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Reptile and Amphibian Foods – Breeding and Rearing Grasshoppers and Locusts

Hooded GrasshopperThe Domestic or House Cricket is perhaps the world’s most popular herp food, the closely-related locusts, grasshoppers and katydids have been neglected as a food source here in the USA.  However, many are easily collected and bred in captivity, and offer important nutrients lacking in commercially-bred insects.  What’s more, they are colorful, active and extremely interesting to work with – don’t be surprised if you begin keeping them as more than just a food item!

Natural History

Grasshoppers, crickets, locusts and katydids are classified in the Order Orthoptera.  Over 20,000 species, inhabiting environments ranging from deserts to mountain tops, have been described.  The USA is home to 1,000+ species.

Many grasshoppers sport a fantastic array of colors and shapes; some are barely visible to the naked eye, while others, such as New Guinea’s Phyllophora grandis, top 5 inches in length (please see photo of a Hooded Grasshopper). Read More »

Vitamin and Mineral Supplementation for Aquatic Frogs, Turtles & Newts – Part 2

Clawed Frog PairIn Part 1 of this article we discussed vitamin/mineral supplements for aquatic animals that accept prepared/non-living foods; included among these are African Clawed Frogs, Sharp-Ribbed and many other newts, and most water-dwelling turtles.

Live Prey Specialists

Animals that take live prey only are especially troublesome when it comes to supplementation, as one cannot coat live aquatic food animals with powders.  Popular live food specialists include Dwarf African Clawed Frogs, Mata Mata Turtles, Surinam Toads, Mudpuppies and the larvae of most salamanders.  Read More »

Vitamin and Mineral Supplementation for Aquatic Frogs, Turtles & Newts – Part 1

Pipa PipaHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Powdered vitamin and mineral supplements for reptiles and amphibians have been a great boon to herp keepers.  However, African Clawed Frogs, Red-Eared Sliders, Axolotls and other creatures that feed only in water present special challenges, as the supplements wash away before being consumed.  Today we’ll look at some ways around this problem. Read More »

Attracting and Collecting Earthworms – a Simple Technique

Earthworms are one of the most nutritious food items available for amphibians, and for those reptiles, invertebrates and fishes that will take them.  Collecting them (in one piece!) can, however, be frustrating, and they are quite costly at bait stores.  One trick I stumbled upon years ago has greatly simplified the task of supplying my collection with earthworms – I hope you find it useful. Read More »

Herp Nutrition – Calcium Sprays and Tips for Special Situations – Part 2

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).

Vitamin D3

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.

Further Reading

Please see Part I of this article for a discussion of R Zilla Reptile Calcium Supplement Spray.

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.



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