Feeding Exotic Pets – Keeping Exotic Pets http://www.keepingexoticpets.com Tue, 26 Dec 2017 10:39:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.8 How to Save Money on Frozen Snake Food http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/save-money-frozen-snake-food/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/save-money-frozen-snake-food/#respond Mon, 06 Feb 2017 14:52:11 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1398 As someone with a decent number of snakes, I’ve been alarmed over the last few years to find my feeding bill going up and up. All those frozen mice and rats, while not expensive on their own, start to add up when you’re buying and feeding in bulk. In light of this, I recently sat […]

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As someone with a decent number of snakes, I’ve been alarmed over the last few years to find my feeding bill going up and up. All those frozen mice and rats, while not expensive on their own, start to add up when you’re buying and feeding in bulk.

In light of this, I recently sat down to try and find the very cheapest supplier of frozen snake food in the UK. Today I’d like to show you my results, in the hope of saving you plenty of money on feeding your snakes!

The process I followed was pretty simple. I carried out searches in Google for suppliers of frozen snake food, and then I jotted down the prices. Every one of the these suppliers operates online, and will ship snake food to your door. In this way it doesn’t matter where you live – you can still benefit from low prices.

The suppliers I decided to compare were:

Personally I feed primarily large weaner rats and jumbo mice to my collection, so this is where I focused my attention. While some suppliers sell these rodents individually, others only sell in bulk packs (such as bags of 10 or even 25). In these cases I divided down the costs to provide the price per rodent.

Reptile keepers with just one snake should therefore note that in order to get these better prices it may be necessary to buy a larger number of frozen rodents.

Also note that these calculations were done over the last couple of months, so prices could have changed in that time.

That said, my research revealed not just the cheapest places to buy snake food in the UK, but also a number of other fascinating discoveries.

Where to Buy the Cheapest Frozen Mice

The chart below shows the prices charged at the time of writing for jumbo mice from a range of suppliers. I have also worked out the price per unit in the right-hand column.

Jumbo Mice

SupplierMulti-BuyPrice Per Mouse
TSM Pet Supplies61p each61p each
Frozen Rodent£7.50 for 10, £16.50 for 2566p each
Kiezebrink£14.50 for 2558p each
Scales and Fangs£14.75 for 2559p each
Frozen Direct£7.50 for 10, £15.00 for 2560p each
Frozen Mice£15.00 for 10, £33.00 for 25£1.32 each
Swell Reptiles£17.99 for 10, £34.99 for 25£1.80 each

As we can see, the prices vary dramatically! A number of suppliers charge around 60p at present for a jumbo mouse, while some others clock in at more than twice that price! Depending on how much you’re paying right now this means that you could effectively halve the amount of money you spend on frozen snake food just by swapping suppliers!

From the above list, we can see that at the time of writing, the cheapest supplier was Kiezebrink, closely followed by Scales and Fangs, Frozen Direct and TSM.

Where to Buy the Cheapest Frozen Rats

The chart below shows the same range of suppliers, but this time looking at the prices of larger weaner rats. Once again, where suppliers sell in bulk I have broken down the cost for a single weaner.

Large Weaner Rats

SupplierMulti-BuyPrice Per Rat
TSM Pet Supplies89p each89p each
Frozen Rodent£5.75 for 10, £10.00 for 10£1.00 each
Kiezebrink89p each, £20.50 for 2582p each
Scales and Fangs£11.99 for 10, £24.99 for 25 £1 each
Frozen Direct£5.75 for 5, £10.00 for 10£1 each
Frozen Mice£11.50 for 5, £20.00 for 10£2.00 each
Swell Reptiles£13.99 for 5, £22.99 for 10£2.30 each

Once again we see quite a broad range of prices, with some being more than twice the price of others. In this test Kiezebrink once again wins, though with TSM, Scales and Fangs and Frozen Direct close behind.

What is perhaps interesting is that these were the same winners from the last table too.

A Note on Delivery Costs

The above prices don’t take into account delivery charges. The reason is simple; delivery prices vary considerably by the amount of money that you spend. In many cases larger orders are sent free-of-charge, while smaller orders are chargeable.

For this reason I would recommend that you consider buying your snake food in bulk (to save on shipping costs) and when selecting your supplier you also add in the cost of shipping.

Conclusions

The conclusions of this research seem pretty clear. Kiezebrink wins hands down on cost, especially if you’re willing to buy in bulk to save on postage costs.

Almost in line, however, are TSM, Scales and Fangs and Frozen Direct, all of whom should be considered when buying food.

Oddly, Swell Reptiles – who are well-known for their super-low prices on hardware like vivariums and heaters – charge far more than others for frozen food. While I love (and regularly use) Swell for hardware, I will be ordering my snake food elsewhere in the future.

Update: I thought readers might be interested that after carrying out this research a few months ago I have started ordering regularly from Kiezebrink. The service I have received so far has been exceptional, with accurate orders and fast delivery. This, combined with their low prices, mean I strongly recommend you consider a test order with them next time you need snake food.

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Ball Python Not Eating? Consider These Options… http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/ball-python-not-eating/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/ball-python-not-eating/#respond Wed, 28 Dec 2016 07:33:13 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1338 Ball pythons are one of the most popular pet snakes, and for good reason. They’re not just beautiful; they’re also typically docile, reasonably-sized and very forgiving. However every super hero has their “Kryptonite” – and for ball pythons this is a frustrating reluctance to eat sometimes. If you have a ball python that’s not eating, […]

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Ball pythons are one of the most popular pet snakes, and for good reason. They’re not just beautiful; they’re also typically docile, reasonably-sized and very forgiving. However every super hero has their “Kryptonite” – and for ball pythons this is a frustrating reluctance to eat sometimes.

If you have a ball python that’s not eating, this article is for you. After 15 years of keeping and breeding ball pythons I’d like to talk through some suggestions for how to deal with the situation of a ball python that won’t feed.

Health Check

The first thing to realize if your ball python stops eating is that such things are quite normal. Granted, they can be quite worrying the first time, but it’s important to appreciate that thousands of ball pythons go through a similar process each year and cope just fine. Don’t therefore initially worry too much; a few weeks without food are unlikely to do your ball python any harm.

The key is keeping a close eye on your pet to ensure that they are in good health. Hopefully you’re regularly handling and observing your snake, but you should pay particular attention to any ball python that won’t eat. Keep a close eye on their weight and body form.

Most ball pythons will maintain their weight pretty closely, and appear in the best of health when fasting. However if you pet starts to noticeably lose significant weight or otherwise shows health issues then they should be taken to a specialist reptile vet as a matter of emergency.

Reasons (and Solutions) for Ball Pythons Not Eating

There are a number of reasons why ball pythons go off their food. The intention of this article is to look at some of the most common reasons; and what you can do to coax them into eating again.

Moulting

The first, and most common, reason for a ball python refusing food is that they have a moult coming up. Many snakes will go off their food for some weeks before they change their skin; in my experience the bigger the snake is, the longer they will fast before a moult.

The first question to ask yourself therefore is whether your snake is coming up to moult. Keeping a journal of sheds can be a good way to identify the times when your snake moults; enabling you to predict that another moult may well be on the horizon.

Secondly, appreciate that snakes can change in both behaviour and appearance when they get very close to a moult. You may find that they become more reclusive, for example, or that their colors become paler and less vibrant. Most obviously, a snake that is just days away from a moult will develop “cloudy eyes” as the skin starts to loosen itself.

While there can be a week or more between a snake going off their food, and these physical and behavioural changes being obvious, they are certainly factors to keep an eye out for. If you suddenly notice one day that your ball python has developed cloudy eyes then you know exactly what is on the horizon.

Typically ball pythons will start to eat again within a week or so of a successful moult. Indeed many will be ravenous and will seem to always be hungry for the first few weeks after the end of their fast.

Seasonal Variations

Many ball pythons – both captive and wild – go through seasonal changes. Most ball pythons breed at specific times of the year, and experts can predict when they’re likely to lay eggs based on the time of year.

However its not just breeding which follows seasonal patterns; many ball pythons often go off their food at set periods of time. General agreement in the hobby suggests that this is especially so for males, who often seem to go off food around the same time each year. Such a ball python may go off food for months on end; not just weeks.

Then one day you’ll find that for no obvious reason they suddenly seem hungry again. Presenting them with a dead rat leads to an instant reaction. They’re back.

This is another reason why record-keeping can be so beneficial, as it allows you to keep an eye on your ball python, and to spot patterns when it comes to moulting and/or fasting.

Rats Vs Mice

Some ball pythons develop a particular taste for certain prey items. While adults will typically eat rats of varying sizes, its not unusual for youngsters to be fed on mice because they’re available in smaller sizes. The problem is that some pythons become so attuned to the taste of mice, that moving them up to rats can be problematic. I know of at least a few adult ball pythons who refuse rats altogether and are instead fed on a growing pile of jumbo mice!

There are two messages here. Firstly, try to get your ball python used to eating rats as early as possible in his or her life, to prevent problems later on. The second message is that if you ball python is refusing to eat, it can be worth trying to switch them to the other prey item just to see if it appeals enough to start them feeding again.

Safety & Security

Ball pythons can be nervous captives. In the wild they will spend much of the daylight hours hidden away in burrows where they feel safe, yet many of us fail to accurately reproduce this habit in captivity. If a ball python feels “exposed” it may refuse to eat – or may even snap at a prey item before giving up and dropping it.

I have personally had best results where I have allowed my pythons to feel safe. This means one or more good-sized hides in which they can fully conceal themselves, and a tank that has solid surfaces all round apart from the front. I then feed my snakes in the late evening, just as they’re naturally waking up. While feeding I try to stay as quiet as possible and keep the lights down low so as to not spook any of the snakes while they’re feeding.

Temperature & Humidity

Many ball pythons enjoy a surprisingly warm cage. The ideal temperature for my ball pythons is considerably higher than for my milk snakes, for example. While the pythons will be happily basking in their hotspot, when I tested a similar temperature for my milk snakes I found them down the cool end bathing in their water bowls.

So while many pet snakes will be happy with a temperature of around 25’C (give or take) my ball pythons seem to like it considerably warmer. They now enjoy a hotspot of just over 30’C and seem much happier and more willing to eat as a result. In other words, another solution if your ball python refuses to eat is to consider warming up one end of their cage to see if this kicks them into action.

While talking about temperature its also worth pointing out that ball pythons have temperature-sensitive pits around their mouths. This helps them to sense prey around them, even in the dark. Feeding cold (defrosted) rats and mice can therefore represent a problem as they just don’t set off these temperature sensors.

If your ball python is refusing to feed consider warming up their prey before feeding. I do this by placing the (dead) rodents in a plastic bag, and suspending this in a container of warm water for a few minutes before feeding.

Extreme Measures

As mentioned earlier, many ball pythons go off their food for weeks or even months at a time without any negative health impacts. Frequently this is as a result of a forthcoming moult, or simply down to seasonal variations.

However, as discussed, there are also a range of environmental factors that can prevent pythons of feeding; such as cool conditions, a lack of security or a preference for a certain prey item. Each of these is worth experimenting with if you’re getting worried.

However it would also be remiss of us to discuss a very different situation; that in which your python refuses food so much that it seems to be suffering in terms of health. Perhaps it is losing weight, and looks bony. Maybe it is struggling to moult properly. Perhaps its just sitting morosely in its hide for weeks on end refusing to come out and explore.

If you are in any doubt about your pet python you must take it to an experienced reptile vet as soon as possible. Yes, I know its going to cost you money and I also know it can be a lot of hassle. However when we take on the responsibility of caring for an exotic pet the single most important factor is the health and well-being of our captives.

So don’t just ignore the problem, hoping it will go away. Instead take action and visit your vet, who after a proper health check may well suggest a number of rather more extreme measures (such as force feeding) but which will help your python to pull through and make a full recovery.

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The Beginners Guide to Feeding Tarantulas http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/feeding-tarantulas/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/feeding-tarantulas/#respond Wed, 30 Nov 2016 07:22:40 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1392 Feeding tarantulas isn’t difficult, but there are a number of basic lessons that need to be understood. In this article we’re going to introduce the topic of feeding tarantulas, covering a range of different sizes and types of spider, so that you can apply these techniques to any species you decide to keep. What Do […]

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Feeding tarantulas isn’t difficult, but there are a number of basic lessons that need to be understood.

In this article we’re going to introduce the topic of feeding tarantulas, covering a range of different sizes and types of spider, so that you can apply these techniques to any species you decide to keep.

What Do Tarantulas Eat?

Tarantulas are carnivores – meaning that they eat other animals. But when it comes to choosing what type of animal tarantulas are rarely fussy. In essence, they’ll eat anything that they can overcome.

At the bottom end this means that they will eat a range of insects, from moths and grasshoppers, to termites and crickets. Goliath Birdeaters have even been recorded eating large earthworms in the wild.

However that’s far from the end of the story. Tarantulas may also willingly eat vertebrate prey, such as small lizards or snakes, rodents or (very rarely) birds. Note that the name “birdeater” is generally considered a misnomer, as very few wild tarantulas have ever been recorded eating birds, no matter how small.

In short, if its alive, and they can catch it, then they’ll probably try to eat it.

What Do You Feed Pet Tarantulas?

Most pet tarantulas are fed primarily on a diet of insects. In the pet trade these are generally known collectively as “feeder insects” or “livefood”. There are a broad range of such feeder insects available, such as locusts, crickets and cockroaches.

Pet tarantulas have been known to take some vertebrate prey on occasion. YouTube is awash with videos of tarantulas catching and eating live mice, for example, but this is not to be recommended. A live rodent has the potential to hurt your spider, and also doesn’t tend to do much for the tarantula’s reputation!

Some keepers will feed their spiders an occasional dead mouse, as sold frozen to snake keepers. Be aware, however, that this can be a messy experience and can require a fair amount of cage cleaning afterwards.

Where Do I Buy Feeder Insects?

For ease, most tarantula keepers buy feeder insects from specialist breeders. These are available in a wide range of different sizes (from tiny baby crickets up to full-sized adults) and tend to come in sealed plastic tubs.

Most reptile shops stock a range of livefoods, but in my experience they can suffer from two major issues. Firstly, many reptile shops sell out of livefood on a regular basis, so a visit never guarantees that you’ll come home with what you’re after.

Additionally, crickets and suchlike kept in their plastic tubs often don’t survive for long, meaning that I often find tubs with just a tiny handful of crickets in them for sale in pet stores.

For these reasons I personally order my livefood online, which is then shipped to my door in a timely fashion. If you’re in the USA or UK then there are a range of mail order companies available to you; feel free to experiment until you find a supplier that you’re happy with.

Can I Feed My Tarantula Wild Insects?

Feeding wild-caught insects to tarantulas is a hotly-contested subject. Some people claim that going out in summer with a net is a great way to offer your spider a wide range of insects at no cost. Others argue that these insects have the potential to introduce parasites or chemicals into your spider tank – something that is best avoided.

This really is a personal matter, but personally speaking I opt not to feed wild insects to my spiders and instead rely 100% on breeding farms for my livefood.

How Often Should I Feed My Tarantula?

Tarantula appetites can vary quite a bit. Typically spiders from hotter or more humid areas (South America, South East Asia) tend to be faster growing, with bigger appetites to match.

In contrast, many North American species from drier habitats (such as many Brachypelma or Aphonopelma) tend to grow more slowly and have lesser appetites.

I have also found that arboreal (tree dwelling) species such as Avicularia and Poecilotheria also tend to have rabid appetites, with some specimens eating on an almost daily basis (given the option).

Lastly, be aware that juvenile tarantulas tend to eat more frequently than adults, as they’re trying to grow to adult size as quickly as possible.

How often to feed your tarantula is therefore not an easy question to answer, and can depend on a range of different factors including species, lifestage and even the temperature that your spider is kept at.

As a very broad rule I would suggest that juveniles are fed twice a week, and adults once a week.

That said, the best bet is to follow the lead of your spider. If your spider leaps straight on any prey you put in the cage then consider feeding more frequently (or larger prey items). If they pay very little interest and/or some insects remain the next morning then consider feeding less frequently.

Over time you’ll get your “eye in” to how often your spider is hungry, and you can then base your feeding schedule on this information.

Do Arboreal and Terrestrial Tarantulas Eat Different Things?

While many of the more popular tarantulas (such as the Chilean Rose Hair) are ground-dwelling spiders, seeking shelter in burrows or underneath rocks, others dwell in trees.

Here they may make intricate nests out of silk in tree holes or behind pieces of loose bark. The obvious question is whether these spiders need to be fed differently in captivity.

Broadly speaking the answer is “no”. Whatever insects you choose should be suitable, as many insects will happily clamber up tank decor, where they can be picked off by your spider.

Alternatively, most arboreal spiders are perfectly happy to come out and hunt after dark, picking off insects from the cage floor.

Just be aware, as discussed above, that many arboreal species seem to have bigger appetites than terrestrial species, so may eat far more regularly.

What Size Insects Should I Feed My Spider?

Adult tarantulas will eat virtually anything they can overpower, which basically means any of the commonly-available feeder insects. Crickets, cockroaches or locusts are all appropriate prey items for an adult. That said, it does seem that some specimens have preferences, so it can be wise to ask the breeder/pet store what they’ve been feeding them on when you buy your spider.

In terms of the size of insect that a tarantula will eat, most will readily take an item that is as long as they are. This means that an adult Greenbottle Blue, for example, will happily catch and eat an adult locust. However just because a spider is willing to catch large insects, doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t touch smaller prey.

Other keepers like to offer half a dozen smaller crickets at a sitting for example. While this can work out more expensive in the long run, it can be quite amusing to watch a greedy adult tarantula slowly “hoovering up” insects, trying to catch another cricket while it already have two in it’s mouth, for example.

With juveniles the case is very similar, with the ideal prey items being between half the length of the spider and it’s total length.

However it is spiderlings – or tiny baby tarantulas – that can be rather more challenging to feed. Their tiny size negates tiny prey, which can be rather more difficult to handle.

The best foods for spiderlings are either wingless fruit flies (Drosophila) or pinhead (hatchling) crickets. Both are just a few millimetres long and so an ideal size.

But how are these best handled?

The answer is with a “pooter”. A pooter is a simple piece of equipment that essentially consists of two plastic straws, attached at one end to a plastic container. You suck on one straw, and the vacuum created “sucks” insects in through the other straw.

So you can open up just a tiny corner of your pinhead cricket tub, poke one of the straws in, suck hard, and quickly find you have a number of “victims” in the plastic holding container.

It is then very simple to gently tip one or two crickets into each spiderling’s cage before securing the lid again.

Can I Overfeed My Spider?

Tarantulas in themselves cannot be overfed like some animals (scorpions, for example). As a result you can pretty much feel free to feed your spider as much as he or she will eat.

The only proviso here is that great care should be taken when your spider goes off it’s food. Under such circumstances it is likely that a moult is approaching, and so changes will be necessary to your feeding routine.

What You Need To Know About Feeding and Moulting

When a tarantula changes it’s skin, it’s not just the external skin which gets moulted. In addition, parts of the reproductive and digestive systems will also be replaced. Unsurprisingly, tarantulas therefore tend to stop eating for a period of time before moulting.

If you have been noticing that your tarantula is looking increasing tubby then there’s a fair chance that your pet is coming up to change its skin. This is doubly so when your spider goes off it’s food. If your tarantula suddenly starts to refuse food then take note.

The period of time that tarantulas fast for before a moult largely depends on the size of the spider. A baby may only refuse food for a few days before a moult. In some adult specimens I have known them to refuse food for a month or more before changing their skin.

The key here is that no livefood should be left in the cage. Crickets in particular can nibble at a tarantula when it is changing its skin, causing problems or even death.

Once a moult it completed you should wait for a week or so for your tarantula’s new skin to harden before starting to offer food again.

Still got questions? Just leave them in the comments section below and I’ll answer them as soon as possible…

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How to Feed Poison Dart Frogs http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/feed-poison-dart-frogs/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/feed-poison-dart-frogs/#respond Wed, 19 Oct 2016 06:18:04 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1402 Poison Dart Frogs are truly the jewels of the exotic pet world. Their popularity is little wonder when you consider the range of colours and patterns currently available, not to mention how easy a number of the more popular species are to keep. That said, if there’s one “sticking point” with keeping poison dart frogs […]

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How do you feed tiny poison dart frogs in captivity? This guide looks at the best methods for feeding pet dart frogs - a must-read for any reptile and amphibian keepers. Poison Dart Frogs are truly the jewels of the exotic pet world.

Their popularity is little wonder when you consider the range of colours and patterns currently available, not to mention how easy a number of the more popular species are to keep.

That said, if there’s one “sticking point” with keeping poison dart frogs – especially the tiny youngsters – its quite how to feed them in captivity.

After all, a one centimetre long dart frog isn’t going to be chowing down mealworms and locusts anytime soon. In this article, therefore, we’re going to look at the options for feeding smaller poison dart frogs in the home.

As you’ll see, there are quite a range of options, and while feeding dart frogs is always going to be more challenging than feeding a bearded dragon for example, it’s by no means outside the skillset of most reptile and amphibian keepers.

Feeder Insects for Poison Dart Frogs

dart frog photo

Springtails

Springtails are miniscule invertebrates. The first time I bought a tub of springtails for my dart frogs I could barely see the little critters! You’ll need to watch quite closely in order to see the tiny little white insects moving around in the substrate.

Springtails are so tiny that they make a virtually perfect food for even the smallest dart frogs. My Dendrobates azureus, even at over a centimetre in length, still love nothing more than picking off springtails like there’s no tomorrow.

springtail photo

As they’re so tiny, actually getting the springtails from the tub into your vivarium is not without it’s problems. Here there are two options. Firstly, you could just open the tub and tip some of the substrate straight into your dart frog enclosure. You’ll find that the substrate will be riddled with springtails.

Alternatively, a neater technique used by many amphibian keepers is to add some pieces of barbeque charcoal to their springtail colony. When it comes to feeding your dart frogs you can just pick up one of the charcoal pieces and “tap” it in the dart frog cage. Dozens of springtails will fall off, all ready to be hoovered up by your precious frogs.

Fruit Flies (Drosophila)

The second feeder insect that I rely on for feeding small dart frogs are fruit flies. There are several species available in the pet trade – the smaller Drosophila melanogastor and the larger Drosophila hydei being two of the most popular.

Over the years fruit flies have been used by biologists as lab animals, to study topics such as inheritance. As with any creature which has been cultivated for decades, a number of genetic mutations have arisen. I mention this because a tub of standard fruit flies can be very difficult to transfer into your dart frog tank – and for the frogs themselves to catch.

drosophila photo

What is easier for both parties are fruit flies with a specific mutation which prevents them from flying. In essence, the wings are malformed, so they’re unable to fly. Generally known as “flightless fruit flies” these are the guys you want to be buying.

As they can’t fly away, feeding them to your dart frogs becomes quite simple. Just peel back a corner of the fruit fly container and tip a suitable number into the vivarium.

Be aware that fruit flies are still very small insects, and can climb surprisingly well. Even without the power of flight, therefore, fruit flies may manage to squeeze themselves through any gaps in your vivarium. Before introducing a load of these flies, therefore, it pays to carefully study your dart frog cage in order to make sure there is no way they can get out and infest your home.

Lastly, be aware that most fruit flies that you can buy from reptile suppliers are “cultures”. What this means is that the adult flies in the tub will most likely have laid eggs in the food mixture at the bottom. These will hatch, turn into tiny grubs and eventually pupate.

What this means is that you shouldn’t throw away your fruit fly tub once all the adult flies have been fed to your frogs. Place the tub on a heat mat to keep it nice and warm and within a few weeks you’ll probably find a whole load of new Drosophila start to hatch out!

Pinhead Crickets

A third, rather less popular option, comes in the form of pinhead crickets. These are standard brown crickets – but tiny little newly-hatched specimens. Unlike the other feeder insects mentioned so far, pinheads can be surprisingly quick and agile, which can make them harder to catch for tiny dart frogs.

crickets photo

Pinhead crickets also have a nasty habit of dying pretty quickly; unless you give them specialist care its not unusual for a tub of pinhead crickets to have all died within a week or two of purchase. If you only have a couple of dart frogs this means that crickets can become a rather expensive feeding option.

That said, crickets are freely available from many reptile shops, in comparison to flightless fruit flies and springtails which are rather more specialist fare.

Curly Wing Flies

When your dart frogs start to grow, and are able to take slightly larger prey items then a whole host of options open themselves up. Slightly larger crickets, or even hatchling locusts can be fed for example. However possibly one of the better options comes in the form of curly wing flies.

These are standard house flies which, like the fruit flies, have a genetic mutation which prevents them from flying. As a result they’re both easier to handle, and simpler for your dart frogs to catch.

Feeding Frequency

dart frog photo

As tiny – yet fast growing – animals, poison dart frogs need to eat on a regular basis. Unlike those of us who keep snakes, and have got used to providing food just once every week or so, I have personally found that feeding my frogs daily makes the most sense.

Conclusion

Like all reptiles and amphibians in captivity, poison dart frogs do best when fed on a wide range of different prey. In this way you’re able to provide a full range of vitamins and minerals to them.

My own personal preference, for tiny dart frogs, is a combination of fruit flies and springtails. I tend to buy a tub of each, feeding the adult fruit flies initially.

Then, as I run out, I move on to the springtails for a week or two. By this point, the next generation of Drosophila are hatching, ready to be fed once again.

Done in this manner, my dart frogs receive a regularly changing diet, with a few pinhead crickets thrown in from time to time to add even greater variety.

As you can see, especially if you’ve kept larger carnivorous reptiles or amphibians like Cuban Tree Frogs, feeding poison dart frogs does require a slight shift in mentality, and a willingness to learn about new, smaller feeder insects.

However it doesn’t take long to learn what you’re doing, and soon enough your dart frogs will be growing at an alarming rate. Remember that many species reach maturity in little more than a year, by which point the larger species will be well on their way to eating a wider range of more “normal” livefood.

How do you feed tiny poison dart frogs in captivity? This guide looks at the best methods for feeding pet dart frogs - a must-read for any reptile and amphibian keepers.

Photos c/o zimpenfish, wildhog1977, Jamie Zeschke, andybadger, Image Editor & Ernst Moeksis

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The Ultimate Bearded Dragon Diet Guide http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/bearded-dragon-diet/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/bearded-dragon-diet/#respond Fri, 20 May 2016 07:27:13 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1061 The correct bearded dragon diet is essential if your lizard is stay fit and healthy in captivity. In the absence of proper nutrition bearded dragons can suffer from a range of problems, including obesity and metabolic bone disease (MBD) whereby they are unable to absorb suitable calcium from their diet. This can lead to weaker […]

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What do bearded dragons eat? What are the common mistakes that bearded dragon owners make with their diet? This ultimate guide to feeding bearded dragons will reveal everything you need to know to keep your pet lizard fit and healthy throughout their long lifetime. An essential read for all reptile keepers - especially those with pet bearded dragons.The correct bearded dragon diet is essential if your lizard is stay fit and healthy in captivity.

In the absence of proper nutrition bearded dragons can suffer from a range of problems, including obesity and metabolic bone disease (MBD) whereby they are unable to absorb suitable calcium from their diet.

This can lead to weaker bones, swollen joints or, in extreme cases, malformed skeletons or paralysis.

Fortunately we know more than ever before about bearded dragon diets so its now possible to provide exactly what your beardie needs by following a few simple rules.

Introduction to Bearded Dragon Diets

The bearded dragon - Pogona vitticeps

Bearded dragons are omnivores; this means they eat both meat and plants.

In captivity this generally means a combination of live insects and an assortment of vegetables. Leafy vegetables offer arguably the best source of plant-based nutrition, though this can be supplemented in moderation with fruits, herbs and a number of wild and garden plants.

What is perhaps most interesting in terms of a bearded dragon’s diet is that it changes over the lifetime of the lizard.

That is to say that while the main constituents of the diet remain stable, the ratio of insects to plant matter changes as a bearded dragon matures.

It is crucial to understand this change if you are to provide a suitable diet to your pet.

Feeding Baby Bearded Dragons

Bearded dragons can grow surprisingly quickly under optimum conditions, and in order to do this they require plenty of protein.

This comes in the form of live insects (“livefood”) such as crickets and locusts. It is recommended that roughly 80% of a baby bearded dragon’s diet consists of these live insects.

The remaining 20% should be made up of nutritious plant matter (see below for a full list).

Feeding Adult Bearded Dragons

As bearded dragons mature these ratios reverse; the proportion of insects in the diet drops while the amount of plant matter increases. Adult bearded dragons should be fed a diet comprising 80% plant matter with just 20% live insects.

It is advisable that no matter what the age of your bearded dragon a bowl of water and another of vegetables should be present at all times, and both should be changed at least once a day to keep them fresh, especially in the hot surroundings of a bearded dragon vivarium.

What Do Bearded Dragons Eat In The Wild?

A bearded dragon.Very few studies exist as to what bearded dragons actually eat in the wild.

One study involved catching wild beardies and flushing out their stomachs in order to assess what they had been eating.

The scientists found that in the lizards studied, 61% of the diet was made up of insects, mainly in the form of termites. The remainder was made up from plant matter.

The biologists themselves surmised that bearded dragons are likely opportunistic feeders; taking insects when you could be easily found but relying on plant material for the basis of their diet.

Based on these findings the scientists recommenda diet consisting of several insect species, supplemented with leafy vegetables“.

Feeding Bearded Dragons – The Importance of Variety

Experts recommend that bearded dragons – like all exotic pets – should be fed a highly varied diet consisting of a range of foodstuffs. Rather than purely feeding crickets to your beardie, for example, it is wise to offer an assortment of other options over time.

Additionally, you should aim to avoid always providing the same types of plant matter, and should instead vary the diet, offering a wide assortment of foods.

In this way you can feel confident that the range of foods offered will enable your bearded dragon to absorb all the necessary vitamins and minerals. Remember: variety is key.

Like most animals, bearded dragons have foods which they prefer to others. These preferences can differ between lizards but mean that some foods will be eaten far more readily than others.

When feeding your bearded dragon, therefore, it can be a smart idea to chop up the plant material into small pieces and then “mix it up” to provide a “salad”.

In doing so you will make it more difficult for your lizard to pick out only the choice items, while leaving others behind. This process further helps to ensure that your pet receives a balanced nutritional diet.

Understanding Calcium and Vitamin D3

Juvenile bearded dragon.

A common problem in captive lizards is that of Metabolic Bone Disease. MBD is characterised by lizards being unable to absorb suitable calcium from their diet, which can lead to skeletal problems.

There are two factors of consideration here when avoiding this unpleasant condition.

Calcium

Your bearded dragon must be fed on a diet which is rich in calcium, so that it can be absorbed from the food. Plant foods which are high in calcium include:

  • Kale – 205mg per 100g
  • Collard Greens – 232mg per 100g
  • Watercress – 120mg per 100g
  • Mustard Greens – 118mg per 100g
  • Beet Greens – 117mg per 100g
  • Pak Choi – 105mg per 100g

As a result the above plants should be considered staple parts of your bearded dragon’s diet and should be fed regularly.

Bearded dragons can also absorb calcium from their livefood. A range of supplements may be fed to live insects (outlined below) which help to raise the overall mineral content of the food.

These supplements should therefore be considered a critical part of feeding live insects to your pet.

Vitamin D3

In order to absorb calcium from the diet and utilize it to make healthy bones and teeth, bearded dragons also require vitamin D3.

No matter how much calcium you provide, in the absence of this vitamin your beardie will struggle to absorb as much as it needs.

There are a number of ways to ensure that your bearded dragon gets enough vitamin D3. The first of these is through oral supplementation, while the second is through the provision of ultraviolet (UV) light.

Studies suggest that providing UV lights is much more effective than oral supplementation, so is the recommended course of action.

A range of UV lights are available for captive reptiles. These normally come in the form of fluorescent tubes though other options are available.

For best results the bulbs should be placed inside the cage and within 12-18″ of your bearded dragon. Furthermore a reflector should be used in order to ensure as much of the usable light as possible.

Many experts now recommend installing a “photogradient” where some areas of the cage receive more UV light than others. In this way your lizard can move about to the area most appropriate for them.

This largely removes the worry of how much UV light your lizard requires. Simply provide a photoperiod of around 12 hours of daylight per day, with basking spots of varying heights so your beardie can control the amount of UV light they receive.

The following image from Arcadia (who produce some excellent UV lights) demonstrates the principle well:

Bearded dragon photo-gradient.

Therefore it is wise to use securely-fixed logs, branches and rocks to create higher parts of the cage, so that your bearded dragon can get as close to the light as they want (within reason).

It should also be noted that some studies suggest that bearded dragons will sometimes prioritize basking under a heat lamp as opposed to a UV light, so ensuring that UV light is available near to the basking spot will ensure they receive the necessary dose of vitamin D3.

Lastly please ve aware that the ultraviolet output of these tubes declines considerably over time. As a result, even when the light appears bright, UV bulbs should be changed every six months.

What Do Bearded Dragons Eat?

Now that we understand the basic concepts of feeding bearded dragons we can move on to a more detailed study of the types of plants and insects which can make up your bearded dragon’s diet.

Before we discuss the various acceptable food items however it pays to mention that great thought should be given to environmental toxins, such as pesticides and insecticides. These toxins can lead to problems in captive lizards.

As a result, you should aim to feed only insects bred specially for the pet trade (no wild caught insects) and you should take care to thoroughly wash all plant material before feeding.

Types of Livefood

Mealworms - an ideal food for bearded dragons.Most commercially-available feeder insects are appropriate for bearded dragons.

While most beardie owners tend to focus the livefood portion of their diet around crickets, other options include hopper locusts, mealworms and waxworms.

These second two types of livefood have a nasty habit of burrowing so they should be placed in a bowl to prevent this, while crickets and locusts can simply be released into the cage for your bearded dragon to hunt and catch.

Pros and Cons of Different Livefood

Crickets

  • Freely available from most pet stores.
  • Cheap and easy to care for.
  • Very active insects, which encourages interest from bearded dragons.

Locusts

  • Only smaller locusts are suitable for bearded dragons. Experts recommend feeding prey no larger than your bearded dragon’s head.
  • Easier to handle than crickets, so less chance of escape.
  • Can be rather more expensive than crickets.

Mealworms

  • Less nutritious than many other livefood species due to their thick exoskeleton. Mealworms should therefore only be fed as a treat in moderation.
  • Very easy to care for and breed.
  • Can be kept in the fridge, slowing down the lifeycle and extending their lifespan.
  • Use a bowl to prevent them burrowing into substrate.

Waxworms

  • Highly nutritious and soft-bodied – a real treat for pet lizards.
  • Very short lifespan. Many waxworms mopph into the adult moths rapidly.
  • Can be a little fiddly to handle as they are so soft.
  • Use a bowl to prevent escapees.

Storing Live Insects

One problem you may experience if you only own a single bearded dragon is how best to store live food. After all, all species have a nasty habit of dying, leaving you with an expensive container of dead insects and a hungry bearded dragon.

Fortunately there are a number of ways in which you can extend the lifespan of feeder insects.

Crickets

Bearded dragon diets - what insects will they eat and how often?Crickets ideally should not remain in the little tub you bought them in. Instead, they should be released into a separate tank.

There are a number of reasons for this.

Firstly, crickets can be cannibalistic, so they have a nasty habit of eating one another.

Placing your crickets into a generously-sized tank, and then filling it with scrunched-up newspaper means the crickets have far more places to hide and avoid becoming dinner themselves.

The second reason to keep crickets in a tank is that the tubs typically contains minimal food, and no water. The dry bran they are given is certainly better than nothing, but is not a well-balanced diet for your crickets. Indeed, dehydration is one of the largest killers of crickets in captivity.

Once in the cage you can provide a range of nutritious foods such as carrot, apple and fresh grass, together with a range of cereal-based staples.

Water can be provided in the form of a shallow waterbowl (a jam-jar lid works well) which is filled with cotton wool. The cotton wool prevents the crickets from drowning, and allows them to drink the water droplets safely.

Locusts

Locusts can make ideal food for praying mantis.As with crickets, locusts tend to do well in a larger tank with appropriate diet.

Equally, locusts tend to be far less cannibalistic, yet ideally require suitable perches to moult on. Replacing the newspaper with an assortment of twigs therefore tends to work best for locusts.

Note that arguably the biggest killer among locusts is a cold environment. Locusts in the wild tend to live in temperatures of 30’C or more, so your cold spare bedroom won’t do them any favors.

Instead aim to provide supplementary heating to locusts to prolong their lifespan.

Mealworms

There are two ways to extend the lifespan of mealworms you have purchased.

Firstly, the whole tub may simply be placed into the fridge. As cold-blooded creatures, this slows down their lifeycle, reducing the time it takes for them to turn into adult beetles. That said, this method realistically only works for a few weeks before the insects themselves may start to perish.

A better solution, therefore, is to release them into a plastic tupperware box with small holes drilled in the lid for ventilation.

Here you can provide a thick substrate of cereal (bran tends to work well) while adding fresh vegetables to the surface each day. This will keep your mealworms hydrated and so prolong their life, as well as increasing their nutritional value.

Be certain to check the box regularly, so as to remove any uneaten plant matter before it goes mouldy.

Waxworms

In reality, waxworms normally begin pupating a matter of weeks after purchase, and there is little that can be done to prevent this. Instead, I would recommend buying waxworms as an occasional treat, and aiming to feed the entire pot to your bearded dragon within a week or two of purchase.

Gut Loading Feeder Insects

A bearded dragon eating insects.A handy strategy used by many bearded dragon owners is “gut loading”.

This essentially involves feeding a specially formulated diet to your livefood, which is rich in vitamins and minerals.

When your bearded dragon eats the insect, they will of course also consume the contents of the insect’s gut, thus boosting the nutrition they receive from live food.

Typically these feeding supplements are available in powder form and can either be served dry (with supplementary water) or mixed with water into a paste-like consistency.

Experts recommend gut loading feeder insects for at least 24 hours before they are given to your dragon to ensure the maximum benefits.

Dusting Feeder Insects

An alternative method to gut loading insects is to “dust” them with a dietary supplement.

To do this, simply place the feeder insects in a plastic bag with a little of the dusting powder and shake the bag gently to coat the insects. These can then be fed to your bearded dragon.

It is important to note that for obvious reasons livefood doesn’t like to be coated in this way, so they will rapidly start cleaning themselves of the offending substance.

As a result when using this technique you’ll want to ensure that your bearded dragon eats as many crickets and locusts as possible in a short period of time.

Those eaten some hours later may have thoroughly cleaned themselves and so may not have the same nutritional content.

Commercial Bearded Dragon Diets

There is an increasing range of commercial bearded dragon diets coming onto the market. These re generally in a dried, pelleted form, comprising all the vitamins and minerals you pet needs.

These complete diets can therefore make feeding your dragon a whole lot easier. Simply ensure that a bowl of this is available at all times, and supplement with livefood as required.

Vegetables for Bearded Dragons

Vegetables are a critical part of your bearded dragon diet plan.

These should be fed daily, and replaced as necessary to keep them fresh and full of goodness. Fortunately there are a vast number of different types of vegetables which can be fed to beardies so pick and choose to create an interesting and varied diet for your lizard.

The following vegetables are all tried and tested by bearded dragon owners and can be considered safe for your pet to eat:

  • Afalfa
  • Bell peppers
  • Beet leaves
  • Brocolli
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Butternut squash
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Chicory
  • Cucumber
  • Endive
  • Green beans
  • Kale
  • Kohol rabi
  • Mushrooms
  • Mustard greens
  • Parsnips
  • Peas
  • Pok choi
  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet potato
  • Swiss chard
  • Watercress
  • Yams
  • Zucchini

Dusting Vegetables

A handy tip for increasing the nutritional value of plant matter is to “dust” it with dietary supplements, much like one can with insects.

Take note that not all bearded dragons take well to this as it can change the overall taste of the food.

Try experimenting with a number of different powders, and the volume provided, until you can find a compromise that your bearded dragon is willing to accept.

Fruits

Many bearded dragon articles talk about a combination of “fruits and vegetables”, however a number of vets have pointed to the higher sugar content in fruit, and how many bearded dragons in captivity end up suffering from obesity.

As a result it is now felt that fruits, while important, should only represent a small portion of your bearded dragon’s diet, and that lower-calorie vegetables should make up the majority of the plant matter in their diet.

The following are fruits which are safe to feed to your bearded dragon:

  • Apples
  • Apricot
  • Banana
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cherries
  • Cranberries
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Grapefruit
  • Guava
  • Kiwi
  • Mango
  • Melon
  • Nectarines
  • Papaya
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Pineapple
  • Plum
  • Pomegranite
  • Raisins
  • Raspberries
  • Starfruit
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon

Other Plants

While the above plants are likely to make up the vast majority of your bearded dragon’s diet, a number of wild and garden plants can also be used to supplement the diet.

However, you should be certain that no weedkillers have been used on them and they are washed thoroughly before use.

Additionally, collecting plants from roadside verges is generally a bad idea due to the fumes and chemicals they have been exposed to.

Examples of plants which are safe for bearded dragons to eat include:

  • Chives
  • Clover
  • Dandelion leaves
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Parsely
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Thyme

What Can’t I Feed My Bearded Dragon?

While the above foods are all proven to be safe and nutritious aspects of your bearded dragon’s diet there will always be those keepers who are keen to experiment with different foods.

It therefore pays to discuss some items which should never be fed to your lizard.

Firstly, pay attention to the mixture of livefoods/plant matter. This means that items which don’t fit into these categories should generally be avoided. For example try to avoid:

  • Chunks of meat
  • Scraps of your dinner table
  • Chocolate
  • Chips
  • Non-water beverages

Even in terms of plants and insects there are a number of foods which should be avoided at all costs:

  • Avocado
  • Lettuce
  • Onion
  • Rhubarb

Conclusion

As you can see, while creating a suitable bearded dragon diet takes time and effort it is far from complicated. The correct ratio of live insects and vegetables should make up the bulk of your bearded dragons diet, suitably dusted or gut-loaded with mineral powder.

On top of this, small amounts of fruit can be fed as a treat, while a bowl of fresh water should be available at all times.

Do you still have questions about what bearded dragons eat? If so, please leave them in the comments section below and I will try to get back to you with an answer as soon as possible…

What do bearded dragons eat? What are the common mistakes that bearded dragon owners make with their diet? This ultimate guide to feeding bearded dragons will reveal everything you need to know to keep your pet lizard fit and healthy throughout their long lifetime. An essential read for all reptile keepers - especially those with pet bearded dragons.

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Types Of Frozen Snake Food http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/types-of-frozen-snake-food/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/types-of-frozen-snake-food/#respond Sat, 10 Dec 2011 19:33:42 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=632 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 chance of damage being done to your snake during an attack in the narrow confines of a vivarium and […]

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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 chance of damage being done to your snake during an attack in the narrow confines of a vivarium and additionally it is arguably kinder to the prey item. In some countries it is also illegal to feed live rodents to snakes and so feeding dead specimens circumvents these issues.

For the exotic pet keeper of course keeping a selection of dead prey items in your freezer is also a lot easier than keeping and breeding a range of mice, gerbils and so on in order to have a constant supply of livefood available. Indeed, not having to worry about cleaning and feeding the prey items themselves will considerably cut down on the work you have to do in order to keep your pets fit and healthy.

Personally speaking I keep all my frozen snake food carefully shut away in plastic tupperware boxes, each carefully labelled with the contents, and these boxes are all placed into a specific drawer of my freezer. In over 15 years of keeping dead rodents in my home freezer in this way I have never suffered from any ill health when taking into consideration basic hygiene routines like washing your hands between touching the rodents and any food for human consumption.

Frozen Rodents

Frozen rodents constitute the most popular form of snake food on the market today for a variety of reasons. Firstly rodents are available in a wide range of sizes from tiny newborn mice suitable for baby corn snakes, king snakes and the like right up to full-grown rats suitable for good-sized pythons.

This means that once your snake develops a taste for rodents it can serve as a life-time food source as you simply increase the size of the prey items, the number of prey items or the frequency of feeding as the snake grows.

Secondly rodents are easy to breed and grow quickly so they can be produced cheaply and easily by breeders in ethical surroundings so the rodents themselves have a decent quality of life before being “dispatched” for use as snake food. With most snakes only needing to be fed once or twice a week, and with the low cost of buying frozen rodents as snake food it can be a very economical method of reptile feeding.

Whilst there is a limited market for gerbils as snake food the vast majority of sales are for mice and rats. Baby mice are less than an inch in length and so can be used for the hatchlings of most commonly-kept snakes. Adult mice are ideal for adult corn snakes and similarly-sized snakes and the gradations inbetween the two ensure that there is always a suitably-sized meal available irrespective of the size of your snake.

Larger snakes can be moved into rats as a food source and my own royal python/ball python now takes half-grown rats on a weekly basis which have worked out far more cost effective than trying to give him 2 or 3 large adult mice at a feeding.

For those keeping giant snakes like the huge species of python – those generally not safe to keep in the home – some suppliers make frozen guinea pigs and rabbits available as prey items.

Frozen Chicks

Frozen chicks are sometimes available in bulk packs but tend to be far less popular as snake food than rodents. This is partly because they are harder to come by, partly because there have been concerns raised by some snake keepers about the dangers of the sharp beaks that these chicks possess which could rupture a snake’s gut and lastly because generally-speaking it seems they offer less nutrition than a rodent of an equal size. Generally there isn’t much “meat” on a frozen chick when compared to a mouse or rat.

One factor in their favour is that they are an unwanted side-shoot of the poultry industry. Most poultry farmers want hens for egg laying and so the cocks are of little financial use to them. As a result the majority are disposed of as soon as they hatch and one way to recoup a little of that lost investment is by selling the dead chicks as snake food.

Contrast this to mice and rats which have been specially bred as snake food and you can understand why chicks tend to be cheaper overall than rodents.

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Praying Mantis: How To Feed http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/praying-mantis-how-to-feed/ Thu, 28 Jul 2011 10:23:47 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=411 Praying mantis are carnivorous 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 diet is typically made up of life insects so when it comes to praying mantis and how to feed […]

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Praying mantis are carnivorous 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 diet is typically made up of life insects so when it comes to praying mantis and how to feed them this is where you should be focusing your efforts.

Praying Mantis: How To Feed Them On Commercially Available Insects

The various livefood suppliers now breed a wide range of insects which can be bought cheaply and easily either online or from specialist exotic pet shops. Whilst any of these insects can be given as food to praying mantis there is one tip worth bearing in mind and that is quite simply that in the wild praying mantis like to sit up in trees and bushes waiting for pray rather than sitting on the ground.

This means that insects which stay on the ground are generally of less interest than those that will either climb or fly up to where your praying mantis is perching. They will still get eaten but extra effort will be required by your mantis to slowly climb down after them and if your praying mantis is kept in a tall cage it may be some time before he or she notices the insect prey you have introduced to the floor of the cage.

For small praying mantis then fruit flies (Drosophila) can be an ideal prey item while larger mantids can fare very well on larger flies and moths such as mature waxworms.

The easiest route I have found is to buy a tub of maggots and keep them in the fridge to slow down their development. Every few days take out a number and place them into a plastic container with some sawdust where after a few days they will turn into black or brown pupae.

These pupae can then be easily dropped into your mantis cage where they will hatch into adult flies after a few days not only giving your mantis some flying prey to target but also making dealing with the feeding process very easy for you.

How Much To Feed Praying Mantis

In my experience it is impossible to over feed a praying mantis and the more a mantis eats the faster it will grow. So in essence feel free to provide as much food as your mantis will eat.

The one exception to the rule is when your mantis is approaching a moult. Typically a praying mantis will stop feeding for a period of time before changing it’s skin and it can be a wise idea if you notice your mantis has gone off it’s food to remove any livefood from the cage. Doing so will mean that when your praying mantis moults – and is therefore at it’s most defenceless – there won’t be other insects around which may stress, annoy or injure your pet.

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7 Useful Tricks For Handling Livefood http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/7-useful-tricks-for-handling-livefood/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/7-useful-tricks-for-handling-livefood/#respond Tue, 10 May 2011 09:59:31 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=320 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 the like. While many people quickly get used to this task and treat it as a necessary evil of keeping exotic pets […]

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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 the like.

While many people quickly get used to this task and treat it as a necessary evil of keeping exotic pets many other people have concerns over handling livefood. Whether those concerns are based on having to touch some wriggling crickets or more about how to control them properly to making feeding your exotics as easy as possible help is at hand with these handy tricks for dealing with livefood…

Choose The Right Live Food

There is a large range of different feeder insects currently available and each have their strengths and weaknesses. As crickets are one of the most popular forms of live food available let’s take them as an example. Of all the various live feeder insects it seems that crickets are the ones that cause the most potential problems.

One example of this is how many people get squeamish at the thought of having to touch them. Another is that they can be quick and jump well so can easily make a break for freedom when you open the tub. And the adult males can also chirp loudly at night which can be annoying for some people – especially if they manage to get behind a heavy piece of furniture.

However there are alternative insects that can be bought that will resolve many of these problems.

For example many livefood suppliers now offer “silent crickets” which make far less noise than standard black or brown crickets so if you’re going to keep your livefood in your bedroom you may be better to opt for these insects instead.

In general locusts are slower and less flighty than crickets, and cause less people to squirm, so they can also serve as an alternative to the classic cricket. Of course they also make no noise and so while they need to be kept warmer than crickets if they are to survive until “dinner time” I personally base my livefood purchases around locusts with standard crickets being more of a treat than anything else.

One final example is that some very small exotic pets – hatchling tarantulas, froglets and so on – require very small insects to eat. Pinhead crickets are a common suggestion, closely followed by fruit flies. But these can both be very difficult to work with as they easily and regularly escape.

However if you search around you can often find wingless fruit fly cultures for sale and these tiny insects offer just as much nutrition as standard fruit flies but as they have no wings they are unable to fly making them easier to handle.

So before you buy any livefood consider your options. You might be surprised by how much easier you can make your life by selecting the correct livefood to begin with.

Cool The Live Food Down

Insects are cold blooded so the warmer they are the more active they will become. And while your exotic pets will appreciate active insects trying to handle them yourself can be a challenge.

Therefore another trick can be to place your feeder insects in the fridge for a few minutes before you feed them to your pets. This will noticeably slow down their movements making them easier to catch and handle and then once they get into the warmth of your vivarium they will quickly start to speed back up again (well, until you pet gets hold of them anyway!)

Buy Live Food In Smaller Tubs

Many livefood suppliers offer varying sizes of livefood tubs and it’s tempting to go for a really big tub in order to try and get the best possible value for money.

Appreciate, however, that the more insects there are in a tub, the more likely it is that one will manage to escape when you take the lid off. And it is for this reason that it can sometimes actually make your life easier to buy a number of smaller tubs. Quite simply smaller tubs mean fewer insects which means fewer potential escapees.

Set Up A “Holding Tank”

For livefood which can jump – crickets and locusts being two perfect examples – the use of a “holding tank” can be useful. Rather than opening up a corner of your cricket tub to try and catch some insects it can be easier to place the whole tub into a larger container before removing the lid.

That way when you remove the lid, should any insects try to jump out and make a break for freedom they will still be safely contained and can be returned to the tub (or sacrificed first to set an example!).

Examples of containers that can be used include old aquariums or even the bathtub. Be aware that the container should have sides at least 30cm high and ideally more because a surprised cricket can jump an impressive distance into the air.

Use A Pooter

A pooter is a small piece of equipment for handling tiny insects so is an ideal way to deal with fruit flies and pinhead crickets. Quite simply it has two plastic tubes attached to a plastic holding vessel. You stick the end of one tube over an insect and suck hard on the end of the other one and the vacuum created sucks the insect into the plastic vessel in the middle. A small filter prevents you from sucking any insects into your mouth.

Once they are safely inside the plastic container at the centre you can simply remove the lid and tip the required number of insects into your exotic pet’s home. It is through the use of a pooter that I can quickly and efficiently feed hundreds of tarantula spiderlings in a very short space of time.

Getting Hands-On With Live Food

Let’s say the worst happens and a cricket or locust does escape from the tub. What next? I have personally found the following technique is the most effective for recapturing those little beasties.

Firstly, act quickly. Crickets in particular will quickly disappear under or behind furniture though locusts can be a bit slower to vanish out of sight.

As soon as you see an insect escape place a cupped hand over the top of them to contain them and gently curl your fingers up beneath your hand to contain them firmly but gently in the palm of your hand.

From here you can stick the forefinger and thumb of the other hand into the closed palm of your other hand to secure the insect.

Buy A Cricket Trap

Lastly if you suffer from regular escapes consider buying some cricket traps as available from many live food suppliers. These can be placed behind furniture to deal with any escaped insects and improves the chances of you getting a decent nights sleep undisturbed by either the non-stop chirping of a cricket out of arms reach or by nightmares about waking up to find the cricket in your bed.

Are there any tips you think we missed out? Anything you disagree with above? Why not leave your opinions in the comments form below…

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4 Places To Buy Crickets, Mealworms And Other Live Food Online In The UK http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/4-places-to-buy-crickets-mealworms-and-other-live-food-online-in-the-uk/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/4-places-to-buy-crickets-mealworms-and-other-live-food-online-in-the-uk/#respond Wed, 27 Apr 2011 09:54:38 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=318 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 shops sell live food like crickets and mealworms but there are a number of downsides to buying your livefood […]

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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 shops sell live food like crickets and mealworms but there are a number of downsides to buying your livefood from the pet shop.

Firstly many reptile shops only receive deliveries of live food once a week and so the tubs of insects you see for sale have often sat on a shelf for days on end with the bare minimum of care. Without the proper care many of the insects within the tubs will be dead which can make buying just such a tub bad value for money.

Reptile shops also frequently sell out of the most popular forms of live food so you can get a nasty surprise when you turn up to find they’ve totally sold out of crickets or locusts and won’t be receiving another delivery for a few days.

Lastly going all the way to the pet shop to buy a tub of crickets can be just plain inconvenient.

Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t buy live food from a reptile shop, just that you need to be aware of the downsides. I still buy some livefood from my local pet store to help support them but I find that buying my live food over the internet is generally easier and more cost effective.

The reason is that the livefood suppliers listed below actually breed their own insects onsite. They are the exact same breeders who sell to the pet shops. Buying from them therefore means you’re cutting out the middle man and so you can pay less for your live insects. Furthermore as these come straight from the breeder the insects are typically far fresher so you get more for your money, they very rarely sell out of any particular insect and many offer same-day dispatch if you order early in the day.

In short if you use a reasonable amount of live food each week then buying your feeder insects on the internet may be a very smart move indeed. But where can you go to actually get live food delivered to your door in the UK?

http://www.livefoodsbypost.co.uk/

Livefoods Direct

Livefoods Direct offer a decent range of popular live insects from black crickets to brown crickets, mealworms, locusts and waxworms.

Unfortunately they don’t have quite as wide a range as some other suppliers so if you’re looking for something a little bit “unusual” you may be disappointed by Livefoods Direct.

However Livefoods Direct do also sell frozen snake foods which many other live food supplier don’t so you can do all your exotic pet food shopping in one place and they will post out your order via Royal Mail for free. Orders received before midday are sent out the same day so the service is quick.

Click here to visit Livefoods Direct.

Livefood UK

Livefoods is the supplier I have been using personally for some years with excellent results. They have a huge range of different insects including all the “usual suspects” as well as less commonly-sold feeder insects like fruit flies, giant mealworms and calci-worms.

Unlike Livefoods Direct you do pay for postage at Livefood UK but they also sell an impressive range of exotic pet supplies and I have ordered everything from substrates to thermostats from them over the years with great results. Like Livefoods Direct, Livefood UK offers same-day dispatch for orders placed before lunchtime.

Click here to visit Livefood UK.

Monkfield Nutrition

Monkfield Nutrition offer a wide range of live insects which they breed themselves and all prices include standard delivery though their website makes no claims about the period of time that delivery should take which is a concern for me.

They also stock frozen foods and a range of exotic pet accessories.

Click here to visit Monkfield Nutrition.

Livefoods By Post

Livefoods By Post offer free delivery on any live insects though postage charges are applicable on non-livefood orders up to a value of £50. Interestingly while Livefoods By Post don’t seem to stock such a large range of insects as some suppliers like Livefood UK one thing they do offer which is unusual are cockroach cultures which can be a cost-effective way to feed larger, greedier carnivores where locusts can quickly get very expensive when fed in bulk.

Once again frozen foods and a range o exotic pet accessories are available.

Click here to visit Livefoods By Post.

So where do you buy your live food? Do you have experience of dealing with any of the companies above? If so, why not leave us a comment below to let us know your personal experiences…

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Vitamin Supplements For Insect-Eating Exotic Pets http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/understanding-vitamin-supplements-for-insect-eating-exotic-pets/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/understanding-vitamin-supplements-for-insect-eating-exotic-pets/#respond Sat, 08 Jan 2011 14:27:54 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=268 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 years on end risks nutrient deficiencies which the popular supplements on the market help to avoid. In general there […]

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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 years on end risks nutrient deficiencies which the popular supplements on the market help to avoid.

In general there are three main ways to give vitamin supplements to your exotic pets – water-based supplements, gut-loaded supplements and dusting supplements – and the aim of this article to discuss the benefits and problems of each of these kinds of supplement to help you make a better decision about which form will be best for you and your pets.

Water-Based Vitamin Supplements

Just as they sound, water-based vitamin supplements are a liquid form of supplementation. You simply add a few drops of the supplement into your exotic pet’s water and when they drink they also receive some additional vitamins.

The problem that I see with this method is that your pet’s water should be changed daily and your pet should also have water available at all times and these two factors combined means that you end up throwing out a lot of water – and with it – a lot of supplement.

Combine this with the fact that many exotic pets such as most chameleons and a wide range of geckos will rarely or never drink from a water bowl if it is present in the cage and there are further potential problems with this technique.

While there are situations in which water-based liquid vitamin supplements can be useful for exotic pets I think there are better solutions for the hobbyist.

Gut Loading Supplements

The next way to supplement the diet of your exotic pets is through the use of “gut loading”. When you buy livefood from a pet store – locusts, crickets, mealworms etc. – they typically come in a small tub with some bran in the bottom as a basic source of food. Clearly bran isn’t the most nutritious of foods and so when it actually comes to feeding the insects to your pet there is a risk that they won’t be as nutritious as they could be.

This can certainly be improved by offering a range of food types to your livefood before feeding 0- and indeed I have even found this can be helpful for keeping your livefood alive for longer periods of time. I like to use a range of fruits and vegetables such as apple, carrot and cabbage for feeding my livefood but all the same I think gut-loading can be a good idea.

Gut-loading supplements typically come in powder form. You mix up a little of the powder with some water to make a porridge-like paste and then feed this to your livefood. In this way when your exotic pet eats the insect they will also get a shot of the vitamin-enriched supplement still in the insect’s gut – hence the phrase “gut loading”.

I have personally found though that this “paste” can quickly dry out – particularly in the warmer months – turning into something akin to concrete which has to be thrown away several times a day. Once again this means more wastage and lost money though from a purely supplemental point of view you know your pet is going to eat the insects you give them so there is a far greater chance of your pet getting the nutrition it needs with this method in comparison to water-soluble vitamin supplements.

Dusting Supplements

Rather than gut-loading supplements where the supplement is within the body of the livefood dusting supplements work the other – way they are on the outside of the insects.

Before feeding your exotic pets you place the livefood you will be giving into a plastic bag or small plastic box with some dusting supplement and shake them gently so they get a decent coating on the powder in their bodies and then to feed them to your pets.

In this way your exotic pets get a decent dose of vitamins as soon as they eat the insects you give them and little or none is wasted as it is all on the insects. Any excess supplement will remain in the bag and can simply be reused next time.

Now there are still a number of potential downsides to dusting supplements. Firstly you need to feel comfortable handling the live insects in the first place to be able to transfer them into the bag for “dusting” and additionally many insects will try to groom themselves and remove the dust from their surface so this method works best if you use it immediately before feeding and your pets eat all the insects quickly.

So what is the best method of all? As you can see there are strengths and weaknesses to each method but in terms of being certain your exotic pets have received suitably supplementation and in terms of minimizing waste my own preference is to use dusting supplements rather than one of the other options.

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