Are you looking for a unique pet that is easy to care for, but still offers plenty of educational opportunities? Then take this article to consider collecting a few humble sow bugs.
As an experienced animal keeper, I’m here to show you that sow bugs, and isopods in general, are much more than just mindless garden pests!
Despite their unassuming appearance, these fascinating little critters deserve just as much empathy and care as any other traditional pet.
With the right knowledge and environment, they can be the perfect companion for a beginner pet keeper. Read on to find out why.
What Are Sow Bugs?
Sow bugs, often referred to as just “woodlouse” or commonly confused with “pill bugs,” are actually not insects at all, but crustaceans!
They belong to the family Porcellionidae and they are of the scientific species Porcellio.
The common name “sow bug” comes from their resemblance to the similar-looking pig species known as swine, when viewing either from the top down.
Found all over the world, they live in moist, decaying vegetation found primarily in gardens, forests, and leaf litter.
Sow bugs are omnivorous, meaning they feed off both plants and other small organisms.
Purpose Of Sow Bugs
The general purpose of sow bugs is to aerate the soil and remove decaying plant and animal matter, preventing mold and fungi from taking place in humid conditions.
They can be excellent inhabitants in vivariums! By providing these critters with a moist and dark environment, you can give them the conditions that will make them thrive.
Additionally, sow bugs are active and require very little maintenance, so they make an ideal choice for those who may not have the time to constantly monitor their pet.
And since they feed on decaying organic matter and detritus, they’ll help keep your tank clean!
As long as they’re well-cared for, they can live up to three years and provide endless entertainment.
Best Types Of Sow Bugs
Sow bugs, come in many colors and sizes. Some are better equipped for arid conditions, while others thrive in tropically humid ecosystems.
If you haven’t yet been completely turned off from the idea of possessing some of these mini-land-lobsters then I’d like to show you a few of the most popular types of sow bugs currently trading around.
Common Rough Woodlouse (Porcellio scaber)
Common Rough Woodlouse is an isopod native to Europe and Africa. As its name implies, it has a rough exoskeleton that feels like sandpaper when touched.
Unlike many of its cousins, this species of isopod tends to be a bit more hardy and active, often seen roaming around tanks, climbing around on decorations, and zipping from spot to spot.
This is easily the most common sow bug you will find on this list. All of these characteristics make them an interesting and entertaining pet for any isopod enthusiast’s collection.
If you’re looking for more specifics on this isopod, here’s a full care guide on Common Rough Woodlouse (Porcellio scaber).
Lava Isopods (Porcellio Scaber ‘Lava’)
Lava Isopods are a unique mutation of the common rough woodlouse.
These small sow bugs are known for their vibrant coloration which ranges from dark rock black to copper orange, giving them the look of being made from real lava rock.
These critters are also slightly more active than their wild counterparts and make great additions to any isopod enthusiast’s tank.
Additionally, they are known to be hardy and are one of the easier Porcellio species to care for.
With the right setup and the right knowledge, Lava Isopods can make a fascinating and entertaining addition to any tank.
If you’re looking for more specifics on this isopod, here’s a full care guide on Lava Isopods (Porcellio Scaber ‘Lava’).
Orange Koi Isopods (Porcellio scaber ‘Orange Koi’)
Orange Koi Isopods, a selectively bred strain of Porcellio scaber, is a wonderfully vibrant and lively addition to any isopod enthusiast’s tank.
As their name implies, this mutation features a brilliant orange color that’s almost neon in hue and gives any tank a stunning pop of color.
Furthermore, Orange Koi Isopods are extremely active, often out and about and exploring their environment during daylight hours.
With their larger size and active behavior, they’re combined and entertaining pets that provide a unique and fun experience.
If you’re looking for more specifics on this isopod, here’s a full care guide on Orange Koi Isopods (Porcellio scaber ‘Orange Koi’).
Dalmatian Isopods (Porcellio scaber ‘Dalmatian’)
Dalmatian Isopods are a very interesting variety of the sow bugs often kept as pets.
The distinguishing feature of this color morph lies in the black spots they possess which lend them their name.
Along with these spots, the dark brown body of these isopods is accented with lighter bands of hair on the edges of the exoskeleton.
This species has recently become a popular choice amongst isopod hobbyists as they prove to be quite hardy and fun to observe.
If you’re looking for more specifics on this isopod, here’s a full care guide on Dalmatian Isopods (Porcellio scaber ‘Dalmatian’).
Dairy Cow Isopods (Porcellio laevis)
If you liked the Dalmatian mutation and only wished the spots were a little larger than Dairy Cow Isopods is what you’re looking for.
As their name implies, this species has a white and black coloration reminiscent of cows, as opposed to the smaller speckles found on the other species.
This species of sow bug also has slightly longer antennae than P. scaber, giving them a unique look.
These isopods tend to move around and explore their habitats more frequently than others of their kind, making them a more interactive option for Porcellio hobbyists.
If you’re looking for more specifics on this isopod, here’s a full care guide on Dairy Cow Isopods (Porcellio laevis).
Giant Canyon Isopods (Porcellio dilatatus)
If you want bigger sow bugs then you’re in luck because this next couple will not disappoint. Giant Canyon Isopods are a large species of isopod native to Southwestern regions of the US.
They grow to greater lengths than most other isopods, reaching sizes of up to three-quarters of an inch!
As their name implies, they have a distinct coloration, with a marbled mix of grey, brown, and yellow.
These colorful, hardy creatures are fun to watch and care for. They enjoy climbing and exploring their habitats and make great pets for experienced isopod hobbyists.
If you’re looking for more specifics on this isopod, here’s a full care guide on Giant Canyon Isopods (Porcellio dilatatus).
Giant Spanish Isopod (Porcellio expansus)
Giant Spanish Isopods are an even larger species of isopod native to parts of Spain, as well as Morocco.
These crustaceans have potent aromas, due to a gland in the rear of the isopod that releases secretions to ward away potential predators.
They have a smooth and velvety body, with a mix of earthy tones.
Giant Spanish Isopods may reach up to an inch in length and are quite hardy, making them an ideal pet for more experienced sow bug hobbyists who are looking for a more unusual pet isopod.
If you’re looking for more specifics on this isopod, here’s a full care guide on Giant Spanish Isopod (Porcellio expansus).
Titan Isopod (Porcellio hoffmannseggi)
Titan Isopods are one of the largest species of isopod native to parts of and around Spain.
They can reach lengths well past an inch which is quite large compared to other sow bugs!
As their name implies they are quite tough and resilient, and can easily survive in a wide variety of temperatures and environments.
This makes them an ideal pet for any isopod enthusiast. Titan Isopods are renowned for their wide range of colors which can range from brown to purple, to blue.
If you’re looking for more specifics on this isopod, here’s a full care guide on Titan Isopod (Porcellio hoffmannseggi).
Werneri isopods (Porcellio werneri)
Werneri Isopods are among the widest species of sow bugs.
Still sporting an impressive length of around an inch, they are antifungal, making them an ideal tankmate or pet for a beginner isopod enthusiast.
They have a wide variety of colors and patterns on their carapace and have a reputation for being quite active, often seen scurrying around and busily foraging for food in the tank.
Despite their hardy nature, these isopods require slightly more specialized care, as they do prefer more humid environments than other isopods.
If you’re looking for more specifics on this isopod, here’s a full care guide on Werneri isopods (Porcellio werneri).
Powder Blue Isopods (Porcellionides pruinosus ‘Powder Blue’)
If the size doesn’t really impress you then maybe the color will. Powder Blue Isopods are a rare mutation of sow bug that exhibits vibrant hues of blue.
These striking invertebrates are light blue with white–tipped antennae and legs.
They move quickly, often darting about, and are quite active, so they are an interesting pet for more experienced isopod hobbyists who are looking for something more of a challenge.
They require higher humidity levels and need more food than other Porcellio species, but the reward is well worth the effort as they provide plenty of entertainment and offer a unique color and appearance.
If you’re looking for more specifics on this isopod, here’s a full care guide on Powder Blue Isopods (Porcellionides pruinosus ‘Powder Blue’).
Powder Orange Isopods (Porcellionides pruinosus ‘Powder Orange’)
Powder Orange Isopods are the tangy mutation of their blue relative. They have a beautiful orange and white coloration, along with matching antennae and legs.
They generally prefer higher temperatures and more humid conditions than other sow bugs, making them best suited for tropical habitats.
Powder Oranges are known to be very active creatures, with a tendency to swarm around the tank quite frequently.
They may even explore decorations and terrariums, making them unique and fascinating pets for those with the necessary knowledge and care.
If you’re looking for more specifics on this isopod, here’s a full care guide on Powder Orange Isopods (Porcellionides pruinosus ‘Powder Orange’).
Sow Bugs For Sale
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Sow Bug Care
Once you’ve acquired your new critter companions, caring for sow bugs is an easy and rewarding endeavor. Provide them with a clean and spacious habitat, with a damp terrarium substrate and plenty of hiding areas.
Feed them a balanced diet of vegetables, fruits, and commercial feed, and be sure to provide plenty of fresh water.
Monitor the environment and make sure to address any stress factors that may arise. With the right care, sow bugs can be pleasant, colorful, and fascinating pets.
Feeding Sow Bugs
Feeding Porcellio species isopods is relatively easy and straightforward since they are mainly detritivores. The main sources of their food appear to be plants, fruits, vegetables, and other decaying organic matter.
- Dried fruits (e.g. raisins)
- Fruits and vegetables (e.g. bananas, strawberries, bell peppers)
- Fish food pellets
- Worm castings
If you’re more of an avid hobbyist like myself, be sure to check out my ultimate DIY Isopod food guide. I give a more in-depth explanation of the best foods and my personal favorite recipe.
In conclusion, sow bugs can make adorable and enjoyable pets for the beginner keeper. Despite their small size, they are hardy little critters that don’t require much effort to maintain.
With a few simple steps, you can create a safe and stimulating environment that meets their nutritional and emotional needs.
And who knows, you might even find yourself in a lifetime friendship with your new pet sow bug!
Frequently Asked Questions
No, even though a sow bug is sometimes referred to as a name for a roly–poly, roly-poly is a type of pill bug that can curl up as a form of defense. sow bugs are flatter and didn’t evolve to possess that type of defense.
A pill bug is a terrestrial crustacean that is capable of rolling up into a ball, while a sow bug is a terrestrial crustacean that lacks this ability. pill bugs are generally a common name for Armadillidium species isopods and sow bugs are the common name for the Porcellio species isopods.
Sow bugs are caused by a combination of factors, including moisture and decaying organic matter. They also prefer dark, damp places and can be found in areas with high humidity.
Sow bugs are attracted to moist, dark environments with plenty of organic matter for them to feed on. They also prefer areas with plenty of decaying vegetation.
No, sow bugs are not harmful to humans. They are harmless organisms that feed on decaying plant matter.
Sow bugs can become a problem if they become overpopulated in an area and begin to feed on plants or compete with other organisms for resources.
Sow bugs can be removed by vacuuming them up, sealing cracks and crevices they may use to enter the home, and using diatomaceous earth to create an inhospitable environment for them.
Sow bugs, also known as pill bugs, live in damp, dark places like underneath rocks, logs, and leaf litter. They are also found in soil, compost, and even inside homes.
Yes, sow bugs lay small clusters of eggs in damp soil or other moist places. Females can produce several clutches of eggs each year.
No, sow bugs are mainly herbivores, meaning they only eat plants. Though some species will consider decaying animal and insect matter.
Sow bugs help to break down organic matter in the soil, which helps to promote healthy plant growth. They are also a food source for some wildlife.
Sow bugs are often found in moist environments and feed on decaying plant and animal matter. They are nocturnal and make very interesting pets that can be trained to eat from your hand.
Sow bugs typically live for 1–2 years in the wild.
Yes, some species of sow bugs have scent glands that release a strong smell to keep predators away.