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Archispirostreptus gigas – African Giant Black Millipede

Millipedes Keeping : 


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Millipedes are not insects at all, but they do are popular invertebrate pets. That’s why this website also dedicates a page to these creatures! Here you can first read all about morphology, senses, life cycle and natural habitat of millipedes. On the bottom of the page you will find general tips and quick info about keeping millipedes as pets.





Millipedes are part of the class Diplopoda. The are closely related to centipedes, class Chilopoda, and you could refer to millipedes and centipedes together as myriapods. Pill bugs are also related to millipedes but are actually isopod crustaceans and more related to shrimps, crabs and water fleas. There are around 10.000 species of millipedes on Earth.

Morphology of millipede:


Millipedes have a peculiar body plan. Their body consists of many segments, each of these segments has two pairs of legs.  On their head they have antennae, eyes and mouthparts. Their mouthparts are made for nibbling, like in stick insects, not for biting like in mantises or ants.


The difference between millipedes and centipedes is easy; millipedes have two pairs of legs per segment, eat plant material and are pretty docile. Centipedes have one pair of legs per segment, eat insects or other animals and most species can move pretty quickly.


The senses of a millipedes:


It is believed that millipedes have the same senses as we do: sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch. But little is know about their senses and their accuracy. Millipedes have compound eyes with which they sense light, including ultraviolet light. They generally can feel sound with their body instead of hearing it with ears. Their antennae are used for the sense of taste and smell.


Development and life cycle : 


Millipedes are born out of eggs. Newborn millipedes don’t look exacly like their adult parents; they generally only have a few pairs of legs. When these little millipedes grow, they molt several times. With each consequtive molt the add segments and legs to their body, becoming more and more like the adults of their species.
Eggs are generally laid inside moist soil. A female can lay hundrerds of eggs in one go!


Natural habitat of millipedes :


Millipedes occur in all continents (except Antarctica) and almost all countries. They generally live inside or just on top of the soil. The biggest species occur in the tropics. In temperate zones the millipedes generally become just 1 to 2 cm in lenght and are not kept as pets.


Keeping millipedes as pets:


This general description for keeping millipedes holds for most millipede species, but not all. But sure to check the specific requirements for your species of millipede before you buy one.


Housing your millipedes :


Millipedes need a terrarium or enclosure which is safe, escape proof and big enough. The size of the tank depends on how many millipedes you want to keep and and on their size. Generally speaking the tank should be at least 3 times the length of the largest millipede in all directions. If you have a lid on your tank you can reduce the height of the tank to 2x the lenght of the millipede. Without a lid millipedes can escape more easily than you might think, as they can climb well and can stretch themselves out pretty far. If you want to house multiple millipedes, be sure to add some space to the tank.


You need to provide your millipedes with a good substrate on the floor of the terrarium and with nice moist hiding places. As a substrate you can use potting earth or soil for your garden or forrest area. Put a layer of soil in the tank that is around 15 cm thick. As hiding places you can provide tree bark, half a coconut, grotto-like stones and old wood. Millipedes love moss to live on and hide under. They also eat the moss. By adding living moss to your terrarium you will add some nice green color and at the same time provide your millipedes with fresh food and hiding places.


Temperature and humidity :


Adequate temperature and humidity are crucial to the survival of your millipedes. Millipedes generally like moist environments, so be sure to add enough water to the substrate of the terrarium. Be sure to check what temperature your species needs. Generally 25 degrees celsius should be good. You can provide this temperature by heating the tank with a lamp or a heat mat. 


Food for millipedes :


Millipedes generally eat fruit, vegetables, mushrooms, moistened dry cat food, moistened fish food, rotting wood and rotting leaves. Not all species eat the same. Some species only live of specific food sources such as rotting woods, while others can live off anything.
You can feed your millipedes just by placing the food on top of the substrate. If the food goes bad easily, like fruit and vegetables, remove it before it starts to mold or rot.

How to Care for Giant Pet Millipedes :


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Millipedes inhabit every continent except Antarctica. From the dry regions of the American south west and African savannas to steamy pacific islands, giant millipede appear in a variety of shapes and sizes. However, all have similar care requirements.



Substrate :


In captivity, millipedes spend most of their lives burrowing in and eating their substrate. Experience shows that the substrate is by far the most important aspect of any millipede setup...more important than anything else, just like water quality is critical in fishkeeping but the type of aquarium is a secondary concern. In my experience, Millipedes of the order Spirobolidia such as Chicobolus spinigerus and Trigoniulus macropygus are often more sensitive with regards to their substrate than millipedes of the order Spirostreptida, with the exception of widespread and hardy species such as Narceus americanus and Narceus gordanus. For hardy species the substrate is not as critical.


The Goal: 


In my experience, millipedes will survive much better in an airy, close to dry, and nutrient-deficient substrate than a compact, wet, and extremely rich substrate in a very humid enclosure. They will not do well in either, but will languish in the former and die in the latter. Therefore, although the substrate should be in between these two extremes it should be much closer to the former, where millipedes can survive. I think that bacteria and fungi proliferate in mucky conditions and millipedes become more susceptible to dying in a wet substrate, whereas they mainly face dehydration in a dry substrate. My point is that we want a moist and airy substrate without excessive nutrients (I will call this "lean"), in an enclosure with moderate humidity. Then feed fruits/veggies and the occasional protein.

1) Pet-keeper's Substrate:


Place some coir/coconut fiber/Bed-a-Beast/Ecoearth...etc. in your enclosure. A three inch layer is ideal for most species, but one inch will work. If possible, mix in some hardwood leaf litter (especially oak) and a lesser amount of crumbly (decomposing) hardwood. Add an inch layer of dry (hardwood best, or non-resinous softwood...avoid pine) leaves on top of the base substrate so the millipedes can hide in the leaf litter if they please. You should pasteurized the wood and leaves to eliminate pests. Millipedes will survive in nothing more than coconut fiber but this should only be temporary--they need some other organic matter long term. Feed fruits and vegetables if the millipedes consume them.


2) Enthusiast's Substrate :


Substrates vary but may include 1) leaf litter from hardwood trees such as oak or beech--Most nut-producing trees are hardwoods. Avoid softwoods which have a resinous sap, such as pine, but others such as aspen should be fine. Mixing in pesticide-free rose leaves or bamboo leaves also work well. I feel that dry leaf litter is best--already rotting leaf litter is more questionable but can be used in smaller proportions.  2) seasoned dead-wood from hardwoods, spongy (even bug-ridden) is ok--just make sure to pasteurize it. 3) coir/coconut fiber/Bed-a-Beast/Ecoearth, or manure-free and casting-free compost or fertilizer free germination compost (aka forest soil or humus.) 4) Sand, which makes the substrate airier (something leaves such as bamboo--which decomposes slowly--also does) 5) some sort of calcium supplement or mineralized soil may do the millipedes some good, but isn't necessary.


One good mix is 3 parts wood soil/compost:2 parts leaves:2 parts deadwood:some sand:1/2 part limestone, chalk, or ground cuttlebone.]--the sand and calcium can be added in lower amounts. The sand keeps the substrate from compacting. Mix everything evenly so your substrate is of uniform composition. Add lightweight decaying hardwood logs, if available, for climbing, decoration, and food. Heavy logs can crush the molting millipedes which congregate under them. I have found this substrate to work well for breeding, consistently: all of it is edible (not just the top layer) and millipedes molt fine in it. Note: feed fruits and vegetables to receptive species. Remove uneaten food promptly to avoid the pest listed in PROBLEMS.


Another substrate recipe mimics the surface of forests where many millipedes are found: 2-4 inches of fine base material, and 1-2 inches of wood and/or leaf food. There are two layers: a base material for molting and a surface layer for eating. For the base: 2 parts compost or forest humus should be mixed with 1 part ground wood and 1 part shredded leaves. Alternatively, coir/coconut fiber/Bed-a-Beast/Ecoearth, potting soils or commercial composts can be used instead of forest humus. For the food substrate: mostly crushed wood for species of the order Spirobolida; mostly crushed leaves for species of the order Spirostreptida. For best results, leaves and wood should be used together. Large millipedes such as AGBs appreciate deeper substrate, otherwise shallow is fine. Note: feed fruits and vegetables to receptive species.


What I use: The foundation of the substrate should be something that holds water and has some sand and minerals mixed in. I use cocofiber (Ecoearth) and/or peatmoss, potting soil should work, but I would try to get one that isn't black and rich, and doesn't contain manure or added fertilizers. I typically use half cocofiber and half leaves. For the leaves I use oak leaves that I collect in a regional park, and bamboo leaves from some large bamboo plants at my house. The bamboo leaves are not very edible and do 3 things: they keep the substrate airy, provide a surface for good mold to grow on--and millipedes eat some types of mold, and act as a "last resort" material. When your millipedes are eating the bamboo its time to change the substrate since there's not much left to eat! Then I add some sand. I mix the substrate all together and finally add a layer of the leaf mix on top. Try to use what you have locally! Be sure to pasteurize your materials.

Acceptable Leaves and Wood:


Oak leaves and wood are typically said to produce the best substrate. The kind of oak does not seem to matter. You can use live oak like we have on the west coast or black oak and its deciduous cousins. Just ensure that you are NEVER taking green or freshly fallen leaves. Try to take leaves which have been on the ground for a few weeks and are just starting to decompose. Avoid softwoods as they often have volatile resins which harm millipedes. Other hardwoods such as beech, maple, hickory, etc...all trees which produce nuts...should be acceptable. Make sure your leaves and wood are pesticide free! As a rule of thumb, if no insect seems interested in the dead leaves or wood of a species of tree (no "bite marks"), stay away. The converse is also applicable: if insects seem to relish the deadwood and leaves of a species of tree or plant, your millipedes probably will too. I'm certain that other types of plant material can be used as substrate (just like coconut fiber, rose leaves, bamboo, and aspen shavings) but hardwood material is always recommended by millipede keepers.


Substrate Pasteurization


Some people recommend sterilizing substrate before use. I have found that whenever I sterilize substrate bad things happen. Either I get a mold boom that looks really nasty or a giant mite and disease outbreak that kills several millipedes. If you do chose to sterilize, please introduce some springtails or parasitic mites such as Hypoaspis miles for good measure. Avoid using isopods/pillbugs/rolly-pollies if you want your millipedes to breed (they can eat millipede young according to some sources and multiply at astounding rates, but otherwise they are excellent janitors.) Instead of sterilization, try...


Substrate pasteurization! This method will rid your substrate of harmful organisms such as mites, worms, nematodes, spiders, termites, earwigs...etc., etc. while leaving it micro-biologically balanced! Many bacteria survive this process and blooms of unwanted pests will not be as common as with sterilization! The whole substrate needs to reach a minimum of 160* F, but 180* F works faster and once the entire substrate has reached that temperature (use a meat thermometer,) 30 more minutes of cooking time is sufficient to ensure safe substrate. Use a standard kitchen oven for the heat and temperature control and a large metal container to hold the substrate. You can safely cook dry leaves, wood, and compost without fear of fire. On a side-note, most commercial composts and potting soils undergo a pasteurization process and are safe to use from the get go unless they've been sitting in a bug-ridden area.

Changing the Substrate: 


You should avoid disturbing millipedes that are burrowed in the substrate because you could crush them when they are molting. When molting a millipede's exoskeleton is soft and they are easily squished. However, if the substrate has shrunk in size, you see feces all over the surface, and it doesn't look like there's much left to eat in there you need to move all the animals to fresh substrate. I very gently scrape at the surface of the substrate and remove all the animals I find to a temporary container, placing large molting individuals by themselves and being very careful not to disturb them. I then dump the old substrate into a container and keep it there for several months to insure I didn't miss any millipedes or millipede eggs. I place new substrate in the enclosure, and put all the millipedes back in, being sure to make a shallow burrow for molting animals which I carefully put back and cover lightly with substrate. You must be extremely careful with molting millipedes!!! Exoskeleton defects typically arise in animals which were disturbed when they were molting.


Enclosure :


Nearly any escape-proof container will do. The most popular enclosure is the ten gallon aquarium/terrarium: large species enjoy a bigger enclosure but one can keep reasonable numbers of any species in a ten gallon. Keep in mind that millipedes enjoy some substrate depth (2-6 inches) and some species such asArchispirostreptus gigas love to climb. To an extent, bigger is better! Certainly larger species will require more room. 


Also bear in mind that fungus gnats and fruit flies may become a problem, so airtight containers in which a hole is cut and fine mesh screen is installed are best for YOUR don't want gnats breeding in the millipede cage and flying all over the house. Using a gnat-proof container will keep gnats out of the millipede cage in the first place, and if the should get in at least they mostly stay in. Gnat proof is a non-negotiable in my book, since millipede substrate and fruits fed to the millipedes make the terrarium an ideal breeding ground for fungus gnats and fruit flies! Please read my Population Theory discussed on PROBLEMS for some thoughts on Fungus Gnats.

Humidity and Ventilation :


Ventilation is more necessary and a more important parameter than humidity. This is because millipedes can always burrow into their substrate where the humidity will be very high, but if the humidity above the substrate is also very high they cannot escape to a dry area if they want to and are then more susceptible to disease. Ventilation reduces makes the enclosure less favorable for microorganisms which can harm your animals, and prevents suffocation from Co2 and other gas buildup. Species originating in the deserts require more ventilation and therefore more frequent substrate watering than species from the tropics which love very moderate humidity of around 60% (those humidity meters are often woefully inaccurate!!). The best way to balance ventilation and humidity is to make sure the surface of the substrate stays moist for at least a week but that the sides of the container are never fogged with condensation. The correct ventilation may vary by species, but open screen covers for enclosures are usually unacceptable. If you want to use a screen cover, place some cardboard or cloth inside the screen to cut down on the ventilation experienced and at the same time keep the gnats out.


Temperature  :


Normal room temperature is fine. If you are comfortable then your millipedes are comfortable. Heat pads are usually unsuitable for millipede enclosures as they heat and dry out the substrate--the very place the millipedes would retreat to if the air was too hot. Lower than 65 is a problem for most tropical species and higher than 80 can be fatal for all species. 75 is a good target temperature. Bear in mind that keeping your millipedes on the higher side of the spectrum speeds their metabolisms. Lower; they grow slower.


Food :


Millipedes enjoy eating their substrate and any fruits, vegetables, or powdered food you provide. In my view it is very important to supplement millipedes with a variety of foods besides their substrate, but you should not feed more than they can eat--If you have several millipedes, one apple core is far too much. With experience you'll know how much to feed. Some foods that are readily eaten include cucumbers, apples, pears, melons, berries, fruits, carrots, mushrooms, potatoes, and even rose petals (make sure they have been washed and are free of insecticide.) Apple cores, melon rinds, fruit pits, avacado skins (they eat the leftover meat), etc. which would be tossed otherwise are great food. Although millipedes are decomposers, its best to feed them fresh food, and then let the food decompose for awhile in the enclosure before removing it. Leaving food in for 2 days before removal is usually fine, but depending on how many millipedes you have and how much food you feed you may be able to put food in and never take it out. But if food is rotting in a stinky sort of way its time to take it out. This balance is found by trial and error, and experienced keepers have no trouble with feeding--sometimes less is more. Millipedes will also readily consume dry protein: dry fish, dog, or cat food should be added on occasion. In summary, feeding your animals something besides the substrate will help keep them healthy.




None needed--well, at least you don't need to provide a water bowl. Millipedes get moisture through the food they eat and their environment--make sure the substrate it is moist, but not too wet. A dry top surface is OK and much better than having a pool of standing water at the bottom of the terrarium. Only if you are attempting to combat a fungal or mite problem (and place the animals in a small cage with dry paper towels and a cap of water) should you offer water.


Decorations :


None needed! Your millipedes will appreciate it if you spend your time and money preparing a nutritious substrate. However, indoor plants can be added to the enclosure or whatever you like! Avoid rocks. Keep anything heavier than a few ounces out of enclosures with baby millipedes as heavy objects can crush baby millipedes, or even adult millipedes like pancakes when they molt (it is very sad!). Ensure plant have low light requirements, are inexpensive and not poisonous since the millipedes could eat them. Use common sense.


Light :


Millipedes are mostly nocturnal and run from light! You can provide some light for low-light live plants, such as the jade succulent, but limit it to a few hours a day, watch the heat from the bulbs, and don't expect to see millipedes during this time. If you want to see your millipedes out and about you should take a look after the enclosure has been in total darkness for a few hours for best results.

Additional Resources  :


McMonigle, Orin. Giant Millipedes. Elytra & Antenna, 2005. Print. (There is an AWESOME new book by this author. Search Amazon.)
Sigling, Shurá. Millipedes - Professional Breeder's Series. Frankfurt am Main (Germany): Chimaira Buchhandelsgesellschaft mbH, 2010. Print.


Click here :

Giant Rainforest Millipedes - CARE VIDEO - Diplopoda Rhinocridae

Millipede Care

3- Millipedes (Life Cycles) 


by Donna Schaffer 

Further Reading : 


Click on the book title to guide to the book sources ..

Befire that try to search by Book Finder finder .com 

Sample of Millipede Care :


Caring for Your New Giant African Millipede

Aqualand's tips on keeping Archispirostreptus gigas 


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Millipedes grow great on pelleted foods.

Giant African Millipede Factoids

Origin  :Africa

Size  :Blacks 12+ inches, oranges slightly smaller

Temp  :Room temp fine

Humidity  :Needs good humidity

Water  : Shallow water bowl

Attitude  :Lackadaisical

Substrate  : Immaterial

Security  :Likes a hiding place 

Foods  : Feed pelleted foods 

Supplement  : None 

Lighting  : Immaterial.  Prefers low light.

Giant millipedes ball up when threatened.  Note the color variation.  He's a "black."

Origins:  Out of Africa.  But that’s a pretty big place.  We’re not sure where giant millipedes come from exactly.  Since different colors appear from time to time, they probably come from different regions.  One source says grasslands; another says tall, equatorial forests -- quite a range there.  No point in obsessing. 


Info from Adam Southard, Hillsboro, OR, June 30, 2005
I hit your page on the web. In case you’re interested, your Giant African Millipedes are from the Congo Basin.  It’s warm.  Lots of fruit falls to the ground (mangos, star fruit, monkey fruit, breadfruit, papaya). It’s humid and rains constantly and the things are extremely common.
They’re harmless, so no one hurts them. But they smell bad so no one really picks them up either.


Here's an index finger for size comparison with these orange giant millipedes.

Size:  Black giant millipedes exceed a foot in length.  The oranges, often called pumpkins, never seem to grow that large.  They all get along together

Giant millipedes like ZuPreem's hook bill formula.

Foods:  When we first tried (unsuccessfully) giant millipedes, our research books said to keep them moist and feed them decaying vegetation.  They never fared well at all.  They now live very well when fed pelleted foods -- iguana, turtle, even bird food.  They greedily devour cucumbers (except the peels).  The pellets are easiest to feed and keep clean.  Decaying vegetation makes a poor display and evidently a poor diet.

Giant millipedes jump on these cucumber slices faster than the pelleted foods.  This end eats.

Giant millipedes eat watermelon out of your fingers but still prefer the cucumbers.

Natural Food:  Apparently giant millipedes really enjoy sliced cucumbers.  We get the impression they’ll eat about anything you might put on a Subway sandwich.

Supplements:  Commercial pelleted foods contain lots more nutrition than decayed vegetation.  Giant millipedes need no supplements.  You might try different brands -- just for variety.

Typical daytime activity for giant millipedes -- unless misted.

Much more active under low light and no light.

They show very well over white gravel.

Keep Covered:  Giant millipedes weigh too much to climb the glass.  You would not think they could climb out.  Think again.



Security:  Obviously these guys crawled out from under a rock.  A flat piece of bark will work fine.  Or a rock.  Giant millipedes don’t demand a hiding spot, but will use it.  You’ll often find them under their food or water bowl

Attitude.  During the day, they curl up and take long “giant millipedenaps.”  They scuttle about more at night.


Lighting:  Since pedes work the night shift, they need no special lighting.  Actually, giant millipedes prefer dim lighting.


Heat:  None needed.

Shredded wood works as their substrate and can be cleaned in hot water or tossed out.

Substrate:  Use sand, gravel, peat moss, shredded bark, coconut husks, or any comparable material -- just pick a contrasting color that shows off your giant millipede.  Avoid pine and cedar.  You can use dirt, but water and dirt don’t mix well.  Well, they mix but make a muddy mess.

Somehow, giant millipedes manage to reach the top.  Keep yours well covered.

These black giant millipedes like to climb upright pieces of wood.

Décor:  Provide something for your giant millipede to crawl upon -- rocks, driftwood, decorative fake plants.  They like to climb.


Water:  Provide a shallow drinking bowl.  And, as you might expect from something that looks like it came from underneath a rock, they like moist conditions.  Giant millipedes really appreciate a daily misting.  It seems to re-charge their batteries.

Some giant millipedes drink out of bowls.  Most get along on the drops from their daily misting

Giant millipede simply do not argue -- even when crowded.

They seem to like each other

Mixers?  They get along fine with other giant millipedes.

Lots and lots of legs -- but not quite a thousand.  Four per (segment minus10) for the total.

Handling?  Giant millipedes don’t bite, but they may “spit” a bit of goo on your fingers.  Actually, this goo comes out their back end.  It’s not really spit.  One source says this liquid “should never be eaten or applied to the eyes.”  Good advice, Doc.






Kids?  If you have children in the house, boys will enjoy chasing girls with a giant millipede.  Boys enjoy this exercise more than the girls (or the millipede).











Other Uses:  Breakfast snack on TV’s Fear Factor.

Another giant millipede coupling.  Note the little blob they're swapping.  No babies yet.

Giant millipedes prefer to loaf during the day.

Breeding:   Un-observed by us.  Apparently a very easy process when you keep them uncrowded.

Here's one giant millipede giving another a back rub.  Can you see their cleaner mites?

Here you see two giant millipedes copulating.  Note the tiny blob.

Here you see another pair copulating.

Check out the tiny mites on the black guy.  They move so fast, they blur out.

Cooties?  Tiny motile mites run all over these big guys.  The little guys apparently clean the big guys. 





Canada Info.  You cannot legally own an African giant millipede in Canada without a federal permit.  We’re not the only country with stupid laws, eh?

Which end of the giant millipede eats?

This end eats.

Cuke slice after about 35 minutes with the giant millipedes.

No matter how long you keep them, giant millipedes still curl when you pick them up.

Nice colony of milipedes.

Now we're seeing these smaller reds, rainbows, psychedelics.

You can mist them or dip them in water daily.

In Summary:  All of a sudden, we’re seeing an increase in the availability of strange bugs.  We hope you enjoy the little creepy crawlers  

Florida "red" millipede.

Sheds his entire skin at same time.

Likes the pelleted bird food.

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