Crickets are very simple to house, raise, and breed for bait.
Crickets are a very popular bait choice for a variety of fish species. Although they are relatively cheap to purchase, you can raise an almost unlimited amount of them on your own for next to nothing.
Doing this could also turn into a very nice side business selling to other fisherman or owners of reptiles.
Crickets require very little care and only a few items to start. How many you want to raise at a time will determine how many tanks and other items you will need.
What you need:
- Clear plastic container with high, smooth sides or a fish tank.
- Sand or Vermiculite
- Small bag of pesticide/fertilizer free topsoil
- Small disposable container
- Small sheet of screen
- Dry cat food or cricket feed
- Toilet paper tubes
- Cotton balls
- Small heat lamp
- Spray bottle with mist setting
Prepare your tank for the crickets.
If you are using a fish tank it is best to have a fitted screen lid. If you are using a plastic bin you will need to poke plenty of ventilation holes into the lid to allow the crickets to breath.
1. Take the sand or vermiculite and pour enough to fill the tank’s bottom at list two inches deep. This will keep odors down and reduce bacteria growth in the container.
2. Take your toilet paper roll and unravel it. Place it in one of the corners and fill it with cotton balls. Heavily mist down the cotton balls with your spray bottle. Crickets need a good source of water at all times to breed. You will need to keep this damp at all times.
3. Take the cat food and crush it up into almost a powder, or purchase some cricket food from an online retailer. For a food bin any type of small plastic lid works great. I use lids from Pringles cans for mine. Place this near the center of the tank.
You can regulate their food with greens like lettuce, potato slices, and pieces of fruit. Just before sure to remove any uneaten scraps before they rot.
4. Take your small disposable container and loosely fill it with damp top soil. This is where your crickets will lay most of their eggs. Cut your screen to fit over the top of the container and secure with a rubber band. This will prevent the crickets from digging up and eating each others eggs.
The females can still lay their eggs in the container by sticking their laying spike through the screen and into the soil. Place this in one of the other corners of the tank.
5. Set up your heat lamp above the container. You will need to keep the container between 80-100 degrees Fahrenheit for them to breed.
Adding your crickets.
Purchase a container of about 30 or so crickets. You will want more females than males for successful breeding, but that is often hard to do when they are just scooped up and thrown in a tube on purchase.
You will just have to hope for the best or separate them yourself later and use the excess males as bait first.
To tell females from males by the laying spike (long spike that comes off the crickets rear) the females have. Note the picture below for reference.
Hatching the eggs
After a couple of weeks remove the egg container and look for the little rice-sized eggs. Replace the container with a new one to start the process egg laying process over again.
Stick the container into a separate tank to incubate the eggs until they hatch. They will need to be kept at around 90 degrees Fahrenheit for two weeks until the tiny pin-sized crickets will emerge.
Be sure to still keep the soil damp with your mister or the eggs will dry out and the babies will die.
Rearing to adults
From here you will need to move them into another container until they are big enough to be placed in with the other adult crickets. A smaller tank setup just like your main tank is all they will need.
It usually takes anywhere from 7-10 days for them to get large enough to not be eaten by the older ones.
From here you can just keep the cycle going and every two weeks you will have fresh crickets to add to the bunch. Just be warned they will multiply very quickly, so you may want to remove the egg laying container every couple of weeks to thin them out.
You can also turn the heat lamp down to drop the temperature which will also make them not want to breed as much.
One final tip before you get started. If you notice that your crickets are starting to miss limbs, they are not hungry- they are low on space.
They do this to try to eliminate competition and thin the group. Remove some of the crickets into another container right away or this will keep happening.
Crickets are fun to raise and my kids loved it last summer when I did it. I also loved sitting in my garage toying with fishing gear listening to them chirp.
Good thing they don’t know that the gear will be their demise or they might not chirp so happily all the time.
All photos taken by Alex Burton unless otherwise stated.