Interested in having your own colony of dubia roaches—one of the most nutritious feeders—for your geckos? Well, the good news is that it’s neither difficult nor expensive to breed dubias at home! However, you do need to familiarize yourself with what they need to proliferate.
To successfully breed dubia roaches a heat source, food, and water are all needed in the colony bin. It is recommended to leave a dubia cockroach colony undisturbed for at least 3 months for them to reach a healthy population.
Why would you breed your own colony of dubias if you can just buy them? Aside from helping you save on the monthly food expenses of your leopard geckos, there are a lot of benefits to keeping and breeding this roach for your scaly babies. Read on to find out more!
Is It Easy to Breed Dubia Roaches as Feeders for Geckos?
Dubia roaches are one of the easiest leopard gecko feeders to keep and breed because they aren’t noisy and don’t require special tools. They are also affordable and easy to feed and care for. However, they are not allowed in some states like Florida and have been reported to cause allergies.
Get to know more about this in later parts of this all-in-one article for breeding dubias!
What Do You Need to Breed Dubia Roaches?
The main component required in breeding dubia roaches is the colony container, also called the bin. Oftentimes, this is made from a regular plastic storage bin that is modified for ample ventilation and safely heated with a heater connected to a thermostat.
Below are the materials needed to make a breeding bin for dubia roaches:
- Bin with lid. A 10-gallon heat-safe plastic storage bin with a lid or an old glass tank with a mesh top will do. These are great since they have smooth walls.
- Mesh or vent. Fine metal mesh or aluminum vents allows for sufficient airflow.
- Mesh cutters. This is for cutting the metal mesh to the right size.
- Hot knife or drill. These tools can be used to create additional holes on the sides or lid of the plastic bin.
- Silicone adhesive. Use this to glue and seal the fine metal mesh.
- Heat source. A sufficiently sized heat mat is the usual choice. However, others may use heat tapes and ceramic heat emitters as well.
- Thermometer. Having this can help you monitor the temperature in the breeding bin.
- Hygrometer. This tool can aid in keeping an eye on the in-tank humidity levels.
- Thermostat. It is important to use this with the heat source to ensure that the temperature in the bin stays within the optimal range.
- Substrate. This is another optional material, mainly used by people who want to provide a bioactive enclosure for their live feeders.
- Harborage. Commonly, clean egg cartons are used as harborage or hide material. Other cardboard materials can also be used.
- Shallow bowls. Optional but recommended to avoid fungi growth on the hide.
- Misting bottle. Although optional, this can help raise the humidity levels within the breeding bin.
Pro Tip: Choose a dark-colored or opaque plastic bin to ensure that dubia roaches can feel secure in the darkness within the bin.
Now, that you’ve got your shopping list ready, it’s time to find out how these tools and materials will be used to make your very own breeding bin.
How Do You Make a Dubia Roach Breeding Bin? (11 Steps)
To create a good breeding bin for a dubia roach colony, 1) inspect the bin, 2) cut out holes, 3) attach the mesh or vent, 4) clean the bin, 5) install the heater, 6) connect the heater to the thermostat, 7) add the substrate, 8) place the cartons, 9) set the thermometer and hygrometer, 10) lay the bowls down, and 11) spray clean water.
Continue reading below to discover the finer details!
1. Inspect the Plastic Bin
Check for holes all over the storage bin to make sure that no dubia—no matter how small—can squeeze through them and make a run for it.
You also need to double-check the texture of the bin’s inner walls. Remember, it should all be smooth so that the dubias can’t escape.
2. Cut Out Holes for Ventilation
Some people cut out a portion of the lid with a hot knife while others prefer drilling at least 2 circular holes on opposite walls.
There’s no exact number or size recommended for these holes as the climate in your area can greatly affect the conditions inside your breeding bin as well.
In really humid areas, you’ll need bigger and/or more holes whereas drier areas will require smaller and/or fewer holes to maintain optimal humidity for your dubia colony in the bin.
3. Attach the Fine Mesh or Vent
Using some silicone, secure the vents or fine mesh to cover the hole. Hot glue can also work if you don’t have any silicone.
If you do use mesh, just make sure to cut it at least half an inch larger than the hole so you can glue it down properly.
Pro Tip: Make sure to use a thick layer of adhesive to cover the sharp wires or edges of the vent so you don’t accidentally wound yourself in the future.
4. Clean the Plastic Bin
You can use regular dish soap to make sure it’s properly disinfected or a highly diluted vinegar solution. Then, let them dry out thoroughly after rinsing them.
5. Install the Heat Source
Ceramic heaters, however, should be suspended from above to prevent overheating and melting.
Discover other options in our article on the best leopard gecko heating set-up.
6. Connect the Heater to the Thermostat
To ensure your dubia roach colony’s safety, the heaters must always be plugged into the thermostat (here on Amazon). Ideally, the temperature range in the dubia breeding bin should stay within 75–95°F (24–35°C).
Otherwise, they may become very inactive and stop breeding. Dubia cockroaches can also die from excessive cold or heat.
[Quote] Even though dubia roaches are great at acclimating to extreme temperatures, they may die if they are kept below 12°F or above 98°F for long periods.
7. Add the Substrate
In most cases, having 1–2 inches of substrate like coco fiber or a soil-based mix will suffice. Just keep in mind that having substrate can make it more difficult to collect the dubia and clean the bin.
8. Place the Egg Cartons Inside
Add enough cartons to cover ½–⅔ of the entire bin from the warm side. By doing so, you can provide a warm, dark, and humid area for them to take shelter.
Position them vertically or diagonally for easy monitoring. I have seen a few people use dish racks and book stands to keep them upright. You can also stack them on top of each other in an irregular pattern.
You don’t want your cartons reaching all the way to the lid. Otherwise, the dubia can use them to make a quick escape as soon as you open their bin. So make sure that there’s at least a 2–3-inch distance between the top of the carton and your lid.
Pro Tip: As an extra security measure to ensure that no dubia roach can escape the bin, apply a thick layer of petroleum jelly along the top 1-inch inside the bin walls.
9. Set the Thermometer and Hygrometer
Set them near the cartons where the dubias will be staying most of the time. Most breeders recommend using a combo thermo-hygrometer unit like this one on Amazon.
10. Lay the Shallows Bowls Down
Though some people just directly lay the dubias’ food and water directly at the bottom of the bin, this is not recommended. If these are always in direct contact with the cartons, they will get dirty and soggy pretty quickly.
Both of the bowls should be shallow enough so that even small nymphs can easily access them. More importantly, these bowls should be laid down on the cool side of the bin.
11. Spray a Bit of Clean Water
Give the cool side of the bin a couple of spritzes to help raise humidity. It’s best to spray directly into the bowls to keep the water contained and manageable.
You don’t want the egg cartons soggy so avoid spraying them down. Together with the heat and roach waste, the bin will become a breeding ground not just for your dubias but for mold and fungi as well.
After you’re done with all that, add their food and water—or water crystals—into their respective dishes, and then welcome your dubia cockroaches into their new home!
Finally, you have to consider the best place for the dubia breeding bin. If you have a reptile room, you can place them there as well. Or you can also just place them anywhere with a relatively stable temperature and humidity with a light source.
Despite not needing a light source directly shining into the breeding bin, dubia roaches will still benefit from getting some light during the day. For them to thrive and breed well, dubias need 12–16 hours of daylight and 8–12 hours of darkness daily .
What Do Dubia Roaches Eat and Not Eat?
Dubia roaches can eat a variety of food including vegetables, fruits, grains, and even rabbit food. Like most animals, they should be fed a varied diet. However, they should be gut-loaded with gecko-safe food items a week before they are fed off.
Although dubias are not particularly picky eaters, they do seem to have a preference for slightly sweet vegetables and fruits over animal meat and droppings—yes, they eat poo . Besides their frass, dubias may also eat other roaches—dead or alive—in their colony.
After being born, baby dubia roaches first eat their protein-rich fatty egg capsule. Then, they eat some of their parents’ frass which will help them establish good gut flora.
Below are gecko-safe food items that dubia roaches can be fed and gut-loaded with:
- Bee pollen
- Bell pepper
- Cereals (unsweetened)
- Dandelion greens
- Grain-based rabbit pellets
- Sweet potato
- Turnip greens
Some people say that oranges and other citrus fruits are a dubia favorite. There are even claims that they act as sort of an aphrodisiac for cockroaches but I have yet to find a study proving this.
However, it’s important to remember that the citric acid in citrus fruits can cause severe stomach upsets in reptiles. So if you feed your leopard geckos with dubia roaches that have just eaten tons of oranges, your gecko will be consuming that as well.
Find out which food they shouldn’t be given prior to being fed off in our article on human food geckos can and can’t eat.
Check every 2–3 days to remove uneaten food and give them fresh food once again. But fresh food doesn’t even mean whole fruits and vegetables. You can feed dubia roaches with kitchen scraps like stalks, peels, rinds, and cores!
What is the best way to give dubia roaches water?
Dubia cockroaches should have access to water or polymer crystals (here on Amazon) at all times. When giving dubias water on a dish, the water must not be too deep. Otherwise, dubias can drown and die. Also, fresh fruits and vegetables can also help hydrate dubias.
Orange-spotted cockroaches (Blaptica dubia), commonly referred to as dubias, are nocturnal insects that like to in dark and humid crevices. They will either burrow into the ground or hide in crevices that are pitch black.
As their name suggests, dubia roaches can have orange spotting and lines on their bodies. But overall, dubia roaches are mainly dark brown in color—much like most other cockroaches.
However, unlike other cockroach species in America the dubia roach does not normally stay near human dwellings. In other words, a dubia roach is vastly different from the American cockroach (Periplaneta americana) which is a common house pest.
Dubia cockroaches are native to Central and South America but have become a popular live feeder choice for people who keep reptiles and arachnids.
Dubia roaches start out in their mother’s egg sack for incubation, then they are birthed as live young within 1½–2 months. Then they undergo up to 7 sub-adult nymph stages before finally emerging as sexually mature adults after 3–4 months.
A dubia roach can grow up to 45 mm (approx. 2 inches) but they generally get to around a little over 25 mm . But different breeders use different scales to classify small, medium, and large dubias so be sure to check for their exact or estimated measurements.
Unlike geckos, dubias are ovoviviparous animals. This means that they not only produce protective egg cases (ootheca) for their babies but also give birth to live young nymphs. Each case can hold approximately 35 individual eggs at a time.
[Quote] Dubia roaches hatch from their egg capsules while they are inside their mother’s body. Then their mother gives birth to them by releasing them while they are still partially attached to the capsules.
The sexually immature dubia roaches are considered nymphs starting from their birth until they reach adulthood. Generally, dubia nymphs are what keepers feed their geckos.
Depending on how often they eat, what they are fed, and their environmental conditions, dubia nymphs emerge as adults after their final shed in more or less 3 months.
Now if you see white critters among your colony, they are not albino dubia roaches. A dubia cockroach normally takes on a white, almost translucent, color right after it sheds. Then as its exoskeleton hardens, its color darkens—from tan to a dark brown.
Once a dubia is in its last sub-adult nymph stage, you can start differentiating males from females. However, sexual differences of dubias are more noticeable once they emerge as adults. Females are rounder and have rudimentary forewings, whereas males are thinner and have full fings.
At least 20 dubia roaches—5 males, 15 females—are needed to start a thriving breeding colony. It is advisable to choose newly emerged adults as they can produce more nymphs than proven cockroaches.
Gecko owners can find live dubia roaches in their local pet stores and most well-known reptile supplies shops.
Pro Tip: It’s best to add dubia nymphs of various sizes to a starter colony so that the older nymphs can replace the first set of breeder adults you have after they die.
Once you have an established dubia roach colony you have to think about separating your feeders from their colony.
Most experienced roach breeders recommend doing this every couple of months. It is important to minimize disruption in the breeding bin whenever you feed off roaches.
You see, if the breeder dubias are always
Nymphs can be separated from adult dubia cockroaches using multiple strainers with holes varying from 6.35–50 mm or ¼–2 inches in diameter. A strainer with ⅛-inch holes can also be used to separate smaller nymphs from the frass.
At the very least, you will need 2 DIY strainers to sort the frass, nymphs, and adult dubia roaches from each other.
To create these sorting strainers, you will only need a couple of plastic containers and a drill with multiple drill bits. As you can imagine, these are easy to make. Just drill holes into the base of the containers and you’re done!
You can start with either the strainer with the smallest or the biggest holes. It doesn’t really make much of a difference.
Pro Tip: Wear a face mask and some safety goggles to avoid breathing in and getting the frass in your eyes.
Now, after you’ve sorted the feeder dubia nymphs from the breeding colony, you will need to house them in a separate bin. This bin is no different from the breeding bin, except for the fact that all dubias in this bin will be fed off.
Once you’re out of nymphs in the feeder bin, just collect some from the breeding bin again. After establishing a healthy colony of dubias for at least 3 months, you can continue sorting your dubia roaches every 1½–2 months.
How Often Should You Clean Dubia Roach Breeding Bins?
Keepers and breeders must clean the breeding bins of dubia cockroaches at least every 2–3 months, especially if substrate is used. This is done regularly to prevent the development of bacteria, mold, and fungi and avoid over-accumulation of frass.
Sure, frass can be beneficial to dubia roaches—more specifically nymphs. However, having too much of that will only make the bin really dusty and dirty.
Pro Tip: Replace the substrate and egg cartons every 2–3 months as well so that they don’t become the perfect home for harmful organisms to flourish.
As such, whenever you clean your dubia roach bin, be sure to wear the necessary gear—face mask, eye goggles, and rubber gloves for extra protection.
Using the sorting strainer with the tiny ⅛-inch holes, you can effectively remove the frass from your colony.
Others also use a nesting bin method. They remove the bottom of on bin completely and then replace it with a fine metal mesh. This is nests inside another regular bin of the same size.
So instead of always having to use numerous containers and strainers to separate the dubias from their frass, they only need to give it a good shake every now and then.
Is it possible to start a self-sustaining colony of dubia roaches?
Many regular leopard gecko keepers have successfully made a self-sustaining colony of dubia roaches using the same principles of bioactive herp setups. However, this is not necessary for breeding dubias that will eventually be fed off to geckos and other animals.
7 Reasons Why Should You Breed Dubias for Your Geckos
Many gecko keepers have decided to create their own colonies of feeder dubias because of the following advantages:
- Dubias are not noisy, especially when left undisturbed in the dark.
- Dubias cannot easily escape their bins because they can’t fly—only glide down.
- Dubias can neither significantly harm nor bite humans and other animals.
- Dubias are not picky eaters, they can even be fed food scraps.
- Dubias do not emit a strong or foul odor if their bins are regularly clean.
- Dubias do not require special tools and equipment to keep and breed them.
- Dubia colonies are not expensive to start and maintain.
I will be discussing these in more detail in the following sections so just hold on!
However, this doesn’t mean that growing your own colony of dubia roaches comes without any drawbacks.
Gecko owners may face two significant problems in keeping and breeding dubia cockroaches: 1) developing allergies and 2) state restrictions.
Though there have been reports of dubia roach allergies in forums for a few years now, the first ever documented case was only reported in 2021 . Such an allergy is largely underreported and, in turn, is still not fully understood.
Symptoms of dubia cockroach allergy in humans include:
- Nasal congestion
- Breathing difficulty
- Nettle rash or hives
People who have long been exposed to dubia roaches can still develop an allergic reaction to them. So it’s important to take safety measures such as wearing face masks when handling dubias.
Aside from that, dubia cockroaches are also considered invasive crop pests . So it is illegal to not only ship them across certain state lines. It may also be illegal to keep and breed them for personal use—as live insect feeders.
The shipment and breeding of dubia cockroaches are mainly restricted in Florida and Hawaii. But many other famous breeders can’t ship them to Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana. Dubias are also a no-go in Canada.
So if you want to find out what other alternatives you can get, check your local government websites. Other good roach feeders include discoid and hissing roaches.
Can Leopard Geckos Eat Dubia Roaches?
There is no recommended serving of dubia cockroaches for leopard geckos. But, these protein-rich roaches should be part of their staple diet, along with other insects like crickets. Leopard geckos require a varied that to grow and stay healthy.
Although a dubia roaches diet will affect its overall nutritional value, they are generally recognized as one of the best and most nutritious insect feeders available .
Dubia roaches are rich in moisture, protein, fat, and various vitamins and minerals (ash).
|Nutrients in Dubias||Content in Dubias (%)|
However, their exoskeleton can be quite tough as they have about 3–6% chitin as well. Adult dubias have higher chitin and can grow pretty big, which is why they shouldn’t be fed to leopard geckos.
Nymphs, however, are great feeders for geckos. Just make sure that they are no wider than the space between their eyes. In other words, only feed your geckos with roaches that are ¼–¾ inches.
Don’t feed geckos dubias bigger than ¾ inches unless they have just shed—they are soft and easy to digest as long as they are still white.
3 Ways to Feed Dubia Roaches to Leopard Geckos
Ideally, dubia roaches should be fed to leopard geckos alive so they get interested in their movement. Leopard geckos can be fed dubia roaches through 1) live hunting, 2) bowl feeding, and 3) tong feeding.
There isn’t really a “best way” to go about this. Each keeper has their own preferences and each method has its own set of pros and cons.
1. Live Hunting
When you let your cute geckos hunt for their food inside their enclosures, you are also giving them enrichment.
But dubias are quick roaches that like to burrow into the soil. So if you’ve got a thick substrate, they can stay underground and keep hiding from your gecko.
If this does happen, you can either wait until your gecko hunts them down or you can lure them out with a slice of carrot.
By presenting the dubia roaches to your gecko in a relatively deep and smooth bowl, you will no longer have to worry about these critters digging and hiding in the ground.
However, it may be hard for juvenile leopard geckos to catch them if their food bowl is deep. To help out your geckos, place a piece of tile, rock, or cork near the bowl so that your lovely leo has something to step on and help it reach its prey.
To keep your gecko interested in the dubia cockroach you are offering while preventing it from burrowing, you can use a feeder tong.
Make your gecko work a bit by letting it follow the tong holding the dubia and moving it around. Then set it down on a flat and solid area in the tank, like the basking tile.
What I don’t like about this is that it is more time-consuming for both you and your precious leopard gecko. Plus, you made need to train your gecko for it to learn and understand that what you have in your feeder tongs is food.
How many babies can a female dubia produce per year?
A female dubia cockroach can give birth to as many as 175 baby roaches in a single year. Of those nymphs, up to 120 can grow into fertile adults and produce 40–50 of their very own nymphs in the same time frame.
What is the best male-to-female ratio for breeding dubias?
Breeders and keepers have varying opinions of the best male-to-female ratio but the recommended minimum is 3 females for 1 male. Other common ratios include 5:1 and 7:1. The important thing is to provide more females than males so prevent fierce competition among males.
How long do dubia cockroaches live?
Dubia cockroaches, like most other roach species, have an average life span of more or less 1½ years. They can stay alive for no more than 2 years. Female dubia roaches, however, commonly outlive male dubias.
Can you ship dubia roaches to California?
Dubia roaches are one of the few insect species that can be shipped into and within California without a permit—form 526—from the United States Department of Agriculture. Other insects in this list include mealworms, dermestid beetles, wax worms, and house crickets.
Can you keep dubia roaches as reptile food in Oregon?
Reptile owners are allowed to keep dubia roaches as pet food in Oregon. They can also be kept as pets themselves and used in educational displays. However, a United States Department of Agriculture permit may be required for their transport across certain state lines.
What happens if one or two dubias escape their container in the house?
Having one or two dubia roaches escape their bin and roam freely in the house is unlikely to cause any concern or negative effects. Moreover, a pet cat or a house lizard may easily capture and/or eat them.
Summary of How to Breed Dubia Roaches for Leopard Geckos
More and more leopard gecko owners are looking into starting their own colony of feeder dubia cockroaches. This is because they want to ensure that their pet reptiles always have a supply of protein-rich live feeders.
When starting a colony, one needs a plastic bin, heat mat, thermostat, and egg crates at the very least. In the bin a humidity level of 60% and temperature within 75–95°F must be maintained, otherwise dubias may stop breeding and even die.