Praying mantis have over 2,400 species across almost 30 different families! This has led to a wide range of sizes and appearances across them. Most of the species have a size difference between the sexes (sexual dimorphism).
They also have a wide range of temperaments towards each other where some are so aggressive they will resort to cannibalism so they have to be housed individually, but some are calm enough to live communally with enough space and food.
Any species being kept communally will require more care to ensure they all have an adequate food supply and space. Some mantids also enjoy being held while some are better suited for just being looked at.
They are found worldwide in tropical and temperate climates. Because of this, they all have similar care needs. They all need a relatively high temperature (typically 75 degrees Fahrenheit and above) and high humidity (at least 50% and above). Due to this, they can all be kept in similar habitat styles and because many of them are small, excluding giants, they don’t require much room.
They are pretty simple to care for, with some being more suited for first-time owners. Some require more hands-on care or very specific living conditions or food making them better for intermediate keepers (have owned mantis before) or expert keepers (have owned mantis for a long time).
Mantis Species for Beginners
Here are a few suggestions for first-time mantis owners:
African Mantis (S. Lineola)
This mantid can be kept by beginner keepers! These are one of the larger species of mantis with the females being upwards of 8 cm and the males reaching 7 cm. Most members of this species are green, but can also be brown or tan depending on their environment. They have bright orange on the inside of their front arms to raise up and scare away predators. They also have a yellow dot on their wings making them easier to identify among other similar-looking species.
They have easy living requirements to maintain only needing a temperature of about 72 to 86 degrees and only a humidity of between 50% and 60%. They do however need to be kept in individual housing as they are highly aggressive towards each other.
The females will hunt down prey to catch them and will often go after prey too big for them. They are very docile with people and love to be held and are easily tamed!
Carolina Mantis (S. Carolina)
Carolina Mantis super easy mantes are perfect for first-time keepers! These versatile mantids can also be raised to release into gardens to consume pest insects as they are native to the US.
They come in a range of bright greens to a brown and gray color. They can also have variations with spots or banding. There is a minimal size difference between the two sexes with the males being around 4.5 to 5 cm and females being between 5 and 6 cm.
They have a temperature need of between 70 and 85 degrees. They also have a wide range of humidity being comfortable anywhere between 60% and 80%.
They are very docile and can be held easily. Females are more sedentary because of their small wings, as long as they have food they will mostly stay put. Males are much more active and will even fly if given the room to.
Chinese Mantis (T. sinensis)
These mantids are great for first-time owners! They are very easy and affordable to obtain and don’t require much hands-on care. They are a highly invasive species to most places so care does need to be taken to be assured they do not make it outside. They consume many beneficial insects, including the US native Carolina Mantis.
They are one of the largest mantids reaching lengths over 11 cm! In nature, they have been known to make use of their large size to catch small reptiles and hummingbirds. They have a brown body with brown wings that are outlined in green.
They need a range of anywhere between 71 to 86 degrees and low humidity of 50% to 60%. They do need to be housed individually.
They are also one of the more sociable species with people and can be held quite easily and enjoy being hand-fed.
Ghost Mantis (P. Pardoxa)
Ghost Mantis are best suited for beginners to intermediate keepers. Both sexes are about the same size averaging at 5 cm long. The males are thinner with longer wings while the females have more of a thicker build with shorter wings.
They are built in a way to mimic dead and dying leaves with various lobes on their body as well as a dark brown coloration. They have a calm and docile personality with the females being relatively sedentary to catch prey.
They require an average temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit and a humidity between 60% and 90%. This species is able to be kept in communal housing, they hold minimal aggression towards each other as long as food is readily available for them.
Giant Shield Mantis (R. Basalis, R. Megaera, R. Stalli. etc.)
These mantids are best for beginner to intermediate keepers. There are multiple species under the Rhombodera family, but they all make great pets and have similar characteristics and care needs.
Native to Asia, this species uses their shield-like backplate that appears when they are a nymph to blend in among the leaves. R. Basalis has one of the largest shield sizes among the family.
Size-wise they range from about 9 to 11 cm in length. They also all have a main body color of green and some have varying markings in orange or pink on their wings, head, or legs.
They need a temperature range of 70 to 85 degrees. They also need an average humidity of 50% to 60% during the day and a slight increase at night between 60% and 70%. Due to their aggressive nature, they should be housed individually.
They are all very active and love to hunt and chase down their meals making them very entertaining to own and watch. They do also generally enjoy being held.
Spiny Flower Mantis (P. Wahlberghii)
The Spiny Flower Mantis is best for beginner to intermediate keepers. They have a white/cream body with stunning green to brown stripes and purple eyes! They also have a large black and yellow eye spot on their wings to threaten predators.
They need a slightly higher temperature range from 77 to 86 degrees to match their native home of Africa. They have low humidity however only need to stay around 60%.
The sexes don’t have a super noticeable size difference between them; the males are almost 4 cm and the females are about 4.5 cm. They can be startled quite easily and while they typically live a sedentary lifestyle they can also make a very quick bolt to safety. They do need to be kept individually to prevent cannibalism.
Mantis Species for Intermediate Keepers
Here are a few suggestions for intermediate mantis keepers:
African Flower Mantis (P. ocellata)
This species is part of the flower mantis family and best suited for intermediate keepers. They rely on their cream and green coloration to camouflage with flowers and leaves and their bright yellow eyespot on their wings to scare away predators. In certain living conditions, they can alter the cream/white color to turn pink or yellow to adapt to their surroundings better. The males reach about 4 cm while the females reach 5.
They require a fluctuating humidity with 50% to 60% during the day and a night increase going from 70% to 80%. They also need a range of 77 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. They are also one of the few species that can be housed communally.
They use their camouflage to hide and catch their prey and will strike on prey that is larger than themselves.
Budwing Mantis (P. affinis, P. argionina)
These mantid species are best for beginner to intermediate keepers. There are two main species within the Parasphendale family that are kept, but they have very similar needs.
The females reach a length of 7 cm, while males are around 4 cm long. They come in various shades of brown and occasionally green. The color of the underneath of forewings are the best way to tell the two species apart, P. affinis has all black coloring and the P. agrionina has orange and black stripes. The underside of their wings and the inside of their front legs are a bright orange, which the females use to scare away predators.
They prefer to be kept at around 79 to 82 degrees with a humidity of about 50%.
The males are much more skittish and will typically fly away instead of trying to scare the predator. The females are also very aggressive when it comes to food and will chase it down until they catch it.
Dead Leaf Mantis (D. desiccata)
These mantids are best suited for intermediate to expert owners. Dead leaf mantes are typically brown with lots of various spotting to mimic the lights on dead leaves along with intricate, nonsymmetrical lobes across their body to match the camouflage persona. Females average around 9 cm while males are slightly smaller averaging at around 8 cm.
They prefer to be kept warmer than average with temperatures ranging from 79 to 95 degrees. They have a comfortable range of humidity between 50% and 80%.
They are relatively docile and typically prefer to run away or even play dead. When really threatened they have a deimatic display, showing off their eyespots on their wings. They can be kept in communal housing as long as proper food and living conditions are established.
Gambian Spotted-Eye Mantis (P. virescens)
This exotic looking species is best suited for intermediate if housing individually or for an expert for housing communally. These mantes are very small with the average length being about 3 cm. Because of their small size, they do have a much shorter lifespan than most mantes, only living about 4 to 5 months. The underside of their body is white with lots of pink and orange markings and accents and bright green wings. They are known for their very tall green eyes adorned with bumps and small horns on top. They have red hindwings that they throw up to scare away any potential predators.
They prefer hot temperatures between 80 and 95 degrees during the day and can safely go up to 100 degrees. They can go down to 65 degrees at night, which will slow their growth some so they will live longer. They like a low humidity around 40% to 60%.
Despite their small size, they are known for trying to attack prey larger than they are. They have a lower risk of cannibalism than other mantids, and if monitored closely, and fed a lot, can be kept communally.
Giant Asian Mantis (H. membranacea)
These giants are best suited for intermediate owners. They come in varying shades of green to brown. The females reach a length of up to 9 cm while the males average around 7 to 8 cm.
They prefer temperatures between 77 to 86 degrees and a humidity of around 60%. Due to their size and aggressive personality, they have been known to catch and eat small reptiles, mouse pinkies, and even Asian Giant Hornets.
They do have a somewhat aggressive personality towards people, but with time can be tamed enough to be handled. Caution does need to be taken with them because they will bite when threatened. They need to be kept in individual housing.
Orchid Flower Mantis (H. Coronatus)
The Orchid Mantis is best suited for an intermediate keeper. Easily one of the most ornate and intricate mantis that can be kept in captivity. They have a body that is white with pink, orange, or green markings with large lobes on their body and legs to resemble a flower. This species also has one of the largest cases of sexual dimorphism with the females being up to 7 cm long while the males are only 2.5 cm!
Because they are from the forests of India and Malaysia they have higher humidity and temperature requirements. They have a temperature range of 77 to 95 degrees and humidity needing to be between 60% and 80%. They also need lots of cover and places to climb and perch on.
The females are quiet and calm and will often stay in one spot for extended periods of time. The males are skittish and scared easily by human contact.
Mantis Species for Experts
These are mantis species that should only be kept by those with a lot of prior experience:
Arizona Unicorn Mantis (P. arizonae)
These mantes are more difficult to find as they are typically not captivity bred and must be captured from the wild. They are better suited for expert keepers, especially if there is to be an attempt wanting to be made at breeding
These are very slender built mantes with two cones on the top of their head that resembles a unicorn horn! They are typically brown with brown, black, and white patterning. They also have green wings, holding up the facade that they are a twig. They use this to their advantage to sit and wait for their prey to come by them. The sexes are very similar in size, averaging between 6.5 to 7 cm long.
They prefer their temperatures to be around 83 degrees during the day, but it can safely drop down to as low as 65 degrees at night. They don’t require much humidity, needing to only be at 40% to 50%. They need to be housed individually as they will become aggressive towards each other.
Devil’s Flower Mantis (I. diabolica)
These mantes are one of the most difficult species to care for and should be kept by experts. They are very rare, making them more difficult to get a hold of. Nymphs are also extremely difficult to care for and have a high fatality rate in captivity.
Because their native home is Tanzania they require very high temperature and humidity. They have a temperature range of 86 to 105 degrees during the day, at night it is safe to let them get as cold as 74 degrees.
The females can get upwards of 13 cm while the males stay around 10 cm. They have lots of elaborate lobes to mimic flowers. When non-threatened these mantes appear as brown dying leaves or flower petals with their elaborate lobes. When threatened however they flash bright red, white, blue, and black markings on the inside of their front arms.
These mantes are very skittish in captivity and can get stressed very easily in a noisy or busy environment. They rely on lots of foliage cover to hide and feel protected. They have a low rate of cannibalism and can be housed communally successfully.
Indian Flower Mantis (C. gemmatus, C. pictipennis)
This eye-catching mantis is best suited for experts. They have a white-colored body with brown and green striping. Their wings are bright green with a yellow and white eyespot in the middle, used for their deimatic display against predators. The females have an average length of 4 cm while the males are around 3 cm.
They require a temperature between 77 and 90 degrees during the day but can safely drop down to 63 degrees at night. They thrive at a humidity around 60% to 80%.
They rely on their deimatic display to keep predators away, but they are also able to move very quickly to getaway. To conserve energy they will sit and wait for prey to come near and then chase it down. They do need to be housed individually.
In conclusion, mantids have one of the widest range of insects you can own. They come in a wide range of sizes and colors as well as ones that look plain all the way up to ones that look identical to flowers. There are new mantis species being discovered and more being adapted for the pet world constantly! They make for a fantastic unconventional pet given that the majority are easy to care for and don’t cost a lot to acquire or maintain.