Keeping a praying mantis… as a pet? Yes, it’s completely normal, provided you know how to properly care for the little guy! They look ready to karate chop you at a moment’s notice, but they’re actually docile, neat pets to keep. Here are the things you will need in order to take good care of your pet:
- 5 gallon tank (at least)
- Mesh wire lid
- Branches and foliage
- Food and water
There are several different species of mantises, so I encourage you to check out this mantis species checksheet in order to find out which type of mantis you are caring for. That being said, this is a very basic guide. First you will need to acquire a 5 gallon tank, which can be found at just about any pet store. Really, you’re looking for something that is bigger than your mantis– more specifically, it needs to be at least three times its height and width. Depending on the size of your mantis, this can be larger or smaller than a 5 gallon tank. Like any other pet, your mantis needs room to move around, especially during its time of shedding. The tank should also have proper ventilation, so you need to get a mesh wire lid for the top of the tank. Mantises also like to hang upside down by attaching to the grated surface, so it’s also more like a jungle gym for your pet.
Next you will need to acquire the proper substrate for your mantis. The substrate for mantises varies greatly– you can use vermiculite, which can be found in Walmart, Lowe’s, or some local pet stores; potting soil, which can be found in any store with a gardening section; or tissue paper. Ultimately, the substrate you pick needs to keep the humidity stable. Any of the aforementioned substrates are suitable, but make sure you check to see what your species requires specifically. This link will direct you, once again, to the species list. While you’re there, take the time out to check which temperature your pet needs to be at as well!
Your mantis needs more to climb on and explore than a boring grated lid. Gather some foliage and branches to keep your pet busy. These plants can be plastic or real, but they need to be safe and non-toxic– they cannot have exposed glue or any other toxic materials on them. While decorating the tank is fun for you and your pet, make sure they still have enough room to move.
Finally, your mantis needs to eat! The easiest and most accessible food for your pet mantis are crickets, and you’re in luck, because I’ve already written a blog post about keeping crickets. Crickets, however, are not the only option. You can also purchase other types of live bait, but whatever you do, make sure that the mantis actually eats the food. Several things could happen: your pet could not like the food, or the food could hide and escape underneath the foliage in the tank. Just stick around for a few minutes to make sure that your mantis is eating a healthy meal.
That being said, mantises do not eat daily– they sometimes eat every other day, or sometimes every few days, but do not go longer than a week without feeding your mantis. Your mantis’ water must also be safe to drink– use purified water and be sure that the water dish is not deep enough for your pet to drown in! Unlike food, they need water every day, so keep an eye on them.
Finally, in case you still had questions, this is a very reliable source for mantis FAQ. Also, don’t forget to consult the species list I have linked above!