Keeping Flower Beetles – Smaragdesthes (or Chlorocala) Africana Oertzeni Tank Setup

This is how my beetle tank is set up. I’m not saying it’s perfect, I still have to get the substrate to retain a bit more moisture but they are breeding and it’s working for me.

The tank is a starter fish tank – 12 inches x 8 inches x 10 high.

At the base of the tank put some white rotting wood and some bark. They seem to like to attach their cocoons to something. Avoid conifers and aim for oak or beech.

Setting up a pet beetle tank Add substate. A good 5 inches at least. Mine is a mixture of rotted down oak and beech leaves, some peat, some moss, twigs, some special soil to keep spiders in and some John Innes Number 3. It’s quite course and I think if it was finer it would retain water better. I collect leaves and put them in bags to rot down but I’m careful not to get them from very polluted areas or areas where they spray insecticide.

Sunstrate for a pet beetle tank

Add larvae. Here’s some I made earlier! I’m really proud of these because they are the first ones born at home.

Smaragdesthes africana oertzeni larvae

They will burrow down to the depths and you won’t see them for months.

They then form a coccoon out of whatever is at hand, mine are mostly using moss. These look a bit like large, egg shaped maltesers and are easy to miss as they do like to stick them to things.

On top of the substrate I have some slightly rotting leaves, some twigs for the adults to climb on and some mossy and licheny twigs. They love lichen.

I feed mine fruit and veg. They like sweet potato, cucumber, sweet pepper, courgette, banana (banana skin is just as good), mushrooms and sometimes carrot. They like their food slightly on the turn.

I spray with water every few days, if it looks like it needs it.

Smaragdesthes africana oertzeni

This is what the tank looks like from the side.

The top is covered with a sheet of perspex that I can slide back under some aluminium mesh. This is my air hole control method.

I have a heat mat to the side of the tank, it’s on a thermostat and set to 22. It is bitterly cold in my house most of the year, sometimes 8 degrees or less and I don’t think they would appreciate that.

Smaragdesthes africana oertzeni

There is a really good forum called which, unlike most of the other invert forums has a special section for beetles, so you don’t have to trawl through loads of posts about spiders. I learnt all I know from BugNation and I still have a lot of learning to go.

Inspirations – B is for Beetles

b B is for beetles.

I started keeping beetles because I wanted giant millipedes. They need a heat mat which you keep at the side of the tank so it seemed silly to heat air – I just got another tank and some beetle larvae.

The millipedes are pets I never see, they don’t seem to eat anything¬† apart from the leaf mulch they live in and they spend most of their time underground concentrating on growing.

The beetles I never saw when they were larvae. I could spot them occasionally at the bottom of the tank, squished up against the glass like huge bloated maggots with teeth. You can just about see one above the word ‘starter in this picture.

Smaragdesthes africana oertzeni l3coccoonThen one day I couldn’t find them. I took all the soil out of the tank to try to find them and nothing was there. They had gathered moss and leaves around themselves, making mossy maltesers in which to pupate.

They are different colours depending on which way you look at them, they can be purple, green or blue. They gleam and shine. They love banana and eat it by sticking their whole heads in. The only way to eat! They are Smaragdesthes africana oertzeni. Flower beetles and they are all called Stephenson. The millipedes are all called George, of course.







If you are tempted to keep these little beauties as pets they are not tricky. They need about 4 inches of chemical free soil or peat mixed with rotting oak and beech leaves. They eat banana, cucumber, lettuce, sweet potato, carrots and apples and like them slightly gone off. They like to be warm ish and they like a bit of sunshine.