For the past few weeks I’ve been reading The Omnivore’s Dillema by Michael Pollan, which discusses, among other things, what our dinner eats before we eat it. Not only has the book made me think twice about hitting up the drive-thru on my next road trip, but it has also made me think a little more closely about what I’m feeding my leopard gecko – or rather, what I’m feeding my leopard gecko’s food.
In the wild, leopard geckos have a pretty varied diet, but as pets, their diet is usually limited to basic staples such as crickets and mealworms. Some Leo owners swear to crickets, others to “mealies”, and yet others to various other scrumptious bugs such as wax worms and superworms. While a varied diet is best, crickets are the most commonly found, accepted, and fed of the bunch (at least in my house), so I’ll focus on them.
Despite being a staple food for many pet reptiles, crickets themselves don’t contain a lot of nutritional value. According to the Entomology Department of Iowa State University, the nutritional value of 100 grams of cricket is roughly 12.9 g protein, 5.5 g fat, 5.1 g carbohydrates, 75.8 mg calcium, and 9.5 mg iron. When those crickets are purchased from a store or arrive via mail, they are often malnourished and thus will only provide the gecko with a small amount of nutrition – like a sandwich without the meat, if you will. That’s why I gut load my crickets after they arrive.
Gut loading is the practice of feeding high quality, nutritious food to feeder insects in order to supply reptiles with additional vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. I’ll admit that I’ve gotten home late on occasion and just tossed the crickets in the cage without gut loading them first, but in doing so I was really doing a disservice to my Leo’s nutritional needs. The easiest way to gut load crickets that I’ve found is through the use of a commercial gut-loading product such as Fluker’s High-Calcium Cricket Diet. By gut loading the crickets for 24 hours before you feed them to your Leo, you will be letting the crickets fill up on beneficial nutrition which will then be passed on to your leopard gecko when it eats those crickets.
Remember, you’re not only what you eat, but what your food eats before you eat it!