African Giant Millipede

Scientific NameArchispirostreptus gigas
Common NameAfrican Giant Millipede
Care LevelModerate
Lifespan5-7 years
Adult SizeUp to 15 inches (38 cm)
DietHerbivore/Decomposer
OriginEastern and central Africa
TemperamentDocile

History & Domestication

The African Giant Millipede, hailing from the regions of eastern and central Africa, is one of the largest millipedes in existence. Although millipedes have been around for hundreds of millions of years, the African Giant Millipede has been increasingly popular in the exotic pet trade over recent decades.

Domestication in the traditional sense may not be applicable to the African Giant Millipede, but humans have learned how to care for and breed them in captivity. Their intriguing appearance, docile nature, and unique behaviors have made them a favorite among enthusiasts.

Size

African Giant Millipedes are among the most substantial of their kind. While they typically average around 11 inches, they can reach lengths of up to 15 inches. When unrolled, their elongated bodies, made up of numerous segments, are a sight to behold. Each of these segments, except the few located at the front and rear, has two pairs of legs attached.

Lifespan

In the wild, many factors can influence their lifespan, including predation, habitat destruction, and environmental conditions. However, in captivity, with optimal care, these creatures can live between 5-7 years, with some reports of individuals living even longer.

Breeding

Breeding the African Giant Millipede in captivity can be a complex process. Once mature, which usually occurs around two years of age, they can reproduce. The male transfers sperm packets to the female using modified legs. After successful mating, females lay eggs in the soil. It can take several months for these eggs to hatch, revealing tiny, white millipedes. As they grow, they molt and gradually darken in color.

Unique Features

The African Giant Millipede’s exoskeleton has a fascinating design, segmented and dark brown or black in color. Another unique feature is their defense mechanism: when threatened, they curl up into a tight spiral, protecting their delicate underbelly. They can also excrete a liquid that is harmless to humans but can be irritating, so handling should be done with care.

Behavior and Temperament

These millipedes are nocturnal, meaning they are most active during the night. They are docile creatures that generally spend their days burrowed into the substrate or hiding under logs or foliage. When they come out, it’s primarily to scavenge for food. Even though they have many legs, their movements are slow and deliberate.

Handling

Handling should be minimal to reduce stress. However, when necessary, it should be done gently, ensuring the millipede is supported. After handling, it’s advisable to wash hands to remove any secretions.

Grooming Needs

Unlike some pets, millipedes don’t require traditional grooming. However, their enclosure needs regular cleaning to remove waste and prevent mold growth. The substrate should be moist, but not wet, and changed periodically to ensure a clean environment.

Diet & Nutrition

African Giant Millipedes are primarily herbivores and decomposers. They feed on organic matter, like decaying leaves and wood, fruits, and vegetables. In captivity, a diet of leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables is ideal, supplemented with decaying organic matter.

Temperature

A consistent temperature between 75°F to 80°F (24°C to 27°C) is ideal. They also require a high humidity level, often between 75% to 80%, to mimic their natural tropical habitat.

Common Health Issues

Like many creatures, African Giant Millipedes can face health issues. Overhydration, leading to fungal infections, is a common problem. Ensuring a balanced diet is crucial, as malnutrition can lead to other health complications. Regularly checking for mold and mites in their habitat is essential, as these can also affect their health.

Habitat Requirements

A large terrarium with a deep substrate, such as a mix of soil and coconut fiber, is ideal. This allows them to burrow, which they often do during the day. The habitat should also have hiding places, like logs or foliage. High humidity is crucial, often achieved by regularly misting the enclosure.

Cost of Care

Initial costs include the terrarium, substrate, and heating/humidity equipment. Monthly costs would involve their diet and occasionally replacing the substrate. They’re relatively low-maintenance compared to many other exotic pets. Periodic veterinary consultations, especially if there are signs of illness, can add to the overall cost of care.