How to Gut-Load Dubia Roaches and Give Your Insectivores the Best Diet
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Most insectivorous reptile owners know that their pets need extra vitamin A and calcium in their diets. For those who need a quick refresher on the role of these nutrients, check out this short article on the importance of vitamin A and calcium in the diet of carnivorous reptiles.
In short, the veterinarian who reviewed the literature suggests that the best way to get your leopard gecko, bearded dragon, or other insectivorous pet sufficient amounts of vitamin A and calcium is to gut load your feeder insects. Dubia roaches are a great choice of feeder for many species, and they can easily be gut loaded using common vegetables, listed below. Don’t forget to check out the section on what not to feed your roaches with!
What is Gut-loading?
Just as it sounds, gut-loading is the process of filling up the gut of a feeder insect with nutrient-rich food. While many feeder insects can be raised on cheap and simple diets like oatmeal or cereal, these diets do not have all of the necessary nutrients your insectivore needs. If done right, gut loading can create more nutritious feeder insects for your pets. Crickets, superworms, and black soldier fly larva can all be gut-loaded. But we'll discuss how to gut-load dubia roaches in this article.
Gut-Loading Vs Dusting
One common technique for getting reptiles the vitamins and minerals they need is to dust the insects in vitamin powder before feeding. However, much like taking vitamins is a poor substitute for a healthy diet, dusting insects with a poor gut load can be ineffective. While vitamin powders can provide a little extra vitamin A and calcium, the best practice is typically a small amount of vitamin powder with feeder insects that have been gut loaded with high amounts of calcium and vitamin A.
Dubia roaches make a great species for gut loading because they are relatively large and can carry lots of extra nutrients within their guts. They actively eat almost anything you give them, so they can easily be loaded up with the right nutrients for your pet.
Plus, an important aspect of gut loading is the microbiome within the feeder insect. As the insect eats nutritious vegetables, microorganisms within their digestive tract begin breaking down the food and releasing the nutrients. This makes vitamin A and calcium available to your pet.
By contrast, if you were to simply grind up a bunch of vegetables and syringe them into a feeder insect, the nutrients would not be released. The processing the food undergoes within the insects is of the utmost importance when it comes to the health of your pet.
Benefits of Gut Loading your Dubia Roaches
In the wild, insectivorous reptiles and amphibians eat a wide variety of prey items. Each insect they eat has itself eaten a wide variety of plant materials. Some eat leaves, some grasses, some fruits, and some eat roots. Many different kinds of plants have relatively high levels of calcium and vitamin A. As the insects process these plants, they make the nutrients more available to the rest of the food chain. Therefore, wild carnivores do not need any vitamin supplements to stay healthy.
However, reptiles and amphibians in captivity often have much less diversity in their diet, get less exercise, and don’t get the same quality of light. These things can add up to serious health problems if they are not countered. For instance, your pet can experience digestive issues, significant problems shedding their skin properly, and even poor reproductive health when they miss these crucial nutrients in their diet.
Gut-loaded dubia roaches that have been fed with certain types of food can significantly decrease the chances that your pet will experience health issues. Follow the steps below to perfectly gut-load your feeders!
Which Foods to Gut-Load Dubia Roaches
Do Not Gut Load with These Foods
Before you start, you should know that there are several foods that you should not feed to your dubia roaches. Gut loading with the following foods should be avoided:
- Citrus Fruits - citrus can cause indigestion in many reptiles, and even insectivores can get sick if their feeders are loaded with citrus
- Meats + Dairy - these foods contain very high levels of fat, which cannot be processed efficiently by some reptiles and amphibians, leading to liver issues
- Rotting foods - rotting foods are actively being broken down by microbes, reducing their nutrient profiles and possibly infecting your pet
Gut Load with These Foods
What you should use is a variety of leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits. In order to increase vitamin A and calcium levels of this mixture, you should commonly add two groups of food into the mix.
For vitamin A, try to add orange-colored vegetables like sweet potatoes, yams, carrots, and pumpkin into the mix.
For calcium, add leafy greens like spinach, collard greens, broccoli, and kale. You can also add in a variety of other fruits and veggies (besides citrus) to make sure your pet gets the most diverse and healthy diet!
Mix Up Their Diets!
One key aspect here is diversity. Different foods have different types and quantities of nutrients. The best diet is not a steady supply of only pumpkin and spinach. While these foods do have high levels of vitamin A and calcium, they also contain many other nutrients. Vitamin A and calcium seem to be the cause of the most prevalent disorders seen in insectivores, but animals need much more than just these two nutrients.
You should also consider carbohydrates, protein, and fat content, in addition to the dozen or so other vitamins that are important. The easiest way to build a great diet for your pets is to mix up the foods you use for feeders with every feeding. As long as there is at least one source of vitamin A and calcium, you can mix in fruits, grains, nuts, and other plant materials to make sure that you are giving your pets all the important nutrients they need!