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.
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.
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 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.