Reptiles and amphibians need to eat live food, which will help not just their nutrition but also their hunting skills which they would have to naturally take care of in the wild.
The healthier your live food, the better nutrition your reptile or amphibian will also receive. It is therefore important to care for these critters as part of your pet’s overall care plan.
This is called ‘gut loading’ – when your bugs and critters are fed high-quality food before being fed to your pet.
There are three components to looking after living food – their own diet, hydration and space. Whatever you give them will also end up in your reptile, but if you look after them well, they will thrive and could even breed, resulting in a never-ending supply of grub.
You will need a pair of reptile feeding tongs to drop your live food into the tank, and not scare your reptile. You also want to save your fingers from possible bites.
Depending on your chosen live food, there may be certain things you specifically have to do.
How To Choose The Best Live Food For Your Reptile
There are various choices out there, from mealworms to crickets and locusts. Which you need will depend on your exact reptile, but it is worth noting that not every reptile or breed needs live food so check before you start feeding them.
Crickets are usually the best staple for any reptile. They can be kept alive for a long time, making them cost-effective for you, and are one of the best for gut-loading. Locusts are similar to look after but can be more demanding. Worms and bugs are usually just for treats and occasional feeding, not staple diets, but are pretty easy to look after.
These love crickets, mealworms and locusts. Place them in the tank so they can hunt them out
As they are smaller, crickets, mealworms, cockroaches and waxworms are suitable
These guys aren’t usually bothered what they eat, but you may have to also feed rodents and other meat to them. Crickets, mealworms and crickets can usually be fed with some breeds
Most are herbivorous, but some such as the red-foot, yellow-foot, or box turtle, are omnivorous so will need the odd insect. Grasshoppers, crickets, worms, and grubs are suitable, but nothing too fast is best
Again, some are omnivorous or plant-based so check first. If yours does need animal protein, it can come from freeze-dried shrimp, crickets and mealworms, but live food can be stimulating. Try bloodworms and daphnia, or insects which live on the surface of the water
Common Live Food Insects
How do you look after your reptiles live food? While it is another step in the care process, most are pretty easy to keep – given that they are secure.
House them in a large plastic tub with air holes so they have plenty of space. They like to hide, so putting toilet roll tubes and egg boxes in there is another good idea.
Commercial cricket food is available, which is already loaded with the vitamins and minerals to be passed on to your pet. Also, feed fresh vegetation. Always make sure food is available in their enclosure.
They will die of dehydration before starvation. They can drown in a water bowl, however, so a bug gel or water in small water caps is best. You can buy jelly pots or aqua balls too.
Very active insects, which is great for reptiles who hunt. But this does mean they need a large plastic enclosure, with air holes. If you want to grow them until they have wings, an even bigger enclosure will be needed. They grow quicker in heat, so you can use a heat mat to speed this up. Like crickets, they love to hide in cardboard tubes or similar.
Locusts can also be fed on commercially available cricket food, as well as fresh vegetation. Locusts eat a lot, so you may have to check they have food available a few times per day.
Again, locusts can die of dehydration but can also drown in deep water, so bug gels or a small amount of water in bottle caps is sufficient, but keep it topped up.
Worms & Grubs
This depends on which worms and bugs you have. Waxworms don’t need anything at all – just keep them in a tub in your fridge.
Worms and beetle grubs need a large plastic tub but also like to burrow, so a suitable soil-based substrate should be used. This should be kept moist, and some form of bug feed spread throughout.
These are similar to regular worms in that they need substrate, but this shouldn’t be kept damp. They eat this substrate, so using something like Bug Grub throughout will gut-load them in preparation for feeding. They still need water, but this can be given in the form of fresh vegetables which can be swapped out if it starts to rot.
It is usually fruit flies which are used, so house them in a tall container and feed, you guessed it, fruit to them. They will lay eggs in this quickly, and the next generation will be born for a constant supply of food.