On this page, I want to talk about the general care of mantises. Despite that mantises are strangely shaped, and extraordinary species, the care of mantis species can be quite easy. While some species can be more difficult than others, several species can easily be kept when you are a beginner in keeping mantises. When following this general guide will help to keep your pet mantis healthy so that you can enjoy these great pets.
This page discusses the general care on housing, ambient environment, feeding, cleaning and handling of your mantis. Ready to prepare yourself to be a mantis keeper? Let’s do this!
Housing a mantis
Housing is the fundamental base to keep your mantis healthy. With a proper enclosure you can keep a suitable ambient environment, are you able to easily clean the environment and can you optimal feed your mantis, to ultimately keep your mantis happy and healthy.
Your mantis needs a suitable enclosure. However, you can choose between different types of enclosures. Which enclosure suits you best depends on your situation and your budget, but also on what you like.
- Terrarium: there are terrariums made typically for keeping mantises and phasmids. These terrariums are large in height than in width. These terrariums have perfect ventilation, have the possibility to use a layer of substrate and are made of glass for ideal visibility. Brands like ‘Exo Terra, Zoo Med, RepTech and REPTIZOO’ have perfect terrariums.
- Aquarium: You can also use an (old) aquarium. If it has a lid, you’ll need to make sure there is enough ventilation. If it has no lid, you can make a cover from netting or fine metal mesh. However, aquariums are often broader than high. You could turn the aquarium on a side so you can create the height in this way. Keep in mind that aquariums are made to hold water and are therefore often lacking ventilation.
- Net cage: These net cages are often sold specifically for mantises, phasmids and butterflies. They can work perfectly to keep mantises (or as a temporary enclosure when cleaning the primary one). They are lightweight and are relatively cheap for the size you’ll get. However, net cages are not suitable for a layer of substrate (except a layer of paper towels or dishcloth) or esthetic design of your enclosure. Also, the visibility to your mantis is better in a terrarium or aquarium. Still, they are perfect for breeding species of mantises.
- DIY enclosure or custom build: You can consider building an enclosure by yourself. You can replicate a design from a terrarium and make it suitable — as well as for design as for size — for the species you want to keep. Some companies make custom build enclosures (often presented as aquarium builders) that will complete suits your needs.
- Other types: You can use other types of ‘enclosures’, like large glass jars or big plastic boxes. You’ll have to make some adjustments to make it suitable for a mantis species to live in, but it can work.
Whatever enclosure type you choose, always make sure there is enough ventilation to keep your mantis healthy and to prevent rapid growth of mould and bacteria.
The size of the enclosure ultimately depends on your species. However, as a rule of thumb, you can use the following guidance: the height of the enclosure should be at least three times the total body length of your mantis species, and at least two times the body length in width.
The height is crucial to make it able for the mantis to shed their skin. It will hang upside down ‘falling out its skin’ to get rid of their old skin. Next to that, a mantis needs enough space to walk around and to be able to hunt prey.
Some mantis species can be housed in groups. In the case you want to house several individuals, you’ll need a much larger enclosure. Even if these mantises tolerate members of the same species, if they sit too crowded will cause cannibalism. They will compete and eat each other to claim more space. Ghost mantises (Phyllocrania paradoxa) and wandering violin mantises (Gongylus gongylodes), for example, can be housed in groups in all life stages (always provide enough food is essential to make it more successful).
Enclosure substrate and furniture
Floor cover or substrate is highly recommended. Even when mantises rarely come to the ground, it will help regulate the humidity in the enclosure. The right substrate will absorb the moisture and will rerelease it slowly into the air.
You can use different types of substrate. Substrates that are suitable for mantises are sand, cocos-humus, coco-peat, vermiculite, potting earth, paper tissues or dishcloth. When you use natural material from the garden centre, make sure there are no fertilizer or pesticides in these products.
Keep mantises indoors. Many mantises are exotic (which in this case means that they don’t live in the region you live) and can’t the cold or the warmth. Which temperature is best for your mantis depends on the species. Each mantis has its own specific temperature and humidity niche where it will stay healthy and thrive. You’ll need to recreate that environment for them. In the species-specific care sheets, you’ll find the environmental requirements, or have a look at the ‘Bug Species Environmental Conditions Table‘.
Do you need to heat the enclosure? Use a regular light bulb and place it above and outside the enclosure. Light bulbs up to 50W should be sufficient in most cases; sometimes even less wattage is needed depending on the species. Always place the heating source outside the enclosure to prevent your mantis from getting burned. When using a net cage, be careful with a heat source that it will not cause damage to your enclosure. If you place the heat source too close, it can melt the net cage!
You can keep the proper humidity level by misting water frequently. How much and how often you’ll need to spray water depends to the humidity level you need to keep, but also if you have a substrate and the amount of ventilation in your enclosure.
Feeding a mantis
All species of mantis are carnivores. Mantises only eat live insects or otherwise don’t eat at all. Food that is suitable for mantises are flies, fruit flies, crickets, moths, locusts, cockroaches, mealworms and super worms. Which food is best depends on the species you have.
You do not feed a mantis every day. In fact, when you provide a mantis too much can be pretty unhealthy. For most species applies that feeding between two and four days works best. It depends on the size of your mantis, the size of the prey, the sex, the body condition, its life stage, and on the species itself how often you will need to feed. And in addition to that, feeding mantises is also based on experience and good observation of your animal.
Make sure you take close observation to see if the mantis eat what you offer. If your animal doesn’t catch the prey, the prey often dies, and the mantis doesn’t want to eat that anymore. Also, some live insect will hide in the enclosure out of sight of your mantis. You can avoid that by feeding a mantis out of tweezers. Carefully offer the insect in front of your mantis until it grabs the prey insect.
Maybe the benefit of keeping mantises is that it hardly needs any cleaning at all. As with most carnivorous animals, mantises too produce not much faeces. However, it is important to remove uneaten prey items because rotting animals will quickly mould (and also the smell is pretty bad, I must say).
When you want to clean the enclosure, use water only. Chemicals are very harmful to mantises and will quickly result in death. When using a substrate, other than paper towels and dishcloths, need some refreshment once in a while. You can seave it or scoop a part out and replace it with fresh substrate. Make sure you’ll replace at least once every six months the complete substrate, or when you keep a new animal in the enclosure.
Although you can handle them and some species or individuals are docile, in general mantises do not prefer to be held.
When you want to hold them or need them to move, be careful and patient. Mantises are fragile. It is best that they walk on your hand by themselves or that you use a stick that they can hold onto to get them moved.
Mantises have known to be cannibalistic, especially during mating (called sexual cannibalism). Therefore many species can’t be housed together because of their level of cannibalism. Other species accept other species members rather well and can be housed in groups, although there is always the risk that one, usually the female, will eat another.
For mantises that can be housed in groups, like ghost mantises (Phyllocrania paradoxa) and wandering violin mantises (Gongylus gongylodes) for example, it is important to keep them well fed. Keep them well-fed will not exclude but surely limit the risk that one eats the other.
Species-specific care guides
There is much more to learn about every specific species. Every mantis species needs its own specific care. You can look at the section on the species-specific care sheets to find the best way you can keep and care that mantis species.
Breeding can be rather tough with mantises. For that, I have developed a dedicated section about how you breed with mantises with practical steps and tips.
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