Tight barriers are crucial for animals. Insect respiratory cells establish barriers through their extracellular matrices. These chitinous-matrices must be soft and flexible to provide ventilation, but also tight enough to allow oxygen flow and protection against dehydration, infections, and environmental stresses. However, genes that control soft, flexible chitin-matrices are poorly known. We investigated the genes of the chitinolytic glycosylhydrolase-family 18 in the tracheal system of Drosophila melanogaster. Our findings show that five chitinases and three chitinase-like genes organize the tracheal chitin-cuticles. Most of the chitinases degrade chitin from airway lumina to enable oxygen delivery. They further improve chitin-cuticles to enhance tube stability and integrity against stresses. Unexpectedly, some chitinases also support chitin assembly to expand the tube lumen properly. Moreover, Chitinase2 plays a decisive role in the chitin-cuticle formation that establishes taenidial folds to support tube stability. Chitinase2 is apically enriched on the surface of tracheal cells, where it controls the chitin-matrix architecture independently of other known cuticular proteins or chitinases. We suppose that the principle mechanisms of chitin-cuticle assembly and degradation require a set of critical glycosylhydrolases for flexible and not-flexible cuticles. The same glycosylhydrolases support thick laminar cuticle formation and are evolutionarily conserved among arthropods.