I’m once again trying to plan out what I eventually want to keep in my reptile room. Leachie geckos definitely caught my eye, and after some reading… I was hoping someone could clarify some things about their diet.
I’m seeing that an adult leachie needs a diet made up of 80% fruit, and 20% protein, in addition to calcium supplementation. I see a number of ready-to-go leachie “meals”, containing a wide variety of fruits, vitamins, and “insect meal”, in proportions they claim are ideal for them. Other places recommend crested gecko food, with added protein. Has anyone had experience with these in the past?
I want to avoid live bugs if at all possible. Already-dead I can deal with (powdered, freeze-dried or canned). I see a lot of products aimed at geckos nowadays, and many imply that they offer a “complete diet”… I would still be mixing in fresh, whole ingredients, but I’m wondering if such a product could help avoid the keeping of live feeders.
This is where I’m always left a bit confused. If insect protein is included in the Pangea mix, why are live feeders necessary? I’ve heard it said that the act of “hunting” their prey is mentally stimulating, but I’m not sure why a gecko or other lizard needs that stimulation, but a snake doesn’t? Snakes are generally fed pre-killed prey whenever possible, in part for their own safety (I have seen really gut-wrenching outcomes when a rodent gets the better of a snake, which can happen in the blink of an eye…), so why does a gecko that is able to get insect protein from a mix require live food?
I’m not trying to sound confrontational, to be clear—tone doesn’t always come across right on the internet, so I worry. I’m just genuinely curious, and wondering how much of the generally accepted idea—that lizards require the mental stimulation of hunting—could possibly be us as keepers anthropomorphizing them? Dead prey items just seem safer, even if the risk of something going wrong is minimized by careful monitoring and removal of uneaten live feeders. I know of a case where a tarantula was killed by cricket… and that kind of thing always makes me question if there could be a better way. I also once saw someone report that their gecko (a gargoyle, I believe…) refused live feeders, and ran away from them. So in that instance, it seems like live food was just unnecessary stress on the animal…
I would honestly love input anyone has on this subject! It seems like a lot of discussions in places like reddits or comment sections devolve quickly into petty arguments and accusations, where live vs. f/t or canned food are concerned. It’s frustrating to me, because I can’t find enough legitimate sources to use as a frame of reference. In cases where the nutritional values are equal and the animal accepts either live or pre-killed willingly, is there a reason to still feed live?
You bring up a good point. I’ve wondered what the benefits were and was still hesitant about it for a while. But, @ghoulishcresties has personally seen and documented the growth rate differences caused by feeding insects. Personally, I’ve seen size differences in cresties at expos due to feeding them insects or just a premade diet (by talking to the breeder on age and food types). Many cresties on morphmarket just fed the powdered food are very small <5g, even being over 6 months old. Others are much heavier at the same age due to the breeder feeding live insects. I’ve also noticed a difference in the growth rates in my hatchlings before and after consistently feeding live food (dubia roach staple). I haven’t seen any actual data on this, but I do want to compare the growth rates of geckos with different food items if it’s something that would be helpful.
I honestly don’t know exactly why live insects are so important, but they make a big difference in their growth, so it must be important for their well-being.
Thank you for all of that info, that’s extremely interesting! I wish there were more actual research studies on the diets of reptiles in captivity… Having that data would make it so much easier to optimize an animal’s diet, rather than relying on our personal, mostly small-scale experiences.
In this case in particular, I’d be curious about the growth rates between geckos fed live insects (in addition to a balanced diet), those fed only commercially available, formula-type foods, and those fed formula along with dead, whole insects (either f/t, canned, or pre-killed). I don’t think the freeze-dried insects keep their nutritional value, but I’ve read many reports that canned or f/t actually ARE equal, or have only a negligible difference.
I personally only feed out of dishes, so the geckos wouldn’t be building that much muscle. It’s an interesting thought and I think that it could be a factor, but I don’t think it’s the main benefit of feeding insects.
This was my first thought, as well—it would depend so much on the nature of the setup. A beardie gulping down an escape-proof bowl full of mealworms doesn’t really seem like they’re getting exercise or “hunting”, per se. A bioactive enclosure, where everything is operating like a little slice of the wild, would be a very different situation. It’s definitely something to consider!
That’s also where I feel like the data and research is sadly unavailable to pet owners. I’ve seen many, many people who say that their beardie or gecko will ONLY accept dead feeder insects (canned or f/t, for the record—so more or less equal in nutrients and moisture, according to the suppliers), or that they will accept either/or. I’ve heard others say that a vibrating food dish is all it takes to trigger the hunting instincts in their animals. Then there are those reptiles who ignore anything that isn’t alive and moving. I end up questioning if what’s healthiest might be dependent on the individual animal, or even what that animal was started on?
It’s true that in nature they would be hunting live prey and not scavenging carrion, but then… it’s also true that in nature, sadly… many of our pets would not survive the first year of their (potentially long) lifespans. Nature may have sculpted these animals and their diets, but nature is also incredibly harsh and fraught with casualties… For that reason, I tend to think of “natural” as more of a set of guidelines, as opposed to an optimized standard of keeping to aspire to. As humans, there are some “unnatural” things we do that can be detrimental to our health and shorten our lives (consuming processed sugars, inhaling polluted air in industrial areas, etc.), but other “unnatural” things we do that have drastically increased our health and life expectancy (medical care, reduced peril/stress in obtaining basic necessities, etc.). I feel like at times, it’s easy to get caught up in mimicking a natural lifestyle for our pets, while taking it for granted that what’s natural is what’s best. (I’m not accusing anyone here of thinking that, btw—I just know that it’s something I catch myself doing on occasion.)
You bring up a lot of good points. All we can really do is try the best with the information we’re given. I feel like the line between a natural and dangerous setup is very thin and sometimes overlapping, for example, sand isn’t a recommended substrate for sand boas because of the eye and respiratory issues, even though sand boas have evolved for a long time to live in that environment.
The sand boa is a perfect example, I agree! I was recently researching a few different lizards I was interested in keeping… I encountered a lot of controversy around using sand as a substrate for them, as well, due to risk of ingestion and resulting impaction. It came as a total surprise, because these were species that I’d only ever seen roaming over vast, shifting deserts in nature documentaries and photos.
There’s definitely a lot more information now than when I was a kid, when there were just pet store pamphlets (that usually had terrible advice), and a handful of dated library books on corn snakes and iguanas… I only wish there were the kind of funding and resources put into researching exotics that you see for dogs, cats, horses, and livestock.