Many reptiles and amphibians need to eat live food, which will help not just their nutrition but also their hunting skills which they would have to naturally take care of in the wild.
Live food can include crickets, locusts, grasshoppers, grubs, mealworms or any other form of a worm such as a calciworm.
The healthier your live food, the better nutrition your reptile or amphibian will also receive. It is therefore important to care for these critters as part of your pet’s overall care plan.
Feeding your reptile live food on a high-quality food before being fed to your pet is called gut-loading.
There are three components to looking after living food:
- Their own diet
Whatever you give your live insects will also end up in your reptile. If you look after them well, they will thrive and could even breed, resulting in a never-ending supply of grub.
You will need a pair of reptile feeding tongs to drop your live food into the tank, and not scare your reptile. You also want to save your fingers from possible bites (and home from possible escapees).
Depending on your chosen live food, there may be certain things you specifically have to do.
Keeping reptile live food
How do you look after your reptiles live food? While it is another step in the care process, most are pretty easy to keep – given that they are secure.
House crickets in a large plastic tub with air holes so they have plenty of space. They like to hide, so putting toilet roll tubes and egg boxes in there is another good idea.
Commercial cricket food is available, which is already loaded with the vitamins and minerals to be passed on to your reptile. Also, feed fresh vegetation. Always make sure food is available in their enclosure.
They will die of dehydration before starvation. They can drown in a water bowl, however, so a bug gel or water in small water caps is best. You can buy jelly pots or aqua balls too.
Locusts are different to grasshoppers but have the same care needs. They are very active insects, which is great for reptiles who hunt. But this does mean they need a large plastic enclosure, with air holes. Ventilation holes shouldn’t be so big that they can escape through them.
If you want to grow locusts until they have wings, an even bigger enclosure will be needed. They grow quicker in heat, so you can use a heat mat to speed this process up. 25-35 degrees celsius during the day and 15 degrees celsius at night will be preferable. Anything hotter could cause infections. Like crickets, they love to hide in cardboard tubes or similar.
Locusts and grasshoppers can also be fed on commercially available cricket food, as well as fresh vegetation. Locusts eat a lot, so you may have to check they have food available a few times per day. Dry sand can line their home, and they’d benefit from twigs to land on.
Again, locusts can die of dehydration but can also drown in deep water, so bug gels or a small amount of water in bottle caps is sufficient, but keep it topped up. They benefit from natural light or a bulb.
Worms & grubs
Care advice depends on which worms and bugs you have. Waxworms don’t need anything at all. Just keep them in a tub in your fridge (separate from everything else – you may want a separate mini-fridge).
Worms and beetle grubs need a large plastic tub but also like to burrow, so a suitable soil-based substrate should be used. This should be kept moist but not wet, and some form of bug feed spread throughout.
These are similar to regular worms in that they need substrate, kept damp but not wet.
They eat this substrate, so using something like Bug Grub throughout will gut-load them in preparation for feeding. They still need water, but this can be given in the form of fresh vegetables which can be swapped out if it starts to rot.
It is usually fruit flies that are used as reptile food, so house them in a tall container and feed with – you guessed it – fruit. They will lay eggs in this quickly, and the next generation will be born almost daily for a constant supply of food.