Beginners guild to keeping praying mantis
Tank size -
Most people start with a nymph depending on size of the nymphs depends on the size tank required. the recommended size is, height at least 3 times the length of the mantis, and 2 times the length for width.
Some people tend to keep them in little cups, but I prefer to keep in the Asda tubs. These are 14cm tall. They are only £1 each and can be made to look nice. Also, the mantis won’t need moving for a few moults most mantis species can be kept in these up to instar 5 and the smaller species like boxer mantis can be kept in these until adult.
After they have outgrown this size I tend to just move straight to big tank Morissons sell some nice tall plastic tubs for £3 each, and Wilkinson’s sell plastic fish tanks for around £6. Then just follow the same instructions for the small tub, apart from the fish tanks will not need the lid to be cut as the lids already have plenary of holes.
Setting up the tank -
Start with the floor. A tissue is ok for most mantis and very easy to keep clean. I find deadleaf mantis do better on coir with springtails, but this will need replacing at least once a month for small Nymphs and every other week for bigger nymphs. It is also recommended to wash the whole tank once a month, I use a very week mix of water and Milton like one cup full of Milton in a washing bowl of water. Then use a glue gun to fix twigs to the side going straight up and then across the top. You can add a fake plant or leaves, just make sure to leave enough space to be able to clean the tank easily and they are all high up. So there is room enough for the mantis to moult.
Finally, sort the lid cut a big square in the top using a knife or soldering iron. Using the glue gun fix a mesh to the top, this help with spraying and for the mantis to hang from when moulting. If feeding fruit flies make sure the holes in the mash are not too big.
Feeding mantis -
This will depend greatly on the species, but as I rough idea, unless they are the really small species of mantis, most will feed on the larger sized fruit flies from instar 1. I tend to feed these up to instar 3/4 then move on to house flies, you can buy pinky maggots from local fishing shops and leave in a pot until they turn into cocoons, for ease you can place these straight into the tank. I put 2 in every other day, keep the spare in a fridge. After instar 6 you can go on to blue bottles which are the white maggots from fishing shops. Of course, if your keeping one of the bigger species of mantis the nymphs will feed earlier on the bigger flies. You can also buy other types of food. Hoppers are ok but only give one at a time, and make sure the mantis eats it. Never leave one in overnight as if the mantis starts to moult there is a good chance the hopper will kill the mantis. Moths are another choice, which you can buy as a larva in reptile shops.
As a guide don’t feed anything bigger than the mantis head up to instar 5 after that they will feed on bigger prey.
It’s best to spray down the side if your mantis wants to drink it will move to where you have sprayed. Most mantis needs a gentle spray once a day. But some need higher humidity which means making sure the bottom is damp, some need less humidity so you spray less, and some you only spray once a week. So it’s best to find a care sheet to see the humidity requirements for the species of mantis you are getting.
Heat and light -
Most mantis is fine at room temperature. But some do need extra heat, you can combine this with light, by having a small lamp over the top not led. If using led these will not make enough heat. So a heat mat on the side or heat wire would also be needed, or in you keep reptiles placing on top of a snake ect will give enough heat for most mantis in the beginner range. And then a small LED light can be used.
Handling mantis -
Never pick mantis up, let it walk on to you. At the early instars they will just run, jump, and try to get away, but as they grow they will sit on a hand or walk about, but they really are only a sit and watch pet.
Common questions -
1/ Can Mantis be kept together, or with other insects?
As a general rule no, most will eat each other or other insects. And I don’t recommend beginners to try with the few species that sometimes can be kept together as if not enough space or food they will eat each other.
2/ Is it ok to get water on a mantis?
Never spray a mantis. There are lots of reasons for this the main one being if it’s getting ready to molt, this could course the mantis to get stuck in its old skin.
3/ Can I put a heat mat under the mantis tank?
I really do not recommend this, one it will course humidity problems by making the floor to dry. But also a risk of fire, and the heat mat overheating.
4/ Can I put live plants in the tank?
Yes, but these will need special lights to keep them alive and any low leaves will need cutting off so the mantis doesn’t moult to close to the floor.
5/ How do I know if I’m feeding enough or too much?
Look at the mantis abdomen, if it’s flat, it needs food. If it’s really fat and bulging then do not feed. It’s should be a nice curved sharp. When fed to much you can sometimes see black/colored lines.
6/ What is this in my tank / what has my mantis done?
This is usually an ooth, even if not mated, adult females will still lay ooths but they will not hatch. They come in a variety of colors and shapes. Most look like foam.
7/ Why is my mantis not eating?
Normally this is because they are going to moult and can be a couple of weeks before they moult that they spot eating. They also don’t eat after moulting and this can take a couple of weeks before they start to eat.
8/ How can I tell if my mantis is an adult yet?
Most mantis gets their wings on the last moult, so if you see wings your mantis is adult, these aren't necessarily long wings as some species have very small wings.
9/ What is a good beginner species of mantis?
Ghost mantis (Deroplatys desiccate) Cryptic mantis (Sibylla pretiosa) Hierodula Species Are all good species to begin with.