The enclosure to house your bug pet is the first thing you need to set up. There is a wide range of possibilities and you can use many types of enclosures, as long as the specific needs of your bug that you want to keep are met. When searching for a perfect enclosure you need to consider the following requirements:
- Suitable size of the enclosure
- Regulating the temperature, humidity and ventilation
- Bug escape prevention
- Bug safety
These requirements should be meet the specific needs of the bug you want to house in it. For example, some bugs need a very humid and warm enclosures. In that case, an open-top enclosure will be less suitable to meet these requirements. But also remember that in most cases you want to keep pets to observe. A plastic container does not work to make your bug pet nicely visible. I’ll explain how to meet these requirements on this page.
Types of bug enclosures
First of all, there are myriad of possible enclosure types to choose from. Some will work for one species and another won’t. Here is a list of the types of enclosures to choose from and for which species it may be suitable:
|Type||May be suitable for|
|Glass terrarium||Locusts, Mantises, Millipede, Beetles, Stick Insects, Tarantulas, Scorpions, Snails|
|Glass aquarium||Millipedes, Tarantulas, Scorpions, Ants, Snails|
|Old terrarium/ aquarium||Millipedes, Ants, Beetles, Snails|
|Net cage||Beetles, Black Soldier Flies|
|Plastic box/container||Feeder insects (dubia roaches, mealworms, Morio worms, crickets), Beetle|
|Faunabox||Beetles, Tarantula (smaller)|
|Glass jar||Mantis, Stick Insects|
|Plastic jar/cup||Fruitflies, Bean Weevils, Mantis|
|DIY enclosure build||You can make it suitable for any species|
|Entire room||Almost suitable for any bug species, but often bugs are too small|
Suitable size of the enclosure
Logically the size of the enclosure should match to the size of your bug pet. A large millipede should not be housed in a small faunabox, for example. A nymph of a leaf insect (Phyllium philippinicum, PSG278) could be housed in a much smaller container than a colony of adults leaf insects.
Size of the enclosure does not only be adjusted by the size of the bug you want to keep. If you want a large(r) colony of a certain species you automaticaly need a larger enclosure. There is a difference between keeping 10 locusts or 50 locusts.
However, size of the enclosure is also dependend of the activity and the behaviour of the animal. For example, most beetles need enough space to fly because the mate in mid-air. The wandering violin mantis needs also a certain space because when they are housed too close together will harm/eat each other. Millipedes need deep enough substrate so they can dig into the ground and lay eggs, which in turn need also enough substrate in their early stages.
As illustrated above the size of the enclosure entirely depends on the species you want to keep. However, understanding the basics is critical, and this detailed information applies to all different bug species. So after you have read through the basics, you’ll need to learn more about the biology of the species.
Regulating temperature, humidity and ventilation
Temperature, humidity and ventilation are vital for the well-being of bugs. However, these parameters are not self-contained but affecting each other as well, as illustrated below. When housing bugs, you have to find a balance between temperature, humidity and ventilation to create the best conditions for the well-being of your bug.
Temperature is critical to the survival of bugs. Bugs can’t regulate their internal temperature and are therefore dependant of the ambient temperature. The enclosure should be able to sustain in an appropriate temperature range. But the material your enclosure is made of determines the heating quality of the enclosure.
Glass, for examples, can efficiently be heated to a certain temperature. The heat will stay in there and is very stable. For that reason, too, most terrariums are made of glass. Plastic containers are also able to hold steady temperature as well.
Mesh enclosures are far more difficult to heat to a certain temperature range and will continually adapt their temperature to the ambient temperature of the surroundings.
For the same reason, it is also essential to consider if your enclosure has a lid or a roof. Open top enclosures lose their heat much faster. Enclosed housing is a vital factor in preventing escapes, too, of course.
Another factor that affects the temperature is the location where you want to keep the bugs. It is not recommended to place the enclosure in direct sunlight. Overheating is a serious problem and should always be avoided. If you put the enclosure in a location of 10°C and the enclosure needs to be at 30°C is challenging. It will be better practice if you place the enclosure in a location where it is 20 to 25°C.
You can learn more about creating, maintaining and monitoring the correct temperature range on the page ‘temperature and heating‘.
Humidity is another factor crucial to the survival of bugs. The enclosure should be maintained at the appropriate humidity range that the bug species needs.
Humidity drops when you’ll extensively need to heat your enclosure to the right temperature range. In addition to that, ventilation affects the humidity level of your enclosure and should be taken into account.
Mesh enclosure and cages are more difficult to be maintained at the correct humidity range because of its hight ventilation.
You can learn more about creating, maintaining and monitoring the correct humidity level on the page ‘humidity and drinking‘.
Ventilation should not be underestimated. Ventilation is key for proper air quality, relates to temperature (e.g. possible overheating) and humidity (e.g. too humid develops moult) and affect the cleanliness of the enclosure.
Well ventilated enclosure provide your bugs of fresh air and oxygen to survive. Ventilation is a significant factor in regulating the humidity, and when not properly ventilated can cause bacteria and moult growth.
Therefore enclosures need proper ventilation and in the best case can be regulated to influence the temperature and humidity as well.
Bug escape prevention
Like cats and dogs, you’ll need to prevent that your bugs are able to escape. Because generally, bugs are much smaller than other pets this needs serious attention. Be aware that many bugs can walk onto smooth surfaces vertically or are able to jump/fly. Others will chew through many materials and escape that way. Some animals are better in escaping than others (and some of them are true escape masters, e.g. ants).
Commercially available enclosures often have quality lids or roofs, so escapes are not possible. But when you buy an enclosure that is in fact not suitable for the species you want to house they will (eventually) escape. When you build or modify an enclosure, you have to make proper considerations on how you will prevent your loving pets from escaping.
Be sure that when you make your enclosure escape-proof, it will not negatively influence the temperature, humidity or ventilation.
When bugs escape, they often die in a short time because the climate is not suitable for them or they will eat non-food or unhealthy food sources.
And last you need to consider that your enclosure is safe for your bug pet. The things summed below should be considered in your enclosure, but is not limited to, to make the environment safe for your bugs:
- prevent bugs that they can cut themself
- prevent bugs that they can get stuck or trapped
- prevent bugs be under fallen objects and furniture
- prevent bugs that they can burn themself
- prevent bugs that they can drown themself
- prevent bugs that they can come in contact with chemicals, glue or tape
It would be a waste to put much time in the care of your bugs, to find them death later, because of one of the reasons above. For some animals, there are specific considerations to make. Therefore I can heartily recommend finding as much information on the species as possible you want to keep to prevent disappointment.