This care sheet is copyrighted by Topline Distributing.

Topline Madagascar Giant Hissing
Cockroaches Care sheet.


Keeping them healthy and happy

Gromphadorhina portentosa
Directory of Topics
  1. Temperature
  2. Humidity
  3. Floor Space
  4. Substrate / Bedding
  5. Food and Feeding
75 degrees f. to 95 degrees f.
On the low end of the scale, the hissers will stop breeding, become sluggish and will eat very little. As the temperature rises, the roaches become more active. Starting in the low 80s, breeding will occur and activity increases as the temperature rises. Above about 90 degrees, breeding frequency again starts to taper off and the hissers again start to become less active. In the higher temperature ranges, morbidity rates are increased in the colony.


Temperature for breeding colonies.
Those who raise Hissers as feeder insects, and those who raise them for sale, wish to maximize production within the colony while reducing morbidity. Our Hissers are kept at 88 to 92 degrees f. with considerable success. I have tried keeping them at about 85 degrees, which significantly reduced the morbidity rates, but the increased numbers of nymphs produced, with only a few degrees of extra heat, out weighed the increased number of deaths within the colonies.


Temperature for those less concerned with increasing colony populations.
When keeping Hissers for purposes other than breeding, it would be a good idea to lower the temperature in their enclosure below breeding temperatures. Hissers kept at a steady 75 to 80 degrees f., with 75 f. being the least I would recommend, seem to live happily enough. The males become much less aggressive toward other males and seem to defend their territories with less vigor. Females are seldom gravid in temperatures in the 75 degree range and may abort clutches if they become gravid. Hissers that are used for purposes of display, at lower temperatures, make for better viewing due to reduced, and slower, movement. Although I have no hard data to support this, I suspect that the roaches will live longer at lower temperatures due to reduced metabolic rates and significantly less fighting.

How much is too much?
In breeding colonies or pet enclosures, too much moisture is not desirable. So what is too much? Although extremely high humidity is good from a roaches point of view, and in the wild where one can just pick up and move to the next hollow log, not so in the keepers box!

On the plus side of dripping wet, there is easier molting and so fewer losses of roaches due to molting problems. The hissers love to bask in water vapor just as much as lizards like to bask in the sun. "Ummm good" they hisss... Gravid females are particularly fond of water vapor basking and will happily pick the hottest, dampest spot they can find to deposit their nymphs. Something to think about, regarding basking, is that not everyone wants to bask all the time. Like sun bathing, the roaches like to move in and out of high humidity.

On the minus side of the excessive wetness equation, there lurk a host of potential problems for the colony and the colony's box. Wet or even damp bedding or substrate is a haven and breeding ground for mites, fly larva, bacteria, molds and fungus. None of these pests need even the least bit of encouragement to bloom in nasty, and sometimes Hisser killing concentrations.

Misting the colony is something that I do not do. The spray, with repetitive uses, causes mineral build ups that become the foothold of problem organisms. Additionally, the dampness is retained by substrate, egg flats, and any other absorbent materials, causing them to deteriorate prematurely and sprout unwanted guests. Conditions like that are not good for your colony. First because you will not want to open the box to take care of your roaches... they may be neglected. Secondly, some of the pest organisms are roach killers or roach cripplers.

Too much humidity is definable and observable when it causes problems in the colony.


How much humidity is too little?
When the air is too dry (excessively low humidity), Hissers have problems with molting. Nymph clutches are reduced in number and often do not live for long after being born. At about the 3rd or 4th molt, juveniles are reduced in number again because of the difficulty in molting. Due to the prolonged time it takes the juveniles to molt, they are weakened and so become vulnerable to cannibalism.

The male hissers seem, in ultra low humidity, to become unusually aggressive with each other and I have observed them snacking on nymphs and killing females and juveniles that enter their territory. Gravid females have a particularly bad time during times of low humidity. Many abort their nymphs and appear to have little or no interest in making more. Female hissers die in increased numbers when the humidity level is too low. If you observe any of the signs and symptoms in this section, increased humidity may be the answer to the problem.

Floor Space:
A critically important element for Hissers.
Every male hisser wants a territory. Floor space, and it's configuration, are elements that determine how many territories there are in the colony, and hence the number of breeding males that can live in the colony. The floor space, because of the territorial nature of the males, should contain well defined areas that are defensible, attractive to females, and coveted by lesser males. I have found it also useful to make the floor space self cleaning, dry, and with good ventilation.

When there is adequate square footage, and all other conditions being good for health and well being, the colony will grow to fill the space provided. Males without territories rarely breed (but it does happen). Dominant males, those with territories, will kill or run off any male that enters their territory. If there is no place to go, that is not occupied by a dominant male, the life expectancy for excess submissive males is quite limited. When you start to see male, and sometimes female, hissers with their antennae clipped short, then it is a good bet that your colony has reached it's population limit for the space and territories provided.

Substrate / Bedding
What we use, how we use it, and why.
Topline's choice of substrate developed over a period of months. I had read all sorts of things, all over the net, about what is best for bedding in hisser colonies. Some of the substances were well accepted by my hissers and proved to be excellent as far as the roaches were concerned. Other suggestions for substrate were not. In the end, it was the fellow that sold me my first batch of hissers that gave me the lowdown on what I now consider to be the perfect bedding material. Before I tell you what it is, it seems prudent to me to discuss some of the things to avoid in hisser substrate and some of the qualities that your hissers will appreciate... you'll appreciate the info so read on.

Here's some of the things I tried out and discarded: leaves, ground corncob, shredded newspaper, office paper that had been run through a strip shredder, sand, potting soil, shredded coconut hull, wood chips, bark, and no bedding at all.

The hissers loved the leaves, loved the paper, thought the wood chips were fine, seemed to do ok with the bark, were not impressed by the ground corncob, potting soil, sand, shredded coconut hull and were less than thrilled with no substrate.

I, on the other hand, found that when cleaning time came round, the paper, leaves, wood chips, and bark, were almost impossible to get the nymphs out of. Additionally, all of these materials held water, compacted, stuck to the container, and got moldy and/or smelly. The ground corncob compacts, which is very hard on nymphs when the material is removed during cleaning, it holds water, and molds very easily and quickly if it gets the least bit damp. The shredded coconut fiber has to be removed one fiber at a time to get the baby roaches out of it. Sand is too heavy, sharp, or dirty. It has to be sterilized before use and damages nymphs at cleaning time. Potting soil is a nightmare...

Bear with me just a little longer as I explore the beneficial qualities of good hisser substrate. Most important to me is not causing harm to the nymphs and providing them with a safe haven. They must be able to burrow in to hide from possible danger, like a larger roach that would like to snack on them. The bedding needs to be non-toxic, not prone to absorbing water from the air, and when a spill occurs, it needs to ball up, catching the water and containing it in a hard lump (like some brands of kitty litter) it should dry out quickly in spill cases and not readily become moldy. The ideal bedding must be soft, without a propensity to compact, it must be easily seperated from the nymphs during cleaning times and finally, it should not be either expensive or hard to obtain. Hey! That sounds like really good stuff! Well it is, and you can get it right here in the "products" section of the Topline website. For those of you that have lots of storage space and/or need bigger quantities of substrate, head on over to your handy feed store and pick up a 50 or 100 pound bag of 'red bran'.

1.5 to 2 inches in the bottom of the box is plenty. Change the bedding when it has become about 50% roach droppings. If there are water spills, remove the lumps that are formed to avoid mold. Hisser substrate should be kept bone dry at all times.

Food and Feeding
Into every Hisser life there should be introduced a little bliss...
Have you ever seen a picture of an otter floating on its back in the water, a nice crab or shellfish on its chest, all four feet and mouth, full happy attention on the morsel as otter and dinner consume the existence of the moment?

The other day, while I was out in the roach room doing regular maintenance on the various colonies, I removed the lid from a colony box and saw one of my super-males curled up around a piece of carrot. He was cradled in his territory near the top of the egg flats like a hammock, on his back, all six legs and face working that piece of carrot. It was 2 or 3 minutes into the cleaning when he finally realized that something was going on!

Food is the door to Hisser Heaven!



First lets look at the items that I have found that they really like.

Orange slices, are high on the list; if you put orange slices in the food bowl, on a 'once-in-a-while' basis, the colony seems to get an energy boost. Females will often go ahead and have their nymphs within a day or two after being fed orange slices and general activity in the colony picks up. If you feed them the orange slices as a steady part of their diet, they seem to lose interest after a few days. The constant addition of fruit to the colony's dinner plate also tends to draw flies.

Apple slices; again, the fruit is appreciated by the Hissers, but again, they tend to loose interest if they get it all the time. As with all fruit, small flies seem to zero in on it from great distances. With apples, one should be sure to remove the core and anything that looks like it could be bug infested or bruised. The clean up of fruit is not for the roaches sake (they like it all) but to keep down unwanted pests.

Bananas; nice and well accepted by the roaches. They tend to not eat all of the fruit at one sitting and the resulting goo is sticky enough to be classed a glue. Nymphs sometimes get stuck and die. I think it better to feed the peel to the roaches and then to remove the blackened, dried out leftovers. Cut the peels into something like 1 inch chunks to avoid loosing nymphs to hidy-holes created as the peels dry.

Fresh tomatoes, celery, lettuce, pea pods, squash; all are on the menu! I'm sure that there are lots of other fruits and vegetables that are equally appreciated.

Oh Yes! Carrots; ambrosia! The food of the gods! Something that can be fed to Hissers that will never be refused, snubbed, or spat upon. Carrots are a good choice just about any time. Easy to prepare, no mess, tend to dry out rather than rot, clean up easily, and seem to aid in reducing any unpleasant smelliness in the colony.

In passing, I would like to mention that cucumbers are not a good idea. The plant produces in the fruit of that vine, a toxic and noxious substance which is not good for roaches. My wife, when we were first married and living in a small and ancient apartment, discovered that there were roaches in the kitchen area. Her answer to the problem was to leave cucumber peels and slices on saucers in the cabinets. The roaches moved to places unknown and never came back! Hey! I just tell it like it is...

One last point on the fruit and veggie feeding, wash everything carefully, cut away suspicious areas of the item. Growers of the produce tend to use various chemicals during the growth process, some are added after the item is picked or even after it is packaged, you don't want to feed those substances to your roaches. So much for fruits and vegetables.



Serious Protein!


Signed your Hissers.


Hissers like, No let me rephrase that, Hissers DEMAND a high protein diet that needs to have a substantial amount of animal body parts in it. Veggie protein is good, but if you do not supply animal fats and proteins, your hissers will get their fix from their neighbor or from nymphs. Rampant cannibalism in the colony is a sure sign that their diet is not cutting it protein wise. Part of what almost everyone that cares to comment on the subject have to say, is to feed hissers dog or cat food. Read the labels. If you are raising your colony as feeder insects, you must decide if that is what you want inside your carnivore or not. As far as the roaches are concerned, most dog or cat foods have good fat levels, and cat food usually offers very high protein. Again, read the labels carefully. As an aside; Crickets are protein fiends too.

Your hissers need protein, the kind and quality of that protein counts. They need a certain amount of fats in their diet. The kinds and quality of those fats count. One must give a grudging nod to the higher end dog, and particularly cat, foods. They have been the staple diet of many a roach over the years, but now there is something substantially better!


Allow me to insert this shameless plug for Topline's Roach and Cricket Diet. Rather than give all the particulars here, when they are already up on another spot in the website, I'll just put in this handy picture link.Toplines Roach and Cricket Diet

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