food – 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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What Do Stick Insects Eat? http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/stick-insects-eat/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/stick-insects-eat/#respond Wed, 27 Jul 2016 12:00:01 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1242 Stick insects are one of the more popular “exotic pets” but a fair amount of questions exist regarding their preferred foods. In this quick article we’re going to look at what stick insects (walking sticks) eat so that you can be certain to always have some suitable food on hand. Vegetation Stick insects spend their […]

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Stick insects are one of the more popular “exotic pets” but a fair amount of questions exist regarding their preferred foods. In this quick article we’re going to look at what stick insects (walking sticks) eat so that you can be certain to always have some suitable food on hand.

Vegetation

Photo by Nicolas Winspeare

Stick insects spend their lives sitting in trees and bushes, often resting motionless to avoid detection by predators.

They very rarely make their way down to ground level, and instead spend the vast majority of their lives arboreally. It should therefore come as no surprise that stick insects are purely vegetarian; they don’t have the speed or ability to catch live prey to eat.

While the most common species of stick insect is the Indian (or “laboratory”) stick insect there is an ever-growing list of the species available.

These come from around the world; from Asia to Australasia; and it should therefore come as no surprise that in the wild they will eat a wide range of different plants. For obvious reasons these are often not available to hobbyists, so instead we have learned to provide other plants which stick insects will eat.

Common Food for Stick Insects

privet photoKeepers of stick insects generally rely on two main food plants for their pets.

These are privet and bramble (blackberry).

Both evergreen, even in the midst of winter, when there is snow on the ground, you should be able to find one or other of these plants.

To keep the leaves fresh it is generally best to cut decent-sized chunks of plant off, and to place the ends into a small container of water.

Simply cutting individual leaves off plants and placing them in your stick insect cage will result in them drying up and being inedible within hours, so tends not to work very well.

bramble photo

Other Food for Stick Insects

While bramble and privet may be the two most common food plants used for stick insects, they are far from the only options.

oak photoSome stick insects will take a range of other wild plants, with rose and oak leaves being two other popular options.

Some insects may also eat hazel leaves, raspberry, ivy or hawthorn.

A small number of more specialist feeders – such as the popular Peruvian fern stick insect – will feed on bracken and a range of wild and cultivated ferns.

It would appear, however, that if a plant is toxic to stick insects then they simply won’t eat it.

It is generally therefore perfectly safe to experiment with different leaves, to see what appeals to your pets.

If carrying out such tests, aim to always have some bramble or privet in the cage, so that your stick insects won’t starve if your experiment fails.

Houseplants for Stick Insects

guava photoInterestingly its not just wild plants that stick insects will eat.

Some years ago, while cleaning out my stick insects, I placed my pets lovingly on the windowsill, to sit in amongst my selection of houseplants.

Soon enough I found them munching away on several of my plants.

The two which seem to have been of greatest interest were the inch plant and my strawberry guava. Both of these can be sourced from garden centers and can serve as a useful “emergency” food source for the winter months.

Gathering Stick Insect Food

The vast majority of the food items you give your stick insect will likely come from the wild. Stick insects are sensitive creatures so great care should be taken when gathering their food.

For best results try to avoid collecting leaves which may have harmful chemicals on them. This means not collecting leaves from too near roads, and avoiding food plants in any area where pesticides or other garden chemicals may have been used in the recent past.

forest photo

Personally, for safety, I either visit my local woods to collect bramble on a weekly basis, or leave a patch of my garden untended so I can collect leaves from there.

When gathering your stick insect’s food try placing it into a plastic bag as soon as it is removed from the plant. This helps to prevent it from drying out on the journey home.

Ideally cut the plant using a sharp pair of scissors or secateurs, as a neat cut like this will be able to absorb water better then a branch which has been torn off the plant.

On arrival at home I carefully inspect the leaves gathered (to ensure there are no spiders or other predators lurking) and then wash them under the tap. This ensures that the food is as clean and fresh as is possible.

Keeping Stick Insect Food Fresh

stick insect photo

While the ideal solution to feeding stick insects is to provide them with a living plant (which I do with my inch plant), in reality most food plants will have to be chopped off the main plant and placed into the cage.

As stick insects don’t enjoy old, dried-up leaves, it is important to keep them fresh for as long as possible.

Once you have got the leaves home, cut the last inch or two off the stem and then plunge them into a container of water.

The container should be narrow enough that the stems fill the container. This prevents the risk of your insects falling into the open water and drowning.

Kept this way most food plants will stay fresh for a week or so, at which point they should be replaced with fresh, green leaves.

Food for Baby Stick Insects

stick insect photoBaby stick insects can present a particular problem, as these small insects are often kept in comparatively smaller cages than their parents.

This means that placing a jar of water in the cage for the leaves to sit in can be problematic.

All too often pet owners compromise and opt to dispense with the water container, placing the bare stems straight into the cage. For obvious reasons these dry up within hours and require daily replacement. This is far from practical for most people.

However there is a solution which I have found to work very well indeed; and this is making full use of “ambient moisture”. The drier the environment of your stick insect cage, the quicker the leaves will dry up.

By placing baby stick insects into a cage with only small amounts of ventilation (in comparison to the adults, which are often kept in mesh cages with plenty of ventilation) you can keep the humidity up. Lined with moist paper towel, such a container will see the internal humidity rising, which will in turn help to keep your leaves fresher for longer.

What do stick insects eat? This article brings together the experience of hundreds of stick insect keepers, helping to give a definitve answer to what walking sticks will eat as pets.

Do you have any unanswered questions or further suggestions for feeding stick insects? If so, why not leave it in the comments section below?

Photos c/o Sladey, BitterjugNicolas Winspeare, therealbrute, golgarth & Pasha Kirillov

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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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Feeding Herbivorous Reptiles http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/feeding-herbivorous-reptiles/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/feeding-herbivorous-reptiles/#respond Tue, 18 May 2010 15:26:06 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=139 Whether it’s iguanas, bearded dragons, uromastyx or tortoises, there are a range of herbivorous reptiles available. Indeed, many people prefer to keep a pet that can be fed on fruit and vegetables rather than having to deal with live crickets and suchlike which make some peoples skin crawl! You would be shocked at the number […]

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Whether it’s iguanas, bearded dragons, uromastyx or tortoises, there are a range of herbivorous reptiles available. Indeed, many people prefer to keep a pet that can be fed on fruit and vegetables rather than having to deal with live crickets and suchlike which make some peoples skin crawl!

You would be shocked at the number of exotic pet shops I have been in where herbivorous reptiles have had nothing but a day-old shrivelled-up bowl of iceberg lettuce to eat and clearly this isn’t sufficient for a whole raft of reasons.

In this article then I would like to provide some simple guidelines will help you to maximize the health of your pet reptile when it comes to feeding plant-based foods.

Variety

Different fruits and vegetables contain different nutrients and it is obviously essential for your pet reptile to receive a wide variety of different foods in order to stand the best chance possible of receiving all the nutrients it requires.

Therefore feeding just one item for prolonged periods of time should be avoided. For best results, a range of food items should be fed each day, carefully chopped to encourage your pet to sample as many of these food items as possible.

Quality

Not all plant foods are created equal. Lettuce, for example, contains mainly water and can cause diarrhoea so is generally best avoided except on very rare occasions. On the other hand, plants which may often be overlooked, such as watercress and dandelion leaves are packed full of nutrients and offer a lot to a herbivorous reptile.

So try to get to know which foods are better than others so you feed only the best to your pet.

Chemical-Free

Whilst some pets will eat grass, dandelions, chickweed and a variety of other wild plants, be careful of chemicals. Fumes from cars, herbicides and pesticides may all be present, not just in “wild” foods but also in shop-bought fruit and veg.

Wherever possible try to source organic produce and wash it thoroughly before feeding to your pet.

Freshness

Not only do plant-based foods quickly lose their nutrients after picking but they may also dry up or go mouldy if left in the cage for too long. All fresh food should be changed at least once a day and ideally even more often to keep an enticing selection of food available at all times.

Remember that as there are less calories in plants than animal foods, typically a herbivorous reptile will need to eat far more, and far more often, than for example a lizard feeding on crickets.

Supplementation

Various vitamin and mineral dusting powders can be bought from specialist reptile dealers and should be added to the fresh food. This further adds to the nutrient content of the food and reduces the chances of deficiencies.

Cleaning

As food can go off quickly in the warm environment of a reptile cage, try to place all food in a bowl which makes disposal of uneaten food easier. In addition, check around the cage regularly as stray pieces of food often find their way into water bowls or corners of cages.

 

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How To Keep Livefood Alive http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/how-to-keep-livefood-alive/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/how-to-keep-livefood-alive/#respond Tue, 30 Mar 2010 17:25:25 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=10 If your exotic pets require livefood in the form of crickets, locusts and the like then one problem you may have encountered is simply that tubs of livefood die shortly after purchase. Visiting some reptile shops the rows of tubs for sale consist mainly of dead insects and so keeping your livefood going for longer […]

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If your exotic pets require livefood in the form of crickets, locusts and the like then one problem you may have encountered is simply that tubs of livefood die shortly after purchase.

Visiting some reptile shops the rows of tubs for sale consist mainly of dead insects and so keeping your livefood going for longer will help you to keep your livefood going for longer. You will save money and need to take less visits to the pet shop to buy more.

Luckily keeping many of the common livefood species going is actually reasonably simple and in this article we’ll take a look at three common livefood types and how to make your feeder insects last longer.

Crickets

There are three main problems with keeping crickets in small tubs. Firstly they have no moisture and so quickly die of thirst.

Secondly the bran that typically accompanies them is not tremendously nutritious and so not only will crickets typically be missing a range of essential vitamins and minerals, but they also will then offer your exotic pet less nutrition when they eat them.

The final problem is that crickets have a nasty tendency of eating each other so you often end up with just a few big fat ones after they have eaten all the smaller specimens in the tub.

To get around all these problems it is advisable to not keep your crickets in their tub when you arrive home but to actually have a cage specially for them. A high-sided clear plastic tank is what I use, with a close-fitting lid. This way you can keep an eye on them easily, prevent them from escaping, and also reduce the chances of them jumping out when you take the lid off.

No real substrate is necessary – indeed it makes life harder when trying to catch the insects again.

Instead include egg boxes or crumpled newspaper to provide a range of places to hide and feel safe. Provide water in the form of a water bowl, filled with damp cotton wool. This way your crickets can drink but won’t be at risk of drowning. This cotton wool can dry out rapidly so top it up with fresh water once or twice a day and change the cotton wool every few days as it will soon become infested with faeces.

Lastly try to feed your crickets on a wide range of foods. Dry foods can include breakfast cereals and dog biscuits (they will often eat some of the newspaper too!). Also try to ensure you keep a steady supply of fruit and vegetables accessible. I have found that chopped potato, carrot and apple tend to work better than softer food like strawberries or lettuce which will quickly wilt and grow mould. Grass, if it is clear from pesticides and weed killers, is also an excellent source of moisture for them.

Locusts

Locust care is somewhat similar to that of crickets though they should be provided with twigs to rest on rather than newspaper or eggboxes. This makes moulting easier for them.

A similar diet works well though of course locusts generally require more space as they grow far larger than the average cricket.

The biggest difference of all however is that locusts, being desert animals, ideally need to kept significantly warmer than crickets. While many species of cricket will live happily at room temperature in the warmer months, or with a little heat from a heat mat over winter, locusts ideally need a temperature of around 30’C to live a long and healthy life.

A more powerful heater such as a heat lamp with a thermostat will do a good job of this though you will need to use a glass cage in this case as the plastic ones would melt, and of course this increases your costs of set-up.

Mealworms

Mealworms can be kept in their tubs with more ease than crickets or locusts. By placing moisture-containing foods such as cabbage leaves or slices of carrot on the top the insects will feed on these and gain essential water.

One trick worth bearing in mind with mealworms is that if kept chilled in the fridge you will hold back their moulting into an adult beetle. You can simply remove a few mealworms whenever you want to feel your exotic pets, warm them up suitably and then place them into your pet’s cage.

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