Gecko owners often run into roadblocks regarding their pets’ diet. Live feeders can sometimes be difficult to acquire or breed at home. That’s why topics like preserved edible insects are gaining relevance, leading to questions like: can you feed leopard geckos dried crickets?
Leopard Geckos shouldn’t be fed dried crickets because they have little nutritional value and low moisture content. Dried crickets preserved through heat also have the added disadvantage of high fiber (chitin), which can cause digestibility issues in geckos.
If you’re a concerned gecko parent looking for viable information on dried, freeze-dried, or canned crickets as a diet option, we can help. Our article will cover the pros and cons of feeding your reptile pre-prepared insects and detailed nutritional statistics.
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Pros And Cons Of Feeding A Leopard Gecko Dried Crickets
In simple terms, dried crickets are a dehydrated version of live crickets. That means they’re not toxic or harmful for leopard geckos to consume.
However, since diet plays a central role in keeping your gecko hale and hearty, whether you should feed your reptile dried crickets is another matter entirely.
Giving your leo dry crickets as a treat (in moderation) to boost its protein intake may not be too bad, but they don’t have what it takes to become a staple, like live crickets.
Pros Of Feeding Dried Crickets
Let’s go into more detail. Here are some benefits of feeding your leo dried crickets:
Note: If you’d like to know whether feeding dead crickets is good for your leopard gecko, read this article!
1. Plenty of Protein and Fat
Leopard gecko diet should include amino acids and fats, which are critical for specific biological functions.
When dried crickets are being prepared, they’re roasted or baked to get rid of their water content. This ‘drying up’ process helps amp up the insects’ protein and fat levels.
2. Easy Availability and Extended Shelf-life
Since dried crickets for reptile consumption are popular, they’re readily available in most pet stores and online shops.
Besides that, dried crickets have barely any moisture, making them safe from concerns like rot or mold. This allows them to have a longer shelf-life than live crickets.
Cons Of Feeding Dried Crickets
Feeding dried crickets has way more drawbacks than benefits:
1. Barely Any Moisture
Leopard gecko enclosures will often contain a water dish to help them replenish their thirst. But, most leos aren’t too careful about maintaining their hydration levels.
That’s why gecko owners will try to make up for their moisture needs by choosing feeders, like live crickets, with high water content.
The problem with dried crickets is that they lose most of their moisture when baked (or roasted), leaving behind mostly protein or fat. This makes them less than ideal for geckos who don’t like drinking water or suffer from dehydration.
2. Nothing To Attract A Gecko’s Attention
There’s a reason why experts advise feeding geckos live insects. The movement and sounds that live insects produce attract leos to hunt and eat them. Dried crickets have no such incentives because they’re dead and unlikely to move.
Leopard geckos who are picky eaters or have a high ‘prey drive’ will likely ignore dried crickets due to lack of activity and will not be motivated to eat them.
Tip: If you’d like to learn how to make your leo eat dead insects, read our article here!
3. High Chitin (Fiber) Content
Fiber (chitin) in insects is derived from their exoskeletons. It’s a complex carbohydrate, good for leos in reasonable quantities.
Since dried insects are dehydrated, their fiber content is generally higher than live ones. That’s why feeding leos dried crickets too often can result in digestive issues or impaction.
4. No Calcium/Phosphorus
Crickets are high in nutrients like calcium and phosphorus. But, gecko enthusiasts still tend to dust them with calcium and multivitamin powder to ensure their leos’ nutritional needs aren’t compromised.
Dried crickets have no essential minerals like calcium or phosphorus to compensate for a gecko’s extensive calcium needs. And feeding leopard geckos dried crickets regularly can result in calcium deficiency.
5. Risk of Aflatoxins
There can be a risk of aflatoxin poisoning from dried crickets because sometimes the beddings crickets are raised in can contain corn.
Aflatoxins (toxins produced by fungi) tend to grow on items like peanuts, corn, or other grain types and are extremely hazardous to humans and animals alike. At high concentrations, aflatoxins can cause liver damage and death.
Can Baby Leopard Geckos Eat Dried Crickets?
Baby leopard geckos (0 to 6 months of age) need to be fed every day because they’re still growing and need lots of energy. Feeding young geckos dried crickets isn’t recommended because they don’t have a lot of nutrients a growing gecko needs.
The diet of a baby leo needs to be balanced and should contain all the necessary beneficial ailments. These include moisture, protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, calcium, phosphorus, and other essential vitamins and minerals.
As such, owners should always opt for gut-loaded live insects (like crickets) and calcium and vitamin dust to ensure their pet’s growth isn’t stunted.
Is It Safe For Leopard Geckos To Eat Freeze-dried Crickets?
It’s safe for leopard geckos to consume freeze-dried crickets, but they don’t add much to a reptile’s diet in terms of actual nutrition.
|Insect Type||Freeze-dried Crickets|
|Crude Protein %||50.1|
|Crude Fat %||4.8|
|Crude Fiber %||2.8|
|Crude Moisture %||8.9|
Freeze-dried crickets are different from dried crickets because the process used to dehydrate them doesn’t utilize heat. Nonetheless, their moisture content is still pretty low, and they’re not as wholesome as live insects.
Feeding leopard geckos freeze-dried crickets as anything other than an occasional treat is a bad idea. That’s because your pet won’t derive much from such a meal except protein and fat.
What’s more, dusting pre-prepared crickets doesn’t work as the powder doesn’t stick to their surface, and your gecko might not be tempted to eat them at all due to their lack of movement.
Some brands sell gut-loaded freeze-dried crickets that are supposed to have a high calcium content.
However, it’s best to refer to your veterinarian before adding something like that to your leo’s diet as you can’t be sure how it might affect your pet’s health.
Can You Feed Leopard Geckos Canned Crickets?
Leopard geckos can eat canned crickets, but owners are bound to run into the same problems as dried or freeze-dried crickets. Canned crickets are cooked to diminish moisture, as this helps reduce the chances of mold and extends their expiration date.
In short, canned crickets offer high protein and moderate fat and fiber levels. And, they have limited amounts of vitamins or minerals.
They’re not a healthful diet option for leopard geckos and should only be relied on in a pinch when live insects aren’t available.
A leopard gecko’s diet needs to be well-balanced with a combination of essential vitamins and minerals to avoid concerns like malnutrition, hypovitaminosis A, etc.
Dried or freeze-dried crickets can be problematic for leopard geckos for several reasons. To begin with, not all leopard geckos will show interest in eating a dead insect.
Then there’s the fact that pre-prepared crickets lack calcium and phosphorus and can’t be gut-loaded or dusted.
It’s best to give dried crickets (and the likes) a wide berth and stick to live insects as a staple diet for leopard geckos. That way, you’ll be sure your reptile is getting all the nutrients it needs to live a long and trouble-free life.