Feeding Crickets for Optimal Gut-Loading Benefits
Many of us rely on insect feeders for our reptiles’ diets. But even though crickets and other feeders can be inexpensive, your beloved pet should have other items nutrient sources included in their diet. So are you really providing a complete diet with your crickets?
In many cases the answer is no. Which is a different experience than what reptiles and amphibians devour in the natural settings. Most of our scaled friends would eat a much more varied diet in the wild, including various vegetation and possibly smaller animals depending on the size of the reptile. But if you're only offering feeder insects, then you can provide the nutrients your pet needs by gut-loading your crickets.
What is Gut Loading?
Gut loading is when you feed your crickets a lot nutrient boosting foods. These foods are typically fresh vegetables and whole wheat breads. Then, you allow the crickets about 24 hours to absorb the vitamins and minerals from this health meal. And then, you supply those gut-loaded crickets to your pet. You might also want to consider dusting the crickets with a calcium supplement before allowing your reptile to feed if you don’t already.
If you’re not already raising your own crickets, you’ll want to place your recent purchases into a small Critter Depot or other enclosure and allow them to feed for a day or two before you use them as food for your pet.
Picking the Right Food for your Crickets
It’s important to pick the right things to feed your crickets in order to tailor their nutritional profile to your own pet’s needs. Crickets can, and will, eat pretty much everything, but for our purposes it’s vital to make sure you pick the correct formulation to meet your animal’s needs. Gut loading is beneficial in pretty much all cases, but why just aim for good results when you can aim for great ones?
- Commercial Cricket Foods: Various pet companies offer formulations especially designed for gut loading in the form of various pellets and gels that are loaded with nutritional value. The only actual disadvantage of these items is cost, they can add a little bit to your reptile upkeep bill.
- Fruits and Vegetables: These items can be loaded with vitamins and minerals as well as vital antioxidants. These items are also widely available if your reptile’s human is eating a balanced diet and you’ll save money by using these. For an omnivorous lizard you’ll be quite happy with the results and things like potatoes and carrots can also keep your crickets hydrated without the risk of drowning.
- Dry Cat/Dog Food: You can grind these up and feed them to your crickets, they’re rich in protein and fats and might be ideal for reptiles which are carnivorous.
- Fish Flake/Pellets: Fish food is actually rather cheap when bought in bulk, and can add quite a bit to your crickets’ value as they are usually intended to provide a complete nutritional profile for aquatic animals. Some varieties may even contain health-boosting algae like spirulina.
- Calcium Powders: You’ll also want to dust the food with calcium powders just like you would if you were feeding vegetables directly to your lizard. It can be hard to maintain the proper levels of calcium for your pet in captivity, and this can add even more than just dusting the crickets themselves.
Techniques for Gut Loading
While it sounds complicated, this whole process is actually quite simple. All you need to do is isolate the crickets that you want to gut load in a separate enclosure, place their food and hydration source down, and let them have at it for a day to two days. The best way to do this is just to use a container with a bare bottom, and sprinkle your chosen mixture liberally over the entire floor. This will keep your insects eating until they’re about fit to burst, and that’s exactly what you want.
Make sure you take care of them the basic way you have to with all crickets, remove the dead ones swiftly and if you’re using a shallow water dish instead of a hydrating gel or vegetables you’ll want to change the water daily. Perishable foods should also be removed before spoiling for the best results.
Once you’ve waited a few days, all you need to do is dust your crickets with a calcium supplement and add them to your reptile’s enclosure. You’re sure to be happy with the results soon, your animal will be healthier and you can rest assured you’re doing the absolute best for their health.
If you aren’t gut loading the live insects you feed your reptiles, you’re making a huge mistake. It doesn’t take much time or equipment, and depending on what you feed them it may not even add to the upkeep costs of your animals. It’s a simple but elegant solution to the problems which may arise from a limited diet. Be sure to give it a shot, your animals will thank you.