Isopods are crustaceans that are commonly kept as pets, particularly in the herpetoculture and invertebrate hobbyist circles. They are known for their ability to clean up substrates by breaking down organic waste and decaying plant matter. They can also be used as a food source for other animals. As with any pet, it is important to provide isopods with adequate nutrition. One way to do this is by supplementing their diet with the right combination of foods and supplements.
- Calcium Supplements:
Isopods require calcium to maintain healthy exoskeletons. Calcium deficiencies can lead to problems, such as soft-shelled and deformed isopods. Calcium supplements can be added to isopod’s diet in the form of calcium carbonate powder, crushed cuttlebone, or calcium-rich foods. Cuttlebone is a popular choice because it also provides other trace elements. You can break the cuttlebone into small pieces and place them in the isopod enclosure, or sprinkle calcium carbonate powder over their food.
- Protein Supplements:
Protein is an essential nutrient for isopods, particularly for growing young and pregnant females. Protein powders, such as soy or whey protein isolate, can be added to their diet in small amounts. You can also give them boiled or cooked eggshells, which are high in protein and calcium. Fish food, shrimp pellets, and insect-based foods such as dried mealworms or soldier fly larvae (black soldier fly) can also be given as a protein-rich treat.
- Vegetable Supplements:
Isopods also require a varied diet of vegetables and fruits. Vegetables are a great source of vitamins and minerals. It is important to provide them with a balanced diet that includes leafy greens such as kale, spinach, collard greens, and arugula. Carrots, cucumber, zucchini, and squash can provide additional vitamins, and minerals to the isopod diet. Fruits (in moderation) such as apples, bananas, and strawberries can also be included.
- Mineral Supplements:
Isopods require trace minerals such as magnesium, iron, zinc, and copper in their diet. Trace minerals can be provided naturally through a varied diet or via supplements. Spirulina powder can be added to their food for added nutritional health benefits. It contains not only minerals but also phytonutrients, antioxidants and protein. A pinch of fine-grain aquarium salt or worm castings also provides trace elements.
- Prebiotic Supplements:
Prebiotics are indigestible fibers that help promote healthy gut bacteria, something isopods require. They also support the isopods’ natural digestive process, aiding in the breakdown of cellulose in plants and other tough fibers. Prebiotic supplements can be added to their food in the form of plant fibers like flaxseed meal, oat bran, and psyllium husk. It's important to not over-supplement with these as It can cause digestive problems, just a light dusting is enough.
Providing your isopods with a healthy and varied diet is crucial for their well-being, which is another piece of the puzzle to making your little pets thrive. By understanding the nutritional needs of isopods, you can develop a feeding plan that includes supplements that will support the isopods’ growth and overall health. By providing a balanced meal, their blooming population and vibrant activity of these little creatures will show how proper nutrition is essential to the enjoyment of keeping and delighting in our diverse world of invertebrates.