How Many Crickets for My Pet?

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How Many Crickets should I feed my Pet?

Knowing when and how much to feed growing non-mammalian pets can be a challenge and the information available can be conflicting or vague.  This article intends to capture data from the best research available on utilizing common feeder insects, rather than just repeating what another website that sells feeder insects may claim.

Table of Contents

 

Bearded dragons

what to feed a bearded dragon

How Many Crickets for Bearded Dragons

  • Young Bearded Dragon (1-3 months old) = 25 - 60 1/8" crickets (one week old) three times per day. Twice per day is acceptable, but your pet will grow more slowly.  Make sure to have 450 crickets on hand per week.
  • Juvenile Bearded Dragon (3-9 months old) = 40 - 65 medium crickets daily, twice per day feedings. 
  • Maturing Bearded Dragon (9+ months old) = 50 - 70 medium crickets per week.  An average of 10 crickets per daily feeding, or 20 crickets every other day.

Bearded Dragons Dietary Needs

Bearded dragons have an extremely high metabolism and growth rate when young. This makes offering plenty of nourishing foods high in protein and calcium critical if the new owner wants that pet to live it’s full life span free from metabolic bone disease

Beardies progress from being obligate carnivores to being virtual vegetarians in mature years.  Rapid growth through carnivory leads to sexual maturation as early as 8 months.  Therefore, age plays a large role in dietary composition, nutritional needs, and feeding behavior. A young beardie’s diet will consist mostly of crickets and other insects as to provide the protein and fats required for rapid growth, whereas a mature bearded dragon requires a diet of mostly vegetables for superior health and nutrition.  

Although younger dragons are constantly hungry, some owners have difficulty getting them to eat greens before 4 months of age. This should not be of concern to the owner as long as the feeder insects are gut-loaded with items such as spinach or mustard greens less than 24 hours prior to feeding (especially crickets, which have a short digestive tract).  Dusting with a vitamin mineral supplement and calcium with D3 will be needed daily for babies refusing all greens or vegetable matter.   

Some beardies will start eating vegetables before 4 months of age, others will take longer. Since some fruits and vegetables are naturally high in phosphorous, most older bearded dragons will receive plenty of phosphorous from their diet.

You should monitor your young bearded dragon’s calcium-to-phosphorous levels to make sure they are receiving the right amount of both nutrients. If the beardie’s preferred vegetables are high in phosphorous, use only multivitamins that are phosphorous-free. Too much phosphorous can prevent beardies from assimilating calcium properly, a critical error for a rapidly growing youngster. The ideal level is 1.5±0.5 (Calcium):1(Phosphorous) or 1:1 to 2:1 Ca:P.  The best husbandry approach would be to find a diet that your bearded dragon likes and maintain it consistently. This will permit calculation of the calcium/phosphorus ratios to identify the most appropriate supplements.

Veiled chameleons

what to feed a veiled chameleon

How many crickets for Veiled Chameleons

Most veiled chameleons and other species will thrive on a feeding schedule that follows the routine below.

  • Young Veiled Chameleons (1-3 months old): Feed 6 tiny feeders twice per day. Offer one-week old crickets, no larger.
  • Young Veiled Chameleons (3-6 months old): Feed 10 – 12 small crickets every day.
  • Juvenile Veiled Chameleons (6-10 months old): Feed 15-20 medium sized crickets every other day.
  • Maturing Veiled Chameleons (10 months and older): Feed 5-6 large crickets every other day and skip the weekend.

Veiled Chameleons Dietary Needs

It’s easier to monitor the weight of chameleons than certain other species as long as the owner knows what to look for.  To assess the body fat of a chameleon you need to examine the prominence of the bone ridge on its back. The chameleon is probably too thin if the dorsal ridge seems prominent. Check its back monthly when your pet is completely calm, at a time when you are sure he/she has not flattened its body from stressed. Making an assessment at the wrong time may lead you to conclude that you pet is too thin, when actually, they are at a good weight. The belly should also appear a bit rounded when the chameleon is relaxed and calm. 

How Many Crickets for a Mature Female?

The exception to this ‘rule’ would be for mature females. Obesity is a significant problem in captive female chameleon populations. When eating more than they need, the chameleon’s body will store fat in various places including the casque, the overall body cavity, and the internal fat pads. These areas will begin to take on a more pillowy appearance as the fat is accumulated.  Careful observation of weight is especially important for females.  Female veiled chameleons are especially driven to eat anything they can in order to grow and mature quickly because in the wild they have to mate, and lay eggs before the dry season in Yemen arrives. They retain this impulse even when well-fed in captivity and the urge to increase the size of their fat pads never ceases. These fat pads are large internal fat deposits under the skin at the top and back of the spine. An obese female will also tend to produce more and larger eggs. The large fat pads become life threatening in obese females when they expand to the point that egg binding occurs. The pressure they exert on the oviduct prevents passage of the already overly large eggs out of the body.  Therefore, owners of females are encouraged to alter the feeding regimen to:

  • 3-6 months: Feed 5 food items every other day
  • 6+ months: Feed three food items every other day and skip the weekend.

All feeder insects should be gut-loaded with a vitamin-mineral supplement 24 hours prior to offering, and dusted with a calcium D3 supplement twice weekly.

Leopard Geckos

what to feed leopard geckos

How many crickets to feed a leopard gecko?

The best time of a day to feed your leopard gecko is the in the evening, when they naturally start hunting. 

  • Young Leopard Geckos (0-4 months old) = 4-8 1/4" crickets once per day.
  • Juvenile Leopard Geckos (4-10 months old) = 6-10 medium crickets 5-6 days a week. 
  • Maturing Leopard Geckos (10 months and older) = 6-10 large crickets 2 to 3 times a week. 

The length of crickets and other insects to feed will be around 1/4" inch for hatchlings and babies, 3/8 inches for juveniles (4 months and over) and 1/2 to 1 inch to adult leopard geckos (10-12 months old).

Leopard Geckos Dietary Needs

Leopard geckos are obligate insectivores, and never consume fruits or vegetable matter.  They have an extraordinarily short digestive tract that cannot accommodate fibrous materials. Therefore, this species needs to start right off with insect protein.

A great rule of thumb for gecko feeding is: 2 appropriately-sized bugs per 1 inch of your leopard gecko’s length.  Generally, this amount can be consumed in 15 minutes.  Juveniles should be fed daily, and young adults fed every other day/every 3 days. Adults whose tail is fatter than their neck can be fed every 5 days.

Well gut loaded and dusted crickets will help prevent metabolic bone disease.  Any of the three popular cricket types may be used, those being brown crickets, black crickets, and banded crickets. Banded crickets have a slightly higher protein content than other two types (around 20% vs. 15%).

How to care for malnourished Leopard Geckos

If you have a malnourished and thin leopard gecko who is refusing all food, or is too weak to hunt, then you may need to help them regain some strength by making them eat. Kill and crush some insects (superworms are a good choice for fat and energy) and mix the guts with calcium and vitamin powder. Using a cotton swab, dab a very small amount onto the end of your gecko’s nose. Having something on their nose will make them instinctively lick it off, thus getting some bug and vitamin nourishment back into their body. Repeat until they show a prey drive toward crickets again.

Is My Leopard Gecko Obese?

An obese leopard gecko can develop a fatty liver which can be a serious health problem. A healthy leopard gecko should always have some fat stored in their tail, but their tail shouldn’t become bulbous or misshapen. At that point they will start depositing fat in their organs and throughout their body, which is very unhealthy.  An animal at a good weight will have a tail that is approximately the same width as it’s torso.

Tokay Gecko

tokay gecko feeding crickets

How many crickets to feed a Tokay Gecko

Hatchlings don’t eat until they’ve completed the first shedding procedure which usually happens after three days. Crickets may be offered but choose the smallest ones possible and make sure they’re served alive. 

  • Young Tokay Geckos (0-4 months old) = 8-10 1/4" crickets once per day.
  • Juvenile Tokay Geckos (4-12 months old) = 6-10 medium crickets 6 days a week. 
  • Maturing Tokay Geckos (12 months and older) = 4-7 large crickets every other day. 

The size of crickets to feed will be around 1/4" inch for hatchlings and babies, 3/8 inches for juveniles (4 months and over) and 1/2 to 1 inch to adults (10-12 months old).

Tokay Geckos Dietary Needs

Many pet stores and breeders sell this tokay geckos as babies only so that owners can bond with their pets at a young age and be more able to safely handle this sometimes-aggressive species when they become adults. Baby geckos, however, do not have fully developed skeletal and immune systems and are therefore more susceptible than their older counterparts to developing certain diseases. Thus, they must be fed and housed appropriately when they are first purchased to try to prevent the development of common juvenile diseases. 

Tokay geckos is primarily carnivorous. Some keepers feed only well gut loaded insects and some provide occasional soft fruit or baby food treats.  A 1997 analysis of wild tokay gecko diet indicated no vegetable matter in their guts.  The matter is debated hotly among fanciers.  

Is my Tokay Gecko Obese?

This species can suffer from obesity.  An overly fat tail wider than the body is an indication that fat is being stored internally and can result in fatty liver disease.  Older males tend to have very naturally fat tails, so the concerned keeper should also judge behavior to determine whether or not a change in diet is necessary.  This extremely active species becomes lethargic when too fat, so observation of nighttime activity and energy levels is recommended.  

Is my Tokay Gecko Malnourished?

They can also become too thin.  A lizard with a base of tail less than 2/3 the size of the torso where it enters the caudal juncture (top of the tail) should probably have its daily ration increased by one additional cricket for 2-3 weeks.

This nocturnal creature will need insects well dusted with calcium and D3, especially as a hatchling and juvenile. 

Crested Geckos

how many crickets for a crested gecko

How many Crickets to Feed a Crested Gecko?

The best time of a day to feed your crested gecko is the in the evening, when they naturally start hunting. The feeding recommendations below take into account a diet of more than 70% commercial formulation.

  • Young Crested Geckos (1-4 months old) = 3-4 micro crickets once per day.
  • Juvenile Crested Geckos (4-10 months old) = 4-5 medium crickets 4 days a week. 
  • Maturing Crested Geckos (10 months +) = 6-7 large crickets 3 days per week.

The general guideline is to feed a good crested gecko diet every other day, with gutloaded, dusted insects being introduced around a month after hatching. The formulation should not be further supplemented; additional calcium with D3 can be added through proper gut loading of the feeder insects. Treats like mashed fruit should be offered no more than twice a month.

Feeding more crickets than listed above can cause an imbalance in the calcium-phosphorus ratio. Crickets have a ratio of 1:9 and are low in nutrients by themselves so if they’re not gut-loaded and dusted with supplements they can eventually negatively impact the health of your crestie.

Crested Geckos Dietary Needs

This omnivorous species will eat fewer insects and more vegetable matter than the species listed above.  Many keepers use crickets in addition to a commercially prepared crestie chow. For adults, the keeper will be able to supply the prey items in ways that maintain proper weight for these particular animals.  

Hatchlings need careful observation. It can be difficult to determine food consumption, as they take tiny licks of their commercial prepared formulations and their poops are easily hidden within leaves and branches.  Also, hatchlings can live off their internal yolk sacks for a week or more after hatching. Placing food in the enclosure 24-48 hours after hatching just in case they are hungry is prudent, but feeding not being observed is not necessarily cause for concern until day 7.

Many experienced keepers do not offer live prey until between one and two months of age, order to train the baby to consume the formulated food balanced for nutrition, instead of coming to prefer only insects and refusing their crestie chow. 

Is my Crested Gecko Obese?

Obesity in crested geckos can be a problem.  A tailless crestie should have a rounded torso, with ribs just barely visible right behind the forearms.  The hip bones should be visible, without being overly prominent.  Mature females that have laid clutches may be a little bit plumper looking without indicating obesity. Even a mature breeder should not exceed 45 gms. 

Is my Crested Gecko Malnourished?

An overly thin gecko that is expressing a stick-tail, may benefit from increased rations once disease based concerns are eliminated.  A common reason crested gecko can appear too thin overall, not just in the tail, is dehydration.  Crickets offer very little moisture, and so increasing food items for the animal may not solve the problem, but clean water in addition to extra crickets may.  

Emperor Scorpion

How many crickets to feed an Emperor Scorpion?

Young Scorpions

For owners wanting their young pet to reach their maximum and impressive size of 7 to 8 inches quickly, scorplings can be counted on to consume as much as they can get their little pincers on and sting into submission. The more they eat, the faster they pass through their instars to adulthood. 

Tiny, white, baby scorpions that have just been born and have yet to molt (first instar) will not be able to feed themselves, and will depend on mom to do that for them.  She will shred prey items and feed them to her young manually.  

Juvenile Scorpions

Once the first molt has occurred and they enter their second instar, they can be fed one pinhead cricket per week for slow growth, two crickets for more rapid maturing. Scorplings receiving more generous portions must be carefully observed for upcoming molts.  When the exoskeleton turns dull, withhold all crickets.  Once the molt has been successfully performed, wait three days.  The newly molted body will be so soft that the predator will quickly become the prey for any hungry crickets hiding in the habitat. Once the carapace has hardened, crickets can be offered every day for three days in row.  But after that, reduce feeding frequency to every third day at the most. 

Older scorplings can be fed every three days without danger of overfeeding. Signs that this may be too little will include pouncing on things and agitated skittering. Then one cricket should be offered immediately and a second one two days later. Over feeding is also possible, so if your pet seems uninterested in food, skip a couple of days.  Even a week is not too much fasting and can help reset your pet’s prey drive.

Mature Scorpions

An adult emperor scorpion will eat about three to four adult crickets per week and should be fed every other night. Two crickets at a time should be consumed by morning if your pet is hungry.  If one cricket is consistently left over, change the feeding schedule to every 3rd day. Sometimes a particularly lazy scorpion will be able to be maintained on two crickets per week.  Observation is the key.

Is my Scorpion Obese?

A fat scorpion is not necessarily a well-nourished one.  To ensure a full complement of vitamins and minerals, crickets should be dusted with calcium once per month, and dusted with a high-quality vitamin and mineral supplement weekly.  Carefully gutloaded crickets will serve most needs, however, malnourishment is difficult to determine in this species, as they can go months without eating for no apparent reason. Err on the side of caution and supplement occasionally.

Tarantulas

how many crickets for a tarantula

How many crickets should I feed my tarantula?

Young Tarantulas

For baby tarantulas, called slings (1/4-3/8″ or so in size) small food is needed.  Fortunately, unlike the invertebrate pet described above, slings and spiderlings will scavenge for food and do not require moving prey items.  One-week old crickets (1/8"] are usually the right size for very small spiderlings. Or a keeper may choose to pre-kill and cut up a larger prey item into a more appropriate size. This is a great way to make sure that they can eat as much as they want while not putting them in danger by dropping in an overly-large prey item.

An appropriately sized cricket twice a week is a good feeding regimen for spiderlings. Feeding less often may cause dehydration in baby tarantulas that are too small for a water bowl and are acquiring their water from their food. 

Juvenile and Maturing Tarantulas

Most species of tarantulas do well with a regimen of no more than two crickets per week. However, after molting all ages are at their hungriest. Following molt, increase feeding to three crickets the first week or two. As the spider fattens, feeding should be altered to either less often or smaller foods (substituting pinheads for standard sized crickets.)  If the spider appears to be gaining weight still, then reducing intake of food to once every two weeks may be needed.

Is my Tarantula Obese or too skinny?

Judging spider weight can partially be determined by the size of the abdomen.  A well-nourished and well hydrated spider will have an abdomen approximately the same diameter as the thorax. Putting the spider on a diet of only feeding once monthly may be needed if the abdomen appears significantly larger than this, and this will have the effect of lengthening the molt cycle substantially. Smaller than that and it may be dehydrated, larger than that and it may be fat. The older a tarantula gets, the less it will eat and molt, so adjustments will need to be made.  

Vitamin supplements are generally not recommended for tarantulas, but properly gut-loaded crickets are, and their usual ration should include dark green leafy greens and fruits to provide complete nutrition for this arachnid pet. 

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