Praying mantis is a wonderful pet. Keeping one is a great way to see the world of insects first-hand.
Those who are considering adopting a mantis for the first time usually want to know – what do I need in order to keep a praying mantis as a pet?
Well, to start with, you will need to ensure the praying mantis has a suitable habitat to live in. This is very important, but luckily, it’s not too difficult.
This guide covers everything you need in order to set up a mantis habitat in your own home.
To start building a habitat for your praying mantis, you’ll obviously need an enclosure first. Luckily, finding an enclosure suitable for a mantis is really not that difficult.
You can buy a ready-made terrarium, or you can have fun building your own enclosure.
Things that can work for housing a mantis:
- A terrarium
- A repurposed aquarium
- Glass container (any shape)
- Plastic containers
- Large plastic or glass cups or even wide-mouthed bottles
- Wire cage
- Little tents made of mesh
- A room in your house (not for everyone, but it can work)
As you can see, there are a lot of options. Still, this doesn’t mean you can just drop your mantis into any container. Here are some basic principles to follow when choosing housing for your mantis:
The enclosure size is the most important factor when choosing an enclosure for your praying mantis. It is usually recommended to choose an enclosure that is at least three times as long as your mantis.
Ensure there is also a decent width and height so your new insect pet can move around freely. In general, mantis don’t need a lot of space, but they won’t suffer if their enclosure is too big.
So you can go as big as you want. Just keeping in mind, the bigger the enclosure the harder it will be to locate your mantis.
If you are considering keeping more than 1 praying mantis together in an enclosure, you’ll need to provide as much space as possible.
Just keep in mind that this is usually not recommended and works only for some species. Mantids generally enjoy having their own housing they don’t have to share.
Younger mantis will obviously need smaller enclosures than adult mantis that has reached its full size. However, if you choose to use something small for their housing, like a cup, you will need to upgrade as the insect grows.
Ventilation and Humidity
Just like any insect, mantis, of course, needs air, so it’s important to ensure proper air circulation inside the container. If you are using a solid container, you can often achieve this by closing the top of the container with a mesh screen.
If you think the container needs better air circulation, you can poke small holes on the side.
Every species of mantis needs specific levels of humidity to survive. We’ll talk about that more later, but for now we need to say that more airflow will reduce the humidity inside the enclosure more quickly.
So, lots of ventilation holes will be good for mantis species that prefer dry conditions. However, most mantis species prefer high humidity conditions, so you probably don’t want to make the enclosure too drafty.
Every species of mantis also needs a specific temperature in order to live. While many species of mantis can survive at room temperature, with some exotic species you might need to regulate the temperature in the enclosure.
An easy DIY solution for warming up an enclosure is by using a lightbulb. Keep in mind that it needs to be a simple, old-school light bulb and not a LED or other energy-saving light bulb.
This is because the ‘classic’ light bulbs produce heat, while the newer ones don’t. For a more professional solution, heating mats or cables made specifically for this purpose can be purchased.
Do mantises need a substrate in their enclosures? Well, they don’t technically need it to survive, but it certainly helps, at least in most cases.
The word ‘substrate’ refers to anything you will put on the bottom of your enclosure. You can use various materials as your substrate.
In any case, its key role is to retain humidity within the enclosure. Water will get trapped in the substrate and slowly evaporate from there, thus keeping the humidity levels more stable.
Things you can use as substrate in your mantis enclosure:
- Coconut fibre
- Potting soil, compost, or peat
- Tissue paper
Whatever you choose to use, make sure it is free from any chemicals or fertilizers (if using potting soil). Mantis are gentle creatures and this could hurt them.
The choice of substrate really doesn’t matter in most cases. Just use whatever you have available, or what you like more visually.
Over time, you can experiment with different substrates and see what works for you. Potting soil, for example, looks natural, but is a bit messy.
For a simple and easy solution (although not so pretty) simply use a couple of layers of paper towels.
Now that your mantis has a house, it needs some furniture too. Mantis like to perch on various objects when they are resting or stalking prey.
They also appreciate being able to fade into the background, so make sure there are some leaves or something similar in there.
You can use real branches and twigs you find outside. Reeds or dry plants and flowers also work great. If that’s not an option, you can also use plastic branches and leaves.
Whatever you choose, take a moment to consider whether the object is safe for a mantis. Again, there should be no insecticides or other chemicals. We also don’t recommend using glue for objects in the enclosure.
Again, those objects should provide space for the mantis to stand on. Many mantis also like to hang upside down when molting, so you should ensure there is an opportunity for that.
Try to make the objects as stable as possible to avoid hurting the mantis.
A Spray Bottle
To keep the humidity inside the mantis habitat at acceptable levels, you will need a simple spray bottle. Again, every mantis species has unique requirements, so you’ll have to do some research to figure out what’s optimal.
Some species live in tropical rain forests where humidity is incredibly high, while others live in dry conditions.
In any case, you’ll need to spray the enclosure with water periodically. For many species, spraying once per day is appropriate, while others will need more or less than that.
This will also depend on how well your enclosure is ventilated, the substrate you have used, and the temperature in the room.
If you want to get really professional, or you suspect something is wrong in your enclosure, you can measure the humidity inside using a hygrometer. This will show you the exact levels of humidity in the air.
Humidity can be increased by spraying water more often, and it can be decreased by increasing ventilation.
As you have seen, creating a mantis habitat is not too difficult. In fact, in most cases you can make do with various household objects – no need for fancy equipment.
With some exotic species things can get more complicated in terms of keeping the humidity and temperature the way they like it.
In any case, always remember to pay attention to the safety of your new pet. There should not be any sharp edges that can hurt the mantis or objects that could fall and crush it.
You also don’t want the insect to be trapped anywhere and unable to escape. If you have cats, make sure that the enclosure is not accessible.
If you are using a light bulb, make sure that the mantis can’t actually touch it – this could burn them… You get the point. Just take some simple precautions to keep your pet protected.
I hope this guide has been helpful and wish you all the luck in your mantis-keeping journey!
Alright, that’s it for this article, here are a few hand-selected articles that you might also find interesting reads:3 Best Kind of Praying Mantis to Keep as Pets
What Do Praying Mantis Eat – The Definitive Answer!
Chinese Praying Mantis Owners Guide for Beginners
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