I have long stressed the importance of dietary variety to the health of captive reptiles and amphibians. Most consume anywhere from dozens to hundreds of prey species in the wild, yet are typically fed only crickets, mealworms and a few others in captivity. Collecting insects (Zoo Med’s Bug Napper
is a very effective tool) and culturing alternative species such as sow bugs is one option, but few of us find the time to do this regularly.
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:
Exo Terra – grasshoppers, silkworms, snails
Zoo Med – grasshoppers, caterpillars, snails
Jurrasidiet – Snails, grasshoppers