How Many Superworms Should I Feed My Pet?
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What's So Great About Superworms?
Superworms can be a great part of any captive insectivore’s diet, though you must feed your pet the right amount of appropriately sized superworms for different stages of your pet’s life.
This article dives into the nutritional content and appropriate amounts of superworms of many different pets, including bearded dragons, geckos, chameleons, scorpions, and tarantulas.
In general, superworms contain a very similar nutritional composition compared to mealworms. They are high in protein and fat and have a similar amount of calcium (though superworms and mealworms should both be gut-loaded and dusted with calcium when fed to insectivores). However, superworms can get nearly 6-times the size of mealworms and are slightly more energy-dense. This makes them a great choice to feed to both growing pets and sick pets that need a good boost of energy.
Like almost all feeder insects, superworms do not constitute a perfect diet by themselves. You should always try to offer you animals a variety of feeder insects throughout their life to ensure that they are getting all of the macro and micronutrients they require. Additionally, superworms are lacking in calcium, and have too much phosphorus. This means that they will need to be dusted with calcium before being offered as a food. Or, we always recommend black soldier fly larvae as a staple feeder because they naturally have the preferred calcium-to-phosophorus ratio that reptiles need.
How Many Superworms for Bearded Dragons?
- Young Bearded Dragons (1-3 months old) = 10-20 <1” Superworms 3-4 times a week
- Juvenile Bearded Dragons (3-9 months old) = 5-10 1”-1.5” Superworms 3-4 times a week
- Maturing Bearded Dragons (9+ months old) = 2-3 2” Superworms twice a week
Bearded Dragon Dietary Needs
Juvenile bearded dragons are almost entirely insectivorous, so they will take many more superworms and other insects compared to maturing bearded dragons. As young bearded dragons begin to mature, it is important to start offering them a variety of leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables. As adults, plant matter should make up more than 50% of their total diet.
An omnivorous diet is a bit more complex than a purely insectivorous diet. Juvenile beardies will eat almost exclusively insects, and the high fat and protein content of superworms can be helpful in getting them the highly-dense energy they need to grow. Each dragon has a different appetite, however, so be sure to offer your beardy a variety of prey species to feast on and adjust the numbers above accordingly. If your pet is not consuming all the superworms (or other prey items you offer them) be sure to remove them from the cage. On the flip side, if your bearded dragon is consuming everything and looking for more, you can offer them a few more insects.
After the juvenile stage, bearded dragons will begin taking some plant-based materials. Until that time, you should ensure that your feeder insects have been properly gut-loaded and dusted with calcium. Superworms are much higher in fat than crickets, so be sure to monitor your bearded dragon for signs of obesity if you are using superworms as a staple food source. If this happens, you can either substitute lower-fat crickets or increase the amount of fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens that your bearded dragon is getting.
Checking for Obesity or Malnourishment
Bearded dragons, if fed improperly, can easily develop metabolic bone disease. However, this condition is easy to avoid if gut-load and calcium dust your feeder insects. You can also check out this list of Bearded-Dragon-Approved vegetables to see what types and amounts of plant-based materials you should be feeding your dragon regularly. Together, these two steps allow most owners to avoid any obesity or malnourishment.
For instance, obese dragons are simply getting too much fat from the insects in their diet. Plants have almost no fat, but insects like superworms have a very high fat content. Juvenile bearded dragons simply metabolize this fat content into growth, but adults will begin to store it. You can monitor obesity in your bearded dragon using two very simple methods:
- Use a kitchen scale to weigh your dragon regularly. Chart the growth on a spreadsheet. As your bearded dragon matures to about a year old, its weight should start to plateau. If it is still gaining weight as an adult, your dragon may be getting obese.
- Visually inspect your dragon regularly for signs of lethargy and a bloated gut. These signs of obesity can easily be controlled by cutting back on fatty insects and increasing the plant matter in your pet’s diet.
Malnourishment is most often caused by underfeeding your dragon. You can tell if your dragon is losing weight by regularly weighing your dragon on a kitchen scale. If your dragon starts visually losing muscle mass or has excess skin folds, this could also be a sign of malnutrition. Like obesity, malnutrition can also manifest in behavioral changes such as lethargy or an unwillingness to move or interact with you.
Calcium deficiencies often manifest first as an inability to shed properly, especially around the head and eyes. Sometimes, malnutrition disorders will manifest as a color change, producing a dull coloration across the body. If you suspect malnutrition, you should increase the amount and variety of insects and plant materials you are feeding to ensure that their nutritional requirements are being met.
How many Superworms for Veiled Chameleons?
- Young Veiled Chameleons (1-3 months old) = 2-3 <1” Superworms per week
- Young Veiled Chameleons (3-6 months old) = 3-5 1” Superworms per week
- Juvenile Veiled Chameleons (6-10 months old) = 4-6 1.5” Superworms per week
- Maturing Veiled Chameleons (10+ months old) = 7-8 2” Superworms per week
*It should be noted that some Chameleons prefer superworms to all other feeder insects. However, superworms do not constitute a perfect diet on their own. Many users start with crickets in the morning and give superworms and other insects as treats in the afternoon.
Veiled Chameleon Dietary Needs
Veiled chameleons, like all chameleons, are obligate carnivores. In other words, these animals have evolved to eat a diet made exclusively of insects. A chameleon’s sticky tongue has evolved exclusively for the purpose of capturing a wide variety of flying and crawling insects. When it comes to superworms, it has been noted in the reptile community that chameleons are especially fond of superworms. While they can make a great treat, they should not be the only insects that you offer your chameleon. Along with the other insects that you feed, you should gut-load and calcium dust the superworms that you do offer to help balance your chameleon’s diet.
In general, chameleons do best on a variety of different insects. For practical reasons, this may mean feeding one type of insect at a time so you don’t have to buy and maintain colonies of all the different insects at once. However, after you have fed one insect for a week or a month, switch it up to ensure your chameleon gets a wide variety of nutrients.
Checking for Obesity or Malnourishment
Typically, chameleons do well as long as they are in an appropriate environment and receive a diversity of insects. However, adult females can easily over-consume and start to become obese. This energy is typically diverted into creating eggs, but in captivity, this can become a problem. Superworms have a relatively high fat content (compared to crickets), so you should offer both crickets and superworms to decrease the total amount of fat in the diet. While chameleons typically love superworms, they can overindulge. Measuring your chameleon’s weight and watching the areas around their spine for signs of bulging. A rotund body is another sign of obesity.
Malnourished chameleons will look frail, very skinny, and have slight depressions around the spine. A chameleon with a sharp, pronounced crest is often malnourished. Chameleons are also very prone to changing colors when they are sick or malnourished. A very dull, pale, or even dark coloration can be a sign that your pet chameleon is not getting the nutrients or environment it requires. Healthy chameleons are often bright and vibrant when they are doing well (typically bright green in veiled chameleons). Superworms can be a great supplement for malnourished chameleons because they are full of fat and nutrients that can help your chameleon get their energy back.
How many Superworms for Leopard Geckos?
- Young Leopard Geckos (0-4 months old) = 6-10 <1” Superworms per day
- Juvenile Leopard Geckos (4-10 months old) = 6-10 1”-1.5” Superworms every other day
- Maturing Leopard Geckos (10+ months old) = 6-10 2” Superworms 2-3 times per week
Leopard Gecko Dietary Needs
Leopard Geckos eat a diet that is entirely insects, though using one insect alone is not typically enough. That being said, leopard geckos love all sorts of feeder insects so it is not difficult to get them to eat a varied diet. A good rule of thumb for most geckos is to offer 2 feeder insects for every inch of your lizard’s length. Like most obligate carnivores, most leopard geckos have very specific calcium and phosphorus requirements. When it comes to superworms, it is best to dust them before feeding to ensure that you avoid calcium deficiencies.
Wild leopard geckos are nocturnal predators that feed on a wide variety of prey. You can imitate this wild condition by regularly changing the staple insect that you offer and offering other insects as treats. Simply rotate the insects you buy as feeders to ensure that your leopard gecko has a decent variety. Most leopard geckos tend to lose their appetites as they age and stop growing, so be prepared to feed them less regularly as they enter adulthood.
Checking for Obesity and Malnourishment
Like most insectivores, there are two basic methods to monitor your leopard gecko for signs of malnutrition or obesity. Geckos tend to store fat in their tails, so you can watch your gecko’s tail as it grows to see if your lizard is storing excess fat. Their tails should be plump, but not fully round at any point. A bulging tail can mean your gecko is getting obese, though it can also signal that an adult female is growing eggs. If the tail starts to shrivel or develops loose skin, this could be a sign that your leopard gecko is not getting enough nutrition to maintain its body weight. The other basic tool veterinarians use is regularly measure your pet’s weight. You can do this at home with a kitchen scale to ensure that your gecko gains weight and levels off at adulthood.
How many Superworms for Tokay Geckos?
- Young Tokay Geckos (0-4 months old) = 6-10 <1” Superworms per day
- Juvenile Tokay Geckos (4-10 months old) = 6-10 1”-1.5” Superworms every other day
- Maturing Tokay Geckos (10+ months old) = 6-10 2” Superworms 2-3 times per week
Tokay Gecko Dietary Needs
Tokay geckos are slightly smaller than leopard geckos, therefore they will eat slightly fewer insects on the lower end of the scale above. The guidelines above are similar since every gecko will have a slightly different appetite as it grows and matures. It should be noted that tokay geckos are relatively unique in that they do not eat before their first molt, so if you get the gecko as a brand new hatchling it may be a week or more before they are ready to start taking insects.
All gecko species thrive on a variety of insects, and superworms should only be a part of that diet. Superworms make a great staple insect for juveniles and gravid females because of their high fat content, but they can easily make other tokay geckos obese if overfed. Superworms should always be dusted with calcium because their calcium to phosphorus ratio is far from balanced.
Checking for Obesity or Malnutrition
Tokay geckos can be monitored visually and regularly weighed to monitor them for obesity or malnutrition. Juvenile tokays should gain weight steadily as they reach adulthood. As adults, they should level off and maintain weight. Like leopard geckos, tokay geckos hold most of their excess fat in their tails. An extra plump tail can be a sign of obesity, whereas a misshapen tail can be a sign of malnutrition.
Tokay geckos often become lethargic and show behavioral changes when they are either too fat or malnourished. Healthy tokays are active at night and will vigorously hunt down and capture their prey. If your lizard is active during the day or shows a decreased propensity for hunting, this may also be a sign of a poor diet. You should also monitor the color of your lizard, which can change based on their diet and health.
How many Superworms for Crested Geckos?
- Young Crested Geckos (0-4 months old) = 5-8 <1” Superworms per day
- Juvenile Crested Geckos (4-10 months old) = 5-8 1”-1.5” Superworms every other day
- Maturing Crested Geckos (10+ months old) = 5-8 2” Superworms 2-3 times per week
Crested Gecko Dietary Needs
Crested geckos will take slightly fewer insects than other geckos simply because they are smaller in size. Like most other geckos, these are a nocturnal species that prefers to hunt and be active at night. Therefore, you should feed at dusk when your gecko is starting to become more active. Unlike other geckos, crested geckos will sometimes take plant-based items like soft fruit treats. These should be offered occasionally in addition to a highly variable insect diet.
Superworms are not entirely balanced with calcium and should be dusted with a calcium supplement to ensure your crested gecko is getting the right nutrition. Superworms are also very high in fat compared to crickets, so you should carefully monitor your lizard’s weight if you choose superworms as a staple. You can always switch to crickets or worms if your lizard starts gaining weight.
Checking for Obesity or Malnutrition
Since crested geckos have a thinner tail naturally, the tail is less of a sign of obesity or malnutrition compared to other gecko species. If you pay close attention, you may be able to see slight changes in the density and thickness of their tail and use it to predict malnutrition or obesity. Tight skin can be a sign of obesity, whereas loose skin can indicate malnutrition. However, monitoring your crested gecko’s behavior can be one of the easiest indicators of a bad diet. Obese and malnourished crested geckos will be lethargic and may not become active every night. The best rule-of-thumb is to offer a wide variety of feeder insects to keep your lizard satisfied and nourished.
If your lizard starts to get calcium deficiency, it will show the common signs. For instance, your lizard may have swollen limbs, disfigured hip, tail, or spine bones, and general weakness. An early warning sign can be an inability to shed completely or properly and the lizard may leave remnants of old skin around their eyes and face. Unhealthy crested geckos may become dull in color. By gut-loading and regularly dusting your feeder insects, this can be easily avoided. However, if your gecko does become malnourished, you can pre-kill superworms and even mash them up. If they will not eat it naturally, you can place a bit on your lizard’s nose and they will lick it off. This is a good way to get malnourished geckos to start taking food again.
How many Superworms for Emperor Scorpions?
- Young Emperor Scorpions (1-2 weeks) = 0 Superworms (Simply feed the Mother Scorpion*)
- Juvenile Emperor Scorpions (First molt - 5+ Inches) = 2-6 1”-1.5” Superworms every other day (outside of molting**)
- Maturing Emperor Scorpions (7-8 Inches) = 3-8 2” Superworms every other day
* Mother scorpions will tear up food to feed their young. Simply feed the mother a little extra and she will take care of her scorplings.
** When you notice the start of molting (a dull exoskeleton color), withhold all food. Wait until the new exoskeleton has hardened before feeding again.
Emperor Scorpion Dietary Needs
As desert animals, scorpions are opportunistic organisms that rarely require a meal. Many scorpion owners tend to overestimate the amount of prey that their pet needs. The above guidelines are simply that - guidelines. Some scorpions will take food more often, while others may avoid eating for weeks at a time. Scorpions are obligate carnivores, and as such, they will eat almost any prey food offered if they are hungry. However, if you give your scorpion access to more food than it needs it could become stressed or damaged by the extra insects.
Checking for Obesity or Malnourishment
Generally speaking, obesity and malnourishment are hard to detect in a scorpion. While you can pay attention to their weight if you make a habit of weighing them regularly, the slight changes in weight may not be enough to fully understand if they are getting what they need. Behavioral changes can be much more telling. Obese scorpions can become lazy and almost “bored” with their prey, whereas a malnourished scorpion will be ravenous and seek food constantly. If you notice either of these behaviors, be sure to adjust your feeding regime accordingly. While calcium supplements are not typically required for scorpions, you can ensure they are getting the appropriate nutrients by offering them a variety of feeder insects throughout their life.
Another way to observe obesity and malnutrition in scorpions is to monitor the rate at which they molt. Most scorpion species go through about 6 molts before adulthood. This can happen in as fast as 6 months, though you can slow this process down by offering less food. If your scorpion is molting at the fastest possible rate, you are likely overfeeding your scorpion. If your scorpion takes 3-4 months to molt, you may not be offering enough food. After the 6th molt, your emperor scorpion has likely reached adulthood, so you can decrease the amount of food you offer it to help it maintain a healthy weight.
How many Superworms for Tarantulas?
- Young Tarantulas (<½”) = 1-3 <1” Superworms weekly
- Juvenile Tarantulas (First molt - 5+ Inches) = 2-4 1”-1.5” Superworms per week (outside of molting**)
- Maturing Tarantulas (7-8 Inches) = 2-5 2” Superworms weekly or bi-weekly
** Molting tarantulas should not be fed. But, directly after the exoskeleton hardens your tarantula will be very hungry. It can be offered slightly more food at this time to help it gain weight and rehydrate.
Tarantula Dietary Needs
Like scorpions, tarantulas do not need vitamin dust supplements. But, it does help if the insects you feed them are gut-loaded with appropriate plant-based foods. Superworms can be fed a variety of different foods like apples and carrots that can help with this task. Also, they can be raised on an oat or grain formula that has a gut-loading supplement added that will make them very nutritious for your spider. Like all the other species listed here, most tarantulas do best on a variable diet that does not favor a single feeder species.
The only real consideration with tarantulas is the amount that you feed them as they grow. Since tarantulas get all of the water they need from feeder insects, juvenile tarantulas need to be fed more than twice a week to ensure they are getting plenty of water. Juvenile tarantulas may drown in water dishes, so it is best not to offer free water at this point. As they grow, tarantulas can drink out of water dishes so this becomes less of an issue. Like scorpions, the molting period of a tarantula can be modified by feeding them more or less. If your tarantula seems to be molting very quickly, cut back the number or times of feedings. Tarantulas can easily go a week or more with food.
Checking for Obesity or Malnutrition
The easiest way to monitor a tarantula for signs of obesity or malnutrition is to keep an eye on the condition of their abdomen. A normal abdomen should be about the same size as the thorax. An enlarged or swollen abdomen is a sign of obesity, while a shriveled or dehydrated abdomen is a sign of malnutrition or poor water access. The abdomen is much more flexible than the thorax, so you will definitely notice if it starts changing size or shape.
Obese spiders will have an abdomen that starts to greatly exceed the size and width of the thorax. At the extreme, you may even notice that your spider's abdomen is dragging on the ground as it tries to walk. Having your spider fast for a week or two and offering less fatty feeder insects can help with this condition. Alternatively, a shriveling abdomen means that your tarantula is not getting enough fat or water in its diet. Superworms are high in both fat and water and can be a great solution to help your spider gain the weight back fast.