The Australian burrowing cockroach makes for an easy to look after pet that requires some specific, but easy housing requirements. In their natural environment, Giant Burrowing or Rhinoceros Cockroaches live in burrows up to one metre (about 3 feet) below the surface. They have adapted to living in cramped quarters, so virtually any small container will suffice. A fish tank or terrarium is ideal.
It is not absolutely necessary for the container to have a lid as the cockroaches can't climb or fly, but there will be less evaporation with a lid, and it will offer some protection from insecticides, not to mention curious household pets.
At the risk of appearing somewhat obvious - do keep them well away from all forms of insecticide including fly sprays and insect bombs.
In nature they live in sandy soil, but when in a container they must be kept in sand or Kritters Crumble. If there is any soil included it will compact due to lack of drainage and aeration, and the cockroaches will be left with mud caked around their legs and head.
A depth of 2 to 3 centimetres is adequate. A greater depth will allow you to control the moisture content more easily, as it won't tend to dry out so quickly, but your pets may remain buried a little more. Experiment if you like with having deep substrate up one end of the tank and shallow sand at the other.
It is critical to keep the sand uniformly moist (not just surface damp) - never allow it to dry out completely, or your pets may die of dehydration. On the other hand, don't water-log, or they could drown. Regular spraying/dampening will be required.
In large containers, it is fine to have moist substrate on one side and dry on the other, in order to give your Giant Cockroaches some variety.
Too much water or humidity may allow mould to develop. You can control this by alternately covering and uncovering the container. If you go away for holidays in summer, it's best to leave the container covered, so things won't dry out too quickly.
Providing the substrate is kept wet, your Giant Burrowing Cockroach will require no additional drinking water.
Inside their natural burrows the temperature remains about 20 degrees Centigrade all year. Their preferred temperature range is 18 - 26 degrees, so keep them in a warm place in winter. If the temperature remains consistently below 10 degrees, a heating arrangement in the form of a 40 watt bulb is advised. If it gets really cold, a better heating system must be implemented like a thermostatically controlled heat pad.
The cockroaches don't appear to mind whether they are kept in the dark or light but take care not to expose them to direct sunlight for long periods - this can kill them.
The staple diet of the Rhinoceros Cockroach is dried, dead gum leaves, which they collect from the surface. So obtain dead leaves from the ground or from dead branches. They won't eat leaves which are green or yellow or damp, i.e. any leaves containing moisture are unsuitable. They prefer leaves which are crushed, rather than whole. They also prefer the less aromatic types, although this isn't critical. A handful of leaves at a time will be sufficient, and discard old uneaten leaves from time to time.
They will also nibble the bark from gum twigs, and may sample a variety of fruits and vegetables, e.g. banana, apple, carrot, lettuce, potato etc., but remove any uneaten portions after a few days, or they will go mouldy.
If you do vary their diet, always ensure that they have their gum leaves as well - whilst common household roaches can survive on virtually anything, the Rhinoceros Cockroach will die without its natural diet of dry leaves.
Unlike pest varieties, the Rhinoceros Cockroach is clean (honestly!) and perfectly safe to handle.
They won't bite, but they do have powerful, spiny legs, which can sometimes feel a bit sharp. These enable the creature to burrow so efficiently that it can disappear into the soil in under a minute. They will usually remain on the surface, unless you provide them with a lot of sand. In this case they can stay buried for long periods, but they don't appear to mind being frequently dug up, as long as they are handled gently.
They don't usually mind being handled, and may even make a soft hissing sound when stroked gently, but please don't ever handle them roughly - this could kill them.
You may occasionally notice tiny mites on your pets. Don't be alarmed - these exist in a 'symbiotic relationship' with the cockroach - which is to say that both creatures live together for their mutual benefit. The mites help to keep the roaches clean, and they need to stay on a cockroach to survive. They are not harmful to people, so if one gets onto you it won't hurt or become a pest - it will simply fall off and die.
All in all the Giant Burrowing Cockroach makes for an interesting pet and very easy to look after.