Feeding Habits of Reptiles

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What Foods To Feed Your Reptiles
Conversely, if you feed a diurnal lizard at night, it is not likely to eat. Keep them at temperatures around 75 degrees. Overfeeding these frogs leads to obesity, so it should be avoided. When selecting a commercial product, the buyer should obtain accurate information about product formulation and specific nutrient concentrations. More information on force-feeding can be found in the Emaciation Starvation Protocol article. A plate of some sort must be used when the reptile is kept on a substrate of soil, shavings or other particulate matter. Still others will compete so fiercely with other cagemates for food that injuries may occur or the cagemates may themselves become reluctant to feed and so slowly starve to death.


Several companies offer cockroaches for insectivorous herps. These insects are easily reared in plastic tubs, and most of them do not require substrate. Like crickets, cockroaches require warmer temperatures for optimal production. Keep them at temperatures around 75 degrees. Many species of cockroaches, such as lobster roaches Nauphoeta cinerea , can climb smooth surfaces, including glass, so extra precautions must be taken to ensure that the enclosure is escapeproof.

Several products can be smeared along the top lip of the enclosure to prevent escape. Vaseline is the cheapest product to use. Simply place a 1- to 2-inch strip of Vaseline along the top of the enclosure. A number of cockroach species do not climb glass. One such species is the orange-headed roach Eublaberus posticus. Although this species does attain a larger size, the instars the stage between molts are of an appropriate size for many species of lizards and frogs. Culturing cockroaches has significantly cut down on our monthly cricket bill, and despite our initial disgust at the thought of raising these insects in our home, they actually have a number of benefits over crickets.

These benefits include decreased odor production, a reduced chitin-to-meat ratio, and in some cases more conspicuous movement. Silk moth larvae Bombyx mori can also be acquired via several online resources. Vendors typically have them at reptile expos, as well. Silkworms can be maintained on a diet of mulberry leaves, and a mulberry leaf powder can be reconstituted to feed the worms during the winter months.

A simple plastic container works well to maintain a group of these worms. Depending on how much they are fed and the temperatures at which they are maintained, these worms can grow very quickly and to a large size. Keep them at a temperature range between 70 and 85 degrees, and they will do well.

Mulberry leaves have a high mineral content, so silkworms make a nutritious food item and can be an excellent source of calcium. Easily reared, they are relatively inexpensive if raised from a small size or egg. Like silkworms, tomato hornworms Manduca quinquemaculata can be picked up from a variety of online sources.

However, do not use wild-caught tomato hornworms because these may be toxic to your insectivorous herp.

Only purchase these worms from a vendor where you can be assured they were raised on a nontoxic diet and are safe for your herps to eat.

Tomato hornworms are sold in large deli cups with the appropriate food. In this setup they grow quickly and thus must be used in a timely manner, usually within a few weeks. Tomato hornworms weigh up to 12 grams, so they provide many more calories than crickets. These worms are especially helpful for reptiles and amphibians that need to put on a little weight, such as anorexic animals, those that have been ill and are recovering, or those that are ready for breeding.

A rodent colony can be extremely helpful in reducing the cost of maintaining a large group of snakes or large carnivorous lizards. Like culturing feeder insects, rodent husbandry is very important in ensuring a healthy food item for your captive.

The principle consideration when maintaining a rodent colony is cleanliness. Change the substrate at least once a week. Sometimes twice a week is better, such as during periods of heavy breeding.

Rodent breeding typically slows down during the winter months, which can present a problem if you are feeding reptiles and amphibians that are active year round.

Plan accordingly and try to have a number of frozen food items during these months. You can purchase these or cull them from your livestock during periods of higher production.

Another consideration in rodent production is the frequency in which producing adult mice should be culled. Ideally, older mice should be fed to pets roughly every two to four months. The final component to successful rodent maintenance is diet. Several companies manufacture rodent blocks specifically for mice, rats and other rodents. Although costly, these food items ensure proper nutrition. Many people use dog food made in part with plant matter as a rodent diet. Dog food is less expensive and provides rodents with an adequate source of nutrition, but laboratory diets are considered ideal.

Provide clean water on a continual basis by using gravity-feed water bottles. Mice often defecate or urinate in a water bowl, so change it often. Just like gut loading crickets, a properly fed rodent provides nutrients to your herps for proper metabolism.

This prevents feeders from harming the reptile and also reduces the amount of suffering by the food item. Even if you have the correct food item for your captive reptile or amphibian, occasionally animals will refuse to eat in captivity. It may sound obvious, but certain species do not eat crickets or mealworms in the wild, and they may refuse to feed on these insects in captivity.

Research the animal you are keeping. Find out what time of day it normally eats. If you feed a nocturnal species in the morning, it is unlikely to eat. Conversely, if you feed a diurnal lizard at night, it is not likely to eat. Perhaps a hide area is necessary, so the animals feel a sense of security. Sometimes you can entice animals to eat by making their food smell like their desired prey.

During the past 10 to 15 years, a lot of advancements in reptile nutrition have been made. A number of new feeder insects have come into the hobby; new dietary supplements have been developed; and herpkeepers have a better understanding of ultraviolet light, vitamin D synthesis and calcium metabolism.

It is our hope that the field of reptile nutrition will continue to advance and herpetoculturists will achieve greater longevity and better health in their captive reptiles. California kingsnakes Lampropeltis getula californiae: Unlike the kingsnakes L. If the mice are offered a well-balanced diet, these snakes do very well feeding on them, and they can live well into their 20s. Ball pythons Python regius: With many beautiful morphs available, these snakes have become immensely popular during the past 20 years.

Ball pythons do well on a rodent diet. A good quality grass hay or a so-called herbs-hay should be fed. In Europe, often herbs and dandelions are fed to herbivorous reptiles. Fresh, clean water must be available at all times. Recommended Nutrient Concentrations for Reptiles for recommended nutrient concentrations for reptiles.

These suggested concentrations are not sufficient to prevent signs of vitamin D deficiency in green iguanas. Vitamin C synthesis has been reported in many reptile species. It has been suggested that ulcerative stomatitis seen in snakes and lizards may be associated with a vitamin C deficiency, although there is no supportive evidence.

In controlled studies with garter snakes Thamnophis sp fed supplemental vitamin C, tissue levels and body stores remained stable, although synthesis by the snakes was reduced. Although most reptiles excrete nitrogen primarily as uric acid, aquatic reptiles typically excrete excess nitrogen as urea or ammonia. The relative proportions of various nitrogenous wastes may depend on the amount and composition of feed, frequency of feeding, and state of hydration.

The excessive precipitation of urate crystals in joints, kidneys, or other organs gout can be a common condition in some species of captive reptiles. The etiology is not clear, but it is commonly thought that diets high in protein may predispose reptiles to gout.

Impaired renal function and dehydration have also been suggested as possible causes. If poor-quality protein is fed unbalanced amino acids or when tissue is catabolized for energy, uric acid excretion increases. Although gout in some reptiles is associated with increased circulating levels, postprandial transient increases in circulating uric acid may be seen in some species and confound the diagnosis.

Assuring an adequate state of hydration in a susceptible animal may help prevent uric acid precipitation in joints and organs. Feeding diets low in protein to carnivorous reptiles is unwise, because they are adapted to feeding on high-protein prey. Most vertebrates can either absorb vitamin D from the diet or synthesize it in the skin from 7-dehydrocholesterol using energy from ultraviolet UVB light of certain wavelengths — nm in a temperature-dependent reaction.

Thus, vitamin D is required in the diet only when endogenous synthesis is inadequate, as develops when animals are not exposed to UV light of appropriate wavelengths. Many captive basking species appear susceptible to rickets or osteomalacia. Bone fractures, soft-tissue mineralization, renal complications, and tetany can develop. Reptiles frequently show few premonitory signs, although lethargy, inappetence, and reluctance to move are commonly reported.

Serum calcium concentrations may not be diagnostically useful. Although blood levels of vitamin D can be measured, normal values for most species are not known. Supplementation with injectable calcium and vitamin D may provide some short-term relief. However, exposure to UV light, or lack of it, may be an important, yet often overlooked, factor in the differential diagnosis.

Complicating the diagnosis may be soft-tissue mineralization, seen radiographically or at necropsy. In green iguanas, metastatic calcification may not result from vitamin D toxicity. Iguanas with both fractured bones and extremely low or undetectable levels of circulating hydroxycholecalciferol also had calcified soft tissues.

The etiology of the metastatic calcification is not understood and is contrary to conventional understanding of the signs of vitamin D deficiency and toxicity in domestic species. Dietary sources of vitamin D may not be sufficient to prevent rickets and osteomalacia. Because some lizards seek a warm spot to increase body temperature, placement of a warming bulb, usually incandescent, adjacent to a UVB bulb helps ensure adequate exposure to UVB light.

Exposure to unfiltered natural sunlight, depending on latitude, during warmer months and use of UVB bulbs during the rest of the year usually eliminate the risk of bone disease caused by insufficient absorption of calcium due to a vitamin D deficiency. Some lizard species may be unable to absorb sufficient dietary vitamin D 3 , although the reason is poorly understood.

New World primates are believed to have exceptionally high dietary requirements for vitamin D, which may be related to lower numbers of vitamin D cellular receptors than are present in Old World primates. Similar metabolic differences may exist in some basking lizard species, although this has not been established.

UVB bulbs are sold in pet stores, but label claims may not be reliable. Three types of UVB lighting are on the market: Fluorescent tubes supply a diffuse light with a low amount of visible light. Heat radiation is low, and the UVB gradient is fairly uniform. The light from fluorescent tubes resembles more or less the natural UVB in the shade of a sunny day spread over a relatively large area. Compact fluorescent lamps provide a more intensive UVB gradient focused on a small area.

These lamps are characterized by fairly low intensity visible light and little heat. Mercury lamps vapor spot and narrow spots produce an intensive UVB gradient on a smaller area, producing heat and an intense light.

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