feeding – 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 Feeding Corn Snakes http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/feeding-corn-snakes/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/feeding-corn-snakes/#respond Mon, 17 Jul 2017 07:00:55 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1973 Corn snakes are one of the most popular pet reptiles kept by hobbyists today. Like all snakes, they are carnivores, capturing and eating whatever they can fit into their mouths. This means, as a pet owner, that you must be willing to feed your corn snake on other animals; sadly a corn snake isn’t likely […]

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Corn snakes are one of the most popular pet reptiles kept by hobbyists today.

Like all snakes, they are carnivores, capturing and eating whatever they can fit into their mouths. This means, as a pet owner, that you must be willing to feed your corn snake on other animals; sadly a corn snake isn’t likely to find a juicy salad or a tub of houmous quite as appealing as a still-warm mouse!

In this article we’ll discuss the basics of feeding corn snakes from the perspective of the pet owner, aiming to answer all the more common questions, and by the end you should be an expert on how to feed your own corn snake.  

What Do Corn Snakes Eat?

corn snake photo

Corn snakes are so-called because they are most commonly-encountered in the wild around agricultural areas, particularly corn fields and storage barns. As you might imagine, there’s a pretty obvious reason: corn snakes like to prey on the small rodents who themselves are trying to fatten up on the glut of grain such habitats provide.

There’s a further hint as to the diet of corn snakes when you consider that they belong to a large and success group of snakes collectively known as “rat snakes”. Yep – corn snakes aren’t just carnivores – they’re specialist feeders of small rodents.

Due to the size of corn snakes, this usually means mice of different sizes, though small rats may occasionally fall prey to this beautiful and popular pet snake.

In captivity, it is most common to feed corn snakes on mice of varying sizes. Fortunately, these are freely available from most reptile shops, where they vary in size from tiny newborn mice (often known as “pinks” or “pinkies” as they lack fur), through to large “jumbo” mice.

Is Dead or Live Food Better?

snake mouse photo

In the wild, corn snakes will of course capture live rodents to eat. However, in captivity this poses a number of potential issues. Firstly, it’s not the most pleasant thing to observe, and indeed in some countries feeding live rodents to snakes is deemed illegal.

Just as importantly, however, in the confines of a cage a rodent has the potential to “fight back”. They may succeed in wounding your snake by biting it out of fear; something that isn’t ideal for your pet.

Lastly, the practicalities of keeping a selection of live mice of varying sizes, and then presenting them to your snake, generally makes this rather inconvenient.

Instead, snake owners generally rely on dead mice. These are bought frozen from a reptile shop, and are thawed out as necessary before feeding them to your snake. Surprisingly, most snakes will quickly take to eating dead mice in this way, which makes feeding corn snakes a far simpler job.

How Do You Thaw Out Frozen Rodents?

There are two common ways to thaw out the frozen rodents bought from reptile stores. The first is simply to leave the mouse or rat out on the side to thaw naturally. This process can take some hours for larger rodents, so many reptile enthusiasts rely on an alternative…

The other option is to place the rodent into a plastic bag, and then suspend this in warm water. The warm water not only helps to thaw the mouse out quicker – ideal if you’re strapped for time – but also heats up the mouse.

Most reptile keepers find that giving their snake a warm mouse, as opposed to a cool one, improves the feeding response and makes them more appealing to reptiles. This is likely because the scent is rather stronger, drawing in the reptile.   

Can I Feed Wild Rodents to My Snake?

pinkie snake photo

Whilst corn snakes in the wild will eat whatever they can find, it is generally not considered a good idea to feed wild rodents to captive snakes.

The frozen rodents available in the pet trade have been specially bred for the purpose and should be disease-free. Wild rodents, however, may carry diseases which could affect your corn snake if you are unlucky.

Are Corn Snakes Venomous?

Corn snakes are not venomous. Instead, they are “constrictors”. This means that they capture live prey such as rodents or birds, then surround them with coils from their body. The coils are gently tightened, slowly suffocating and crushing the prey item before it is eaten.

This means that corn snakes pose no serious threat to humans. Indeed, even if a corn snake tries to “constrict” your arm, it is unlikely to be a painful experience.

How Often Should I Feed My Corn Snake?

corn snake feeding photo

Generally speaking smaller corn snakes are fed more frequently than adults. Most experts recommend feeding hatchling corn snakes every 5-7 days, whilst adults are more often fed every 7-10 days.

As a general rule of thumb, think of feeding your corn snake once every week or so, though the odd delay here or there is unlikely to be a problem.

It is also worth remembering that as corn snakes grow, so too will the size of prey items they accept. As you move up from one size of rodent to the next you may want to temporarily reduce the feeding frequency of your snake, in order to allow them to properly digest their new larger meals.

What Size Food Will My Corn Snake Eat?

corn snake feeding photo

Hatchling corn snakes will normally start out on newborn mice. These are often known as “pinks” or “pinkies” because they are so young that they have not yet started to grow hair. As your corn snake grows, so the size of prey items provided can be increased. Most adult corn snakes will eat adult mice without issue.

As a general rule, snakes will successfully eat a prey item that is as fat as the largest part of its body.

Don’t be worried about how tiny your corn snake’s head looks; snakes can dislocate their jaw to swallow prey items much larger than you might think possible. Indeed, observing your snake while they guzzle that giant meal can be one of the most fascinating parts of keeping snakes as pets.

How Do You Feed a Corn Snake?

corn snake feeding photo

Corn snakes are known to be good feeders, in contrast to some other snake species like Ball Pythons, which may go off their food for months on end. As a result, most corn snakes will eat readily, and no fancy system in normally required.

Personally I thaw out the required number and type of rodents that my snakes will eat. Ensuring that these are gently warm (not scalding hot) I simply place the relevant rodent into my corn snake’s cage.

The snakes are then left alone in peace and quiet to find, swallow and digest their meal.

Some keepers like to “tempt” their corn snake by holding the dead mouse in a long pair of forceps infront of their snake, however I have never found this to be necessary. Generally speaking your snake will soon smell the fresh mouse, and will come out to find it.

I find that feeding my snakes in the evening tends to work best, as they are most active then. If the food item remains uneaten the following morning it is removed and disposed of. I do not refreeze uneaten food to prevent the risk of them spoiling.

What Should I Do If My Corn Snake Doesn’t Eat?

corn snake photo

As discussed, corn snakes are normally very reliable feeders, so most food will be consumed without incident. On the odd occasion, however, you may find the mouse still sitting in the cage the following morning.

The most common reasons for your corn snake not eating are that it wasn’t hungry (you’re feeding too much) or it felt stressed (was there too much noise around, or is this a new snake still getting used to it’s surroundings?). The third and most common cause is that your corn snake is coming up to slough its skin.

Generally speaking there is little to worry about if a snake refuses its food once or twice. Simply take out the rodent and dispose of it, keeping a note of which snake didn’t feed. Then just try it again the following week.

Assuming your corn snake looks in good health and isn’t losing too much weight then a week or two without feeding is unlikely to do them any harm.   

Can I Handle My Snake After Feeding?

corn snake photo

After it has eaten, your snake needs time to rest and digest its meal. Stressing out your snake soon after it has fed can result in the rodent being regurgitated; hardly what either you or the snake want.

As a result, it is best to leave your snake along for some 48 hours or so after it has eaten, at which point you can resume handling if desirable.

Photos c/o angela n., highlander411, amarette., Clevergrrl & kthypryn

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Feeding Ball Pythons http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/feeding-ball-pythons/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/feeding-ball-pythons/#respond Fri, 05 May 2017 14:06:44 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1528 When I first started to keep reptiles in the 1990’s ball pythons were still seen as something very unusual and exotic. Any mention of a “python” drew awe from other people, and with their stout, chunky bodies they really were something totally different to the corn snakes and garter snakes that were prevalent at that […]

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Feeding advice for ball python owners. As you know, ball pythons can be fussy feeders, but this guide reveals all you need to know to feed pet ball pythons the right way from the beginning.When I first started to keep reptiles in the 1990’s ball pythons were still seen as something very unusual and exotic.

Any mention of a “python” drew awe from other people, and with their stout, chunky bodies they really were something totally different to the corn snakes and garter snakes that were prevalent at that time.

They also developed a bad reputation for going off food for long periods of time and for generally being fussy eaters. At the time, some keepers were advocating not handling ball pythons at all, as they believed the stress was one factor in their refusal to eat.

Of course, that was a long time ago. Largely wild-caught adult pythons have been replaced by a mind-blowing array of captive bred specimens in an almost infinite array of colors and patterns.

These captive bred specimens tend to adapt to captivity much better, generally being calmer and less prone to stress.

In addition, we as hobbyists have learned much about these pythons. We know, for example, that it is reasonably normal for ball pythons to go off their food in the winter months, and that adult males seem particularly prone to this.

We also known from past experience that so long as your python isn’t losing condition that this extended fast likely isn’t anything to worry about.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start at the beginning, in case you’re just planning to get your very first ball python…

ball python photo

What Do Ball Pythons Eat?

Ball pythons are carnivores, and need to be fed meat on a regular basis.

Based on the size of the python and the ease of finding food, this tends to mean rodents in captivity; the vast majority of ball pythons are fed on either rats or mice of a suitable size.

How Often Should I Feed My Ball Python?

Ball pythons can grow surprisingly quickly when they are well fed. At the same time, ball pythons can be lazy, and some specimens do seem to get a little overweight.

While each keeper has their own routine, personally I feed my youngsters twice a week initially, slowly increasing the time between feedings to roughly once a week for my adults.

Note that these timings aren’t “fixed”; some pythons will eat far more regularly than others, while moving your snake from one type of food to another can also affect the feeding regime.

One of the best things you can do is to start a feeding chart for your ball python.

Keep records of what food was offered on what dates, and whether it was accepted. Combine this with regular health checks and weigh-ins and you’ll be in the perfect place to assess your ball pythons health and appetite.

If you are unlucky enough to find your ball python suffers from any health issues in the future, such a chart can also be of great interest to your vet, allowing them to spot anything obviously wrong.

What Size Food Should I Give My Ball Python?

When selecting a prey item for your snake, the easiest process is to think of the circumeference of the item. This should be no larger than the fattest part of your snake. Thus a hatchling may need tiny mice, while larger adults may eat adult rats.

Be aware, however, that there is a lot of flexibility in this. I have found that my ball pythons are far more likely to eat smaller prey than larger items, so if your snake seems to turn it’s nose up at the food offered you may want to try feeding something a little smaller.

Pro Tip: Speak to the breeder or pet shop when you actually buy your ball python. Ask them about what they’ve been feeding, and how often, to give you a good starting point. If they have been keeping feeding charts – as many people do – then all the better.

At least in this way you can start off feeding your snake in the manner to which it has become accustomed. Changes can then be made slowly over time.

How to Move Up Food Items

Baby pythons will probably start off on very small rodents.

As the python grows, however, so they’ll need more and more food. Consider both the size of the prey item given and the frequency.

These two combine to provide your snake’s total calorie intake.

As you increase the size of the prey item given, so you might want to increase the time between feeds. This time drops slowly over time until your snake is ready to move up to the next size of prey and so on.

An alternative solution is to keep feeding frequency the same, but increase the number of items being given.

If your ball python is eating large mice, and you think he or she may be ready to move up to something larger then try them on two mice – either fed together or one day after the other.

After a few weeks like this you can feel confident that your snake now has the appetite to eat their new prey source.

ball python photo

Should I Feed Rats or Mice?

Whether to feed rats or mice is a contentious issue in ball python circles. In truth, for small pythons it can be easier to feed very small mice.

Rats obviously aren’t available quite as small, and can be rather more expensive. An adult ball python, however, will probably require something bulkier than even the largest mouse; feeding rats of varying sizes therefore makes sense (and can be cheaper than feeding multiple mice).

The problem is that some ball pythons can become fixated on mice if fed them for long periods of time, and seem to find rats far less appealing. If you’re not careful you can end up with a large python that is eating you out of house-and-home each month, downing armfuls of adult mice while turning it’s nose up at the cheaper and more practical option of rats.

In my experience, given enough patience, even hardened mouse-eaters will eventually get used to eating rats – though the process may take some patience.

My advice would therefore be to start off with rats if they are available in a suitable size for your snake.

If you can only find small mice that your snake can consume then this is certainly better than nothing, though your goal should be to gently “convert” your ball python to eating rats as soon as possible.

Doing so will increase the growth rate of your snake, and make feeding them as an adult much more cost effective.

Frozen Vs Live Food for Ball Pythons

There are two traditional ways to feed a ball python; either giving them live rodents to catch and kill, or providing dead animals that are bought frozen.

Some keepers like to feed live rodents, believing it is more “natural” and secretly enjoying the “hunt”.

Others claim that feeding live rodents elicits a better feeding response; ideal for those snakes that go off their food for a period of time.

The flipside of course is that a rat or house has the potential to do some serious damage to your snake; cases exist where snakes have had chunks bitten out of them by a rodent trying to escape becoming dinner.

The act of watching a snake catch and eat a live rodent is also more than many people can stomach, while in many parts of the world feeding live rodents is actually illegal.

Frozen food is, in my opinion, the way to go. Its cheap and easy to buy, and can be stored for some time in the freezer. When it’s feeding time the food can just be thawed out and fed.

There’s no worry about your snake getting damaged, no mess left in the cage from a live rodent fouling it and no awkward conversations with pet shop owners when buying another “pet” mouse from them.

What About Uneaten Food?

Uneaten food is bad news. A live rodent, as discussed, can bite and nip at your snake. But even frozen food left in the cage for long periods isn’t good news; it can quickly go off in the warmth of a ball python cages and smalls rancid!

Leftover food should therefore be removed from the cage promptly. Quite what “promptly” means depends on the snake.

Some of my pythons are voracious feeders and grab their prey within moments of being presented with it. If it is left untouched for more than a few minutes then I know there’s little interest and remove it.

Another python of mine is surprisingly shy, and tends to prefer eating at night long after I’ve gone to bed. He therefore is left with his prey until the following morning, by which time he’s normally finished it off.

Some keepers will refreeze uneaten food, assuming it hasn’t been left in the cage for too long, but I personally do not. I worry that thawing and refreezing the food may cause stomach upsets, so each item is presented once and then thrown away if not eaten.

For keepers with more than one ball python, an alternative solution is to feed them on different days. If snake number one won’rt eat their food, it is then presented to snake number two, who will hopefully eat it.

This eliminates waste and, so long as you’re keeping feeding charts, can be an efficient way to make feeding your snakes as cost-effective as possible.

ball pythons photo

How Should I Actually Feed My Ball Python?

Once you’ve selected a suitable prey item, next you need to actually feed it to your ball python. Here’s the process I use…

Firstly, I boil the kettle.

Next, I fill a plastic tupperware container with water; roughly 50% boiling and 50% lukewarm.

The snake’s food is then placed into a plastic bag (a sandwich bag tends to work well) and suspend it in the tub. The lid is then placed into the tub to keep the heat in. This speeds up the process of thawing out the mouse or rat, which makes feeding a quicker experience.

The key, as I have discovered, is to use moderately warm water.

If the water is too hot then the rodent thaws out too quickly, which often ends in the stomach bursting. This is not a pleasant smell, rest assured.

Once the rodent is thawed I then repeat the process with the water. The reason for this is that ball pythons have heat-sensitive pits above their mouths. As a result, a warm prey item is more appealing than a cold one.

This second process serves to gently warm the mouse to around body temperature. This time around you only need to suspend the rodent for a few minutes.

The warm rodent can then be gently placed into your ball python cage.

Many of my pythons grab the rodent almost before it touches the ground. Others are rather more bashful, and prefer to wait until I’m gone. Either way, I aim to feed in the evening (when your ball python will naturally be waking up anyway), to keep the light levels low and to keep noise to an absolute minimum. In short, my pythons get peace and quiet while eating.

The snakes are checked again a few hours later, and any uneaten food is removed, together with any “spillage” from the carcass.

A few additional notes on feeding your ball python…

Firstly, some people like to move their snake to a different “feeding cage”. They claim that this reduces the chances of your snake mistaking you for food at a later date, as they only eat in one specific place. Personally, I’ve never had any issues with feeding my pythons in their cages.

Secondly, while I tend to just throw the rodent into the cage, some keepers like to actually feed the snake by holding the rodent in long tongs and waving it around infront of the snakes face. Once again, I haven’t found this necessary and my snakes continue eating without issue.

Where To Buy Snake Food

As reptiles have gained in popularity, so the number of places selling frozen snake food has ballooned.

These days most cities have a reptile shop selling such items.

Even better, there are almost places where frozen rodents can be ordered online and delivered to your home. They typically come carefully packed, in a well-insulated box together with packs of dry ice.

I have personally found that the prices online tend to be far more reasonable, and with a hectic schedule the opportunity to have the rodents mailed to my home also makes my life easier.

Feeding advice for ball python owners. As you know, ball pythons can be fussy feeders, but this guide reveals all you need to know to feed pet ball pythons the right way from the beginning.

Images c/o The Reptilarium, snakecollector & brian.gratwicke

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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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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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How To Control The Growth Rates Of Tarantulas http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/how-to-control-the-growth-rates-of-tarantulas/ Fri, 27 May 2011 20:46:07 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=392 While some species of tarantula grow far faster than others it is possible within reason to control just how quickly individual tarantulas grow in captivity. There are a number of reasons why it can be helpful to understand the concepts of making your tarantulas grow faster or slower. The first of these is that buying […]

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While some species of tarantula grow far faster than others it is possible within reason to control just how quickly individual tarantulas grow in captivity.

There are a number of reasons why it can be helpful to understand the concepts of making your tarantulas grow faster or slower. The first of these is that buying tarantula spiderlings is often far cheaper than buying larger grown on tarantulas so one way to save money is to buy youngsters and then encourage them to grow as quickly as possible.

Another reason why understanding how to control the growth rates of tarantulas can be handy is when it comes to breeding tarantulas. When an adult female tarantula goes through her annual moult she also moults out the inside of her reproductive organs and becomes virgin again. In this way if you try to mate a female tarantula too close to a moult she may change her skin before laying eggs and thus your breeding attempts will come to nothing.

Equally adult males may only live for a few months and may not even be fertile for the whole of that short period. Therefore controlling growth rates of tarantulas gives you the best possible chance of ensuring that you have a freshly-moulted adult pair ready to mate.

The Two Main Factors Affecting Tarantula Growth Rates

The two main controlling factors on how fast your tarantula will grow are temperature and food intake. At a basic level the warmer you keep your pets and the more food you give them the faster they will grow.

Of course it’s not as simple as just ramping up the heat on your tarantulas and filling their cages with crickets every day and hoping everything goes according to plan. Firstly a tarantula can die if it overheats and secondly excess livefood can stress a tarantula out or even lead to injury if a tarantula tries to moult in the presence of crickets.

The key is therefore to keep careful records and to pay close attention to your spiders on a regular basis.

Firstly pay attention to where your tarantula typically rests in it’s cage in relation to the heat gradient. If it’s always found at the cooler end then the cage may be too warm. If it is found regularly at the warm end then you might like to consider trying to increase the temperature of the cage while paying careful attention to how your spider reacts.

However feeding is where you can get the easiest wins. As an experiment many years ago I took 100 spiderlings and fed half the group twice as much as the other half over several months to see how this affected their growth.

All the spiderlings remained healthy over this period. None were “starved” – I simply fed one half more often than the other half.

The end result after months of record-keeping was that feeding my spiderlings twice as much led them to grow around 20% faster than those being fed the standard amount of livefood.

Again though if you’re trying to feed up a tarantula ensure you remove any uneaten livefood within 24 hours of introduction and try to keep records so you know exactly how often – and how much – your individual spiders will eat so they can grow as quickly as possible without having unwanted livefood hanging around the cage on a regular basis.

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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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Feeding Fire Belly Toads http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/feeding-fire-belly-toads/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/feeding-fire-belly-toads/#respond Sat, 02 Apr 2011 09:41:56 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=316 Fire belly toads or fire bellied toads as they are sometimes known are one of the easiest types of amphibians to keep in the home as they attain a very reasonable size, are easy to care for and are very hardy. One sticking point for some exotic pet keepers though when they are first starting […]

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Fire belly toads or fire bellied toads as they are sometimes known are one of the easiest types of amphibians to keep in the home as they attain a very reasonable size, are easy to care for and are very hardy.

One sticking point for some exotic pet keepers though when they are first starting out is exactly how to feed fire belly toads but this needn’t be as difficult as you might first think.

Like other toads, fire belly toads are carnivores and so require meat as the main basis of their diet and there are two ways in which I provide this which keeps my toads in perfect health while making my life as easy as possible.

To start off with fire belly toads like to spend a lot of their lives in the water so an ideal terrarium for them consists of both a large area of water and a decent-sized land area where they can haul themselves out of the water.

Because of their stunning colors, but also the potential for these colors to become duller over time in captivity the first constituent of the fire belly toad diet I offer is fish food. Typically I offer a pinch of fish flakes and try to focus my efforts on those designed to “color up” fish like betta fish. This keeps my toads looking bright and colorful but I do not believe it makes a perfectly balanced (or natural) diet so I also supplement their diets with live insects.

The insects offered to fire belly toads can really be any kind of commercially-available livefood so long as it is small enough to fit into my toads mouths which means I tend not to offer any insect much over a centimetre or so in length.

I also tend to avoid offering insects that jump – like crickets or locusts – because they have a nasty habit of walking or jumping into the toads’ water where they will quickly drown and sour the water if one of your toads doesn’t eat them quickly.

To avoid this I tend to offer food such as waxworms and mealworms, placing them into a low-sided food bowl (in essence an upturned jamjar lid) to prevent them from escaping. The bowl is sunk slightly into the substrate so that from a distance my toads can easily see the insects moving about and it is this motion which will draw their attention and encourage them to feed.

Over time your toads will likely learn where the food bowl is and some of mine wait patiently by the bowl for me to add more food and some even get confident enough to take food straight from your fingers.

To finish off here’s a quick video of one of my fire belly toads grabbing a waxworm from the food bowl moments after they have been fed…

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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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