Isopod Mother Drowned

Tortuug

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May 6, 2021
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26
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El Cajon
Sadly, I walked into the room to soak my leopard tortoises and found a tragedy. In one of their water bowls, there was a drowned isopod. Not just an isopod, but a bunch of white specs in the water and a few on the belly of the isopod. Upon, closer examination, the white specs were actually just very small, baby isopods. Sad sight to see all those isopods in the water with their mother, but at least I have the ease of mind knowing the isopods I put in the terrarium are doing well enough to reproduce. I put around 20 isopods in about 2 weeks ago and around 20 more yesterday. I see them from time to time grazing the top of the substrate and hiding behind barriers I have in the corners of the terrarium. Sad to see so many lost so soon, but good to see the isopods are looking to expand their culture!

I'm adventuring into tortoise bioactivity and my main concern was keeping isopods in such a hot and humid environment. With the temperature gradient going from 86/88 on the 'cooler' side to mid-90's on the warmer side and 99/101 under the hot spot and humidity consistently hovering around 90%, I was not sure if isopods would do well in this environment. Especially because the isopods I was putting in the terrarium are what you would call 'wild type.' In other words, just some rollie pollies from my backyard. I live in San Diego, so these isopods were used to moderate temperatures and low humidity but have not seemed to mind the climate change.

Not only does the possibility of reproduction make me believe the isopods are doing well, but the individual size of the isopods is also increasing. Some of the isopods I put in, I could differentiate because not all were the classic shiny black pillbugs. Some were tan and brown with spots, some purple. I've seen some of these different colored isopods at the surface level of the substrate much larger than when I first introduced them to the terrarium. I am done adding any more isopods too this terrarium but recently introduced a small number to my Russian tortoise's enclosure that I keep outdoors. I will reply to this post if I have any observations about those isopods in the next few weeks.

If anyone has any tips for providing water for isopods without the risk of drowning, please advise. This is not the first time I've seen drowned isopods but hopefully the last. I use terra cotta saucers as watering bowls but believe the isopods fall into the water and are unable to climb out. Thanks.
 

Blackdog1714

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Jul 30, 2018
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Richmond, VA
I want to get some of the zebra isopods but my wife says "they cost how much?". I started with 20 and now can easily see 20 working on the leftover food scrapes. It is triple that when I lift the water dish during the day!
 

Tortuug

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May 6, 2021
Messages
26
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El Cajon
I ran into the same situation! Only, I wanted to add dalmatian's to my terrarium. I live with my parents and they told me, "no bugs in the house!" After some convincing I was able to talk them into letting me take pillbugs from the backyard and put them in the enclosure. I'm surprised how well they do, no predators and constant food I guess!
 

ZenHerper

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Feb 27, 2020
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Sorry to hear this!

Yes, 'pods don't apparently see a pool of water in the dark as "water". Kind of odd for a terrestrial version of shrimp. But there you go! lol Saucer lips that can be walked without impediment pose a problem. This happens with springtails as well, but we notice and miss them less.

For my bioactive turtles, I use plastic snap-ware containers for water - they have a good lip on them that the 'pods don't seem able to get around-and-over. With a deep pan you would need to build up the inside of the container (rocks, etc.). Or look for something similar that is very very shallow.

Aside from good ambient humidity and damp substrate, isopods won't need a water source for themselves. I use distilled water in a pump spray bottle to deeply wet their substrate in one corner ~weekly. In their dedicated cultures, an apple or pear core is happily accepted.

A good damp coco coir will do them fine in a tort habitat.

*********

I have not one regret over the $ investment in my cultures. Love 'em madly. They're genuinely cool (and not insects).

Isopods are non-native in the U.S. and are now USDA-regulated as an invasive risk for crop and landscape destruction. I can well imagine this being the case as climate continues to change and they won't be frozen back in winter throughout the south and central U.S.. All that to say: be sure to buy/sell/trade them within your state or apply to the USDA for a permit to import/export them across state lines. Check state and local regs as well...this seems to be an in-motion type of thing. Captive 'pods should not be released.
 
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