All things equal, a well-formulated roach chow is a great choice for roach-keepers.
- meet all your roaches’ nutritional needs
- meet your need for ease and convenience
- contribute only minimally to conditions that can lead to problems
- gut-load the roaches so they’re more nutritious feeders
There are a few conditions, of course: It must be “well-formulated”. Too little or too much of any one thing, including protein, can lead to problems with the roaches. It can even cause problems for the animals that feed on them. It must also be used correctly, conditions in the enclosure must be monitored, etc. Broadly speaking though, roach chow is the convenient and safe choice among the food options for captive roach breeders and feeders.
Despite all these benefits, there is, however, a possible downside. Dubia roaches appear to do best on a diet of dry chow diet with a little fresh foods thrown in. How much fresh food? We aren’t sure, exactly. This is a matter of some debate. But for now, the answer is “at least some” fresh food – even if it’s just a little. Roach chow can and we think should be the base of a healthy roach diet, but there are some nutrients it can’t provide. Or, maybe it’s better to say that fresh foods provide nutrients in a way roach chow can’t. Whatever the case, there are some roach chow tweaks you can make to enhance its nutrition. Primary among them is adding plant matter.
As an aside, animals that feed on roaches that are fed fresh foods may do better, too. And this makes sense. What ends up in a feeder insect ultimately ends up in the animal that eats it. So, you want to feed roaches nutritious food not just for their health, but for the health of your animals.
So, what to conclude? Two things: First, roach chow may not be the “perfect food” for Dubia roaches. We can live with this, if it’s true. Tropical roaches may need fresh vegetation for optimum health. They’re adapted to the rain forest, and that’s the way it is. You can’t fool Mother Nature. Second, it means that you can take steps to improve the health of your roaches and the animals that feed on them.
We wrote this guide to help you do that.
What Is the “Next Level”?
NOTE: Keep in mind that we have ridiculously high standards for “roach health” and diet. While roaches can probably survive eating almost anything, we want “next-level” health for our breeders and feeders. When we test diets on our roaches, our gold standard for improvement is any marginal increase in productivity. And we mean any increase. Our definition of “the perfect Dubia roach diet” is the one to which nothing can be added to improve productivity. This is a high standard indeed.
So what should you do if you want “next-level” roach health? The first thing is to get set up with dry chow and settle into a routine. Read our roach chow feeding instructions for guidance on the basics.
Then ask yourself this question: Is your primary goal to improve the health of the roaches or the animals that feed on them? While not mutually exclusive, there is a broader point here that needs to be understood. We can help with roach health specifically, but we can only help with animal health generally. Reptiles, amphibians, arachnids, etc all have different dietary needs and concerns. We can’t address those specifically, and we shouldn’t.
If your concern is the health of your animals and your roaches are feeders only, the advice is to feed the roaches a well-balanced diet supplemented with foods that contain the nutrients you want your animals to consume. Take one example: Beta carotenes are important for good health in most animals. This includes those that feed on roaches. Therefore, feeding roaches carrots and sweet potato will benefit your animals. The bottom line is that you should determine what nutrients you want your animals to consume via the roaches, find what foods contain them, then feed those foods to the roaches.
Read on if your concern is the health of your roaches (or if you want to learn new ways to gut-load them before feeding).
Experimenting Is Key
Moving beyond the basic Dubia roach diet is all about experimentation. Branch out in search of foods and ingredients that work for you, your roaches, and your animals. This involves trying different foods and food combinations, observing the results, and making adjustments. Simple.
You can begin with something as basic as fruits or vegetables tossed in with the roaches. This is in addition to (and separate from) the dry roach chow. You can do this in any way that works for you, whenever it works for you, and with any fruit or vegetable your roaches like. Overripe fruits are usually a winner, as are sweet potatoes, beets, carrots, etc. The first rule is: “feed it if your roaches like it”.
The second rule is: “Don’t overdo it”. Don’t feed so much fruit or vegetable that your roaches stop eating the roach chow. Though this can be fixed by combining ingredients, as outlined below. And only feed as much as your roaches can eat in a short time to minimize moisture and avoid mold and rot.
This is the basic version of experimentation, and it may be something you’ve already done. Many roach-keepers throw some fruit or vegetables into their colonies when they get a chance. While this is all well and good, and we recommend it as a start, it doesn’t really rise to the “next-level” of roach chow feeding. This takes a little more effort. It involves tweaking the roach chow itself to change its nutritional profile.
The first step in roach chow tweaking is combining it with water. While simple, our roaches like it a lot. They tend to eat more chow when it’s combined with water. This has several benefits:
First, it helps meet the roach’s moisture needs in a more natural way. Water crystals are great, but they provide nothing but moisture and a “gel” with zero calories. This is wasted opportunity as far as we’re concerned. Why not provide moisture and nutrition at the same time? That is, after all, how it works in the wild. The natural Dubia roach diet surely contains more moisture than they get from dry roach chow alone. The foods they eat are likely not dry at all, but moisture-rich.
Second, adding moisture to roach chow makes it “easier” to eat. Roaches have little trouble breaking down hard foods, but many people report (as do we) that roaches generally eat more when their chow is blended finely as opposed to offered in large chunks. We acknowledge again that this is anecdotal, but it’s real in our view.
Adding water to your roach chow is simple. Just pour a bit of dry chow in a bowl, add water, then let it sit until the water is absorbed. Add water or chow as needed until it’s the consistency you want. We shoot for something like thick oatmeal, but you can make it however you like. Be creative. FYI: Our main concern with adding water to roach chow is that we don’t leave a wet mess in the bin. We try to balance our desire to provide moisture to our roaches via food with our lack of desire to clean out wet, moldy roach bins. You’ll have to decide for yourself how “wet” you want your roach chow to be.
True tropical cockroaches like Hissers from Madagascar are more productive when they eat fruit. We don’t know if it’s the sugar or maybe something else, but they sure do seem to like it. And, a good appetite is great for Dubia roaches. We recommend anything that increases their enthusiasm for food – within reason of course. Juice will do that, without a doubt.
To add juice to your roach chow, just substitute some kind of juice for water in the instructions above. That’s all there is to it. Choose organic juices if you can. Pesticides may concentrate in juice, and fruit like apples and oranges are among the most heavily sprayed. You can even mash or blend your own apple or orange, add enough roach chow to make a paste, then feed that to your roaches – if you’re so inclined. More on this in the next section…
NOTE: Be careful if you plan on feeding these roaches off within the next few days. Too much citrus can cause problems for fragile reptiles and possibly other animals.
Add Vegetables or Fruit
Also consider adding chopped raw vegetables like carrots, kale, collards, or beets along with the water. You can also add freshly chopped, blended, or pureed fruit if you like. Fine chopped apple, mushed up orange or banana, and just about any fruit you may have will do the trick. While our roach chow contains some sugar, Dubia roaches love sweets, and they like them even more when they’re in the form of fruit or fruit juice. Adding these even in small amounts can cause your roaches to eat their chow with extra vigor. Carrots, beats, and sweet potatoes all contain sugar, so it’s not always necessary to go for the sweetest fruit you can find. Remember – experimentation is key. Find what your roaches like, then find creative ways to provide it to them.
As an aside, we don’t often add fruit to our roach chow because it’s just as easy to feed it separately. We prefer adding juice instead of chopped fruit because it doesn’t seem to go bad as fast. However, we do occasionally mix blended carrots, beets, and other fresh vegetables with our roach chow. This increases the chow’s palatability and the roaches eat it up. They love it, and happy roaches means happy roach-keepers!
Add Other Dry Ingredients
We formulated our roach chow to be as nutritionally complete as possible. However, we encourage experimentation. You can add any ingredient you like. Did you read that cracked wheat is like Miracle Grow for Dubia roaches? (it’s not…but let’s just say…) No problem! Grab some cracked wheat and add it to the roach chow. There is no end to the potential for experimentation.
NOTE: Because roach colonies typically contain everything from newborn nymphs to pregnant adults, and each stage has unique nutritional needs, we purposely leave some ingredients in our roach chow coarse so the roaches can preferentially select what they eat based on their needs. We recommend that you not grind added ingredients too finely. We also suggest not going overboard on protein. Evidence suggests the health of cockroaches, including Dubia roaches, is negatively affected by too much protein. A reasonable solution is to keep added dry ingredients coarse enough that the roaches can choose for themselves whether or not to eat them.
This is also an issue when adding water to roach chow because the roaches lose the ability to eat preferentially when everything is blended together. This is why we serve our roaches blended roach chow only a few times per week. And when we do, we also provide dry chow on the side. It’s something to consider. This probably isn’t necessary in many (or most) cases.
You don’t need to go as far as we do to raise nutritious, productive roaches, but you can if you wish. We do it to avoid issues, and to keep productivity as high as possible. You can do it for these reasons, but also to provide super nutritious feeder roaches to your animals. It’s worth mentioning again that our standards are extremely high, and we acknowledge this. We don’t expect most people will care as much about roach health and nutrition as we do, but we think you can benefit from the fact that we do.