A number of different cockroaches have recently gained popularity among tree frog keepers, and have proved to be easily cultured and nutritious. The bad stigma associated with roaches prevents many people from using them, but it’s important to realize that, out of the thousands of cockroach species on this planet, only a few dozen are known to become pests within the household. By selecting a species of roach that cannot fly or climb glass, it’s possible to contain and culture these creatures with little to no risk that they will escape and populate your house. Furthermore, the species commonly cultured for food are from tropical environments and require high humidity and warm temperatures to survive and reproduce; conditions that must be artificially created and are not present in most households.
The lobster roach (Nauphoeta cinerea), Turkistan roach (Blatta lateralis), discoid roach (Blaberus discoidalis), and Guyana orange-spotted roach (Blaptica dubia) are four common species that can make great feeders for tree frogs.
The lobster roach and Turkistan roach are small, growing to around an inch (2.5 cm) in size as adults, while discoid and Guyana orange-spotted roaches grow large, sometimes up to 2 inches (5 cm). If a colony of roaches is set up, the juveniles can be used as food for smaller frogs, while adult roaches can be used to feed larger tree frog species. None of the four cockroaches mentioned above can fly, but it should be noted that lobster roaches are capable of climbing, so care should be taken to have a secure lid on their cage to prevent escapes.
A glass aquarium or plastic storage container with holes drilled in the cover can be used to store cockroaches. Most people choose to use a substrate of ground coconut husk fiber, sphagnum moss, or fir bark, although some have had success using no substrate at all. Cork bark or pieces of cardboard can be used as climbing areas and shelters. Warm temperatures are required to keep these cockroaches alive, so store them where temperatures stay between 78°F (26°C) and 95°F (35°C). A small reptile heat pad can be attached to the outside of the cage if heating is required.
Roaches are a nutritious food item, provided they are fed well. They are omnivores, and will consume just about anything—which makes feeding them easy. A healthy roach diet should consist of fresh fruits and vegetables, such as oranges, apples, sweet potatoes, yams, carrots, grapes, and romaine lettuce. Dry dog food or oats should be provided in addition to the fruits and vegetables. If too much food is offered at once, it often molds, so it’s best to feed small quantities several times each week to prevent unsanitary conditions from developing. Remove old food at every feeding. Water can be provided with a moist sponge. It can also be helpful to lightly spray the cage with water once a week to maintain the required humidity level and keep the roaches hydrated.