Horrifyingly Creepy Looking, But Less Dangerous Than A Kitten
Just the name of this creature sounds like a scary pet! It's giant! It's from Africa! And it's a millipede! That's like a centipede, but worse, right? Fortunately for creative and exotic pet owners, the giant african millipede only appears creepy and is totally safe. African giant millipedes are really not that scary once you get to know them. In fact, the giant african millipedes can be thought of as a large pillbug (or sowbug or rolly polly) but a lot more fun to play with. Picture a 7 to 12 inch pillbug that will happily crawl over your hands.
They Are Safe
First, african giant millipedes (Archispirostreptus gigas) are gentle, harmless creatures. They will curl into a coiled circle if threatened (they are too long to be able to curl into a sphere like pillbugs). And if they are really bothered, as a last resort, they can secrete a liquid from their bodies that can be irritating to skin. Some people are more sensitive to the secreted liquid than others and you don't want to get the liquid into your mouth or eyes, but that generally applies to all substances secreted from any pet.
And just to be clear, millipedes are not like centipedes. Centipedes are venomous, biting, angry creatures. For a comparison, millipedes are to centipedes as butterflies are to wasps.
How to Keep Them
A simple glass aquarium used for fish will make great housing for these pets. Because the giant african millipedes are so long, you will want to make sure your millipedes have enough room to move around and stretch their 350 legs. Keeping in mind their adult length of seven to 12 inches, make sure you have an aquarium that is at least 24 inches long and 12 inches wide.
Giant african millipedes live in loose loamy soil, so they will need four inches or so of peat moss, leaves, and sphagnum moss. Include a a few pieces of bark, twigs, stones, and similar forest materials to give them something to climb on and rest under. Change or add fresh soil to the tank every week or so and clean the entire tank every month.
Finally, as you may guess, giant african millipedes come from a tropical climate, so they'll prefer living in humid temperatures between 75 to 85 degrees. Spray their tank with water to keep the moisture levels high if you don't living in a humid area.
They Are Social
Some pets need to be kept in isolation from others of their own kind for their own safety. Not so with giant african millipedes. You can safely keep many together in the same tank. And if you do, you'll likely find yourselves with baby millipedes as they will happily breed in captivity. Giant african millipedes can live for 10 years, so you'll have plenty of time to get know your pet. When you do pick up your millipede, grasp it lightly without pinching it, and let it wander across your hands and arms. They don't move quickly, but do be careful not to drop them.
What To Feed Them
To further emphasis their safety, millipedes are herbivores. They will eat the vegetables and fruits that your kids won't finish at the dinner table. Feed them soft fruits and vegetables like cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, apples, bananas, watermelon, cantelope, honeydew, avocado, and similar foods. Cut the food into small pieces and don't worry about replacing the food for a few days. Millipedes like their food slightly rotted, again working to your advantage if you have some left over fruit and vegetables.
Giant african millipedes will generally get the water they need from the humidity of the air around them, but you can also provide them with a small, shallow dish of water to help make sure they get enough water, if you are concerned.
The only special care your millipedes will need is additional calcium in their diet. You can buy powered calcium from a pet store with which to dust the food you give them, or even add crushed eggshells to their tank.
Knowing how safe and gentle the giant african millipedes are may have taken away some of the scariness from you, but remember how awesome they look! There is no doubt the segmented body, shiny black carapace, and all the legs underneath a body that can be a foot long is an spine-chilling effect. But now you know a kitten's scratches can be more dangerous than these guys.
For more scary pet ideas, check out my other article here: