It’s well known that whole animals, complete with skin and internal organs, are the best source of nutrition for most carnivorous reptiles and amphibians. Hobbyists keeping and breeding small species that fee upon mammals must often cut pink mice and similar food items into pieces in order to feed their collections. In doing so, important nutrients are lost, and health, especially in the case of growing animals, usually suffers. The African Pygmy Mouse (Mus minutoides) provides one possible solution to this problem. Read More »
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So it was with great interest that I began experimenting with the whole, canned invertebrates that have recently become available. Animals that normally consume non-living foods, such as box, musk, snapping, painted and spotted turtles, sharp-ribbed and fire-bellied newts and African clawed frogs, eagerly took most foods offered. I was also able to tong-feed the insects to several species of “live food only” amphibians, including horned frogs, green frogs, leopard frogs (see photo), American bullfrogs (see photo, albino frogs pictured here), gray treefrogs, barking treefrogs, spotted salamanders and fire salamanders (see picture.)
I’m very eager to try these products on several small, insectivorous snake species which do not thrive unless supplied with caterpillars, slugs, and grasshoppers. First among these would be North America’s gorgeous smooth and rough green snakes, Opheodrys vernalis and O. aestivus, followed by the ring-necked and red-bellied snakes, Diadophis punctatus and Storeria occipitomaculata (these last 2 favor slugs, for which snails might be a good substitute).
I was especially happy to see that snails were being offered by several companies. Since childhood, I have longed to successfully keep the striking Malayan snail-eating turtle, Malayemys subtrijuga. I have had moderate success in zoos, but only when large breeding colonies of apple snails were available to feed these beautiful food specialists. Supplying enough food is difficult for hobbyists and most zoological parks, and hence this turtle is rarely bred or even kept in captivity, despite being extremely rare in the wild and in need of our help. I look forward to trying again, using canned snails, supplemented with live ones, as a basis of the diet.
I have also written about the use of canned insects in bird diets – please see my article, Feeding Insects to Pet Birds.
I have tried most of the following, and recommend you to experiment as much as possible:
The diets that you provide your reptile and amphibian pets are of critical importance in maintaining their good health and longevity. Providing a balanced diet can be a quite simple matter for some species and, unfortunately, nearly impossible to achieve with others. Proper nutrition plays an important role in every aspect of your pet’s life, from its ability to grow normally and reproduce to less obvious areas, such as the functioning of its immune system. Reptile and amphibian hobbyists today have a wide variety of both prepared and live foods from which to choose when formulating a diet. In most cases, this is a very good state of affairs. However, sometimes it has a tendency to make us a bit lazy — for example, is very easy to provide an insectivorous lizard with a diet based on one or two readily available food items when, in actuality, the animal may need a great deal more variety to maintain optimum health.
What I would like to do in this article is to present some general principles and ideas for your consideration. Please bear in mind that actual feeding techniques – how to present the food — will also affect the ultimate value of the diet that you provide. For example, the length of time between a food animal’s introduction into the terrarium and when it is actually eaten will affect how much of its vitamin/mineral supplement coating will be passed along to your pet. Whether food insects will live or die within the terrarium, and how to keep track of the food intake of secretive or nocturnal pets will also affect the manner in which you must present the food. All of these factors, and many more, will be addressed in future articles. Until then, please contact me with your questions and observations on this subject.
There are two basic approaches to feeding reptiles and amphibians in captivity. One method is to identify one or two commercially prepared diets that provide all of the nutrition that your pet needs for a long and healthy life. This option is available to those who keep animals, such as tortoises and newts, that normally consume, or will accept, non-living food items. Animals that consume live prey in the wild will generally need a varied diet in captivity (one notable exception is most of the commonly kept snakes, all of which do quite well on a diet composed entirely of rats and mice.
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