By their very nature exotic pets have very specific requirements that most “regular” pets don’t have and feeding exotic pets is no different. The wide variety of different exotic pets available means there is quite a range of different types of exotic pet food available, and which one is the most suitable will depend mainly on the species you’re keeping but also to a lesser degree on the size of the individual, it’s own personal preferences and what yourself like to work with most.
From dead rats to live locusts and with a whole range of different exotic pet foods in between there is a lot of uncertainty, mystery and revulsion around surrounding the world of feeding exotic pets and I still get raised eyebrows when I tell people I have a special section in my freezer reserved for dead rodents that I feed to my snakes or when a box of live feeder insects arrives for me at work!
Types Of Exotic Pet Food
Whilst it’s perfectly normal to lump all the reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates that we keep as pets into one tidy group we call “exotic pets” in actuality there is as much diversity between keeping a snake and a lizard as there is between keeping a cat and a dog. And so it follows that there are a huge number of different exotic pet foods (as well as frequencies and ways of feeding them).
An essential part of keeping exotic pets is to thoroughly do your research before you bring home any kind of pet so you’re fully aware of it’s feeding requirements. This doesn’t just mean having a feel for what type of food any particular species will be requiring but also ensuring that you will have easy, regular, consistent access to these food types as well as being certain that you feel comfortable working with them.
After all, the thought of defrosting a dead rat in your kitchen or picking up a live locust with your bare hands is just too much for many people to consider – though of course if this is you there are some types of exotic pets that will feed on dried foods or even fresh fruit and vegetables.
Frozen Exotic Pet Food
Frozen exotic pet food comes most regularly in the form of dead rodents – rats and mice of varying sizes and ages – to feed to snakes. For all but the fussiest snakes giving them dead prey to eat is perfectly safe and acceptable if properly prepared and saves you the time, expense and hassle of breeding live rodents to feed to your snake.
It should be mentioned that whilst frozen mice and rats are the most common forms of frozen exotic pet foods available there are more unusual types available from some larger suppliers including, but not limited to, frozen day-old chicks, guinea pigs, rabbits, gerbils and even small lizards.
Furthermore whilst the vast majority of frozen reptile food sold is intended for those of us that keep snakes some other exotic pets will sometimes feed on dead rodents. As an example some larger lizards like monitors may enjoy the odd dead mouse while a few larger tarantulas as well as giant centipedes (Scolopendra) may also take a pre-warmed mouse though it can take these invertebrates many hours to work their way through the carcass.
Livefood for exotic pets comes mainly in the form of live insects sold in tubs or bags of varying types and sizes. If frozen exotic reptile food is intended mainly for snakes, livefood in it’s various forms has a far broader interest. Most lizards, for example, require live insects as the dietary staple while many predatory invertebrates like tarantulas and praying mantis will also require the movement of an insect to trigger a feeding response.
Amphibians too are generally more likely to require livefood though depending on the habitat you have set up for them this may focus less on classic livefood items like locusts and more on livefood intended more for the fish-keeping market where items such as tubifex and blood worms will be greedily taken in a more water-based environment in which locusts or crickets would quickly drown.
Examples of livefoods frequently available include a number of different species of cricket (such as black, brown and silent), feeder cockroaches, fruit flies (Drosophila) and mealworms.
Each have their own strengths and weaknesses in terms of size, lifespan, ease of breeding and how easy they are to work with on a regular basis and furthermore many are available in a range of sizes so it is possible, as an example, to buy hatchling crickets for to feed to baby tarantulas or lizards while fully-grown adults can be bought for larger specimens to feed on.
Dried Exotic Pet Food
For the squeamish who don’t want to be grappling with live cockroaches and dead mice on a regular basis there are a limited number of dried exotic pet foods that come in a neat, sweetly-smelling tablet form. Typically sold in clear plastic tubs , and with a “kibble-like” design more reminiscent of dried cat food than of minced up rodents these are an easy exotic pet food to deal with on a regular basis.
The fact that the food is dried also means that it has a decent shelf-life unlike live insects which of course will die in a short period of time if you don’t get to the end of the tub in time and that helps to make these dried reptile foods rather cost-effective.
That said, the range of dried exotic pet foods is still small with only a very limited number of species currently provided for. Furthermore in my own personal experiments with these foods I have found that my exotics generally find them far less appealing than “proper” exotic pet food and that some specimens of mine over the years have simply refused point blank to eat it.
Fresh Exotic Pet Food
A very limited number of exotic pets are mainly or even entirely vegetarian. Many of the more popular tortoise species are perfect examples while green iguanas are yet another. In this way it is possible for those who don’t fancy dealing with dead rodents or live insects to still keep an exotic pet if they carefully select one which will feed on the exact same fruits and vegetables they have in their kitchen.
But whilst buying a vegetarian exotic pet does away with the cost and difficulty of obtaining and dealing with livefood or frozen exotic pet food the upkeep of these species can be rather more time consuming.
The reason is that not only do fresh fruits and vegetables quickly go off – especially in the warm environment of a vivarium – meaning the food needs to be changed regularly but additionally because there are so few nutrients in plant matter you need to ensure that your exotic pet has access to fresh plant matter on a consistent basis which can make life a little more challenging for those who work long hours or like to take the odd weekend break away.
Contrast this to a snake that may only eat once a week or so and you can see that while it may be cheaper and more pleasant to feed vegetarian exotic pets there are downsides to be aware of.
Vitamin Supplements For Exotic Pets
To ensure that your exotic pet gets all the nutrients it needs most authorities now recommend the use of vitamin supplements when feeding exotic pets. A range of different types exist and each is best-suited to certain types of feeding.
For example it is possible to “gut load” feeder insects by providing them with special supplements so that when your exotic pet eats them it also consumes all the vitamins and minerals present in their gut.
On the other hand one can get dietary supplements intended to dust on food which can be useful for sprinkling over fresh plant matter for vegetarian exotic pets.
How Often Should You Give Your Exotic Pet Food?
So long as you are feeding a balanced diet it is very difficult to overfeed an exotic pet. True, some foods are fattier than others and some exotic pets can be very lazy when given an opportunity but overall you can feed your pet as much exotic pet food as it will consume.
Some broad guidelines are that insect-eating reptiles and amphibians should be fed on a daily basis. You should try to ensure that livefood isn’t present in the cage at all times or it may cause stress to your pets bur rather feed them once a day and only provide as many insects as they will consume in a short period of time.
In terms of invertebrates adult tarantulas may eat once or twice a week while mantids will eat more often – perhaps as regularly as daily depending on the species.
Snakes as adults may only eat once every week or two while exotic pets being fed on plant matter should have fresh food available at all times.
A further tip worth remembering is that the younger/smaller a specimen is the more frequently it will likely eat. For example a baby snake feeding on pinkies may eat two or even three times a week while an adult of the same species feeding on adult mice may only eat once a week or even less so bear this in mind.
In general, observe your exotic pet and use it’s behaviour as a signal for how often, and how much, to feed it and over time you will build up a feeling for exactly what sort and frequency of exotic pet food your captives require.
Common Questions Surrounding Exotic Pet Food
To round off this broad introduction to the basics of feeding exotic pets and exotic pet food, and before you dive into the various related articles listed below, I thought it might prove useful to end this article with a few of the most popular feeding-related questions I have gotten time and again over the last 15+ years of keeping exotic pets just incase you’re thinking along the exact same lines right now.
Do You Have To Feed Your Exotic Pet On Dead/Live Food?
In most cases snakes should be fed on dead rodents. Why dead? Not only is it easier, more practical and more cost efficient but in addition within the confines of a vivarium it is entirely possible that a rodent, fighting for it’s life and possessing sharp teeth, could case an injury to your pet. Far safer to go for the frozen option therefore and in addition don’t forget that in many countries (such as the UK) it’s actually illegal to feed live rodents to an exotic pet.
In contrast feeding live insects is a whole different ball game and for those species that rely on them as their primary food source live insects are essential in all but the most unusual situation.
There are a range of reasons for this including the fact that dead insects quickly dry out and so lose some of their nutrition and that the actual act of the live insect moving around the cage is what triggers a feeding response in many animals.
Drop some dead crickets in the bottom of your praying mantis or chameleon cage and they probably won’t even notice that they’re there let alone eat them with the same relish they would if the insects were alive and scurrying around their vivarium.
Nope, rodents should be dead and insects should be alive. There’s no real way to get around that one if you truly care about the health and well-being of your exotic pets.
Isn’t Feeding Live Insects To Exotic Pets Unkind?
You could argue that watching a lizard or tarantula grab a live insect and start eating it while it’s legs are still waving around isn’t a particularly pleasant thing to observe but it is perfectly natural. It happens in nature every day and without eating the live insects the lizard or toad itself would die. As a result you either need to accept that nature is red in tooth and claw or choose not to keep an exotic pet that requires live insects as the staple of its diet.
What If I Don’t Want To Deal With These Food Items?
I hate to sound harsh but no matter how much you want to keep a tarantula or a poison dart frog or a corn snake if you don’t want to handle dead rodents or live insects then you will either have to get over your phobia or accept that you shouldn’t be keeping these pets yourself in captivity as there really is no way round the proper feeding of exotic pets and furthermore the proper feeding is essential to the health and well-being of your exotics.
Latest Exotic Pet Food And Feeding Articles
- Types Of Frozen Snake Food reddit_url = "http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/exotic-pet-food-and-feeding/";reddit_title = "Exotic Pet Food And Feeding";reddit_newwindow="1"; photo credit: dlm7155 The majority of snakes kept in captivity require mammals or birds to eat and it is most common for these to be fed to them dead. Feeding dead animals to a snake means there is less ...
- Praying Mantis: How To Feed reddit_url = "http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/exotic-pet-food-and-feeding/";reddit_title = "Exotic Pet Food And Feeding";reddit_newwindow="1"; photo credit: SMB(spidermanbryce) Praying mantis are carnivourous insects that need a diet of live animals of a suitable size. Whilst praying mantis have been observed in the past catching and eating small birds, lizards and mammals almost their entire ...
- 7 Useful Tricks For Handling Livefood reddit_url = "http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/exotic-pet-food-and-feeding/";reddit_title = "Exotic Pet Food And Feeding";reddit_newwindow="1"; photo credit: Mr. T in DC One cause for concern when you start keeping exotic pets is that in many cases you will need to learn to deal with live food in the form of crickets, locusts, mealworms and ...
- 4 Places To Buy Crickets, Mealworms And Other Live Food Online In The UK reddit_url = "http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/exotic-pet-food-and-feeding/";reddit_title = "Exotic Pet Food And Feeding";reddit_newwindow="1"; photo credit: melanieburger If you keep exotic pets then there’s a good chance you’re going to need a reliable, cost-effective supply of live food in order to feed your lizards, freefrogs, mantids, tarantulas and so on. Certainly many pet ...
- Understanding Vitamin Supplements For Insect-Eating Exotic Pets reddit_url = "http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/exotic-pet-food-and-feeding/";reddit_title = "Exotic Pet Food And Feeding";reddit_newwindow="1"; photo credit: Leszek.Leszczynski In order to give your exotic pet as varied and nutritious a diet as possible it is wise to consider adding vitamin supplements to the diet of insect-eating species. Feeding nothing but crickets for months or ...
- How To Breed Your Own Crickets reddit_url = "http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/exotic-pet-food-and-feeding/";reddit_title = "Exotic Pet Food And Feeding";reddit_newwindow="1"; photo credit: Gilles San Martin If you have a collection of exotic pets then there is a good chance that you get through a lot of live food each week. Whether that’s mealworms, locusts or fruit flies the fact ...
- Feeding Herbivorous Reptiles reddit_url = "http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/exotic-pet-food-and-feeding/";reddit_title = "Exotic Pet Food And Feeding";reddit_newwindow="1"; photo credit: striatic Whether it’s iguanas, bearded dragons, uromastyx or tortoises, there are a range of herbivorous reptiles available. Indeed, many people prefer to keep a pet that can be fed on fruit and vegetables rather than having to ...
- How To Keep Livefood Alive reddit_url = "http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/exotic-pet-food-and-feeding/";reddit_title = "Exotic Pet Food And Feeding";reddit_newwindow="1"; photo credit: Roomic Cube If your exotic pets require livefood in the form of crickets, locusts and the like then one problem you may have encountered is simply that tubs of livefood die shortly after purchase. Visiting some reptile shops ...
- Feeding Preying Mantis reddit_url = "http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/exotic-pet-food-and-feeding/";reddit_title = "Exotic Pet Food And Feeding";reddit_newwindow="1"; photo credit: noshaPreying mantis are carnivorous insects which consequently require live insects of a suitable size to feed upon. Unlike some other invertebrates kept in captivity like tarantulas, most mantids have a very healthy appetite and will feed ...