Zebra Isopods (Armadillidium maculatum) Bioactive Care Guide

Something for the safari seekers amongst us.

Zebra Isopods offer an exciting opportunity to get up close and personal with a herd of stripey wonders.

Albeit, super tiny ones.

Whether you’re looking for a cool new isopod pet, or a workhorse of a terrarium/vivarium custodian – Armadillidium maculatum ‘Zebra’ can do it all.

Read on to find out how to best use and care for this magnificent beast.

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Zebra Isopods Overview

Zebra Isopods are an OG of the isopod world.

One of the first types of isopod to be kept as a pet and enjoyed for their care and aesthetics, rather than just being a cleanup tool in a terrarium/vivarium.

That being said, they make an excellent terrarium custodian too.

It’s okay to be effective and fashionable, right? (they’re originally from France after all).

Though they belong to the same family as the common pill bug (Armadillidium maculatum), it’s easy to see why this particular variation stood out to prospective keepers.

With their classic black and white stripes, they’re going to go well with any outfit terrarium environment.

Benefits of Zebra Isopods

Zebra Isopods continue to be one of the most popular species on the market, so they must be doing something right.

Here’s some of their standout features.

  • Easy to care for – Overall, Zebra Isopods are pretty resilient and have very straightforward care requirements. They make a great first isopod for beginners.
  • Aesthetic – What can I say, these stripey wonders are simply gorgeous and there are reportedly Chocolate Zebra Isopods on the way!
  • Active – Part of being able to enjoy a stunning isopod pet is being able to actually see them… Thankfully, Zebra Isopods are very active and not too shy once they’ve settled in.
  • Affordable and easily available – One of the perks of being popular, Zebra Isopods are easy to come by and remain one of the cheapest varieties on offer.
  • Easy to handle – As one of the slower and larger isopod varieties, they’re not too difficult to manage if you’d like to handle one or two at a time. 
Zebra Isopod
Zebra Isopod – not to scale… though they do get reasonably large.

Zebra Isopods Care

Container

The overall size requirements of the enclosure are somewhat dependent on the size of the colony, but seeing as these isopods are on the larger side –  it follows that you’ll need a reasonably sized container too. 

They also need plenty of ventilation, so you’ll need to opt for a container with a partial seal or you’ll need to get drilling to make your own vents…

Large Flat Acrylic Invertebrate Enclosure with Magnetic Locking Top. (Image Credit: EZBotanicals on Etsy).

Though they’re not amazing climbers, feel free to cover any vents with a fine mesh to prevent any jailbreaks.

Their mature size, high activity, and need for ventilation mean they’re not a great fit for the smallest of containers (both literally and figuratively). Tiny Tupperware boxes or planted bottle terrariums just aren’t going to do the trick with these larger critters.

However, if you’re using these as a cleanup crew in a full-sized vivarium/terrarium, you should have no issues on that front. They’ll definitely appreciate the extra space.

Substrate 

For substrate, a classic tropical terrarium mix is always great choice (e.g. ABG mix). 

Something with plenty of coco coir and sphagnum moss for moisture retention and a nice loose texture for burrowing, covered with leaf litter for nutrition and hiding spot opportunities.

I like to use earthworm castings in all my substrates, and that can really help as a source of nutrition for both plants and isopods.

Zebra Isopods do appreciate a moisture gradient if possible, meaning a section that’s a bit dryer for them.

Which can be tricky when misting (especially with automated misting systems) but some creatively placed hardscape items should be able to shield a chosen area.

Temperature and Humidity 

Zebra Isopods do prefer warmer conditions, but nothing crazy.

Ideally between 75-80°F (21-26°C), so slightly above a typical room temperature. 

This should be easily achieved in most vivariums with artificial lighting and/or heat mats. But, if they’re in a smaller container (or it’s a cold Winter) then it’s best to keep them somewhere warm or pop them on a heating mat.

On the humidity front, I think it’s helpful but probably not a dealbreaker. 

After all, they need good ventilation and ideally a dry area too, neither of which is conducive to a high humidity. 

Food

As part of a bioactive setup, the container should have plenty of decaying organic material in the substrate to drive that nutrient process. 

That should form the backbone of the feeding process.

Leaf litter is the easiest and most effective way to provide this, but driftwood branches can help a lot too, e.g. cork bark, cholla wood.

Live Oak Leaf Litter (Image Credit: EZBotanicals on Etsy).

Though you can (and should) supplement where possible. This is much more necessary if kept in smaller isolated containers, where you’ll likely have to feed them several times a week.

  • Fish food flakes are an easy and convenient supplement. They’re full of protein, and you can always have some to hand.
  • Vegetable cuttings are another good option. Pretty much anything you have leftover from your chopping board should do. Just don’t overdo it, just add a little at a time or the mold growth might outpace your isopods.
  • Dedicated isopod food is arguably the best. The formulations will differ depending on the source, but they’re usually well-optimized for isopod health. This Isopod Super-Food Blend from the team at Rubber Ducky Isopods is a concentrated source of nutrition that can keep them going for ages.

Unfortunately, Armadillidium maculatum are known to occasionally snack on moss and softer plants, so it’s essential that you give them plenty of other things to feed on.

> See my Guide to Isopod Food for more.

How to Breed Zebra Isopods

Zebra Isopods are easy to reproduce overall.

Provided you have a big enough colony that’s happy and healthy, nature should take its course without any outside influence.

Keep a look out for the tiny pale ones!

Where to Find Zebra Isopods for Sale?

Being one of the most popular isopod species on the market, they’re not too difficult to get your hands on.

Personally I recommend the team over at Rubber Ducky Isopods.

zebra isopods
Image Credit: Rubberduckyisopods.com

Along with your Zebra Isopod Culture, you’ll get some sprinkled oak leaf and isopod superfood to get you and your new friends started!

> See the Zebra Isopods here.

Over to You

Do you keep Zebra Isopods and have some care secrets to share?

Let me know in the comments.

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