Periplaneta americana Care

This page is about everyone's favorite cockroach, Periplaneta americana or the American Cockroach. It is also known as the waterbug, or misidentified as the palmetto bug (Eurycotis floridana). The American cockroach is the largest species of common cockroach (1.25"-1.75"), and is considered a peridomestic pest. The Periplaneta Genus is not endemic to the Americas and is an introduced insect. Reports of this roach living in the Americas go back as far as 1625, likely from shipping and slave vessels. This cockroach lives on every continent but remains in close proximity to human habitation and moisture/heat sources. They are most commonly found within the sewers and damp, warm basements throughout the world. Wild populations are considered possible disease carriers while captive populations are of no health risk if kept in clean housing. 

Periplaneta americana has a white eyed morph (picture above left) that has been in US cultures since the middle of the 20th century. Their are two theories about how this unusual mutation occured. The first is that they were mutated with radiation by a laboratory somewhere in the US. The second, and the one I believe to be true, is that they were found in the bottom of a Russian mine shaft. The ideal warm/damp conditions would be available in the mine and a steady supply of bat guano would have been an ideal food source for them. However no conclusive evidence for either exists.

Species Specific Care: P. americana
P. americana is an ootheca-laying species, these ootheca must be kept in a humid container that is above 70ºF to hatch properly. When I first started my colonies I would remove the ootheca and put them into a plastic deli cup without air vents. I had a 60-70% success rate using this method but now that my colonies are stable I let the ootheca in the enclosure to hatch. 

Because the American cockroach can live in most warm, damp environments you must be sure to take a few extra precautions in housing them. A container with a locking lid is an absolute must. A good barrier is also a must. Remember P. americana can climb well, runs fast, and is capable of flight! 

Checklist of items to have ready before your cockroaches arrive: AMERICAN COCKROACHES
1.) Plastic Rubbermaid style bin with a sealed gasket style lid.  If you want to show these wonderful animals off, a glass tank 10-20 gallons in size that has a built-in screen lid with a lock. These animals are escape artists, be prepared to seal any little gaps with hot-glue or tape. I personally use sterlite bins without a gasket because it's too cold and dry for escapees to survive. I use petroleum jelly in a 4 inch band around the edge and ON the rim to act as a barrier and a seal.  
2.) You may use eggflats but they do mold quickly in their humid enclosure. I recommend the use of corkbark because it doesn't get soggy or mold easily and makes for great decoration. These animals prefer it hot and humid, 75ºF-90ºF and 80%+ humidity. 
3.) Substrate. I always recommend substrate for moisture control and odor reduction. In a show tank a substrate is a must. What natural setting doesn't have dirt or leaves? You can include fake plants as well but be aware that roaches will eat live plants and they could be toxic to them. 
4.) A food dish. Keeping food in a dish helps to reduce mold and you can avoid misting the food by simply pulling out the bowl when you do so. 
5.) A water dish, remember roaches need moisture in either their diet or as a straight water source. You can use water gel or a shallow bowl filled with water and pebbles to keep the roaches from drowning.

P. americana will eat very little compared to other similarly sized cockroaches. However, you should always keep a protein supply (dog food works well) and a moisture supply (oranges, water gel, water) at hand in their enclosures. They are not very active during the day and unless you only feed once every week or so, you will likely see little feeding activity. Remove food immediately once it starts to mold or rot.