

And honestly, the origins of the wild type aren’t too far off. Porcellio scaber is a very successful isopod species, and though it can be found all over the world now, it was originally native to Central Europe.

Thankfully, that widespread adaptability is not lost on the Lava color morph.

They’re classically more of a temperate species1, but these molten marvels can handle a wide range of terrarium/enclosure conditions. 

Lava Isopods only grow up to around 1-2 cm long. Which makes them a fairly average-sized species and very manageable from a space and handling point of view.

lava isopods on leaf
Here’s an average-sized Lava Isopod with a very pronounced red coloration.

So, even aside from their funky facades, Lava Isopods have plenty of pros and little in the way of cons.

If you’re looking for a solid isopod pet pick or a hardy bioactive custodian at a very affordable price point, Lava Isopods could be the ones for you.

👉 Shop Lava Isopods on our store.

How to Care for Lava Isopods

Environmental Conditions

The inherent adaptability of Porcellio scaber’ Lava’ makes these critters very easy to care for.

Despite their volcanic vibes, you don’t need soaring temperatures to keep these isopods happy. Anything around the 70-80ºF mark is going to be just fine.

lava isopods on leaf litter
They may be dressed for a scorched earth theme, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it.

In terms of humidity, Porcelio scaber is actually one of the few species that are comfortable in tropical, temperate, and more arid environments.

That being said, they do tend to favor dryer conditions.

I did find one (albeit very old) study finding that their activity was actually inversely proportional to humidity2. In short, they were found to be very active in dry air and very slow in humid air. 

Though I’ve definitely heard of them being put to great use in a range of tropical setups, so the anecdotal evidence doesn’t necessarily correlate. 

lava isopod on fern in bioactive terrarium
My lava isopods are plenty happy in this tropical bioactive terrarium.

Either way, if you have these in a dryer setup, you’ll definitely need to make sure they have a moist area that they can retreat to. A hydration area of damp sphagnum moss is usually the best way to achieve this.

Naturally, being able to handle a range of humidity also means they’re not overly sensitive to ventilation. 

Container & Enclosure

If you’re culturing these in a typical plastic tub (often affectionately called an “isopod bin”), you’ll have an easy time with this species.

You really can’t go wrong with a typical shoebox-sized container to get started.

Just add as much ventilation as you deem appropriate.

Isopod enclosure
Something like this is perfect and can be found here on Etsy (Image Credit: BugzyBugs on Etsy).

Inside, you’ll want a substrate that holds some moisture and has plenty of organic components for your Lava Isopods to feed on. Worm castings, bat guano, and orchid bark are all good organic options here.

Cork bark and other natural climbing/hiding structures always go down a treat and are highly recommended. Cork bark is great because it holds up so well and lasts a long time, but seed pods and such are good options too.

lava isopods on cork bark
Cork bark is such a versatile material that you really can’t go wrong with.

And finally, you’ll want to sprinkle in a ton of leaf litter because these guys have quite the appetite.

Feeding

What do Lava Isopods eat? Honestly, just about anything.

They are very food-motivated and in no way picky. 

As mentioned, a typical isopod diet consisting of a healthy supply of leaf litter is a must here (decomposing softwoods are great, too).

👉 Shop organic leaf litter on our store.

Beyond that, supplementing their diet is incredibly easy and recommended.

Porcellio scaber does well with high-protein diets and also benefits from a regular calcium source

You can add this through a wide variety of foods, from freeze-dried fish to specialist protein gels.

lava isopods feeding on shrimp
Dried shrimp is always well received by my Lava Isopods.

The expert breeders at Rubber Ducky Isopods have a complete nutritional supplement powder, with multiple veggie, protein and calcium sources.

It includes ground-up crustacean exoskeletons, so it’s full of everything isopods need for their own. And as a powder, it’s super convenient.

In fact, we love it so much we’ve teamed up with them to stock it directly on our site!

👉 Check out our Isopod Food.

lava isopod feeding on plant in bioactive terrarium
Unfortunately, I have found my Lava Isopods nibbling on soft plants too – look at the state of my Fittonia! Though they’re not known for it like Armadillidium isopods are.

Breeding 

Lava Isopods breed very quickly and easily.

You really don’t have to do anything fancy to encourage them. Keep them happy and fed, and they’ll rapidly multiply. 

It could certainly be argued that Lava Isopods are one of the best isopods to breed just because you get so much variety in color and pattern.

Where to Find Lava Isopods for Sale

As one of the most common isopod morphs, Lava Isopods are readily available these days at an inexpensive price.

But getting them to your door safe and healthy is still an important consideration.

We always go the extra distance to make sure your isopod culture arrives in top condition (also, heat and cold packs come free where necessary!).

👉 Shop our Lava Isopods today.

Side note, we also have the super cool Porcellio scaber ‘Ghost’ Isopods for sale too!

Have Your Say on Lava Isopods

There we have it. Have you fallen in love with the molten magic of the Lava Isopods yet?

Or perhaps the Orange Koi Isopod is the P.scaber variety for you.

Honestly, there’s a color morph to suit every occasion, so it’s always worth checking what hot new types of isopod are on the market. See you in the next guide!

References

  1. https://soil-organisms.org/index.php/SO/article/view/246 ↩︎
  2. https://journals.biologists.com/jeb/article/14/2/178/4433/The-Humidity-Reactions-of-the-Wood-Louse-Porcellio ↩︎

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