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What Are Isopods? Aha!

What Are Isopods? Aha!

Approximately, there are 10,000 known isopod species throughout the world. There are about 5,000 land species, 500 freshwater species, and roughly 4,500 water species.

Isopods are also called pill bugs or roly-poly. The term “isopod” refers to a creature with “uniform feet.”


What Are Isopods?

Isopods are a species of invertebrates (crustaceans) that include shrimp and crabs. They have oval-shaped bodies protected by pereonites. They also feature 7 pairs of legs and 2 sets of antennae. Some Isopods live on land and others live in the water, hence they have gills to help them breathe. 


What Isopods are

As mentioned, isopods belong to the Crustacean family that includes crabs and shrimps as well.

They range in size from a few millimeters to 15 inches. They are often food for other species.

An isopod’s body usually are grayish, black, or dark brown in color and are oval in shape. They are protected by 7 armor plates known as “pereonites.”

They also have short legs that are 7 pairs in total. They have 2 sets of antennae, one for sensing the ground and the other for smelling the air.

Isopods have gills and must breathe in water to survive. As a result, land-based isopod species must seek out damp environments.


Isopod Diet

Isopods are detrivores, meaning they feed on decaying plant material, wood, plants, and even animals.

When they consume decaying materials, they aid in the decomposition process, converting it to useful organic matter which may be used as fertilizer for living plants.

I feed all my Isopods a balanced combination of dried shrimp, potatoes, oak leaves, bug burger, squash, and morning wood. You can also feed isopods, cuttlebone, fish flakes (from a pet store), and solider fly larva.

If you’re curious enough, you can even check out an article about isopods eating apples to see if that fruit indeed is part of their diet.

Isopods are necessary for a healthy ecology, which includes all reptile homes and habitats.


Isopod Enclosures

Isopod care is inexpensive and requires very little maintenance.

In most situations, an airtight plastic container with a lockable cover that is sized properly for the number of isopods you want to cultivate would suffice. Inside the reptile habitat or plastic container, you’ll need a healthy substrate that’s around 2 inches thick.

I recommend utilizing ABG mix which has all the necessary ingredients for isopod culturing. You’ll need to offer some wood and leaf litter to give the isopods a hiding place.

Bark is the best option since they will consume it in time. Then you’ll need to allocate approximately a third of the enclosure to the “wet side.”

To allow the isopods to molt effectively, you’ll need to maintain wet living sphagnum moss (or any other live moss) there.

The remaining two-thirds of the enclosure is kept dry. To grow, they require extremely humid conditions, so keep your moss wet at all times.

Every 2-3 days, you’ll need to open the cover and let fresh air in. If cultures are stored in containers, you may even add holes for additional ventilation.


Terrestrial Isopods

The majority of crustaceans are marine-based, among the few families of crustaceans that have some land-based species.

Amphipods and decapods are the two other crustaceans with a small number of terrestrial species such as their relatives – crabs, lobsters, shrimp, etc.

Terrestrial isopods serve a vital role in many warm and subtropical environments by assisting in the chemical and mechanical breakdown of plant material, as well as boosting microbial activity.

Macro-detritivores, such as terrestrial isopods, are not found in the arctic or subarctic, although they may extend their habitat when temperatures rise at high elevations.


Marine Isopods

The isopods that live in freshwater and the ocean are called marine isopods. These isopods are commonly called crustaceans.

Many of them fall under the category of seafood people enjoy eating, such as shrimp, lobsters, and other shellfish. Other marine isopods live on large fish such as sharks and are called parasites.

Isopods that live in water range from tiny to very large.

However, their bodies are basically the same. They have two antennas, seven sets of legs, and a body that is in three sections.


Mating and Reproduction

Males will essentially follow females around because they are drawn to the female isopod’s hormones. They’ll want to get as close to a female as possible in order to give her their sperm.

The mating will most certainly take place without a ritual.

The eggs will migrate up to the female isopod’s abdominal area after mating. The marsupium will only appear once the isopod’s molting is complete.

The mating process will take a couple of weeks to finish. The eggs will refine during this phase until the eggs hatch from inside the brood pouch.

Female isopods can lay up to 10 to 160 eggs at a time. The isopod can hold on to the unfertilized eggs and sperm and fertilize them when she wants to, sometimes up to three years later.

Isopods do not have a specific time of the year that they breed and reproduce. They can do so a few times yearly.


Frequently Asked Questions about What Isopods are


Our isopods vanished. What happened to them?

Bright light is avoided by isopods. Look under the surface of the soil. Alternatively, overnight, place a slice of apple or raw potato in the dirt. Keep the enclosure in a low-light area for the best observing opportunities.


We checked on our isopods with a magnifying glass, and they died? What happened to them?

You need to keep the enclosure of isopods damp for them to breathe. If they are not exposed to moisture on a continuous basis, their gills will quickly dry out. Place the isopods in a shallow bowl with moist soil or napkin to watch them with a magnifying glass. When you’re done, quickly return the isopods to their natural environment.


Can I keep isopods as pets?

You can. Just make sure you keep a small number of them since they can quickly reproduce.



Isopods are unique crustaceans. They come in all different sizes and shapes.

They’re easy to take care and most have a minimum lifespan of 2-3 years. Which, for breeders, is a good thing.

In a three-year period, an isopod can reproduce thousands of new isopods.