Whether or not you’re new to keeping praying mantises, this is an often questioned topic. However, the use of a substrate is partly dependent on your preference. In this article, we discuss if they actually need it in the first place.
You can keep praying mantises perfectly without a substrate, but using a substrate has its benefits. A substrate will isolate and reduce temperature loss, retain moisture in the enclosure for proper humidity and create a soft landing when they fall. A substrate makes the enclosure also more appealing.
The benefits of a substrate can be very favourable to your praying mantis, and you may consider using one. Let me explain in short why you could use a substrate for your praying mantis so it may help you decide if a substrate is something for you and your animal.
Do praying mantises need substrate in their tank?
When you keep a praying mantis in a terrarium, they don’t necessarily need a substrate. Many keepers don’t use a substrate, so they can easily clean the enclosure.
However, using a substrate can have several benefits for your praying mantis, and you may need to consider it to use in your enclosure as well.
Most praying mantises need to be kept at a warmer temperature than your room temperature. They naturally live in more tropical environments. However, glass tanks tend to lose heat. A substrate isolates one side of the enclosure and keeps the temperature higher in the enclosure.
A substrate is required when you have a praying mantis species that need high humidity. Species that live in the tropics are adapted to higher humidity. One of the features of a substrate is to retain moisture and slowly release it in the air, increasing the humidity in the enclosure. If you don’t use a substrate, you have to mist-spray your enclosure more often.
When you want to breed praying mantises, your female may lay an ootheca (egg pack). The ootheca must not dry out, and keeping the environment humid is essential. A substrate can help to increase the humidity and keep the humidity more stable.
Your praying mantis may fall off a branch, or a thin twig may break off. A substrate creates a soft bed so they can land without damaging themselves. One point that also may benefit you is that a substrate makes your enclosure heavier and is less easy to knock over. Especially acrylic enclosures are very light—just something to consider, though.
But, many keepers also use a substrate simply because it looks more natural. It makes the enclosure more appealing to see, especially when it is placed in the living room.
Also, when you want to keep a praying mantis with isopods, you can’t do without a substrate. Isopods and springtails can be used as a clean-up crew to keep the enclosure tidy and free from mould.
So, although mantises don’t specifically need any substrate, there are many reasons to choose to use a substrate in your enclosure nonetheless.
What substrate should you use?
When you choose to use a substrate in the enclosure, what substrate should you choose? There are several options. There are two substrates that I can recommend most. First is the use of coconut fibre. Coconut fibre is a clean and natural-looking product that is perfect as a substrate. It retains moisture very well and is very useful for praying mantis species that need high humidity.
You could also use potting soil, topsoil and compost. A downside is that it tends to mould quicker, so I recommend adding springtails to the substrate if you use one of these products. Also, make sure you use organic variants that don’t contain fertilisers or chemicals. Therefore I prefer the use of coconut fibre.
White sand (or aquarium sand) is also a proper substrate. It looks really natural in a terrarium. The only drawback is that it does not retain moisture that well. I use sand primarily for praying mantis species that don’t need high humidity. For example, for desert species like the wandering violin mantis, I use white sand to create the desert looks. You can quickly sieve the sand to remove dirt spots.
Personally, I’m not particularly eager to use vermiculite as a substrate for praying mantises. Although it can absorb water very well and keep up the humidity, it is very dusty when the vermiculite is dry and does not look pretty. But, some keepers like it a lot, so it is up to you.
Much more to learn!
There is much more to learn about praying mantis. For example, how do you tell the difference between male and female praying mantis? You can find more articles about praying mantises with plenty of practical tips to better understand and enjoy the keeping of a praying mantis as a pet.
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