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My Wild Backyard and Vivariums

Crickets
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Crickets molt every week for six weeks. At their fifth week they begin to mature at 3/4ths of an inch and become ready to breed. The males chirp with their developed wings and females grow a long stem or 'tail' known as an ovipositor.

I use allot of crickets and buy them at 1/2" (4th week) to 3/4" (5th week) in a thousand count bulk every month, sometimes more.

I keep them in a large plastic box with a double door lid, leaving one side open. I cut the top off of the box they come in so they can get out and set it inside or take out all the crickets and the egg crating within, adding a couple handfuls of cat food and one or two cut up potato's and that's it. They'll also eat other fresh fruits and vegetables but you'll have to take out the uneaten excess after over night. Richer in nutrients and vitamins for them is fish food. I also occasionally treat them with dried tubiflex worms and blood worms. They eat it all almost as fast as you can put it in there so for bulk crickets, it's not terribly practical unless you go for a big box of koi pellets. They'll even eat dry rabbit/hamster foods and plain chicken feed. I mostly give fish food treat to left over crickets that didn't get eaten by a frog or reptile or when I've set a few off for breeding. The bonus being fish flakes aren't as bad as cat food about being a mess just for getting mushy if it gets too moist.

After I've used them all to feed my animals I order some more, compost the waste and clean the box out with just straight warm water for the next bunch.

Water Bowl vs Potato
With crickets I don't use a water bowl because it's just too much trouble. You have to use cotton balls or stones so they won't drown in it, if you use cotton balls they'll lay eggs in it and attract fruit flies. It can spill and get the cat food and cricket poop wet, attracting even more fruit flies. They themselves could drown in it and just make everything smell pretty bad and make a mess. A couple chunks of potato is all the watering and moisture/humidity they really need.

If you keep bulk crickets in dry conditions with just potato's for drink, they aren't that bad and don't make a big smell and you can manage to keep them without changing the container until they've made just a big mess of their own poop everywhere. The potato's will dry out rather than spoil or mush like other vegetables. They don't require lighting but do need at least room temp 70-75 that can be maintained by a heating pad. No greater than 80.

Open Containers and Screen Lids
When I use screen tops or open containers for crickets, I find it best to lay mosquito netting under the screen lid or over the open container, so fruit flies and small spiders can't get in. Particularly jumping spiders can get through the mesh of a screen lid very easily and fruit flies can pass through the holes of screening meant for house windows.

Fruit Flies
Even with the best conditions, you could still get an invasion of fruit flies whose larvae will eat cricket eggs, wet food, dead crickets and moist or wet poop litter. It'd only have to be three or four to become a nuisance, one female can lay at least 500 eggs. With plenty of moist food and no predators, you've got a little swarm going within a week, making any cricket breeding in that particular container completely unviable. To get rid of them, move the crickets to a fresh container and start over.

Hide Beetles
They also have a tendency to come with a dermestid beetle called hide beetles, which look like a tiny, hairy larvae who becomes a pretty small flying black beetle. They eat the dried cricket poop and body parts and don't really pose any problems except you don't really want any of these beetles loose in the house and you don't want to contact with the hairs or spines of the larvae as they can transmit disorders to humans from rash, dermatitis to gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases. Most of these hide beetles I encounter end up in the compost where they'd be more beneficial and I separate them out the best I can by cleaning my crickets, transferring them by hand from one container to another. The less poop and cricket bodies the better.

Breeding and Tank Keeping
I've made various sorts of attempts to breed my crickets without much success. It has either been taken over by fruit fly larvae or my first nymphs just never would make it past the second week.

I'm succeeding now however, with a couple dozen adults in a ten gallon tank with a screen top lid. I use about two dozen females to gather enough nymphs to last me until a second batch is ready in two different 10gal tanks.

Substrate, Lighting and Housing
You can use anything for substrate in a glass tank. What I've become successful with after different tries is gravel beneath four inches of peat moss mixed with crumbled sphagnum moss and gravel. I'm using coconut shells for their hides. I fill the gravel bottom with water to keep things moist with a 40watt fluorescent dome bulb on one side of the tank. Crickets are attracted to the heat of any bulb or padding and will get as close as possible to it over any other area in the tank so I've avoided using anything that could actually kill them like incandescents or hot rocks.

I put my breeding crickets in and just let them do their thing until they begin to die after breeding. I pick out the bodies but otherwise just let things unfold, making sure the substrate is warm 75-80 temp and moist but not too dry or wet.

Once there are nymphs, I can just gather the coconut shell they've collected inside of, and shake them off of it into a tank. I don't dust them with vits and calcium but I do feed them with high value foods like fish flakes, algae pellets ect with potatoes for water and a growing potato just to have a plant. They also like raw spinach and baby carrots for gut loading them with vits and minerals. Nymphs can pretty much last me all their stages as the largest size I can use is 1/2" or 4th week. Only my leopard geckos can handle 5th week to adults. The female lays about 728 eggs per.

Different Types
In a ten gallon with just a handful of crickets I've done everything from newspaper to aquarium gravel to the current one of peat moss. Of them, I liked straight aquarium gravel the least. It was easy to clean like newspaper, just rinse it out, but also seemed like I had bigger fruit fly problems with it without having mosquito netting, even with a hooded tank. Also, crickets don't walk so well over straight glass or slick plastic so the newspaper was an easy clean with using toilet paper rolls for housing.

Breeding with a Substrate Box
For breeding crickets with newspaper substrate, just fill a small container with moist peat moss and the mature females will stick their ovipositors into it right away. Give them at least over night before removing the container and replacing it with another. Use a larger container for nymphs to crawl into, place the box inside it. Keep the substrate at 75-80 degrees and conditions humid in the larger box itself. 70-75, ventilated humidity or nymphs will drown in the build up of precipitation. In about a week the first nymphs will emerge.

Just Keeping a Few Crickets
If you're not interested in the breeding you can use the same set up and just line the bottom with news paper, adding egg crate or generic card board like toilet paper rolls. Some food, potatoes for drink and humidity and you're all set.