FEEDING

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What can you feed your gecko?

 

Leopard Geckos can be fed a variety of  live food. I will deal with the most common types one by one below:

Supplements/ Crickets/ Locusts/ Mealworm's/ Superworms/ Morio worms / Pinkies/ Cockroaches/ Waxworms/ Butterworms/ Pachnoda Grubs


Supplements

 The Leo's we keep will rarely get all their nutritional needs met by live food alone. It can be achieved with a strict gut loading programme for the food - but it is always best to ensure their health by using supplements.

Calcium: Always provide a small receptacle filled with calcium in the Vivarium at all times. Again as with water you will probably never see the gecko licking the calcium but I can assure that they do! The calcium is commonly in the form of calcium carbonate. It can be found cheaply almost anywhere in any pet shop, online and can be bought wholesale from Ebay.

Calcium is essential to ensure protection against Metabolic Bone Disease (more on that in the health section).

As well as calcium I use two other products:

 

T-Rex Sandfire Super Foods Leopard Gecko Dust 

 This is a very fine powder that has excellent cling properties when used to dust food – not much is required to get a great even coating. This dust coupled with the mealworms makes for a great complete diet. It is full of tons of supplements, some calcium and a bunch of healthy gut flora to aid in the geckos digestion.

I dust with this every single feed whenever possible. As it has such great dusting properties a little goes along way - it should last you ages. It's best kept in the fridge to prolong its shelf life even further.

 T Rex Superfood
 

Komodo Premium Leopard Gecko Insect Dusting Powder: 

I also supplement the geckos in one other way. As you know a bowl of Calcium Carbonate is always recommended for Geckos – and I mix the calcium carbonate 50/50 with this:

It doesn’t have very great dusting cling properties, but works great as an addition to the carbonate to ensure that you have all food supplement bases covered. This way you can ensure that your geckos get their calcium and a little bit of their vits and minerals and other supplements whenever they feel the need to visit the calcium bowl in the Vivarium! smiley

 komodo premium

BEE POLLEN - WARNING!

I purchased some Bee Pollen recently as it was touted as a good supplement for Leo's. There was a warning that rarely some lizards proved to be allergic to it. Well I had one Leo who wasn't putting weight on as quickly as I had hoped and I thought she was suffering from some feeding time intimidation from her larger Viv mates. So I dusted a waxie for her with some bee pollen...

...I spent the next 34 hours nursing that gecko back to health from the brink of death!! I have never seen so much dehydration in such a short period of time which can only be attributable to the pollen supplement. Needless to say it's now in the bin and I cannot recommend it to any Leo owner at all.

The Leo in question is now doing fine again and is back to her normal self for the last month or two - none the worse for wear for her weird experience - thankfully.

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Crickets and Locusts

Crickets come in three varieties: 

 Black 

 black cricket
 Brown   brown cricket

 Silent 

(make no chirping noises)

silent brown cricket 
The standard Locust   locust

 Crickets are one of the most common foods for reptiles. Total lifespan for a cricket is roughly 8 weeks. They are easy to house - any plastic container will do although I advise using a fairly tall one and with a bit of sandpaper roughing up the bottom half of the insides of the container and leaving a gap of about 3 cm or more untouched and smooth around the inside of the lip of the container. This enables the crickets and locusts to climb and perch on the sides of the containers but when they reach the smooth section they can go no further and with a 3 cm border if they then jump from there they will fall right back into the container. smileysilver

Locusts are fast becoming an affordable option for feeding your Leo's - and in my case once my breeders ate them - crickets were no longer good enough! This is probably due to the fact that a young Locust (medium to large from the online suppliers) is more than large enough for a Leo and their outer skin (chitin) is much softer than that of crickets.

You do need to keep them fairly warm or you will experience die offs in the stock - similarly if it's too hot you can get die offs also. it's recommended that you use no substrate in the container as it makes for easier cleaning and reduces the smell that will build up. Great temps would be about 85ºF - accomplish this with either a heat mat or simply put them somewhere that is suitably warm for them in your house.

Place a few egg cartons or empty loo roll tubes in the container this allows them to hide and also has the advantage of giving more surface area allowing you to keep more than the normal amount of insects in the container than you normally would be able to.

Make sure that they have as source of water too. To avoid spills in the container try a small bottle cap or jam jar lid with a suitable amount of Bug Gel. All this is is the fine powder you sometimes see in garden centers for mixing with the soil of young plants. It is a synthetic granule that absorbs water and swells to many times it size and retains that moisture for a long time. The insects will "lick" the gel to receive their required water intake.

Remember you are what you eat! So clean the food container often and provide fresh food daily - discarding yesterdays leftovers. The food the insects eat go into their digestive tracts and consequently right into the Leo's stomachs. So as well as the nutrition provided by the insect itself - its gut contents provide additional nutrition. This practice is called Gut Loading. Always dust before you serve to your Leo's!

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  Mealworms (Tenebrio Molitor)

 mealworm

 The mealworm is the larval stage of a beetle. Mini mealworms are available for feeding to hatching's and then generally you will get standard size ones for feeding to sub adult and adult Leo's.

Mealworms are best kept in cool conditions as they will last much longer. Warm temperatures speed up the process of pupation and you will get more than the normal amount of pupae in your container that generally have to be discarded as most Leo's tend to turn their noses up at them. This is mainly due to the fact that Leo's hunt primarily using motion detection and the worms are generally always on the move. A pupae however will not move unless it is actually touched or picked up by the head at which point it will wiggle it's body vigorously.

I tried feeding the pupae to my Leo's by holding the heads and getting them to wiggle - they responded but promptly spat them out - I suspect due to the tiny spurs on the side of the pupae body. No great loss as the pet gerbils love the pupae and if you have no rodents - then put them out for the birds who will equally relish them!

I feed my mealworms on bran or bran flakes (unsweetened is best) also add some supplement dusting powder to the bran - this provides the gut loading!

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 Super Mealworms & Morio worms

The super worm and the super Morio are in fact two different kinds of insect.

 The super worm is a regular old mealworm that is treated to prevent pupation and fed for an extra 6-8 weeks to produce super sized versions. Storage and care is the same as for mealworms.

Like their smaller sized brethren they have an average nutritional value on their own so gut load with supplement dusted bran and also dust before feeding to your Leo's.

 superworm

The super Morio worm (real name Zophobus morio) are bred from a different larger beetle (Darling Beetle) than those for mealworms. They are generally given to larger reptiles like Beardies and the like. They are more nutritious than regular mealworms with a better protein content.

They will arrive in the container in various sizes and your Leo should be able to handle the smaller sized ones which you will find when you get over the initial shock of just how big they are! The larger worms should be cut in two before feeding to your Leo's.

Be aware that these worms have a formidable set of pincers in their mouth region and you will have to crush their heads before feeding to your Leo to ensure against any injury. They will bite you too - and the result is like a tiny paper cut - so use tweezers!

 super morio

These worms prefer dark conditions and a fairly warm area in the region of 75-85 ºF with a maximum of 90 ºF. Don't refrigerate super or Morio worms - it will eventually kill them off - they don't tolerate the cold that well. Water needs can be met with feeding things like bits of carrot potatoes and apple which will be readily devoured. Lack of moisture for morios will result in cannibalism.

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 Pinkies

 Pinkies are day old newborn mice that are despatched and then frozen. A common food for snakes they are also useful for Leo's.

I use pinkies to supplement my female gecko's diet when they are in season. After laying eggs the gecko's will be ravenous and I dust the rump of a pinky and feed one or two (depending on size) to each starving female. This will give a good nutritional boost to her and ensure that she doesn't start getting too skinny and plump her up for her next batch of eggs in a few weeks time.

 pinky

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 Cockroaches

If your Leo's like roaches - you're going to have to try it at least once - then you get a nice cheap source of food and also one that is easy to breed and keep yourself. My Leo's however appear to despise roaches - so my luck is out there:

Here are the main types of roaches you will find available in the UK.

 The Discoid Roach: (Blaberus discoidales)

 A tropical roach from Mexico, Central and South America. Measuring approx. 2 inches in length as adults. Adults have wings but are unable to fly. This is a non-climbing species - unable to climb smooth surfaces so great for keeping in the house for feeding Reps'. Adults have a life span of around 1 year.

Keeping and care is the same as for Mealworms.

Young are the best choice for Leo food being smaller and more manageable. Soft exoskeleton is easy for the gecko to digest and swallow.

 discoid roach
 The Turkistan Roach: (Blatta Lateralis)

 1 inch approx in length as adults. Adults have wings but are unable to fly. This is a non-climbing species - unable to climb smooth surfaces so great for keeping in the house for feeding Reps'. They do not burrow and are dominant reddy brown in colour (males are much redder)and dart about drawing attention to themselves to the joy of the reptile being fed them. Adults have a life span of around 12 - 18 months.

Keeping and care is the same as for Mealworms. If your lizards like these - they are very easy to maintain a breeding colony for a constant cheap supply of reptile food! A good choice for Leo food being smaller and more manageable. Soft exoskeleton is easy for the gecko to digest and swallow.

 turkistan roach
 The Lobster Roach: (Nauphoeta Cinerea)

 1 - 1½ inches approx in length as adults. Adults have wings but are unable to fly. This is a climbing species - able to climb smooth surfaces and almost anything else for that matter! So be aware if breeding for food for Reps' they will need a secure container! They are a fast moving species. Adults have a life span of around 12 - 18 months.

Keeping and care is the same as for Mealworms.

A good choice for Leo food being smaller and more manageable. Soft exoskeleton is easy for the gecko to digest and swallow.

 lobster roach
 The Dubia Roach: (Blaptica Dubia)

 1½ -2 inches approx in length as adults. Adults have wings but are unable to fly. This is a non-climbing species - unable to climb smooth surfaces.

They have a modest speed. Males have long wings and females have stubby wing buds. Adults have a life span of around 1½ - 2 years.

Keeping and care is the same as for Mealworms.

Probably not a good choice for Leo food as they are fairly large and have a harder exoskeleton. Young Dubia are preferable if you must try them.

 dubia roach

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  Waxworms (Galleria mellonella). 

Waxworms are the grub larvae of the Wax Moth - I have never met a reptile that did not love these grubs!

They are a good treat, but the large fat content will lead to eventual obesity and arterial issues with Leo's especially if used as a staple diet. They are high in protein and calcium but their large fat content when compared to other food items makes them nutritionally prohibitive as a staple diet.

However the Leo's certainly do love them and they are great as a weekly treat. I use them more frequently for the more active female breeders. Gravid (egg laden) females and post gravid females need a bit of a fat boost as they will invariably use up their fat and calcium reserves and you will notice the thinning of their tales if you take no steps to counteract it. A nice supplement dusted waxworm is the ideal food item for just such females to keep them in peak condition during their egg laying season.

Keep your waxies in the fridge and don't feed them as they will pupate! Warm them prior to feeding - I do this in the palm of my hand. Oh, another trick for Leo's that are reluctant to feed - squeeze the waxies guts over another food item and then see how they change their minds!

 waxworm


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 Pachnoda - Fruit Beetle Grubs (Pachnoda Marginata). 

These are the larvae stage of the Sun Beetle. A very attractive beetle and one which can also be kept as a pet. They will arrive on your doorstep in a container in which they will more than likely be in a high peat soil.

They are fat little grubs and so long as you don't have a mammoth sized ones your Leo will readily swallow these! My Leo's will grab it - and knowing that the swallowing process will be somewhat timely then run off and hide to finish the process. I only feed them one for obvious reasons and will not feed anything else in that session.

Pachnoda are nasty little things and also a bit stupid too. The first thing they will do when picked up is curl up and bite - trouble is they bite themselves! They can give quite a nip - so I ensure that I crush their small head and pincers before feeding at which time I have to provide the movement with the tweezers.

Feed head first as they excrete a foul tasting liquid from their rears - a by product of the peat soil they like to live in. Keep in a warm dark area. If you find a hard round ball in their container then one of them has spun a cocoon out of the soil - you might get to see a sun beetle soon.

 pachnoda1

pachnoda 2



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 Butter worms (Chilecomadia Moorei). 

Native to Chile, Butterworms are a food item I wish was much more readily available over here in the UK. They are very high in calcium and have a lot less fat content than Waxworms. Some breeders even go so far as to use them as a staple diet and why not - Leo's who taste them apparently love them just as much!

They are soft bodied and do not bite - they are an almost perfect food item but alas they are very hard to get hold of in the UK - as they are a pest outside of the live food world there are very strict conditions regarding the import of them which makes them very hard to get hold of and pricey if you can!

Like waxies - they like the fridge and can last for up to 3 months!

 butterworm

 



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Other grubs I would love to see over here would be silkworms and hornworms - they too are both nutritious enough to be good staple Leo diet.

 

silkworm

Silkworm

 

hornworm

Hornworm


 



F.Passaro

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