Porcellio werneri: How to Care for the Greek Shield Isopod

Is it a bird, is it a plane, is it a UFO… no, it’s an isopod! 

As far as isopods go, they don’t come rounder and flatter than Porcellio werneri. These little flying saucers really are one of the most unique isopods on the market.

They’re popular pets (for obvious reasons, I mean, look at them), but their environmental adaptions actually help them thrive in setups where other isopod species might struggle.

Find out how to get the best from Porcello werneri and where to deploy these alien critters.

Porcellio Werneri

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Size, Appearance & Behaviour of Porcellio werneri

Roombas, pancakes, hovercraft, the comparisons are endless, but the most accepted common name is actually the “Greek Shield Isopod.”

Named for their Aegean island origins (and presumably their armored shape, too).

They tend to be a little shy, and you’ll often see them stuck to surfaces like cork bark with their flat bodies, so maybe “Limpet Isopod” would be a fitting name? 

Maxing out at around an inch in size fully grown, Porcellio werneri isn’t a contender for the title of “largest isopod,” but it’s still grouped amongst the giants of the region.

They’re certainly the flattest! And with a brilliant white skirt surrounding their dark round bodies, their visual contrast really is lovely.

Porcellio werneri Care Guide

Habitat

In their native Greece, Porcellio werneri are “specialists that are restricted to dry habitats, like calcareous rocky substrate” – Habitat diversity, ecological requirements of species and the Small Island Effect.

So it’s fair to assume they’re going to do well in a dryer habitat compared to other isopods. 

Though, as always, I do need to say that dry doesn’t mean completely dry.

All isopods need access to moisture in order to survive, so you can’t simply add these to an arid setup without managing that need in one way or another. The easiest way to achieve the right balance is with a steep moisture gradient. 

If you make sure at least one area of the enclosure stays consistently moist (usually via a sphagnum moss patch), you can give your isopods the opportunity to regulate themselves.

For the rest of the habitat:

  • Cork bark – Isopods seem to universally love cork bark. They like to hang out in the dark crevices (and occasionally eat the wood itself). Plus, a broad chunk is a nice cool place to create your moist area. 
Cork Bark EZbotanicals on Etsy.
Cork Bark is super versatile and comes in all shapes and sizes. (Image Credit – EZBotanicals on Etsy).
  • Leaf Litter – Another isopod culture staple, leaf litter forms the nutritional backbone of a typical isopod diet, and provides lots of places to hide.
  • Egg Crates – Just like their cousins, the Titan Isopods, these guys love to hang out in egg crates. The males can be a little territorial in the same way, so giving them separate spaces is always a good idea to keep the peace.
  • Lotus Seed Pods – As another material with lots of holes to hide in, one Redditor found their Porcellio werneri culture loved lotus seed pods (and Texas holy rock, apparently). 

Of the giant Porcellio, the Giant Canyon Isopods are the most popular choice for arid bioactive cleanup. I haven’t seen anybody use the werneri in this way, but it could work.

Container / Enclosure

You’ll need an enclosure of a reasonable size to keep these larger-than-life isopods happy.

A shoebox size is a good place to start (either glass or plastic) for a regular culture. 

Then, along with their need for space comes an even bigger need for ventilation. Airflow is usually a good thing for an isopod culture, but it’s extra useful here in keeping the humidity reasonably low.

So you can choose an appropriately holed/vented container or take the DIY approach.

Isopod enclosure
Something like this inexpensive plastic vented enclosure can be found here on Etsy (Image Credit: BugzyBugs on Etsy).

Thankfully, these guys are so big they’re unlikely to escape through any ventilation holes, but you can always add a fine mesh over the top to be extra safe. 

Feeding

Naturally, leaf litter is a must, and these guys love plenty of decaying wood too. 

Cork bark is great as a consistent hardscape feature, but its rot-resistant nature means it’s not a snacking favorite for isopods. Add some softwood scraps, too (like Cholla Wood), for a healthy diet. 

Like other Porcellio isopods, these big bois also like a regular supply of protein and calcium. 

Freeze-dried shrimp or minnows (or even simple fish flakes) can get the job done. You can add some cuttlebone, too, for an extra calcium boost.

👉 Check out my Complete Guide to Isopod Foods for more help here.

Breeding

Don’t worry if you don’t see some rapid reproduction from this species of isopod. Porcellio werneri are thought to be seasonal breeders, so you can expect to see broods only a couple of times a year. 

It’s part of the reason they’re still relatively rare and pricey.

Where to Find Porcellio werneri for Sale

Despite their rarity and relative difficulty in breeding at scale, Porcellio werneri are increasingly available online.

You can grab them here from Rubber Ducky Isopods. And with your set of 10 isopods, you’ll a great little starter kit to get you off on the right foot.

Plus, there are also some interesting varieties in the works from other breeders, though they’re not as easy to find. 

There’s also Armadillidium werneri “Orange” for sale online. They’re a different species entirely, but they’re essentially the giant version of their respective species too. 

Wrapping Up

Porcellio werneri has a slight reputation for being challenging to keep, but these days I think it’s largely unfounded.

Now that they’ve been out a while, keepers have a better grasp of the care requirements. Though with their price tag, it’s understandable that people are keen to get them right.

How has your experience been? Let me know in the comments.

Alternatively, if you’re in need of more (smaller) isopod inspiration, check out my Funky Isopod Species guide!

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