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REPTILE / nutrition

Feeder Insect Care & Setup


Shopping Checklist

  • 5- to 10-gallon (19-38 L) critter keeper/cricket pen
  • Egg carton or other similar products for climbing and hiding
  • Shallow water dish
  • Shallow food bowl
  • Water gel crystals
  • Fortified feeder insect gut-loading diet
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We are what we eat!

Insects are the primary source of food and nutrient delivery for a variety of animals. In a natural setting, wild insectivores will consume a variety of insects. Nature is all about balance, and with that understanding we know that animals are often specialized to their environment. They have developed to obtain everything they require dietarily from the insects found within their natural environment. This in large part is opportunistic as they will often consume whatever insect they come across as they hunt. The availability of insects will depend on locality and surrounding environment. The nutrient profile of insects will vary from one environment to the next. In captivity, insect availability is much more limited and narrows the nutrient profile we can provide our insectivorous pets without supplementation (i.e., Gut Loading).

Feeder Insect Nutritional Value Chart

Protein (%DM or g/kg)
Crude Fat (% DM or g/kg)
Calcium (mg/kg)
Phosphorus (mg/kg)
155 g/kg
294 g/kg
165 g/kg
68 g/kg
Calciworms/Black Soldier Fly Larvae
175 g/kg
140 g/kg
Dubia Roaches
530 g/kg
200-300 g/kg
Fruit Flies
156 g/kg
54 g/kg
186 g/kg
177 g/kg
144 g/kg
249 g/kg

*Information sourced from: Finke, M.D. (2015). Complete nutrient content of four species of commercially available feeder insects fed enhanced diets during growth. Zoo Biology, 34(6):554-564. Doi:; Latney, L., and Clayton, L.A. (2014). Updates on amphibian nutrition and nutritive value of common feeder insects. Veterinary Clinics of North America Exotic Animal Practice, 17(3):347-67. Doi:; Independent Study: Timberline –

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Gut Loading

Commercially available feeder insects are rich in proteins, amino acids, trace minerals, and most B-vitamins. However, they most often lack, sufficient levels of vitamin A & E, carotenoids (precursors to vitamin A), and fatty acids. Therefore, it is important to provide a complete and nutritionally balanced diet to feeder insects during all stages of their development and prior to feeding them to your pet. Commercial breeders do a good job at providing adequate dietary supplementation to the feeder insects they provide to retailers. However, their focus is on quickly achieving development size and weight of feeder insects rather than exclusively nutrient content. This is often achieved by providing higher fats and proteins, but not as many of the other necessary nutrients that insectivores may require. For this reason, it is recommended that retailers and pet owners provide a high-quality feeder insect diet. This will ensure the best possible and most diverse nutrient profile to the feeder insects you will feed to your pet.

How to set up your feeder insect enclose or cricket pen

  • Replicating the natural environment of feeder insects is not necessary as this is just a temporary enclosure. However, it is important to provide them with an environment where they can continue to thrive. Afterall, the healthier the food item you feed your pet the better.
  • Set up will depend on feeder insect type, but most will do well with egg carton or similar product to climb and hide. For most, vertically oriented egg cartons work best. Some species, such as mealworms, superworms, waxworms, etc. will require some particulate edible substrate to serve as shelter and food (i.e., meal). Fruit flies require a completely different set up. Please ask the associate to help you with them.
  • Fill a shallow water bowl with pre-moisturized water gel crystals. Replace once they start turning brown or are soiled. This will not be necessary for species that burrow into substrate (e.g., mealworms). Rather for them you will just provide them moisture rich vegetables.
  • Fill a shallow bowl with a fortified feeder insect gut loading diet. Fruit flies have their own special formulated diets. Replace and clean as needed. In addition, you can provide various leafy greens, fruits and vegetables to even further diversify the nutrient profile.

Feeder insects produce waste like any other living organism. Be sure to clean out any excessive waste. Remove all decomposing organic produce or diets. Remove any deceased feeder insects as soon as you notice them. Deceased feeder insects will often be consumed by live ones. This is bad for the feeder insect and ultimately for your pet. Once deceased they become filled with unhealthy bacteria.