8 Best Terrestrial Invertebrates to Keep as Pets

Spider posing with legs in the air

Ian Waldie / Getty Images

Most people not only lose their childhood curiosity with insects and other invertebrates as they get older, but they even go to great lengths to keep insects at bay. And yet, some people never lose that fascination and enjoy keeping insects, spiders, scorpions, and millipedes as pets. These are not cuddly pets, but they can certainly be entertaining and educational.

Before deciding on your new invertebrate pet, it is important to educate yourself on keeping insects and spiders. There are some critical factors of safety and requirements you should consider before choosing one of these pets. Also of note, some of these animals may be illegal to keep where you live, so check into your local laws.

Ants

Ant farms are an interesting way to keep insects as pets. As whole colonies are easy to keep and fascinating to watch, ants are truly low maintenance animals. The easiest way to obtain ants and start a colony is by purchasing a commercial ant farm.

Tarantulas

There are over 1000 species of Tarantula, and some are more aggressive than others. Tarantulas are venomous, but many species produce no more of a reaction than a bee sting. The degree of reaction will vary with the species, the person, and the amount of venom injected. There is a danger, however, of having an allergic reaction to the venom, including anaphylactic shock. Beginners should seek out a well-known docile species from a reputable source. A reputable breeder will help you decide on an appropriate species and educate you on proper care and handling. 

Owners must be aware of the potential dangers and liabilities of owning a venomous pet, but the dangers are mostly to the spider! Care is required when handling tarantulas, as much for the protection of the spider as the owner. Even a short distance fall can be injurious to a tarantula, and as tarantulas are quite skittish, their attempts to flee to safety can bring them to harm.

Stick and Leaf Insects

This class of insects is quite remarkable. They are of the class Phasmatoda from the Latin word phasma meaning phantom. Relying on camouflage as their main defense mechanism, most of these "phasmids" have evolved to look like sticks, twigs, or leaves. Stick insects must only be handled gingerly as they are extremely fragile. 

As a rule, these insects are fairly easy to care for, reproduce well in captivity, and are fascinating to watch. But in some parts of the world, some are considered possible agricultural pests thus importing foreign species is often forbidden.

Hissing Cockroaches

Hissing cockroaches are popular pets despite the bad reputation that cockroaches have, overall. These insects are about two inches long and are fairly sturdy, so unlike many other land-dwelling invertebrates, they are quite easy to handle. They are also very easy to care for and are one of the most low maintenance pets available.

Scorpions

Like tarantulas, there are many species available and the strength of the venom varies between species. While some species are highly venomous, the most common pet species, the emperor scorpion. Emperor scorpions are a striking blackish color and are an impressive 6 inches in length when fully grown. Their venom has been likened to that of a bee or wasp. So just like with a bee sting, a deadly anaphylactic reaction to scorpion venom is always a possibility. Scorpions are not great for handling, but they are not all that difficult to care for.

African Giant Millipedes

While they don't have the thousand legs their name suggests,—400 is the norm—these millipedes are pretty amazing animals. Reaching a length of about 10 inches, most are a dark brown or black color. They are not difficult to care for and can be kept in groups; several species can be kept as pets. Millipedes do secrete a mild toxin from pores on the body, so hands must be washed after handling them. Some people are more prone than others to irritation from this toxin.

Antlions

Also known as doodlebugs, antlions are the larval form of a flying insect. However, they stay in the larval form for two to three years, and this is an interesting stage. Antlion larva construct a cone-shaped pit in the sand and bury themselves at the bottom, waiting for an ant to fall into their pit. They are not very active otherwise, but kits can be bought for keeping Antlions.

Praying Mantids

These are exotic and graceful looking insects that are relatively easy to keep as long as you can keep supplying them with insects to eat. Mantids require a fairly warm habitat with a high humidity level and a steady supply of live insects to hunt for food.