The 10 Best Terrestrial Invertebrates to Keep as Pets

Mexican Red-Leg Tarantula

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Some people like to have furry, feathered, or even scaly pets, while others prefer something a little less ordinary. Terrestrial invertebrates fit this out-of-the-ordinary classification, and there are options for pet owners who like to hold their pets as well as observe them.

What are Terrestrial Invertebrates?

Terrestrial invertebrates are animals that don't have backbones.

Although many of these creatures may be considered insects and arachnids, not all of them are. Crabs, snails, and other creatures are also types of land-dwelling invertebrates and can make great pets for the right person. Here is a list of 10 of the best terrestrial invertebrates to keep as pets.


Ant close-up on leaf
Ant farms are great alternatives to fish aquariums.

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If you find the organization of ants fascinating or enjoy watching fish swim around a fish tank, you may enjoy having an ant farm. Ants are not the type of pet you hold, but they can be interesting to watch and are very low maintenance.


Tarantula held in hands.
Tarantulas can be held but you shouldn't pet them.

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While not the ideal pet choice for many, tarantulas are still very popular pet invertebrates. There are several types of tarantulas that are kept as pets and some, such as the Mexican red-knee tarantula, can be very vividly colored.


Giant millipede
Giant millipedes have tiny legs that tickle as they walk on you.

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The sensation of a millipede crawling across your arm is unlike anything else and for some, this is just one appealing attribute of having one as a pet. Millipedes are easy to care for but eat fruits and vegetables. This means you'll have to take a little bit of time to prepare their meals; however, allowing the food to decay is actually preferred, so you don't have to worry about removing uneaten food every day.

Stick Insects

Stick insect grabbing onto a man's hand.
Stick insects are gentle pets.

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Creepy to some and intriguing to others, stick insects make unique pets. These skinny invertebrates are easily disguised among twigs and leaves on the ground, but pet owners may enjoy playing hide-and-go-seek with them on a daily basis. Stick insects that are not native to the U.S. may not be legal to own, but native species are.


Praying mantis on a hand.
Praying mantis make interesting pet invertebrates.

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Similar to stick insects, the praying mantis is not everyone's favorite invertebrate, but some people find them fascinating. They are very unique insects and are known for their unique mating habits; it is not recommended to house a male and female together. Mantids also only live up to a year in captivity, so they will not be a long-lived pet.


Large Madagascar hissing cockroach on a hand.
Madagascar hissing cockroaches are hardy invertebrates.

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To many, cockroaches are pests but to some, they are fascinating invertebrate pets. Cockroaches don't bite, and can be gently handled and pet. They make a hissing noise but are otherwise pretty quiet creatures. If you're looking for a fairly hardy insect, consider the cockroach.


Black scorpion on a rock.
Scorpions are one pet invertebrate that should not be handled.

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There are several different types of scorpions that are kept as pets, but none of them are pets that you should handle.


Scorpion stings can cause anaphylactic reactions in some pets and people, but if you want an atypical pet to simply observe, they may fit the bill.


Antlion close-up.
Antlions eventually turn into winged insects but while they are ground dwellers, they dig sand pits to catch their prey.

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Also known as doodlebugs, antlions are sometimes kept as pets due to their interesting hunting techniques. Antlions dig little pits for their food to get trapped in and wait for the prey to get stuck until they transition into their winged form at about two to three years of age. Once this transition occurs, the antlion only lives for three weeks. They are quiet and interesting to watch, but they do not make good pets for handling.


Snail close-up.
Garden or land snails make quiet and gentle pets.

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While Giant African land snails are illegal to keep as pets, garden or land snails are not and these little pet invertebrates have really grown in popularity. Land snails are quiet, low-maintenance pets that you can allow to crawl on your hand but make sure you never pick them up by their shell.

Hermit Crabs

Hermit crab on carpet.
Hermit crabs are popular pets for kids due to the variety of shells they live in.

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Out of all the terrestrial invertebrates on this list, land hermit crabs are arguably the most popular options. Hermit crabs can be purchased at many pet stores and even gift shops. While they are often seen in stores with colorfully painted shells, it's important to remember that hermit crabs will outgrow these shells. Land hermit crabs are a great option for both people who may want to be able to pick up and interact with their pets as well as those who prefer to simply watch them.