Dealing with live feed

I have realized that there are a lot of people that love reptiles or want to try keeping one but become reluctant because they have a hard time dealing with the food. Unlike most other pets, many reptiles require live insect or rodent feed and often this becomes a deterrent to own one.

Types of live feed that are popular include crickets, superworms, mealworms, wax worms, butter worms, silk worms, tomato horn worms, flightless fruit flies, rats, and mice. Most lizards will require the insects and most snakes will require the rodents.

First off, make sure you understand everything about the live feed because there are a lot of misconceptions about them.

Rats and mice may sound scary at first, but if you are getting your rodents from a reputable source then your rodents will be clean, docile, and very well fed. They are nothing like the preconceived sewer rats that you see on TV! They are actually domesticated captive bred mammals in clean and safe environments where they are never exposed to wild predators or unsanitary conditions. These rats do not bite when not threatened and not starved for food and water. They are easy to handle and easy to feed to your pet snake.

Despite their docile nature, never leave a live rodent in the tank with your snake unsupervised and definitely never overnight. There is a risk that the rodent can harm your snake if it is hungry or scared enough to.

If live is too scary, then frozen is an option too. I suggest dedicating an air tight container in your freezer specifically for frozen rodents. Frozen rodents should be treated just like regular frozen meats. They should never be refrozen once thawed and are good in the freezer for up to 12 months if it has fur and if properly stored away air tight.

Worms that are easy to keep and require little maintenance are wax worms, butter worms, mealworms, and superworms. Superworms can be kept in a plastic container at room temperature with lots of air ventilation. Throw in some carrots and potatoes and they are good for months. Mealworms, wax worms, and butterworms can all be kept in your refrigerator where the cold will render them dormant. They will not eat and not grow for the duration that they are in there and you take them out as needed per feeding. Once acclimated to regular room temperature they will wake up and start moving around. Depending on the quality of the worms, they will be good in your fridge for 2-6 weeks.

Crickets are a staple item for most lizards but they can be tricky to keep. They jump, they squeeze into small spaces, they chirp, and in large quantities they can be a little smelly. Don’t worry, there is an easy way to keep crickets too. I suggest using a cricket keeper, available from most pet stores that carry live crickets. These plastic see through boxes have dark tubes protruding from two sides. The crickets will crawl into the tubes in search for darkness and you can pull the tubes out and shake them out into your lizard’s tank so that you will rarely need to touch the crickets themselves. I also suggest lining the bottom of your cricket keeper with a thin layer of paper towel in order to absorb all the cricket droppings and to reduce any humidity build up. This will make cleaning much easier for you and will help with reducing any odour. Also, don’t forget to feed your crickets too! You can buy cricket food from the pet stores or fresh fruits and veggies will work just as well.

Silk worms and horn worms are the most difficult to keep and require some experience. They are extremely nutritious for your pets but also highly susceptible to bacteria so they have a short life span. If new to the hobby, I would only suggest buying enough for 1 or 2 feedings at a time. Once you get the hang of keeping them, then you can purchase 1-2 week’s worth at a time.

If you still think none of this is for you then there is always the option of keeping reptiles that are herbivores such as tortoises, iguanas, and Uromastyx. Crested geckos, day geckos, and leachianus geckos can also be kept on a commercial meal replacement such as Repashy, Pangea, or Zoo Med Crested Gecko Diet.

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