What Foods To Feed Your Reptiles

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Feeding Habits of Reptiles
Unfortunately, they provide such high levels of UV that they pose a health threat to both the reptiles and the humans who keep them. A selection of finely chopped or shredded plant food can be placed in a feeding container or in a substrate-free area of their enclosure. Unlike the kingsnakes L. Bone fractures, soft-tissue mineralization, renal complications, and tetany can develop. Iguanas with both fractured bones and extremely low or undetectable levels of circulating hydroxycholecalciferol also had calcified soft tissues. One drawback of mealworms is their thick, chitinous exoskeleton.

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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 living or defrosted frozen lizard or frog or other preferred food item may be kept on hand to rub against the killed rodent just before offering it for feeding.

This will transfer the scent of the preferred prey to the fur or skin of the rodent. Dangling the rodent from a pair of tongs or hemostats will create the illusion of movement. Combined with the scent, this may entice and trick the reptile into feeding. The reasons for feeding prekilled rodent prey are discussed at length in the Feeding Prekilled Prey article, as are tips for converting live feeders to prekilled. Many reptiles become frightened of live prey, especially if they have been bitten before.

With young snakes or lizards, the live prey may just be too active for them. Feeding prekilled eliminates both the fear and the risk of injury. Do not leave invertebrate prey, especially mealworms, kingworms, or crickets, in the enclosure with a reptile without also leaving food for the prey. If the reptile does not eat the invertebrates right away, they will soon get hungry and start feeding on whatever is available, which is usually the reptile.

Many reptiles become so severely chewed up and stressed out by their prey that they require veterinary care; such reptiles, like snakes who have been attacked by rodents, can be very difficult to get self-feeding again. Another scenting trick is pithing. This involves piercing the braincase of the killed prey with a pin or nail before offering it to the reptile.

Never leave live rodents in an enclosure with the reptile. Too many big boids have died or been permanently disfigured by rodent attacks. Something to try before pithing, however, is dipping the prekilled prey into some warm chicken broth.

This is especially effective in species whose wild diet includes birds. Canned chicken broth may be poured into ice cube trays and frozen, defrosting cubes as needed. Depending on the size and number of prey you need to dip at each feeding, you can use the trays for regular sized cubes or trays for miniature cubes.

Prominent snake breeders Dave and Tracy Barker discovered the efficacy of chicken broth. Some reptiles are sensitive to color, and have definite preferences for prey of certain colors. With rodents, this may mean brown or parti-colored mice rather than white mice after all, there aren't a lot of white or albino mice in the wild, as they tend to not survive long enough to pass on their color genes.

This color preference may extend to insect-eaters as well. Adding powdered spirulina or alfalfa to the food-and-vitamin mix fed to crickets will turn them green, making them more acceptable to reptiles who typically eat green insects in the wild.

Chameleon keeper Alon Coppens discovered this when he ran out of naturally green insects for his picky Nosy Be C. Serving Food Care must be taken not only in the type and size of food selected for feeding, but in the presentation of the food as well.

Proper presentation not only makes food attractive to the reptile, which will help stimulate feeding, but will ensure that the food can be safely consumed. A plate of some sort must be used when the reptile is kept on a substrate of soil, shavings or other particulate matter. This will prevent the unnecessary uptake and accidental ingestion of the substrate itself. While there is nothing to prevent this from occurring in the wild, captivity is not the wild. We are still ignorant about what factors or organisms that may prevent impactions in the wild that are missing in the captive environment.

An alternative is to remove the reptile from its enclosure and place it in a special enclosure reserved for feeding. Separate feeding enclosures will be required when two or more snakes are housed together. Keeping and feeding them in the same enclosure may well result in fewer snakes as one snake eats the other merely because it smells like prey, or when both have tried to eat the same prey animal. Separation may also be required when housing two or more lizards or chelonians together when one of them is unable to compete successfully with the others for access to enough food.

Plant foods should be thoroughly mixed together to prevent the reptile from picking out only certain plants and leaving the rest. Captive diets consisting of just one or two plants is not nutritious and will result in nutritional deficiency disorders. Using a forceps hemostats or kitchen tongs, grasp the prey by the base of the tail and dangle it for the reptile.

You may find that "walking" it around a bit will better simulate the movement of a live prey animal and thus better trigger a feeding strike. Let the fish swim in the water bowl or special feeding bowl, large enough for the aquatic turtle, or semi-aquatic lizard, snake or turtle to get into and swim to catch its prey. Individual worms or larva may be held in forceps to introduce the prey to the reptile.

A meal's worth of worms or larvae may be placed in a shallow bowl or saucer, enabling the reptile to get in but preventing the worms from escaping. Leave some of the food being fed to the worms in the bowl so that they have something to feed on if they are themselves not eaten right away. Crickets may be set loose in the enclosure for most reptiles. For turtles, they may need to be held with forceps. On a daily basis, check under furnishings, branches, and potted plants to get the crickets who have hidden back out into the open again.

Put some of the food being fed to the crickets in their own enclosure into the reptile's enclosure so that the crickets have something to feed on if they themselves are not eaten right away.

A piece of fruit placed in a jar lid will provide the crickets with an easily accessible source of moisture. A rock should be placed in the reptile's water bowl so that if crickets jump into the water they will be able to climb out onto the rock and jump free and thus escape drowning. The plant food may be placed in a shallow bowl, jar lid, or saucer. Offer vertebrate prey as indicated above. Worms, larvae, and killed vertebrate prey may be placed on top of the plant food, mixed into it, or offered separately.

The leafy greens may be floated on the water. If turtle food sticks or pellets are being offered to aquatic turtles, they may be floated on the water as well. Feeding Time When the food is offered will also affect feeding and metabolism. Failure to proffer the right food at the right time, and in the right way, may well result in malnutrition or starvation. Some species feed at night. Others will easily take food around sunset but will not feed during daylight hours.

Still others will only eat during the day. Offering food outside the optimal feeding times for the species may result in reduced intake or failure to feed. Some reptiles may be unwilling to feed when they are being watched by other animals, including humans.

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. Thus, observation of captive species must be done carefully so as not to stress, or alter the behavior of, the animals being watched. Feeding frequency may also lead to nutritional problems. Some hatchling lizards and small adult lizards need to feed several times a day. Other lizards may feed comfortably once a day or once every other day.

The feeding frequency may change throughout the year due to breeding season or coinciding with natural cycles found in the animal's native habitat, such as the dry or wet seasons, cool winters, hot summers, or breeding season. Wash your hands with hot, soapy water, rinse thoroughly, and finish off with cold water.

This will remove the scent of other animals - predator and prey - from your hands and give your hands a cooler thermal signature than the prey you are offering by tongs or forceps, please to reptiles who use heat sensing to locate prey. Feeding Frequency There are no cut-and-dried rules on feeding reptiles.

Each species will have its own requirements. Feeding amounts and frequency are based as much on the reptile's evolved dietary needs and metabolic size as it is on its being maintained in a proper environment. Generally speaking, smaller reptiles need to eat more frequently than larger reptiles; younger reptiles more often than older ones; insectivores more frequently than vertebrate eaters; and herbivores more frequently than omnivores or carnivores.

Most young lizards and herbivorous reptiles will need to eat every day, whereas young snakes may eat twice a week. Sick reptiles, or those preparing for breeding, may need to eat more or more often than healthy adult reptiles not in breeding season. Reptiles tend to eat more during the seasons that coincide with the highest food availability in their native habitat generally corresponding to our spring and summer months than during the cold or dry seasons.

A reptile who acts hungry probably is. Caretakers being struck or bitten by an otherwise tame and calm snake or lizard when they put their hands in or near the enclosure is another sure sign. Except for certain gorge feeders such as savannah monitors and Burmese pythons , a reptile maintained in a proper environment, who gets plenty of exercise, and is fed a healthy diet, is difficult to overfeed.

If they are not hungry, they will not eat. Commercial Foods Commercial reptile foods dried, broth-flavored insects, "sausages", frozen, canned and dried foods sound like the perfect answer to what to feed your lizard, snake or chelonian. The only problem is that, despite packaging, advertising, and pet store claims, except for some of the aquatic turtle foods, these food products were not longitudinally tested and many are proving to be less nutritionally "complete" and "balanced" as claimed.

Reptile keepers and veterinarians are finding that animals maintained on many of these foods exhibit developmental abnormalities growing too fast or too slow and nutritional deficiencies such as metabolic bone disease. It is best to not consider these as suitable substitutes for whole prey or fresh plant diets. Snakes Feeding baby snakes may present some unique problems.

Captive bred snakes remain genetically programmed to recognize certain scents and shapes as being "food. Most baby snakes do not feed for the first several weeks after hatching as they are still living off the remains of their yolk which is retained inside their bodies; this takes about days. In the wild this time would be spent finding water, basking, sleeping, and hiding spots, and generally learning about its environment.

In captivity, they may often be started on rodent prey, specifically pinky mice, causing them to imprint on the prey and so become willing feeders on at least that species of rodent for the duration of its life.

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