Dubia Roaches vs Black Soldier Fly Larvae - Which is the Better Feeder?

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Dubia Roaches Vs Black Soldier Fly Larvae

dubia roaches and black soldier fly larvae

Table of Contents

While Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) and Dubia Roaches may look like completely different insects on the outside, they have a surprisingly similar nutrient profile. Both insects are close to the range of fat and protein required for most pet reptiles and amphibians, and they also have well-balanced mineral profiles! 

In this article, we will look at the scientific data analyzing BSFL and Dubia Roaches, and compare these results directly. First, we take a look at fat and protein content. Then, we will take a look at the important minerals present in these insects, and which insect is more digestible. Before we wrap up, we analyze each insect for its ability to attract and incite natural behaviors in your pet! Check it out!

Nutritional Profile for Reptiles and Amphibians

Experts suggest that the following nutritional profile is optimal for most insectivorous and carnivorous reptiles and amphibians:

Typical Carnivorous Reptile Diet

  • High in Protein (30-60%)
  • High in Fat (40-70%)
  • Low carbohydrates and Indigestible Fiber

High protein and fat are common to all carnivorous diets - coupled with low indigestible fiber. This allows the energy from the protein and fat to be easily absorbed and incorporated into the body. Omnivorous lizards, turtles, and amphibians often have a higher tolerance for fiber, but they will get a bigger benefit from low fiber insects.

So, let’s see how Dubia Roaches and Black Soldier Fly Larvae stack up to this “ideal” standard, based on information compiled in this large study of insect nutritional composition:

Dubia Roaches Fat  and Protein Content

  • Protein - 46%
  • Fat - 24%

Black Soldier Fly Larvae (Adults) Fat and Protein Content

  • Protein - 45%
  • Fat - 36%

In relation to all the other insects that have been studied, BSFL and Dubia Roaches have a remarkably similar nutrient profile. They have almost identical protein content - each with plenty of protein to satisfy even the hungriest leopard gecko. However, there is a slight difference in fat content.

BSFL have a slightly higher fat content that is only a few percentage points away from meeting the minimum dietary requirements. Juvenile animals and those about to reproduce desperately need this fat content for energy. Adults that are not reproducing do not need as much fat and might do fine on Dubia Roaches. 

However, when we look at mineral content, BSFL appear to be a slightly more balanced insect feeder. 

Mineral Content - Calcium and Phosphorus

Of the many minerals that your pet needs to thrive, calcium and phosphorus are by far the most important. Captive reptiles often suffer from calcium deficiencies. Since phosphorus helps the body absorb and utilize calcium, it is equally important. 

In fact, the balance of calcium and phosphorus is more important than the level of calcium by itself. Without the right balance of calcium and phosphorus, many reptiles and amphibians can develop dangerous symptoms that can even lead to death!

Experts recommend a calcium-to-phosphorus ratio in feeder insects that is somewhere around 2:1. Here are the actual mineral contents of dubia cockroaches and Black Soldier Fly Larvae:

Dubia Roaches (g/kg) Calcium and Phosphorus Ratio

  • Calcium - 5.8
  • Phosphorus - 5.9
  • Ratio - 1 : 1.01

Black Soldier Fly Larvae (g/kg) Calcium and Phosphorus Ratio

  • Calcium - 24
  • Phosphorus - 9.2
  • Ratio - 2.6 : 1

Amazingly, BSFL are almost perfectly balanced when it comes to calcium and phosphorus content! They contain the perfect 2:1 ratio. This means that BSFL likely do not need to be dusted with a calcium supplement prior to feeding. Plus, they have massive amounts of calcium and phosphorus, compared to many other species. This makes them an excellent choice if your animal has a nutrient deficiency that you are trying to fix. It also makes BSFL a great choice as your main feeder insect!

By contrast, Dubia Roaches are not far off. With a ratio of 1:1, they are much more balanced than many feeder insects - which often contain higher phosphorus and lower calcium content. With only a small amount of calcium dust, Dubias become a very balanced meal for your pet! While not quite as balanced as BSFL, both of these insects are much more balanced than many other feeders and are probably some of the best feeder species on the market!  

Digestibility

If your pet can’t digest the minerals and nutrients in their food - they might as well not eat it! When it comes to feeder insects, the most important aspect of digestibility appears to be fiber content.

Insectivorous and carnivorous reptiles and amphibians (such as a leopard gecko) do not process fiber well. They have short digestive tracts, which cannot support the necessary microbes to break down complex fiber molecules. Omnivorous pets are less restrained by fiber content because they are used to breaking down tough plant fibers. However, even an omnivorous bearded dragon will benefit from less fibrous insects that provide more mineral content.

The fiber that insects produce is called chitin. It is a crucial part of the exoskeleton - the tough outer covering of many insects. Insects with high chitin content often have a very tough exoskeleton that is very hard to digest and holds on to many of the nutrients that your pet needs.

Even though Dubia Roaches have a much more complex exoskeleton compared to BSFL, each species contains approximately the same amount of fiber:


Dubia Roach Fiber Content

  • Fiber - 8%

Black Soldier Fly Larvae Fiber Content

  • Fiber - 8%

With approximately 8% fiber each, Dubia Roaches and Black Soldier Fly Larvae are remarkably similar in their digestibility! Some insects contain much more fiber and are much harder to digest, making both of these insects great choices. 

While they do have similar fiber content, BSFL have a much higher level of minerals. In part, this is because they are storing lots of minerals and energy so they can undergo complete metamorphosis and become a fly. By contrast, Dubia Roaches only undergo incomplete metamorphosis - requiring smaller stores of minerals and energy. 

So, if you have a bearded dragon or leopard gecko that needs calcium, BSFL are the perfect choice! 

Other Factors to Consider

Both BSFL and Dubia Roaches can be reared in captivity, though Dubia Roaches have many advantages for the “at-home” breeder. 

Dubia Roaches are among the easiest roach species to rear. They can be raised in a simple tupperware container full of egg cartons and fed small bits of food scraps. With regular cleaning and maintenance of the colony, these roaches are relatively clean, do not smell terrible, and can provide a very steady source of food for your pet.

By contrast, BSFL are maggots. Like all maggots, they create quite a bit of odor and mess when reared in a captive environment. Unlike Dubia Roaches, adult Black Soldier Flies are fully capable of long-distance, sustained flight. This means you will have to have them in a secured tank or netted facility in order to keep them contained. 

Further, the smell they produce is similar to a compost pile. These worms will eat anything - from food scraps to cardboard. While the smell is tremendous, it can be mitigated by adding fresh soil, feeding in even intervals, and using air fresheners. Plus, they create a very nutrient-rich compost (frass) that you can use on your plants! But for most people, the escaping flies and smell will be very undesirable. Luckily, if you want to feed BSFL, they are pretty cheap online and can be kept in the maggot stage for a long time.

Which Insect Will My Pet Prefer?

We all love to see our pets displaying their natural behaviors. Feeder insects can encourage these behaviors in a big way. Everything from observing to capturing insects are natural behaviors in many reptiles and amphibians. Displaying these behaviors is a sign that your pet is happy and healthy, and should be encouraged as much as possible!

Dubia Roaches offer one advantage in this respect in that they have legs. Dubias like to run, hide, and dig into the substrate. This will give your lizard a chance to hunt - a very complex behavior that stimulates your lizard to exercise and problem solve. 

While BSFL are not nearly as quick or mobile as roaches, they do offer several benefits. First, they wiggle and crawl like crazy. This is sure to get your gecko’s blood pumping! In nature, insectivores often gorge themselves on maggots and grubs when the opportunity arises. Plus, while the adult flies have more fiber and fewer nutrients compared to the maggots, they can be a fun way to engage your lizard and can be a great feeder for chameleons!

Don’t Forget Variety!

Both Black Soldier Fly Larvae and Dubia Roaches are very well-balanced feeder insects. They both contain ample amounts of protein, relatively high levels of fat, and balanced mineral content. So, either species could serve as the basis for your feeding routine. However, neither insect should be used as the sole food source.

BSLF have a very high mineral content. If they are the sole form of insect you feed, your reptile may actually develop a mineral overload. Feeding different kinds of insects every now and then drastically reduces the chance of overload and will get your pet nutrients and minerals that BSFL do not have!

Likewise, Dubia Roaches are pretty balanced but are low in fat content. Adults may do fine on a diet of Dubia Roaches alone, but juveniles and breeding stock need a much higher fat content. Feeding other insects, like BSFL, can help increase this fat content. This will help your leopard gecko, bearded dragon, or other insect-eating pet grow and prepare for the rigor of reproduction!

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