This care sheet covers all the basics you’ll need to look after a Praying Mantis. It is not species specific, but there are normally only minor changes to make between different types of mantis. Regardless of the species you choose, this Praying Mantis care sheet is an excellent place to start.
Praying Mantis Size
Some Praying Mantis species can reach as much as 6″ in length, but most of the mantids regularly used in the pet trade will not normally exceed 2″-3″.
Praying Mantis Lifespan
This depends on the exact kind of mantis, but many complete their entire life cycle in less than a year. And even the longer-lived species don’t last much longer than this. Praying Mantids go through several stages in their short lives, denoted L1-L8. When they first hatch, they are 1st Instar (L1), and become 2nd Instar (L2) when they shed their skin for the first time, and the system carries on like this. Most mantis species reach adulthood at around L8.
Praying Mantis Housing
These insects should be housed singly, with only a few exceptions for species that live communally. If you’re unsure, it’s always best to keep them away from each other. Cannibalism is common!
Mantids need very little space – your tank only needs to be twice as wide and three times as high as your mantis is long, but this should be taken as a minimum, not a guideline. However, if a mantis has too much space, then it will often struggle to find its food, especially the smaller nymphs (many people house mantis nymphs in smaller tanks for this reason). A 12″x12″x12″ enclosure should strike the right balance for most species (a little smaller for a small species). Something like a large glass jar like the ones from candy stores of old would be ideal, but small tanks work as well.
We always recommend a particular mesh habitat designed for butterflies and other insects. It’s fantastic in every way – it’s the perfect size, very easy to clean, has plenty of ventilation, offers easy access to your mantis, includes a huge viewing window, won’t let prey insects escape and is even collapsible and easy to store. Basically, this is the most perfect Praying Mantis habitat we’ve ever seen. You can check it out on Amazon here – it’s less than $20!
If you choose something else, your mantis container should have a mesh top, which can be held in place with a rubber band if using a glass jar or similar. Fill the jar with sticks and leaves, but make sure there is plenty of room for a mantis to move around its enclosure (don’t overcrowd them), and give them several inches of space between the tops of the sticks and the mesh roof, or they won’t have enough room to molt. Another option is to put in a few larger sticks, almost enclosure height, so that your mantis can hang off these when it’s time for it to molt.
A couple of inches of substrate should line the base of your mantis enclosure, with a mix of vermiculite, compost, and /or soil working well. The key is for it to retain moisture without mold forming to help keep the humidity high. A specially designed reptile/amphibian/invertebrate substrate like Zoo Med Eco Earth should be perfect.
Different mantis species have different requirements here, so it’s worth checking exactly what your mantis needs. Some types of mantis need humidity to be around 60%, but it can be as high as 85% for some. You should spray the inside of your mantis enclosure regularly, either every day or a couple of times a week, depending on the humidity requirements. Some people recommend using spring water to mist the tank, as the chlorine in tap water may be harmful.
Use a hygrometer to keep an eye on the humidity level.
There can be significant variation between species again here, but generally they need to be warm and protected from any cold drafts. Around 75F-80F is a good bet, but you really should check for species-specific information. Some tropical types of mantis can only tolerate small variations from their ideal temperature. It’s a good idea to always keep a thermometer with your mantis.
Praying Mantis Diet
Nymphs and young instars should be fed mainly on fruit flies. These are also a good staple for older mantises (L4-5 and up), but adding some variety is good when they reach this stage. Keep to flying insects generally, with moths and flies that you find round the house, and perhaps the odd mealworm or gut-loaded cricket, although some people experience problems with crickets, so be careful they don’t harm your mantis. This food should be given a few times a week, and any half-eaten or dead prey items should be removed from the enclosure.
To be sure your mantis actually finds the food it is given, you can either sit, watch and wait (possibly for a very long time!), or give the food directly to the mantis using tweezers. It will then normally begin eating immediately.
Praying Mantis Water
Mantids mostly drink from water droplets on leaves, which is one of the reasons humidity should be kept high and regular misting is necessary. A small, shallow water bowl can also be provided. This must be sufficiently shallow to prevent your mantis from drowning, and some individuals won’t use it anyway.
Praying Mantis Molting
If your mantis stops eating, there’s a good chance it’s going to molt in the next couple of days. When this happens, remove any remaining prey from the tank, and leave your mantis completely alone. They really should not be disturbed during molting. Also, don’t feed your mantis or spray the mantis directly for a day or so after molting.
Praying Mantis Breeding
Female mantids are normally quite a bit larger than the males, but have fewer sections on the abdomen. Breeders disagree over whether to put the male in the female tank or vice versa, so perhaps it doesn’t matter too much. However we would always recommend putting the female in the male tank so that he already knows his way around.
This is important as he needs to be able to run away as soon as they’ve finished mating, or he may well become the much larger female’s next meal. For this reason, it may be advisable to place both male and female in a larger (maybe 10 gallon) tank. You should also keep an eye on any aggression from the female – no mating doesn’t mean no eating!
After successful mating, the female should lay ootheca (egg sacs) at some point within the next fortnight. If you keep the eggs in the same conditions in which you keep your adult mantids, they should hatch in the next 4-6 weeks.
If you’ve got any questions that aren’t covered in this Praying Mantis care sheet, then either send us a message or get yourself a copy of Praying Mantis Ultimate Care Guide, which is the most comprehensive mantis care guide you’ll ever find.