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Reptile, Amphibian, Scorpion and Tarantula Feeding Tools

t259648Today I’d like to highlight some interesting feeding tools, automatic feeders, live food dispensers and other products designed for herp and invertebrate keepers.  Included are items that can lighten our work load, ensure safety when feeding aggressive creatures, and automatically provide meals in our absence.  I especially favor products that dispense live insects at irregular intervals, and also those which force turtles, newts and aquatic frogs to work for their food.  This concept, known as behavioral enrichment, became standard zoo-practice while I was working at the Bronx Zoo.  In addition to encouraging exercise, such devices add greatly to the range of interesting behaviors we can observe among our pets.

 

Hanging Mealworm Feeder

The perforated bottom of Zoo Med’s Hanging Mealworm Feeder allows grubs to find their own way into the terrarium.  Mealworms that escape detection will encourage natural hunting behaviors.  Animals of all kinds quickly learn to recognize the feeder…if you remove it when not in use most, will respond right away when it is returned.

 

t259647I’ve employed similar feeders in zoos for a wide range of creatures.  Zoo Med’s modal should also be useful to those who keep oscars and similar fishes, hedgehogs, sugar gliders, finches, shama thrushes, and other insectivorous pets.

 

The first worm feeders were designed to provide tubifex worms to tropical fishes.  I still use the same modal I first purchased as a child…and the price hasn’t gone up much!  In addition to being a great fish-feeding tool, Lee’s Four-Way Worm Feeder is perfect for offering blackworms to newts, axolotls, African clawed frogs and small turtles.

 

Cricket Feeders

Available in 3 sizes, Exo Terra’s Cricket Pen takes much of the hassle out of keeping those pesky but ever-present crickets.  Detachable dispensing tubes, which are used as sheltering sites by crickets, are set into a ventilated, plastic cage.  A flap seals the tubes lower end when it is removed, allowing crickets to be added to terrariums with a tap of the finger.  Cricket food and water receptacles are also included.

 

Depending upon the species and terrarium set-up, you may also be able to simply place the Cricket Pen into your pet’s tank and let the crickets escape on their own.  Covering the pen with dark paper will keep animals from trying to reach crickets through the plastic walls…you should notice an increase in alertness and foraging behavior if you use it in this way.

 

Asian Forest Scorpion

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Chris huh

Feeding Tongs

Gone are the days when we had to modify tweezers and cooking utensils for use as herp-feeding tools.  Zoo Med’s 10-inch Stainless Steel Feeding Tongs is perfect for presenting meals to snakes, scorpions, mantids, and tarantulas, and for removing debris from tanks where one’s fingers are best kept out of reach.

 

As most frogs seem to lack any sort of reasonable control over their feeding lunges, I use Zoo Med’s Plastic Feeding Tongs   when feeding mine (this tendency is not limited to pets – I’ve seen wild American Bullfrogs crash into rocks, and one landed so close to a larger frog that it too wound up as a meal!).  Lizards vary in their feeding responses…over-zealous feeders may injure themselves on metal tongs, while others are not at risk.  You might want to stay with plastic tongs for certain snakes also.

 

Feeding tongs can also be used with various fishes and birds…or, if you’ve been as lucky as I. with captive short-tailed shrews and least weasels (two of the most insanely-ferocious creatures I’ve worked with!).

 

Turtle Feeders

The Zoo Med Floating Turtle Feeder is the best behavioral enrichment -type turtle product on the market.  Amazingly simple in design and easy to use, it will keep sliders, musk turtles, map turtles and similar species well-occupied…and their owners very amused!

 

Exo-Terra’s Automatic Turtle Feeder, similar in design to automatic fish-feeders, is a much-needed addition to the turtle-keeper’s supply kit.

 

You can read more about these useful turtle-feeders in this article.

Hi, my name is Frank Indiviglio.  I’m a herpetologist, zoologist, and book author, recently retired from a career spent at several zoos, aquariums, and museums, including over 20 years with the Bronx Zoo.

Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook.   Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable.  I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

 

Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly.  Thanks, until next time, Frank.

 

Further Reading

Canned Insects and Snails

 

Collecting Insects for Captive Herps

 

My Leopard Gecko Is Not Eating: What To Do

 

 

Adult female

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Jerome66

When cared for properly, Leopard Geckos are among the most hardy and long-lived of all reptile pets.  But apparently-healthy geckos sometimes refuse to feed, or cut back on their intake, and there is still much confusion as to why this occurs.  My work with Leopard Geckos and hundreds of other species in zoos and at home has (I hope!) provided me with some useful insights into this problem.  Some involve areas that any good reptile keeper would investigate – environment, stress levels, disease – while others, such as the effects of circadian rhythms (“internal clocks”), are less obvious.

 

Winter’s Arrival and Internal Rhythms Regulate Eating

Leopard Geckos are native to southeastern Afghanistan, western India, Pakistan, Iraq, and Iran, where they inhabit desert fringes and arid grasslands.  In some parts of this range, temperatures rise to 100+ F in summer and drop below 32 F during the winter.  Wild Leopard Geckos living in environments that experience severe winters become dormant for several months each year, while those in milder regions may remain active (please see the article linked below to read more about their natural history).

 

While your pet is, no doubt, many generations removed from the wild, internal circadian rhythms may cause it to become lethargic and refuse food during the winter.  This can happen even if your gecko is kept warm and given a photo-period of 12-14 hours.  To confuse matters further, some reptiles enter dormancy when winter arrives in their native habitats…even if it happens to be summertime in their present home!  I’ve seen this among Indian Gharials (fish-eating crocodiles) 15 years removed from the wild, and in many others.  Captive Bearded Dragons also exhibit this type of behavior on occasion; please see this article.

 

leopard geckoUnfortunately, it’s not often possible to be certain that a pet has stopped feeding due to the effects of an internal rhythm, so be sure to check the other possibilities discussed below.

 

Next I’ll mention other things that should be checked if your gecko stops feeding, including husbandry (tank set-up, temperatures, diet, etc.), stress, and disease.  I’ve written on each of these in further detail in the linked articles.

 

Your Gecko’s Environment

As Leopard Geckos are nocturnal, it’s important to monitor nighttime temperatures, especially during the winter, when most people lower their home thermostats.  The ambient air temperature should range from 78-84 F, which can be maintained by a ceramic heater or red/black reptile “night bulb”; a below-tank heat mat should be positioned so that one corner of the tank is warmer (88 F) than the rest.  Be sure also to establish a thermal gradient (areas of different temperatures) so that your gecko can regulate its body temperature as needed.

 

tPG01794While Leopard Geckos often adapt to smaller enclosures than do other lizards, individuals vary in their response to crowding.  Moving your pet to a larger terrarium may help, and this will also make it easier for you to establish a thermal gradient (small terrariums tend to remain at the temperature of the basking site).

 

And, no matter how well-adjusted or bold your pet may be, it’s important to provide a dark, secure cave or other shelter.  Geckos forced to remain exposed often cease feeding.

 

Diet

Wild Leopard Geckos feed upon a huge array of invertebrates, while pets are often limited to 2-3 food items.  Dietary variety is important for health reasons.  But providing different types of insects can also incite new interest in feeding.  We see this most commonly in chameleons, but the enthusiasm your Leopard Geckos will show for novel foods will leave you with no doubt as to their value.  Please see this article to read more about adding silkworms, house flies, sow bugs, wild-caught insects and other important foods to your pet’s diet.

 

Stress Can Affect Eating

Geckos may be stressed by the mere presence of a dominant cage-mate, even absent fighting.  If you suspect aggression, observe your geckos after dark, when they will be most active (a red/black reptile bulb will prove useful).  Appetite-suppressing aggression is especially common among young geckos that are being raised in groups.

 

Locating the terrarium in a noisy part of the house, or where there are vibrations from machinery, may also depress appetites and contribute to other health concerns.

 

Disease and other Health Issues

Impactions from substrate swallowed with meals and Metabolic Bone Disease are two of the more common reasons that geckos cease feeding.

 

Other health concerns that have been identified include Hyperthyroidism, Eyelid Lining Retention (following shedding) and Cryptosporidiosis.  Internal or external parasites, and a host of other less common ailments, should also be investigated if your pet stops eating.  Please post below if you need help in locating a reptile experienced veterinarian.

Hi, my name is Frank Indiviglio.  I’m a herpetologist, zoologist, and book author, recently retired from a career spent at several zoos, aquariums, and museums, including over 20 years with the Bronx Zoo.

Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook.   Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable.  I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible.

 

Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly.  Thanks, until next time, Frank.

 

Further Reading

The Leopard Gecko in the Wild

 

The Ideal Leopard Gecko Terrarium 

 

What Do Leopard Geckos Eat? – An Ideal Diet Based on Zoo Research

High Yellow Morph

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by MKGeckos

What DO Leopard Geckos Eat?! The Leopard Gecko, Eublepharis macularius, makes a wonderful pet for novices and advanced hobbyists alike (even after many years as a professional zookeeper, I enjoy keeping them, and wrote a book about their care).  However, both sellers and buyers sometimes underestimate this delightful lizard’s needs, especially where feeding is concerned.  Contrary to popular belief, vitamin-powdered crickets and mealworms do not constitute a suitable diet!  If you wish your pet to live out its potential lifespan of 20-30 years in excellent health, you’ll need to provide it with as many different foods as possible.  Fortunately, a surprising array of insects can be purchased online and in stores.  Collecting and rearing your own insects is another excellent way to add to your gecko’s quality of life…and its great fun as well! Read More »

The Best Live Foods for Pet Salamanders – Ensuring Dietary Variety

Hi, Frank Indiviglio here.  I’m a herpetologist, zoologist, and book author, recently retired from a career of over 20 years with the Bronx Zoo. 

Although many salamanders will eagerly gobble-up crickets and mealworms, a diet restricted to these food items usually leads to nutritional disorders and reduced life-spans.  This holds true even if supplements are used.  A varied diet is essential if you are to have success in keeping salamanders long-term (my 32 year-old Red Salamander, 25 year-old Fire Salamanders and numerous others can attest to this!).  Following are some useful tips for those seeking to vary the diets of their terrestrial salamanders.  While most newts and aquatic species (Axolotls, Amphiumas) accept dry foods, they too will benefit from invertebrate meals.  Please post below for detailed information on individual salamander species.  As there is an endless supply of useful live foods for pet salamanders, please also post your ideas and observations.

Dusky Salamander

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Stanley Trauth

Earthworms, Red Wigglers, Nightcrawlers (Lumbricus terrestris and relatives)

If you need to rely upon a single food item as a dietary staple for your salamanders, it should be earthworms, not crickets. I cannot recall a single salamander species that does not fare well on an earthworm-rich diet.  Earthworms and their relatives reproduce rapidly when kept properly (please see article below) and can be stored for weeks under refrigeration.  Their nutritional profile can be improved by a diet of leaf litter, corn meal, fish flakes and calcium powder. Read More »

How to Feed Insect-Eating Pet Lizards – the Best Live Foods

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  From tiny Day Geckos to stout Water Dragons and lumbering Savanna Monitors, many popularly-kept lizards feed primarily upon live foods including insects and other invertebrates. The most important point for insectivorous lizard owners to remember (and one that my regular readers are sick of seeing!), is that crickets and mealworms alone, even if powdered with supplements, are not an adequate diet for any species.  Dietary variety is essential.  Fortunately, with a bit of planning, we can collect, breed or purchase a huge array of nutritious invertebrates for the lizards in our collections.

Beetle grub

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Toby Hudson

From specialists such as Horned and Caiman Lizards to Tokay Geckos and other generalists, the needs of individual species vary greatly.  Please post below for specific information on the lizards in your collection.

Wild Caught Insects

I firmly believe that reptile keepers should place much more emphasis on collecting insects and other invertebrates.  While caution concerning pesticides and toxic species is warranted (please see articles linked below), the risks can be managed. Some notable successes that I and colleagues have had with a variety of delicate reptiles can be credited in part to the use of wild-caught insects. Read More »

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