As most hobbyists know, fungal infections are among the most common health problems to inflict captive amphibians and fishes. However, few realize that many species of fungus also attack lizards, turtles, snakes and other reptiles. Perhaps because, with the exception of skin fungi, infections are difficult to detect, treatment options are limited. However, some of the lessons we’ve learned in working with amphibians are helpful. Read More »
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In Part I of this article, we discussed those situations in which a spray-on Calcium supplement might be useful. Over the years I’ve been shown, and have developed, a few other techniques that may help to boost the Calcium and vitamin content of reptile and amphibian diets. These strategies are based on observation and trial-and-error only, as solid research in this area is lacking, but have so far proven to be quite useful.
Calcium-Rich Insect Diets
Powdered Calcium mixes easily with tropical fish food flakes, and the resulting blend is readily consumed by crickets, roaches, sowbugs and earthworms. Try allowing your feeder invertebrates to load up on this nutritious diet for 2-3 days before offering them to your pets.
Mixing Your Own Calcium Supplements
In situations where additional Calcium might be called for, you can also mix powdered Calcium with a vitamin mineral supplement. I’ve used a 1:1 ratio (by weight) for animals recovering from Calcium deficiencies and as an occasional supplement for a variety of creatures, especially young individuals. Again, no hard evidence as to the effectiveness of this, but it may be useful as “insurance” (Note: different products vary in vitamin/mineral content).
Calcium cannot be utilized by reptiles and amphibians unless an adequate supply of Vitamin D3 is also provided. Heliothermic (basking) reptiles, such as Painted Turtles and Green Iguanas, make D3 in their skin in the presence of Ultraviolet B (UVB) light. Be sure to provide such creatures with a quality UVB bulb or unfiltered sunlight (UVB does not penetrate regular-grade glass or plastic).
Highly aquatic turtles (i.e. softshell turtles), nocturnal lizards (leopard geckos), amphibians and other non-basking species require a diet that supplies adequate D3, either naturally or with the help of a supplement.
Recently, it has been shown that some chameleons regulate basking behavior in accordance with their Vitamin D3 needs. To read more about this fascinating research, please see Chameleon Basking Behavior.
Coating feeder insects with calcium and vitamin supplements is a time-tested method of adding important nutrients to reptile and amphibian diets. However, shy and nocturnal species that do not eat soon after the insects are released into their terrariums may get little benefit from powdered supplements. Insects quickly lose their coatings as they move about…crickets and roaches add to the problem by grooming the supplements from their bodies as soon as they are able (Yes, “grooming” …watch roaches sometime, they are quite fastidious!).
R Zilla Reptile Calcium Supplement Spray and Vitamin Supplement Spray help to address this problem. The spray sticks to and may even be absorbed by insects (as well as dry foods and salad), thereby assuring its delivery no matter how much time elapses before the food is consumed. These products will prove particularly useful to those keeping Leaf Tailed Geckos, Crocodile Skinks, Flying Geckos, Red-Eyed Treefrogs, Spadefoot Toads, certain burrowing tarantulas and others that are notoriously shy about showing themselves by day.
Calcium Spray supplies calcium in three forms, including Calcium Gluconate, which is readily utilized by many species. It can also be administered orally to animals with deficiencies (a consultation with your veterinarian would be advisable beforehand).
An interesting article on feeder insect calcium content is posted here.
Next time we’ll take a look at a few effective but little-used techniques for raising the calcium content of insects fed to reptiles and amphibians.
Agalychnis callidryas image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Christian R. Linder