Do pet isopods bite?

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Written By Charlotte Miller

In the last few decades, the world of exotic pet keeping has expanded and improved in ways few can imagine. That also means that many newcomers to the hobby are trying their hand at raising more exotic animals, such as isopods. Now, these crustaceans are kept for a variety of reasons ranging from tasty snacks for other pets to compost creators. Regardless, most of these people inquiring about raising and owning these critters likely have a few questions about them.

Namely, can they possibly be harmful? Are they aggressive? Can they bite and does it hurt? Fortunately, this guide is here to answer those questions and more, seeking to give you a guide on how to harmoniously live with your new isopods.

Do Isopods Bite?

Isopods are naturally detritivores. This essentially means that they thrive on a diet of all that is old and rotten. From old vegetables to animal wastes, they’re happy to put it all away. Because of their eating habits, however, they have developed fairly small, weak mouthparts that are more accustomed to softer foods. While some marine species may certainly be large enough to cause some damage, any isopod you find for sale will be much too small to properly bite you. 

So, the answer to our big question is technically no. An isopod will have no ability to break skin or harm you no matter how hard it tries to bite.  

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Their Typical Threat Response

Isopods are more built for defense than offense. Their durable, hard exoskeletons make excellent protection in most circumstances. Rather than pick a fight, they would much rather prefer to curl up into a protective ball and roll away when threatened. Yes, this is where their nickname of “rolly polly” comes from. 

While this response may seem somewhat amusing and cute to some, we would not recommend that you purposely and unnecessarily stress out any animal.  

How to Handle Your Isopod

While pet isopods may be completely harmless, it is important to understand how to properly handle and transport them. When they first arrive, you can expect your pill bugs to be shipped in a small plastic container between layers of sphagnum moss. To get your new crustaceans into their permanent container, gently shake the moss over their new home and allow them to fall in. Just try to avoid shaking so hard that some individuals fly outside of the container. 

If you need to carry them around for any reason (such as transferring into another tank or vivarium), there are better options than picking them up in your hands, which can cause damage to them. It is also an easy way to allow your pillbugs to escape. Instead, we would recommend transferring your specimens with a spoon into a plastic cup that has ventilation holes.

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Final Thoughts

Many people have a natural fear of anything that crawls. While some insects and crustaceans can certainly pack painful bites, isopods are just about the safest creature you can keep in your home. If you are seeking out isopods for sale, you certainly will not have to worry about them causing any damage to you or other pets.