Madagascar hissing cockroaches – sometimes referred to as “hissers” or “maddies” by enthusiasts – are hard-shelled, flightless insects that are native to the island of Madagascar…
…and they’re cockroaches.
Whilst that can be instantly off-putting to many, for those with an interest in unusual pets, maddies are a great choice.
Size and appearance
One of the larger species of cockroach, full-grown maddies regularly reach a length of 2 to 3 inches. They have hard chitinous shells and, in the males, a small pair of horns growing from the front of these.
Madagascar hissing cockroaches are social insects that live in colonies and have seemingly complex interactions with one another. The hissing noise comes from air blown through spiracles on the sides of their abdomens. Occasionally, an entire colony of maddies will hiss in time with one another. Whilst we don’t know the reason for this form of communication, it is certainly a unique sound to encounter.
They are vegetarian and entirely non-aggressive. They do not bite or pinch, though they can make a loud hissing noise if you surprise or disturb them.
Madagascar hissing cockroaches are long-lived by insect standards, living anywhere between three and five years in captivity, given proper pet care and attention.
A large aquarium is all you really need to house your roaches. Unlike other species, Madagascar hissing cockroaches cannot climb up a smooth glass surface, so there is little chance of them escaping.
Maddies love to climb, so throw in some bits of driftwood, and maybe even a couple of live plants so that they have plenty of room to explore.
As they can’t climb vertical walls, make sure your aquarium is wide, rather than tall, with plenty of horizontal space for them.
Maddies are not fussy eaters, being satisfied with most leafy, green vegetables, mixed with some harder food – peaches, apples, celery – for variety. A particular favourite of this species is the humble carrot. A shallow dish of water with a sponge in it (so the cockroach can get out of the water, if it cannot get back over the side) is more than enough, as they take most of their water in with their food.
And there you have it – beautiful, social, and fascinating insects that are easy to keep and feed, and require a minimum of maintenance. Why not start raising your own colony of maddies?