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Nutritional Value of Madagascar Hissing Roaches
Whether omnivorous or carnivorous, reptiles that eat insects have very specific needs. When you start looking at what kind of insects you should feed your pet, it's easy to get lost in the details. There are a lot of options, each with different nutritional benefits.
But what if there was a single easy answer? Many people think the Madagascar hissing cockroach is just that. In this article, we'll look at your reptile's dietary needs, and see how well the Madagascar hissing cockroach matches up.
Reptile Dietary Needs
As we mentioned already, omnivores and carnivores have slightly different dietary needs. Carnivorous reptiles need a balance of protein (25-60%), fat (30-60%), and carbs (<10%) to stay healthy. Omnivorous reptiles need a lot more carbs, but in general also need lots of protein and fat.
But in captivity, things change a little. Because fat is such a high-energy nutrient, your reptile's body will store whatever it doesn't use as body fat. For domestic reptiles that are mostly sedentary, this can be a problem.
It's very easy for reptiles to become obese in captivity, especially when their main food source is high fat. So it's a good idea to use a lean insect that's high in protein for your reptile's main food source, and supplement its fat intake with high-fat "treats."
Hissing Cockroach Nutritional Value
Fat and Protein
Let's take a look at the basic nutritional values for Madagascar hissing cockroaches. The average hisser nymph contains:
So Madagascar hissing roaches are higher in protein and lower in fat than mealworms and waxworms. They also have much more protein than superworms, but contain about half the fat. What this adds up to is Madagascar hissing roaches being a highly nutritious, lean protein for reptiles.
Calcium and Phosphorus
Now let's look at the calcium to phosphorus ratio of Madagascar hissing roaches.
Calcium: 2.5 g/kg
Phosphorus: 9.3 g/kg
Ratio: roughly 1:4
The ideal ratio of calcium to phosphorus for a feeder insect is 2:1, which means these roaches fall short for a reptile's nutritional needs. This presents a challenge with Madagascar hissing cockroaches. But it's not unique to hissers as a species. Dubia roaches have a 1:1 calcium to phosphorus ratio. Which means that are a better nutritional option, but they still don't hit the nutritional mark.
Like with other feeding insects that have high phosphorus to calcium ratios, you'll need to balance the calcium content of the insects. You can do this a few ways, either by dusting or gut loading.
In fact, we recommend both gut loading and dusting to make sure your reptile is getting enough calcium. If it isn't, you should be able to tell by looking at its stool.
For omnivorous reptiles, this is a little easier to work around. You can supplement your pet's insect food with high calcium vegetables. Foods like chard, watercress, squash and collard greens all have high calcium content.
It may seem like we're being obnoxious with calcium, but the fact of the matter is without the correct amount of calcium, they can suffer from a terminal disease called metabolic bone disease. Metabolic bone disease is the direct result of not getting enough calcium. In the wild, these animals will get their needed vitamin D from the sun. But when they are in captivity, they don't get the sunlight exposure, which means they need to get from their food intake, which is why it's so important that their food is dusted.
Another thing we need to consider is how easily digestible feeder insects are. This is commonly measured by the insect's fiber. The fiber in an insect's tissues comes mostly from chitin, which is largely indigestible. The less chitin an insect has, the more a reptile will be able to digest vital nutrients from it.
Madagascar hissing cockroaches have a very low fiber content: just 2.6%. Compared to other feeder insects like superworms and crickets, hissers have a much lower chitin content and are therefore much easier to digest.
When comparing Madagascar hissing roaches against other feeders, this fact is a big selling point. For how low their fiber content is, hissers have one of the highest protein contents, without being very fatty. This checks a lot of boxes in terms of what a reptile needs.
Other Things to Consider
Madagascar hissing roaches have a few other notable nutrients. Their moisture content is fairly high, at 69.2%. This will help your reptile stay hydrated.
Hissers also have the highest ash content among common feeder insects: 8%. But what does that even mean? Ash is all of the stuff contained in an insect that doesn't fall into another category (like protein, fat, water, fiber, etc.).
So ash is made up of a lot of salts, minerals, vitamins, and other micronutrients. In general, having more ash means that an insect contains more micronutrients and minerals that aren't commonly or listed when you look up their nutritional value.
To sum all this up, Madagascar hissing cockroaches are an good, but not perfect, food source for carnivorous and omnivorous reptiles. They're a highly digestible lean protein with low fiber and a very high ash content. As a primary food source, they check all the major boxes very well. But still need to be dusted to ensure your pet gets the proper amount of calcium.
The one downside of hissers as a food source is their calcium to phosphorus ratio. But, you can correct for this by gut loading and dusting your feeders before giving them to your reptile. Or, if your reptile is omnivorous, you can also give them vegetables that are high in calcium. If dusting isn't an option, then black soldier fly larvae are the only insect that offers the ideal calcium to phosphorus ratio.
With a little supplementing, Madagascar hissing cockroaches give your reptile almost all the vital nutrients they need to be healthy and happy.