Leopard geckos just love crunchy, nutrient-rich crickets. Black and brown crickets are just two of the most common crickets that can easily be bought, farmed, or caught, but are they good for your leo?
Both black and brown crickets are good sources of essential nutrients for leopard geckos. They are packed with essential nutrients with only a small difference in their specific nutrient compositions. Since black crickets tend to bite, in most cases, it might be better to just feed brown crickets.
Read on to learn more about these insects, particularly which is nutritionally best for your pet and best practices when feeding black or brown crickets to your leopard gecko.
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Which is More Nutritious for Leopard Geckos: Brown or Black Crickets?
Black and brown crickets belong to the Gryllidae family, order Orthoptera. They are closely related to grasshoppers and katydids.
Black crickets (Gryllus assimilis) are commonly called field crickets because they live outdoors. On the other hand, brown crickets (Acheta domesticus) are generally found inside homes, thus are classified as house crickets.
While they’re both excellent sources of nutrients for leopard geckos, they differ in their nutritional composition. Comparisons of specific nutrients are summarized in the following tables.
Brown crickets have a higher protein content and caloric energy compared to black field cricket, with nymphs having more energy value than adults. (Table 1)
Both black and brown crickets are excellent sources of protein, lipid, energy, and fiber.
They also have a significant presence of both essential and non-essential amino acids that leopard geckos need for growth and maintenance. (Table 2)
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Lysine is the most abundant essential amino acid in black crickets while it’s leucine for brown crickets.
As for the non-essential amino acids, the most abundant is aspartic acid for black crickets while for brown crickets, it’s glutamic acid.
There are two different types of lipids that are present in black and brown crickets — triglycerols and phospholipids.
Triglycerols store energy that crickets need when engaging in high-energy intensity behaviors, such as hopping and longer flight. Energy from lipids can be available for leopard geckos after feeding on crickets.
There is no significant difference in the lipid composition of black and brown crickets. (Table 1)
The major fatty acids in black and brown crickets are linoleic acid and oleic acid. Black crickets, however, have higher quantities of palmitic acid and stearic acid.
In general, these crickets have more unsaturated fatty acids (UFA) compared to saturated fatty acids (SFA). Consuming high PUFA and MUFA from crickets can help leopard geckos counteract the detrimental effects of high-SFA diets.
Chitin in the exoskeleton of crickets constitutes a major part of their fiber content. It has been shown to influence the microflora in the gut, which plays an important role in the health of leopard geckos.
Table 1. Nutritional Analysis of Black and Brown Crickets***
|Cricket Type||Lipid(g/100 g dry weight)||Protein(g/100 g dry weight)||Energy value(kcal/100g dry matter)||Fiber (g/100g dry weight)|
|Black Field Cricket (Gryllus assimilis)||21.80||56.0||397.00||8.28|
|Brown House Cricket (Acheta domesticus)||9.80-22.8||62.41-71.09||455.19||10.20|
Table 2. Major Amino Acids of Black and Brown Crickets***
(g/100 g protein)
|Essential amino acids|
|Non-Essential Amino Acids|
Not Recorded (NR)
Linoleic acid is the most abundant fatty acid in black and brown crickets.
Both black and brown crickets contain high quantities of saturated fatty acids (SFA). However, they contain more unsaturated fatty acids (UFA) compared to saturated fatty acids (SFA).
Consuming these PUFA- and MUFA-rich crickets can help reduce the detrimental effects of high SFA in the diet.
Table 3. Major Fatty Acids of Black and Brown Crickets***
|Fatty Acids(g/100 g DM)||Black Cricket (Gryllus assimilis)||Brown Crickets(Acheta domesticus)|
|Linolenic Acid||Not recorded (NR)||1.11|
|Saturated Fatty Acids(SFA)||43.72||32.22|
|Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA)||27.49||21.72|
|Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA)||28.80||42.64|
|Total Unsaturated Fatty Acids (TUFA)||56.29||64.36|
|Essential Fatty Acids (EFA)||26.13||41.39|
Black and brown crickets contain appreciable amounts of mineral elements such as phosphorus, sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc.
As you can see in Table 4, there is an unfavorable ratio of calcium and potassium. Brown crickets have higher calcium and potassium than black crickets.
Gut-loading and dusting with a good quality supplement, however, can help ensure appropriate intake and metabolism of these minerals in leopard geckos.
Dust black or brown crickets with a good quality calcium powder that contains vitamin D3 before offering them to your leopard gecko. Vitamin D3 is important in the absorption and metabolism of calcium in the body.
Table 4. Mineral Composition of Black and Brown Crickets***
|Minerals(mg/100 g DM)||Black Cricket (Gryllus assimilis)||Brown Cricket(Acheta domesticus)|
Edible crickets are an excellent source of a wide range of water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins. Brown crickets are rich sources of vitamin A while black crickets contain a high amount of vitamin E. (Table 5)
To help ensure that your leo consumes adequate amounts of vitamins in the diet, crickets should be gut-loaded at least 48 hours before being fed. This will give enough time for the crickets to absorb essential vitamins.
Table 5. Important Vitamins in Black and Brown Crickets***
|Vitamins(mg/100 g)||Black Cricket (Gryllus assimilis)||Brown Cricket(Acheta domesticus)|
What is the Difference Between Black and Brown Crickets?
Black and brown crickets differ in their habitats. While they are readily available, only farm-bred ones are recommended. When gut-loaded, they’re really big and juicy, and even more nutritious.
Brown crickets are a lot more agile, giving your gecko more of a challenge and encouraging more exercise. Black crickets are larger and tend to be more aggressive but are not much of a jumper.
The softer shell of brown crickets also makes them more digestible and suitable for younger leopard geckos.
Table 6 highlights the main differences between black and brown crickets.
Table 6. Characteristics of Black and Brown Crickets
|Parameters of Comparison||Black Crickets||Brown Crickets|
|Classification||Field crickets||House crickets|
|Scientific name||Gryllus assimilis (Acheta assimilis)||Acheta domesticus|
|Shell (exoskeleton)||Thicker and harder||Softer shell|
|Legs||Spindlier legs; slow-moving; tend to stay on the ground most of the time||Strong muscular legs help them jump around|
|Size||Larger and meatier||Slimmer and more compact16-21 millimeters (0.63 – 0.83 inches) in length|
|Temperament||More aggressive and tend to bite/Noisier||More docile|
How Many Black or Brown Crickets Can You Feed A Leopard Gecko?
There are several important factors to consider when it comes to the number of crickets it should be offered during feeding.
- Baby geckos – 4 to 8 small crickets daily.
- Adult geckos – 6 to 10 large crickets(or as many as they can every in 10 minutes) every 2 days
Since the exoskeleton of black crickets is harder, they’re more suitable for older geckos.
Another important factor that will determine how many crickets leopard geckos should eat is their length, that is, two crickets for every inch. For example, if your leo is 5 inches long, it would need to eat at least 10 crickets at each meal every other day.
In general, experts advise letting leopard geckos eat as many crickets they can consume within 10 minutes.
Every leopard gecko owner aims to provide the best nutrition to help keep pets healthy and live longer lives.
Farm-raised black and brown crickets are rich in protein, lipids, minerals, and vitamins. They’re also inexpensive and readily available.
Dusting and gut-loading black and brown crickets are desirable practices to increase the nutritional value of these insects and help ensure that your leopard gecko is receiving the very best nutrition possible.