Resource Center Menu

Millipede Care Sheet

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.

Millipede

Overview 

Narceus americanus

The millipede’s name means "thousand-legger," which is what they appear to be, although they really only have 200 to 300 legs and at least four eyes. They are gentle and easy to handle, sleep during the day and come out in the evening to eat.

Typical appearance and behavior  

  • Generally easy to handle; millipedes don’t bite, and they move slowly and have tough shells 
  • They are nocturnal (active at night) 
  • When feeling threatened, they curl up into a tight spiral with their shells to the outside to protect themselves and may secrete a foul-smelling and -tasting fluid meant to repel predators. Always wash your hands after handling a millipede 
  • Millipedes have a symbiotic relationship with mites, which helps keep them clean.  Never use mite spray as that is harmful to millipedes 

 

Characteristics 

Care Difficulty Beginner
Average Life Span Up to 11 years with proper care
Average Adult Size Up to 4 inches long
Diet Herbivore
Minimum Habitat Size 5 to 10 gallons

 

Habitat

Habitat size

An appropriately sized habitat, such as a 5 to 10 gallon glass aquarium, with a screen mesh lid fastened tightly with metal clips to prevent escape is recommended for millipedes.

Building your habitat 

  • Hideaway - Provide a hideaway to help your millipede feel secure 
  • Substrate - Mulch-type commercial material, dampened sphagnum moss, eco-earth and bark allow millipedes to burrow 
  • Lighting - Keep habitat away from sunlight; millipedes sleep during the day and do not like bright, hot lights; a low-wattage red or blue bulb will allow you to watch the evening activities of your millipede without disturbance 

Cleaning your habitat

Thoroughly clean and disinfect the habitat at least every other week for a single millipede or every week if housing multiple millipedes:  

  • Place millipede in a secure habitat 
  • Scrub the tank and furnishings with a reptile-safe habitat cleaner or 3% bleach solution 
  • Rinse thoroughly with water, removing all traces of habitat cleaner or bleach smell 
  • Dry the tank and furnishings before adding clean substrate and placing your millipede back into their habitat

 

What Do Millipedes Eat

A well-balanced diet consists of: 

  • Vegetables and fruit such as romaine lettuce, squash, carrots, apples, cucumber, melon slices and bananas. Avoid iceberg lettuce because it does not provide enough nourishment 
  • Apples and cucumbers are favorites, but everything must be sliced or peeled due to the millipede’s weak mouthparts 
  • Ground cuttlebone will supply needed lime salts and calcium

Things to remember when feeding your millipede: 

  • Feed once a day, as much food as they will consume in a night 
  • Discard uneaten vegetables and fruits each morning 
  • Water - Always have a shallow dish of chlorine-free water available; place a sponge or stones in the dish to keep the millipede from drowning; if a sponge is used in the dish it must be replaced often due to bacteria growth. Cricket quencher is another option to avoid possible drowning; it does not grow bacteria as a sponge will over time 

 

Millipede care 

  • Ensure temperature is maintained at 70 to 78°F and humidity is maintained at 60 to 70%   
  • Handle millipedes as little as possible; wash hands before and after handling  
  • Do not allow a millipede’s secretion to come into contact with your eyes, mouth or open wounds 

 

Where to buy a millipede 

Millipedes are available for purchase at your local Petco Pet Care Center. Please call ahead to check availability. 

 

Supplies 

 

Habitat mates

Millipedes may be housed with other millipedes of the same species. Do not house different invertebrate species together.

 

Health  

Signs of a healthy millipede 

  • Eats regularly 
  • Body is rounded and full 
  • Active and alert at night 
  • Healthy skin (exoskeleton) 

Red flags (If you notice any of these signs, contact your veterinarian.) 

  • Poor appetite 
  • Lethargic 
  • Fungus 
  • Dull shell 

 

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Health Issue Dehydration Symptoms or Causes Lethargic, shriveled appearance. Suggested Action Consult with a veterinarian.
Health Issue Fungus Symptoms or Causes Loss of appetite, white fuzzy patches. Suggested Action Consult your veterinarian.

 

FAQs

  • How many legs does a millipede have? The number of legs varies by species, but most have approximately 300 legs. 
  • What do millipedes eat? Millipedes like to eat vegetables and fruits such as romaine lettuce, squash, carrots, apples, cucumber, melon slices and bananas that are sliced or peeled to accommodate their weak mouthparts.   
  • What is a millipede? A millipede is an arthropod, an invertebrate animal of the large phylum Arthropoda  
  • How long do millipedes live? A millipede can live up to 11 years with proper care. 
  • How does a millipede drink water? Millipedes get a majority of their water from the fresh fruits and veggies that they eat, but their cuticle is also somewhat water permeable and will absorb water this way as well from their humid environment. 

 

Additional care sheets

 

Notes and sources

Ask a Pet Care Center store employee about Petco's selection of products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all invertebrates are potential carriers of Salmonella bacteria, always wash your hands before and after handling your invertebrate or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physician before purchasing or caring for invertebrates and should consider not having an invertebrate as a pet.

Go to cdc.gov/healthypets for more information about invertebrates and disease.

The information on this Care Sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian as appropriate.