100% Leopard Gecko Care Sheet - Geckos Unlimited

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Elizabeth Freer

Active member
#80---Repashy SuperLoad Insect Gutload Formula

Should anyone discover independently funded studies where this product has been tested, kindly let me know.

If you use this product, I would feed it to crickets just 24 hours prior to feeding the crickets off to geckos. I would NOT leave it in a gecko's cage 24/7. Leave other appropriate foods in the enclosure for stray crickets.

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Click: Repashy Superfoods :: RETAIL SALES :: By Product Name :: SuperLoad :: SuperLoad 4 oz BAG - Repashy Ventures - Distributor Center


NET WEIGHT 5.3 OZ / 150 GR

Our super concentrated gutloading formula increases the nutritional value of feeder insects. Contains high levels of Calcium and other minerals as well as essential Trace Elements, Vitamins and Carotenoids.

SuperLoad is a nutrient, mineral, protein, and vitamin rich feed, designed to increase the nutritional intake of insects before they are fed. SuperLoad is a NOT intended to be a complete insect diet for raising insects because of its high levels of calcium and vitamins. It should not be fed to insects for more than 48 hours.

INGREDIENTS: Alfalfa Leaf Powder, Pea Protein Isolate, Flax Meal, Brewer’s Yeast, Calcium Carbonate, RoseHips, Calendula Flower, Marigold Flower Extract, Phaffia Rhodozyma Yeast, Dried Kelp, Paprika Extract, Spirulina Algae, Turmeric, Salt, Potassium Citrate, Magnesium Gluconate, Canthaxanthin, Calcium Propionate and Potassium Sorbate (as mold inhibitors), Natural Flavoring, Lecithin, Rosemary Extract and Mixed Tocopherols (as preservatives), Vitamins (Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin D Supplement, Choline Chloride, Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin, Beta Carotene, Pantothenic Acid, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamine Mononitrate, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex, Folic Acid, Biotin, Vitamin B-12 Supplement).

GUARANTEED ANALYSIS: Crude Protein min. 20%, Crude Fat min. 5%, Crude Fat max. 8%, Crude Fiber max. 10%, Moisture max. 8%, Ash max. 15%, Calcium min. 8%, Calcium max. 10%, Phosphorus min. 0.6%, Vitamin E min. 1,000 IU/lb, Vitamin D min. 10,000 IU/lb, Vitamin A min. 100,000 IU/lb. Total Carotenoids min. 500 mg/lb.

DIRECTIONS: Offer to insects in a shallow dish 24 hours prior to being used as feed items. Also, make SuperLoad available in your animal enclosures, so that crickets that are not consumed immediately have an available food source. Hungry crickets can harm your animal, and will lose nutritional value without a continuous source of good nutrition. Refrigeration will extend product life.

Not for Human Consumption"
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Elizabeth Freer

Active member
#81---Leopard Gecko Care Sheet (abbreviated) -- April 2023 (update)

Leopard Gecko Care

To view click "Leopard Gecko Setup" in the upper left corner, not the arrow:
Updates to video

DSC_0159.jpg DSC_0177.jpg

1. ===> No plain calcium, calcium with D3, or multivitamins inside an enclosure <===

Best to buy stuff individually rather than getting a 10 gallon set up kit.

3. Avoid cedar, pine, fir ?, and willow ? in reptile enclosures. Cedar fumes & oils are highly toxic to reptiles; pine fumes and oils are toxic as well!
4. Quarantine Recommendations
  • Any new gecko should be quarantined for a minimum of 90 days prior to introducing her/him to the other geckos in the same cage. That gives adequate time to check for parasites, cryptosporidiosis, & the beginnings of coccidia plus. 3-6 months quarantine are recommended if your new gecko is imported or wild caught.
  • The quarantine area should be in a separate room apart from your established geckos. Stringent sanitation methods MUST be followed!
5. Occupant(s) - Best to house leos alone. Leos do not benefit from companions or “friends”.
  • Never keep 2 males together. They will seriously fight!
  • Even 2 similarly sized females can fight.
6. Enclosure - Consider a 20 gallon LONG enclosure (30 inches long x 12 inches deep x 12 inch tall) a minimum "forever" home" for one 70 gram leo. That's 76 cm x 31 cm x 31 cm. Get the largest enclosure you can afford.

7. Heating - Your Under Tank Heat mat (UTH) should = 1/2 the enclosure's ground length & reach from side-to-side of the enclosure. One of two dry hides & the moist hide should sit right on top of the UTH. Ultratherm heat mats are an excellent option!

***** Nowadays a more suitable setup: Leos are often kept on a substrate of 70% perlite-free topsoil & 30% play sand. Arcadia's 12 inch long shadedweller tube & fixture should = 1/3 to 1/2 the enclosure's length. Center a suitably strength incandescent/halogen bulb or Deep Heat Projector (50 or 80 watt) right next to the Shadedweller UVB. Distance of UVB to slate basking area depends upon your mesh screen's % UVB blockage. That depends upon the mesh's grid!

(insert RL chart)

Compact fluorescent UVB bulbs are unsatisfactory at the present time (April 2023).

Your leopard gecko will be more active if you provide an UTH for belly heat/digestion as well as an overhead dome with a Ceramic Heat Emitter to warm the air. Then your leo benefits from a "warm zone", not only a "warm spot". The UVB, CHE, & Deep Heat Projector both belong on the warm end of the tank. The UTH & CHE/DHP each require separate thermostats since the settings will be different.
  • If you have a 10 gallon enclosure: 20 x 10.25 x 12 inches tall, use at least Zoo Med's 6 x 8 inch UTH or possibly even Zoo Med's 8 x 12 inch heat mat.
  • If you have a 20 gallon LONG: 30 x 12 x 12 inches tall, use an 11 x 17 inch UTH. The 11 x 17 inch will not compromise cool end temperatures. Another GU member does this and still gets 76*F for her cool end. UltraTherm heat mats are more reliable than Fluker's heat mats. Attach the heat mat underneath the enclosure -- between the glass and a thin styrofoam sheet. Elevate the enclosure off the stand with a couple small tiles at each corner to provide ventilation.
  • Use heat cables to customize heating when standard size UTHs don't cover the total width and half the length.
8. Substrate - Good choices: textured ceramic or slate tiles. Paper towels also work. Add a 4 x 4 inch tile or paper towel layers to the poop spot to facilitate clean up.
  • If you use tile, the backsides of tiles have ridges. Add a thin layer of well-washed play sand or calci-sand underneath the ridges to prevent "hot spots" on the tile's surface.
  • I do NOT recommend these particulate substrates: calci-sand, ground walnut shell, sand, Eco Earth's coco fiber, bark chips, aquarium gravel, peat moss, et cetera. The risk of impaction is simply not worth it.
  • After you have had successful experience caring for leos, there are other options. In that case ALL husbandry needs to be spot on!!!
9. Temperatures
Temperatures - A temperature gradient from warm to cool maintains your leo's health. Here's a temperature guide for all leopard geckos as measured with the probe of a digital thermometer or a temp gun. Set your thermostat at 91*F/32.8*C.

Tape the thermostat's probe and a digital thermometer's probe together, but offset a little. Place them right on top of the substrate underneath the warm dry hide.
If you use a UTH + a CHE you'll need 2 separate thermostats, because ground and air temperatures are substantially different.
  • Warm dry hide ground temperature: 88-92 F (31.1-33.3 C) inside a leo's warm dry hide.
  • Warm humid/moist hide: Place the humid hide 100% on top of the heat mat. Keep temperatures similar to the warm dry hide.
  • Cool dry hide ground temperature: 70ish-75 F (21.1-23.9 C) Usually the cool end ground temperature matches the room temperature where the enclosure sits.
  • no greater than 82ish F (27.8ish C) surface temperature - 4 inches (10 cm) above ground on the warm end
  • no greater than 75 F (23.9 C) surface temperature - 4 inches (10 cm) above ground on the cool end
Leave your heat mat on 24/7 IF ambient room temperatures drop lower than 67ish*F (19.4*C). If NOT, during the night turn off overhead lighting/heating (~12 hours on and ~12 hours off)

10. Thermometers - Use a digital thermometer's probe to measure air temps & ground temperatures. Temperature guns measure surface temperatures. A stainless steel aquarium-type thermometer that has been verified can also be used.

11. Lighting (photoperiod lighting) - To better meet the crepuscular needs of leopard geckos
  • Place a low wattage bulb (15 watt standard incandescent bulb) dimmed to half power inside a 5.5 inch diameter fixture in the center of the screen top and right next to the CHE bulb. Reduce the light bulb's rays further by adding a tall silk palm tree underneath the bulb.
  • Vary the on-time monthly of both the CHE and the photoperiod bulb according to this Pakistan link. For example, 11 hours ON in February is good.
  • Click: Sunrise Sunset Daylight Hours of Pakistan -- Timebie
12. UVB Lighting - UVB lighting is highly recommended for leopard geckos WHEN there are adequate opportunities for the leopard gecko to dodge some rays. A 20 long enclosure (30 x 12 x 12 inches tall) is minimum size when using UVB for leopard geckos. For leopard geckos, backup all UVB lighting with a light dusting of prey with a powdered vitamin D3 supplement such as Zoo Med's Repti Calcium with D3 @ 1-2 feedings per month.

Thermostat - A thermostat controls your under tank heater and/or overhead Ceramic Heat Emitter. It provides your leopard gecko with stable and comfortable temperatures, saves $ on electricity, and lessens the chance of a house fire from accidental overheating. Tape the probe of a reliable digital thermometer to the thermostat's probe (offset a little) to verify the thermostat's setting. Place both probes underneath the warm dry hide right on top of the substrate.
  • Hydrofarm’s Jump Start MTPRTC thermostat is quite good. The Jump Start MTPRTC has a digital readout & a small metal probe.
  • Apollo thermostats have good ratings.
  • Inkbird’s digital thermostat is also good. It has sockets for two devices kept at the same temperature.
  • I-power thermostats
14. Hides - 3 hides are needed per leo: warm DRY, warm MOIST, cool DRY. Keeping one hide warm & moist 24/7 is very important! Both warm hides should sit on top of the UTH. The warmth from your UTH helps generate the required humidity. Leopard geckos use their warm moist hides for hydrating even when not shedding. :)

15. Supplements - My vet suggests dusting a "wee pinch" of Zoo Med's Reptivite multivitamins without vitamin D3 on the feeders @ ONLY 1 feeding per week. In addition also dust feeders with Zoo Med's Repti Calcium with vitamin D3 @ 1 other feeding per week. For "younger" leos add a 3rd dusting per week of Zoo Med's Repti Calcium withOUT D3 (plain calcium).

For leos 18 months old and older, and for leos 12 months old and older who are in good shape:
  • Monday---lightly dust most all the feeders with Zoo Med's Repti Calcium with D3
  • Thursday---lightly dust most all the feeders with Zoo Med's Reptivite multivitamins without D3
For leos 0 - 12 mo click: Weekly Feeding Schedule 124: Zoo Med's Supplements for leopard geckos 0-12 months old

16. How much powdered vitamin D3 is enough? Vitamin D is fat soluble. It sticks around in a leo's body and only needs to be taken @ 1 feeding per week. Too much vitamin D3 and/or calcium is as bad as too little vitamin D3 and/or calcium. Rep-Cal’s Calcium with D3 contains 17x more D3 than does Zoo Med’s Repti Calcium with D3. :(

17. Diet
  • Like humans, geckos are what they eat. A huge factor in gecko husbandry is to feed the feeders (crickets, worms, et cetera) a high quality diet 24/7/365. Nutritious feeder bodies transfer like nutrients to your geckos. "Light supplemental dusting" of these feeders equals a "sprinkling of powdered sugar upon a cake".
  • Vary your gecko's diet: crickets, roaches, hornworms, grasshoppers, silkworms, mealworm pupae, freshly molted mealworms, black soldier fly larvae (Phoenix, repti, calciworms), & locusts (smallest locusts possible).
  • Feed insects & worms 24/7/365 with a high quality dry diet like finely ground Zoo Med's Natural ADULT Bearded Dragon Food with high calcium/low phosphorus veggies on the side like collard greens.
  • OR If you live in the USA consider feeding your insects & worms Professional Reptiles' Pro Gutload dry diet. Pro Gutload dry diet makes a good bedding for mealworms & superworms.
  • If you decide to use chick starter feed for insects & worms, ONLY use non-medicated brands. Other brands contain diatomaceous earth! Check the chick starter feed's label for diatomaceous earth!!!
    • Albers' All Purpose Poultry Feed OR
    • Purina Layena Crumbles
18. Waxworms - There may be some benefits to feeding waxworms @ 1-2 feedings per MONTH! It's been reported that waxworms are high in vitamin C. Waxworms are also extremely high in fat. IF your leo needs to gain weight, feed additional healthy feeders. Phoenix worms (black soldier fly larvae), hornworms, &/or silkworms provide excellent variety. Those worms provide high quality nutrition as well as moisture.

19. Urates - Urates should be white, not yellow, & approximately 1/3 the size of the feces. A healthy feces is dark brown & about the size & shape of 2 tic tacs.

20. Additional Privacy for your Leo - Consider covering 3 sides of your leopard gecko's enclosure with something like brown paper bags or construction paper to provide privacy.

21. Helpful links
22. For 132 click: Why I use & highly recommend Zoo Med's Repti Calcium with D3 & Zoo Med's ReptiVite multivitamins without D3 for geckos . . . . . . Elizabeth Freer

🍌Join Geckos Unlimited today for the inside scoop on leos & other geckos!🍌

[Tony Perkins' Leopard Gecko Setup video]
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Elizabeth Freer

Active member
#82---Why does my leo hide all the time - there is hope! . . . . . . GU's congener329 -- 2014

"I am still a novice at this but when I first had Neo, one question that I had searched endlessly for the answer to was why my leo never came out of his hide - even during the evening. I hope this post will help others that are searching for that answer too.

The pet store that we purchased Neo from told us to handle Neo every day and my son did just that. We suspected Neo was uncomfortable with this, but were told to persevere as he would get used to being handled eventually. After three months he seemed to hide from us more and more which is when I turned to these forums. First my thanks goes to cricket4u who advised "no contact" approach. Second thanks to Elizabeth Freer and her frequent posts and the leo caresheet.

We stopped all handling, and made adjustments to his enclosure - including removing all of the sand. Better heating and controlled lighting was sorted and we checked temperatures daily, but I still had issues with crickets playing a pretty good game of hide and seek...which left me having to continually chase the crickets around the tank into Neo's pathway, which freaked him just as much. I was then guided to cutting the legs off the crickets so they were contained in one area. Not nice but Neo is much happier since doing this.

After a couple of weeks of good husbandry, temperatures, lighting, and no handling Neo is out and about most evenings, almost like clockwork from 8 pm. He has been happy for my hands to be in the tank doing odd bits of cleaning....and tonight he climbed onto my hand of his own free will. :yahoo:

So for any newbie worried that your leo is always hiding - just take your time. If Neo can overcome his fear anyone can!

There is so much useful info on this site that you can't go wrong. Leos are not cats/dogs, but just as beautiful to watch rather than handle."
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Elizabeth Freer

Active member
#83---Albers' All Purpose Poultry Feed

Click: Albers Animal Feeds - Albers® All Purpose Poultry and Water Fowl 800-457-2804

Check Albers' Dealer Locator --- found within above link

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Albers® All Purpose Poultry and Water Fowl
An economical, complete ration for poultry and water fowl.

Sold in 5 pound bags at my feed store.
5052160-303 - 25 pounds
5052160-306 - 50 pounds

Product Features/Product Benefits
--Fortified with protein, vitamins and minerals. Promotes growth and production.
--An all purpose poultry feed. Ideal for chicks over 7 days, pullets, layers, ducks, geese, turkeys and game birds.
--A complete feed. Can be fed as the sole ration. For layers add grit and oyster shell.
--Non-medicated. Safe to feed to ducks.

  • Crude Protein
    Min - 16.0 %
  • Lysine
    Min - 0.70 %
  • Methionine
    Min - 0.30 %
  • Crude Fat
    Min - 2.5 %
  • Crude Fiber
    Max - 6.5 %
  • Calcium
    Min - 0.6 %
    Max - 1.1 %
  • Phosphorus
    Min - 0.7 %
  • Salt
    Min - 0.2 %
    Max - 0.7 %
  • Sodium
    Max - 0.2 %
Grain Products, Wheat Middlings, Corn Distillers Dried Grains, Canola Meal, Dehulled Soybean Meal, Malt Sprouts, Calcium Carbonate, Monocalcium Phosphate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Salt, Choline Chloride, L-Lysine, Methionine Supplement, Niacin Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Zinc Sulfate, Menadione Dimethylpyrimidinol Bisulfite, Calcium Hydroxide, Thiamine, Zinc Oxide, Folic Acid, Copper Sulfate, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin B-12 Supplement, Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide, Vitamin E Supplement, Cobalt Carbonate, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Sodium Selenite.

Fill hoppers three-quarters full (this should be approximately a 24-hour supply) once a day, preferably in the evenings. This is a complete feed ration containing all known essential minerals and vitamins and a correct proportion of grain necessary for health, development and production of the birds. Only grit and oyster shell need to be provided.
Provide fresh, clean water and hard insoluble grit free choice at all times. Furnish five linear inches of feed hopper-space for each laying bowl. Start feeding oyster shell free choice two weeks before start of lay. This feed may be fed for starting chicks, growing pullets and laying hens, adult ducks, turkeys, geese and game birds.

Feed is perishable and should be stored in a clean, dry, well-ventilated area so it will remain fresh and palatable. DO NOT feed moldy or insect infested feed to animals as it may cause illness, performance loss or death.
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Elizabeth Freer

Active member
#84---Customized Leopard Gecko Husbandry . . . . . . cricket4u

  • Houses her 3 mature leopard geckos separately in custom wooden enclosures
  • Enclosure size = 4.5 ft x 2 ft x 2 ft, (one vivarium larger?)
  • Heats those /\ enclosures with radiant heat panels
  • Uses a proportional thermostat to ensure accuracy
  • Recommends 4 foot long enclosures as the minimum length for providing UVB for leos
  • Provides UVB lighting via Zoo Med 18 inch Reptisun 5.0 tubes for natural vitamin D production
  • If you use UVB inappropriately your leo can receive too many UVB rays. Just the way we end up with sunburn from laying under the sun too long.
  • Uses Exo Terra light dimming units for the UVB that can be set for 10, 12, or 14 hours.
    Click: Exo Terra : Light Cycle Unit / Electronic Dimming Terrarium Lamp Controller
  • Provides adequate hides and cover so that her leos can dodge the UVB rays
  • cricket4u uses this UVB meter: SolarMeter 6.2 UVB
    Another meter: Digital UV Index Radiometer
  • Uses a custom cricket feed that is made by someone she knows. She does not have the recipe.
  • Uses T-Rex Calcium Plus Food for Crickets & Mazuri as her formal gutloads
  • Suggests that "too many carrots" bind calcium.
cricket4u says that wooden enclosures provide these benefits:
  • Humidity control much easier: recommends 40-60% RH for the enclosure in general
  • Superior heat retention of wood
  • Increased security/privacy for leopard geckos
cricket4u suggests an enclosure somewhat like this, but with Zoo Med's 18 inch Reptisun 5.0 UVB tube fluorescent in an Exo Terra light dimming unit on the top. She might suggest a different ventilation system.

/\ 48 inches x 24 inches x 24 inches

Click: Reptile Lighting Information
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PS: GU's JIMI recently made an enclosure for her leo Theseus with almost the same specs. JIMI is buying the Exo Terra Light Cycle Unit-April 2015

Click for JIMI's thread: https://www.geckosunlimited.com/community/threads/78517 UVB D3 supplementation-question
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4 June 2015: cricket4u ~
"The enclosure should be as big as possible, but a tank measuring 3ft x 2ft x 2ft is the minimum size for 1-2 adults."

Click source: http://www.stanhope-vet.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Leopard-Gecko-Care-Sheet-STANHOPE.pdf
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Elizabeth Freer

Active member
#86---Nutrition Links . . . . . . GU's JIMI -- May 2014

Elizabeth Freer

Active member
#87---Leopard Gecko Care Sheet ("bare bones only") . . . . . . Elizabeth Freer -- April 2023 (update)

DSC_0159.jpg DSC_0177.jpg

Crickets are excellent food for leopard geckos as long as the crickets are fed a healthy diet! Feed a variety of bugs and worms. Serve just a few waxworms only a couple times per month. If a leo needs to gain weight, feed healthier bugs or worms.

Please do not spray leopard geckos or their enclosure. Leopard geckos find spraying very stressful. Spraying the enclosure results in unnecessary humidity. Keep a good warm moist hide as moist as possible 24/7/365.

Avoid cedar, pine, fir ?, & willow ? in reptile enclosures. Cedar fumes & oils are highly toxic to reptiles. Pine fumes & oils are toxic as well!
Observe a 90 day quarantine prior to introducing ANY cagemates.

Leopard gecko requirements:
  • Occupant(s) Housing leos separately is best. :)
    • Never house 2 males together.
    • 2 similarly sized females could also fight.
  • A 20 gallon LONG enclosure is a minimum "forever home" for a 70 gram adult: 30 x 12 x 12 inches. Consider a 20 long for your hatchling's first home.
  • Warm end ground temperature inside the warm dry hide & the moist hide = 88-92*F (31-33*C) as measured by the probe of a digital thermometer.
  • Cool end ground temperature = 70-75*F (21-24*C)
  • Belly heat from an under tank heat mat (UTH) 1/2 the area of the floor
  • Hydrofarm's Jump Start MTPRTC digital thermostat (Amazon)
  • Digital thermometer with a probe
  • Overhead heat too from a ceramic heat emitter (CHE)
  • 3 hides: warm humid, warm dry, cool dry
    • Sample warm humid hides:
      IMG_0234 (1).jpg IMG_0235.jpg 20160129_212143.jpg
  • Substrate: rough-textured ceramic or slate tiles about 3/8 inch thick or paper towels
    • If you use tile, the backsides of tiles have ridges. Add a thin layer of well-washed play sand or calci-sand underneath the ridges to prevent "hot spots" on the tile's surface.
  • Large water dish
  • Clear glass \/ \/ 8 ounce food storage dish with straight sides (Anchor Hocking brand) from Walmart
    • 100616047478978p.jpg
    • For a young leo Walmart's clear glass tealight holder makes a perfect food dish! :)
  • Powdered supplements: Precipitated calcium carbonate with D3 + plain (without D3) multivitamins. For leopard geckos 12 mo and younger add plain (no D3) precipitated calcium carbonate @ a third feeding per week. I use and highly recommend Zoo Med's Repti Calcium with D3 + Zoo Med's Reptivite multivitamins without D3.
    • Check out Weekly Schedules 124, 125, & 126 on the Table of Contents.
    • If you're using proper UVB, check out Weekly Schedules 155 & 156.
      IF you're using Repashy's Calcium Plus, check out Schedule 144.
For link 112 click: Cricket Care Guidelines II . . . . . . April 2023 (update)

For 132 click: Why I use & highly recommend Zoo Med's Repti Calcium with D3 & Zoo Med's Reptivite multivitamins without D3 for geckos . . . . . . Elizabeth Freer

Join Geckos Unlimited today for the inside scoop on leos & other geckos!
Last edited:

Elizabeth Freer

Active member
#88---"Assessing Reptile Welfare Using Behavioural Criteria" -- March 2013

Shared by cricket4u

Click, then scroll to post 38: https://www.geckosunlimited.com/community/threads/62890 Help sick leopard -gecko

Posted by JIMI:
"At a reptile expo that I recently attended, I was checking out custom enclosures so I would tell them of the dimensions that I desired, which is 4'x2'x2'. Each time they would ask me what I was housing and when I told them it was for a leopard gecko they all gave me a crazy look and tried convincing me to purchase enclosures that were smaller than 20 gallon longs! I would ask them about under tank heating and again they looked at me like I was crazy. I had a feeling that they felt that I am a horrible owner. I can imagine the reactions I would have gotten If I had mentioned that I was interested in installing UV lighting. :lol: It's amazing how people are so against putting leos in larger enclosures."

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Assessing Reptile Welfare Using Behavioural Criteria
Journal of the British Veterinary Association......March 2013

Spatial considerations
"Many reptiles are mistakenly and inhumanely kept in small cages due to erroneous advice handed down from one pet trader, hobbyist or ill-informed keeper to another. Common false understandings are that many reptiles ‘feel safer’ in small environments and that they are naturally ‘sedentary and don’t need space'. This rationale may suit the convenience of those seeking to promote reptiles as a ‘cage pet’, but it is scientifically and ethically wrong.

"While reptiles, like other animals, require shelter to which they can voluntarily withdraw, the key elements are that the animal seeks a ‘hiding place’ when it senses the need for it and it does this voluntarily. Imposing a confined space on an animal is biologically equivalent to trapping it.

"Home range studies of reptiles have frequently shown them to be highly active and that they travel either within local ranges of several hundreds of square meters or indefinite ranges measured in hundreds or thousands of kilometres. For example, arboreal monitors have been documented moving daily ranges greater than 186 m, home ranges for some skink lizards are 1 ha, box turtles 40 ha, indigo snakes 158 ha, and for sea turtles, travel can be measured in the thousands of kilometres.

"Small species and juveniles commonly utilize as much, and sometimes more, total space than large species and adults. Smaller forms are often insectivorous and these may need to feed more frequently than larger forms and also require a great deal of activity to track and catch their highly active prey.

"Regardless of these differences, all reptiles are active, including species such as pythons that are popularly, but wrongly, perceived as sedentary. Some species, in particular large carnivores such as monitor lizards and pythons, may adopt brief sedentary periods following consumption of large meals, but this is a transient phase and not one that should be used to judge an animal's general activity pattern or spatial needs."
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Elizabeth Freer

Active member
#89---Reptile Gout . . . . . . Kenneth Lopez DVM & others

Contributed by JIMI -- June 2014:

Reptile Gout: Causes, Signs, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention
Veterinary & Aquatic Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith​

Gout is a common disease among reptiles, including snakes, iguanas, monitor lizards, and tortoises.

What causes gout?
Uric acid is one of the breakdown products of dietary protein in certain animals, including some reptiles. The uric acid is removed from the blood by the kidneys and excreted in the urine. Gout can occur if the level of uric acid in the blood exceeds the ability of the kidneys to remove it. The uric acid may crystallize in the joints which is termed "articular gout". It may also be deposited in various organs ("visceral gout"), such as the liver, spleen, pericardial sac (the covering of the heart), kidneys, and lungs, and mucous membranes, such as the mouth. When the uric acid crystallizes in tissues it forms small, white nodules called "tophi."

There are two types of gout. In primary gout, the high uric acid level is a result of an abnormal breakdown of protein. Primary gout is thought to be hereditary in humans. In secondary gout, the high level is due to the inability of the kidneys to adequately excrete the uric acid. This can be caused by medications, chronic diseases, kidney disease, starvation, improper diet, decreased water intake or chronic dehydration, and other environmental factors which affect the kidneys' ability to eliminate uric acid. A common cause of gout is feeding animal proteins (e.g.; dog or cat food) to vegetarian reptiles, whose digestive systems cannot properly digest and metabolize animal-based protein. In these cases, large amounts of uric acid are produced and the kidneys cannot adequately eliminate them.

What are the signs of gout & how is it diagnosed?
Tophi may be visible on the inside of the mouth in animals with gout. Joints may be enlarged, stiff, and painful. If there is renal failure or there are large deposits of uric acid in the kidneys, they may be enlarged.

After examining the animal and obtaining a thorough history of the diet; availability of water; the temperature and humidity of the cage as well as other environmental factors; and previous health problems and treatments, the veterinarian will suspect gout. Radiographs help to substantiate the diagnosis; the identification of uric acid crystals in joint fluid, biopsies, or tophi confirms it.

How is gout treated?
Any underlying dietary or environmental cause will need to be remedied. Diets such as Hill's Canine u/d, which are low in those proteins which are metabolized into uric acid, may be used in carnivorous reptiles. Proper hydration is necessary and fluids may need to be administered. If arthritis from gout is severe, it is possible to surgically remove the uric acid crystals from the joint. Unfortunately, severe and sometimes irreversible damage to the joint may have already occurred. Medications such as allopurinol, probenecid, sulfinpyrazone, or colchicine may be used, but the exact dosage and safety of these drugs in reptiles have not been determined. Most reptiles will need to be treated for life or the condition will quickly reappear if therapy is discontinued.

Gout can be complicated by a secondary bacterial infection in the joints. If this occurs, antibiotics are added to the treatment regimen.

References and Further Reading
Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians. Treatment of Articular Gout in a Mediterranean Pond Turtle, Mauremys leprosa. Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians 7[4]:5-7 Winter 1997.

Donoghue, S; McKeown, S. Nutrition of captive reptiles. In Jenkins, JR. (ed) The Veterinary Clinics of North America: Exotic Animal Practice. W.B. Saunders Co. Philadelphia, PA; January 1999.

Highfield, A.C. Practical Encyclopedia of Keeping and Breeding Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles. Carapace Press, London; 1996.

Mader, D.R. Gout. Mader, Douglas R. (ed.) Reptile Medicine and Surgery. W.B. Saunders Co. Philadelphia, PA; 1996.

Raiti, P. Snakes. In Meredith, A; Redrobe, S. (eds.) British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) Manual of Exotic Pets, Fourth Edition. BSAVA. Quedgeley, Gloucester, England; 2002.

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Contributed by Elizabeth Freer -- June 2014:
Click: The Chameleon Journals
Gout Basics
by Kenneth Lopez, DVM
"I will try to give the Readers Digest version as this is a complex topic. Proteins (animal or vegetable) from the diet are degraded to amino acids. Purine and pyrimidine bases are synthesized from the amino acids, primarily by the liver. Let's forget about the pyrimidines and focus on the purines. Purines are degraded (in most reptiles) to the end product, uric acid, which is cleared from the blood by the kidneys. Gout comes in a few different forms: articular (in the joints), peri-articular (around the joints), and visceral (in the gut). It can also be classified as primary and secondary. Primary gout, such as humans get, comes from hyperuricemia (i.e., excessive uric acid in the blood) due to dietary factors or to a defect in amino acid metabolism. Secondary gout comes from hyperuricemia due to a problem in the excretion of uric acid such as renal disease. When this happens, urate crystal deposits can form in many places, hence, articular, peri-articular, and visceral forms. The deposits are called tophi and the disease is considered tophaceous gout. Some animals, such as Dalmations may have genetic reasons for the formation of uric acid uroliths ("stones") and must take Allopurinol to inhibit the enzyme, xanthine oxidase, which is responsible for converting oxypurines to uric acid. Iguanas, which should be vegetarians, get gout when fed animal protiens which are high in purines. Chameleons usually get hyperuricemia due to dehydration or renal disfunction, a secondary gout. I see a lot of articular gout in chameleons. On X-rays this may appear similar to a bad arthritis and visually as swollen joints, usually on the extremities. For the sake of brevity, this is a very simplified version of a complex process."
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Contributed by Sg612 -- May 2019:
"Your vet should have discussed a plan. In particular, hydration and pain management. Don’t hesitate to show her this article."
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Elizabeth Freer

Active member
#90---Sand Removal Surgery on a Leopard Gecko -- LIVE video coverage!

FYI: LIVE coverage of the actual operation

With much appreciation to Sabrina Crawford for her FB share -- 24 April 2015
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Elizabeth Freer

Active member
#91---Articles: "Vitamin D3 & Calcium" and "Vitamin A" . . . . . . Kenneth Lopez, DVM

Click: Information on Vitamin D3, Parathyroid Hormone, Calcitonin and Calcium.

Vitamin D3 and Calcium
by Kenneth Lopez, DVM​
"Here are the players:
1. Calcium
2. Vitamin D
3. Parathyroid Hormone
4. Calcitonin

Calcium: Calcium is very poorly absorbed through the intestinal mucosa, as are most bivalent cations. When there is excess calcium in the diet much of it binds with phosphate and forms insoluble compounds which are excreted in the feces. Everyone should be aware of the need for calcium in bone formation and muscular contraction, reproduction, etc. (life in general). Too little Calcium causes, among other things, tremors, tetany, and death. **Too much Calcium causes muscles to become sluggish and weak. It has cardiac effects as well as causing obstipation and lack of appetite due to decreased contractility of the intestinal walls.

Vitamin D: Vit D has the job of increasing calcium absorption from the intestinal tract. It also affects both bone deposition AND bone reabsorption. Vitamin D3 is NOT the active substance for these effects. Vit D3 (Cholecalciferol) is formed in the skin by the ultraviolet rays from sunlight. Cholecalciferol is converted by the liver to 1,25 Hydroxycholecalciferol, which in turn is changed through reactions in the kidney to the ACTIVE form; 1, 25 Dihydroxycholecalciferol. **The creation of Hydroxycholecalciferol is limited by a feedback loop, which inhibits the transformation from D3 to Hydroxycholecalciferol. **Vitamin D3 is stored for a long time in the liver, while Hydroxyholecalciferol lasts only a short while. *Now the kidneys take effect and change Hydroxy to Dihydroxycholecalciferol. Remember this when we discuss renal damage. Without the kidneys there are NO active vitamin D effects that can occur. Dihydroxycholecalciferol has its effects upon intestinal epithelium and calcium absorption primarily through the creation of a calcium-binding protein. ** Calcium-binding protein remains in cells for several weeks after the 1,25 Dihyroxycholecalciferol has been eliminated from the body.

Parathyroid Hormone: This hormone causes rapid absorption of calcium salts from the bones in response to decreased calcium in the blood. It also causes phosphate to be lost in the kidneys. Parathyroid Hormone takes many hours to take effect and has a long-term effect.

Calcitonin: Calcitonin DECREASES blood calcium ion concentration. It works very quickly, within minutes. Consider it the opposite of Parathyroid Hormone. **Calcitonin has its greatest effect upon young, rapidly growing animals. **An increase in plasma calcium concentration of about 20% causes immediate two-to-three fold increase in the rate of secretion of Calcitonin.

Back in the 70's and 80's it was very common to see reptiles come in with curved spines, multiple fractures, muscle tremors. Supplements were not commonly used and deaths were common and reproduction of many species was limited. This disease, Metabolic Bone Disease (secondary nutritional hyperparathyroidism) was one of the most common problems seen. Once MBD became a household word and supplements such as Miner-all and RepCal became available MBD, thankfully, became less common. Now we are seeing another distressing trend. I commonly have chams brought in with obstipation, decreased appetites, wasting away, and severe dehydration despite vigilant misting or watering. A common finding in the husbandry goes as follows: " I take great care of her. I water her frequently. I dust her crickets every-other day with Calcium Powder with Vit D3 alternated on off days with a multivitamin powder. When she started becoming depressed I started giving her Neocalglucon and later my vet gave me Baytril". If you only knew how common this scenario is from my perspective it would frighten you.

My question is this: Are we over-supplementing our chams? Here is my reasoning behind the question. 1. Excess calcium causes muscles to become sluggish and weak. It causes decreased appetite and causes obstipation (intractable constipation) due to decreased contractility of the intestinal walls. 2. Excess Vitamin D actually causes ABSORPTION of bone. It actually mimics hyperparathyroidism. 3. Vitamin D causes calcification of bone. Excess Vitamin D causes inappropriate mineralization of organs such as the kidney or soft tissue. Excess Vit D3 and Calcium has been implicated in mineralization of large blood vessels, causing cardiac disease. 4. If we fry the kidneys with excess Vitamin D we cannot get the active form, 1,25 Dihydroxycholecalciferol. Of course, there are many other problems that come along with fried kidneys. 5. The body will only allow so much Hydroxycholecaliferol before the conversion of Vit D3 in the liver is stopped. What happens to the excess Vitamin D3? It is stored in the liver doing no good but potentially causing problems in the future. 6. If the Calcium-binding proteins remain in the cells for weeks after the 1,25 Dihydroxycholecalciferol is gone, why are we redosing two or three times a week? 7. When we over supplement our baby chams with Vit D and Calcium, Calcitonin is secreted which has the job of DECREASING serum calcium. This effect is much more important in young animals. Their young, growing bones are more easily affected by subtle changes in nutritional balances.

SUMMARY: I get way too many consults and patients with signs I feel are suggestive of chronic over-supplementation. It is another case of "A little is good, so a lot must be better" It is not known how much supplementation, if any, is needed for different species. In monkey medicine, for example, Old World monkeys do not need Vit D3 supplements at all while New World monkeys NEED Vit D3 added to their diets. Can we meet their needs better by better gut-loading of our insects and by using a variety of insects in conjunction with proper lighting? Then we can supplement with much less frequency. Please see Susan's Cricket food recipe. I think is well balanced and I have a few of her babies which are remarkable in their health.

The information provided on this site is for your consideration only. You should contact your veterinarian for specific questions concerning your chameleons."

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Click: Information on Vitamin A, Benefits of Vitamin A.

Vitamin A
by Kenneth Lopez, DVM​

"Vitamin A and it's effects are more complex and less understood than vitamin D. I am simplifying the subject for a few reasons. One is to avoid losing readers due to 3-block-long words, another is because there are a few great references that spell everything out, and third, because I don't want to work that hard right now. I know parts will be in direct disagreement with other veterinarians points of view. These are only my thoughts, do with them what you will.

The players: Carotenoids: Provitamins that occur with chlorophyll in all green plants Retinol: The form vitamin A takes in animal tissues. Usually changed from carotenoids to retinol by cells in the intestinal mucosa and/or the liver. Stored (as esters) in liver. Chylomicrons: Lets call them "escorts" for simplicity. They grab the newly formed retinol with one main mission in life, to get the retinol to the liver. Vitamin D3 (see previous post, someone should still have it) Vitamin E

So, here are some more complexities. How many times have you read posts on these lists that go something like this: "I alternate Calcium plus D3 on one day with Multi-Vitamin Powder every other day" The same people often later ask "What causes swelling under the chin of my cham?"

With vitamin A, which can potentially store in the liver for up to 6 months, and vitamin D, which can store for a couple months in the liver as well, we should be seeing big problems, right? If you remember from the vitamin D post, excessive D3 is associated with calcium mobilization from the bones as well. Working together (A & D) the cham should look like Gary Larsons rubber chicken ranch, right? Actually, vitamin A and vitamin D are antagonistic (incompletely)to each other. While both may be at toxic levels, the effects are not as evident due to their interaction. The funny thing is, once signs of MBD show up, people often start shoveling in the calcium and D3, in an ALREADY hypercalcemic cham! This is kind of like hating how tired Valium makes you so taking an amphetamine with it. Some species are EXTREMELY sensitive to vitamin A. Some (few) can take a boat-load without signs of problems.

My opinion (for what its worth) is preformed vitamin A is a medication used to treat severe cases of hypovitaminosis A and symptoms suggestive of such. It is too dangerous to use as a supplement. I use it carefully to elevate vitamin A levels. I sometimes use it to treat vitamin D toxicosis. I also use it when there is liver dysfunction. Bile salts are required for the uptake of retinol into the liver. I also use vitamin D to treat vitamin A toxicosis (along with vitamin E which seems to help).

Chams do not have much opportunity to zap preformed vitamin A in the wild. There is probably some small amount in most insects, especially king mealworms that pass through the liver while eating their way through another chams body (just kidding, I always liked that wives tail). There are so many successful breeders out there who properly gut-load their insects and DO NOT use preformed vitamin A, how can it be considered a good idea to take the risk? If supplementation is needed, the provitamins are a good choice. There is another consideration on which provitamins, but that is too long for this post.

Once again, these are my thoughts from my personal experiences. Your results may vary. (standard disclaimer). Discuss all concerns with your herp vet before making drastic changes to your husbandry. If anyone desires references for any of this info, I can send it upon request.

The information provided on this site is for your consideration only. You should contact your veterinarian for specific questions concerning your chameleons.
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Elizabeth Freer

Active member
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Elizabeth Freer

Active member
#93---Springtails . . . . . . Hilde -- Aug 2014 & CrestedRick -- May 2015

sprngrs1 (1).jpg sprngrs2 (1).jpg

"Springtails normally live in damp soil, and eat mold and fungus. Springtails don't bite or sting people, nor do they damage buildings or the contents. If anything, they'll help with enclosure maintenance.

"You don't have to worry about them, unless they really get out of hand and multiply too much. Normally you'd just have to lower the humidity and let the soil dry a bit, to kill them off. However, that won't work with your geckos, so you could trap them using fruit or the gecko's leftover food. Put some in a tube-type affair with just a small hole for them to get into. Remove it daily, or as needed, dump them outside so they can do their work in the garden. Another way is to replace the soil, wash any plants and whatever you have in the enclosure.

"Either method will work for a while, but you'll probably end up with lots of them again. They're very fertile little things, not much chance of getting rid of them completely once they get started, unless you start over from scratch, including new perches, plants, soil, etc.

"Springtails could wander around outside the tank, but they won't last long. They really need high humidity, so, unless you have your room humidity really high, they'll dehydrate in no time. They won't last long at all outside the enclosure. There's nothing to stop them from climbing over everything in the enclosure, even the gecko, but they won't bite him or you.

"(If you compare the picture you posted to the top one of my pictures, you can see they look quite alike.)

"If you're really in doubt, see if they 'jump' if you put something close to them, even a finger or toothpick. They also float on water, even jump on it and bounce off."

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3 May 2015 tips from CrestedRick
"You don't need to worry about offering additional food for isopods or springtails. They eat the mold and waste from your geckos as well as dead plant material. I have crushed leaf litter over my substrate that they also eat."
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Elizabeth Freer

Active member
#94---Successful Rescue Thread links

Remarkable Rehab of 2 Severely Emaciated Leopard Geckos......Sunflowerqueen -- September 2017
Click: https://www.geckosunlimited.com/community/threads/83834 Luna impacted

Saskia's Rescues with 2014 radiographs, discussions regarding highly varied feeder diets :), and supplement usage---begin with post #13 onward
Click: https://www.geckosunlimited.com/community/threads/73933 Newbie questions

Click: https://www.geckosunlimited.com/community/threads/74684 Rescue adopted petco emaciated not eating......keeper dynaMOna -- May 2014

Click: https://www.geckosunlimited.com/community/threads/75077 Crypto confirmed desperate trying paramomycin anyone succeed......keeper Tara.R -- June 2014
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Elizabeth Freer

Active member
#95--Vit A in Chameleons: Friend/Foe? . . . . . . Ivan Alfonso, DVM

Elizabeth Freer:
Rep-Cal's Herptivite, Exo Terra multivitamins, and some other reptile multivitamins, only contain beta carotene as the sole source of vitamin A. Those multivitamins are insufficient because research has shown lizards, geckos included, need a wee bit of pre-formed vitamin A acetate (retinol) in order for pro-formed vitamin A beta carotene to be absorbed.

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Click: Vitamin A deficiency in Insectivorous Geckos - Gecko Time - Gecko Time

Vitamin A in Chameleons: Friend or Foe?
Ivan Alfonso, DVM on 15 June 2011

"Vitamin A has a long history in reptile medicine and unfortunately, most of that history isn’t good. It started mainly with turtles developing puffy eyes which was determined to be the result of Vitamin A deficiency. Supplementing with vitamin A became popular and almost every eye ailment in turtles and tortoises alike was attributed to Vitamin A deficiencies. Unfortunately it is a lot easier to overdose with vit A than underdose, and many turtles and tortoises (especially tortoises) developed severe issues due to the overdose. Since then, vitamin A became public enemy and many supplements switched to its precursor (beta- carotene) as the source for vitamin A. The reasoning being that you can’t overdose beta-carotene and reptiles, like mammals, would be able to manufacture Vitamin A from it. And so was the understanding for many, many years until reptile medicine advanced and research, true research, was done with vitamin A and its benefits.

"Recently, and I say recently in relative terms, vitamin A has been discovered to play an important role in eye function, skin health and reproductive function in reptiles among other things. In chameleons, vitamin A plays an important role in keeping the overall health of the reptile and some species need it more than others. It has been my experience that species that are known to include vertebrate prey as part of their diet will need vitamin A in larger quantities than those who are strict insectivores. Panthers, Veileds, Mellers, Oustalets, Verrucosus and to some degree Parson’s all have shown some degree of vitamin A needs. Jackson’s, Mountain, Four-Horned, Giant Three-Horned and other montane species seem to benefit from vitamin A but at much lower levels.

"So how much vitamin A is really needed? So far nobody knows for sure and that’s why it is better to not use too much and be safe. But, when used sporadically and responsibly, vitamin A is an invaluable ally in keeping chameleon health, especially in actively breeding females. I normally recommend using vitamin A in its palmitate form once every 14 days and only 1 little drop at that. On montane species, the dose can be every 21 days. For breeding females I like doing it every 10 days for lowland species and every 14 days for montane species. I use my own mix of vitamins that I make myself for my reptiles and have had great success, but any vitamin A palmitate should work just as good.

"But what about the study that says vitamin A deficiencies are rare? There is such a study and it has been used as a rule in many places. However, the study failed to actually examine every lizard species. The study likely used Iguanas and maybe some carnivorous lizard such as Tegus or Monitors as the subjects. Herbivorous lizards are capable of deriving their vitamin A from precursors found in high carotene items such as carrots, sweet potatoes and squash among others. Carnivorous lizards can get all the vitamin A they need by ingesting the flesh of their prey, being that vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin and found in the fat and tissues of vertebrates. So yes, it is very easy to overdose vitamin A in herbivores and carnivores, but what about insectivores? Where is the study on them? A small study was done many years ago where Panther chameleons would show a dramatic health improvement when provided with pre-formed vitamin A. Why would that be? Think about it…..chameleons and all insectivores depend solely on their insect prey to pass along all their nutrition. In captivity, our feeder insects never get the same nutrition they would in the wild therefore providing less than optimal vitamin levels to our chameleons.

"Add to this an even more recent study where it has been proven that reptiles in general do not metabolize beta-carotene into vitamin A, they actually use different precursors for this. We immediately find ourselves depriving our chameleons entirely of vitamin A and then thinking that’s ok because too much vitamin A is bad. Extremes are bad, we need to aim for the balance, the middle of the road, and it is hard to do when you don’t know just how much to give.

"My advice is to not neglect vitamin A in your chameleon’s diet regardless of the species. They need it but maybe in very small amounts. If you use vitamin supplements that contain the active form of vitamin A or pre-formed vitamin A, then use them sporadically as stated above. If you use the liquid form of vitamin A, be careful and use also very sporadically. Aim for very little exposure to the vitamin but some exposure none the less. I have managed to treat many chameleons, mainly panthers, with chronic health problems with a protocol of vitamin A dosing. Not every chameleon issue is due to vitamin A problems and with proper nutrition and supplementation, vitamin A issues should be rare, but don’t think that vitamin A isn’t necessary because you will be running into issues sooner or later."
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Elizabeth Freer

Active member
#96---Supplementation & Diet: bugs, worms, & geckos . . . . . . Hilde -- July 2014

Part 1
"I don't use Ca in the enclosure. Way back, almost 20 years ago, and up until 2000, yes, I did use it, because that's what everyone said. After doing some research, including some detailed articles from experts, not forum posters, I removed the Ca and changed my insect feeding routine. Like I've said before, build a better cricket body, and your geckos will benefit.

"My gutload (insect food recipe) changes every time I fill the crickets' food bowls. I have a staple mix, something that's there all the time, but even the proportions of that change with each batch. The only thing that's the same is the ingredients, the amount of each varies. Then the extra food items like fruit, veggies, oddball things, changes daily. Even though some of the food doesn't have the recommended Ca:p ratio, sometimes it's off on the 'bad' side, it's never that way for long. Give them some banana slices today, considered a 'bad ratio', they won't have any for a few more days, maybe weeks. Tomorrow they might get prickly pear for their fruit, which more than balances out the bananas from the day before. Same with veggies, even 'bad' ratio ones will get balanced out by the 'good' ones they'll get.

"The crickets get a lot of variety in their diet. I buy the smaller ones so I have a few weeks to gutload them, improve their overall nutrition. The staple diet is a mix of various whole grain flours and/or other ground grains, dried legumes (grind them myself if need be) as well as monkey chow biscuits. This mix is always present, the fruit and veggies change daily, heavy on the prickly pear because it's good food, great water source, and they love it.

"If you use only one gutload all the time, same brand, or even a couple of brands, you are really limiting the nutrients that the crickets get, and pass on to the geckos. Not one brand is complete, some are better than others, but there's a limit to what's inside. It's not just a matter of how well the ingredients work in a mixture, but also cost - if the ingredient is too expensive, it won't be in a gutload no matter how nutritious it is. That's why I vary the diet. Wild insects have access to a variety of foods that grow in their area, very few stick to just one food source. Crickets will eat must about anything growing around them, they'll even nibble on animal carcasses, though they're not really carnivores, just opportunistic scavengers.

"Since using that gutload method, I haven't had to use Ca in the enclosures for any leopards, AFTs, U. milii, Teratoscincus, chameleons, or any of the other species. The crickets get dusted once a week, mix of Ca and vitamins. The rest of their Ca comes from the crickets.

"It's a well known fact that too much Vit D3 and/or Ca can cause 'reverse' MBD. Dusting with D3 can cause problems, you might not realize you're giving too much, or too little. A young, growing, leo will show the signs a lot faster than an adult. Give too much D3, the Ca gets leached out of the bones. Don't give enough Ca, or D3, and again, the bones suffer. If letting them self-dose with Ca improves the situation, then obviously you're not doing something right. No gecko should have to lap up Ca to get enough. Something is off in the Ca : D3 ratio.

"Even just a couple of licks of Ca can supply a heck of a big dose of it. Consider a tongue full of Ca for a hatchling, compare that to a human adult getting a lick of Ca the same 'size'. That would be like a tablespoon of Ca. Have you ever had that much Ca daily, or weekly, in one sitting? I bet not. That much would be the equivalent of several weeks' worth of Ca for you. Yet we don't think there's anything wrong when we let the geckos dose themselves with that much? The amount the gecko licks would coat the inside of the intestines and hinder absorption of other nutrients, like D3. If by any chance the gecko is getting too much D3, licking the Ca by the tongue full will actually prevent it from absorbing the excess D3, making it look like the gecko needed more Ca to fix the problem, when it actually used the Ca to stop the excess D3 from being absorbed."

Part 2
"I'm not saying that is the problem with the juvie geckos you mentioned, but it is one possible reason they improved after self-dosing. Considering that most dusted insects are actually so loaded down with powder that they look like snowmen instead of just lightly dusted, there's a really good chance that the geckos were overdosed on D3. Most supplements contain a rather high dose of D3, heavily dusting the crickets would give a big dose of D3.

"It's a bit of work to keep the gutload routine, lots of variety, but it's worth it. It doesn't even have to be expensive. Summer is a good time, lots of free plant sources outside. When I go out walking the trails, I'll gather a few things for the crickets. There's lots of variety from the garden too. Dandelion blossoms and leaves, chicory, lambs' quarters, even herbs. Sunflowers are really good sources. The leaves (torn into pieces because they can be a bit tough for the crickets to bite into), even slices of sunflower stalks in the fall after the flowers are done. A chunk of blossom, complete with seeds can be used, another favourite food.

"There are so many choices available for feeding the crickets, many free or dirt cheap. The variety adds nutrients that are probably not found in commercial foods, or maybe just in minute amounts. It also serves up the vitamins and minerals in a more natural way, safer dosage, and probably more delicious (might help with those picky geckos who don't like to eat dusted bugs)."

In the end, the geckos are the winners.
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Elizabeth Freer

Active member
#97---Butterworms: Nutritional Content/Care . . . . . . Frank Indiviglio, herpetologist

(click to enlarge)
Thanks to Hilde​

Caution added by Elizabeth Freer: Butterworms are NOT suitable for crested geckos. Butterworms are known to cause severe facial burns on crested geckos!

Please refer to Dr. Mark Finke's chart for tested nutritional levels of insects & worms. As far as I've read butterworms' extremely high calcium content has NEVER been scientifically verified. Some nutritional data stated in Frank Indiviglio's article is probably invalid!
Posted by: Frank Indiviglio in Amphibians, feeding and diet, Reptile and Amphibian Health September 16, 2014
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Butterworms as Reptile-Amphibian Food: Nutritional Content & Care
Butterworms, also known as Trevo Worms, are highly nutritious caterpillars that deserve more attention from reptile, amphibian & invertebrate keepers. They have many advantages associated with wild-caught insects yet lack most of the risks. Their calcium content of 42.9 mg/100g (as compared to 14 and 3.2 mg/100g for crickets and mealworms) is especially-impressive. Simple to use & store, & accepted by a huge array of species, Butterworms are in many ways superior to more commonly-used feeders. I promoted their use throughout my long career as a zookeeper, & today would like to introduce them to those readers who may be interested in adding important nutritional variety to their pets’ diets. Please also see the articles linked below for information on other “alternative” foods such as sow bugs, sap beetles, leaf litter invertebrates, earwigs & many others.

Natural History
Although they resemble beetle grubs, Butterworms are actually the larvae, or caterpillars, of the Chilean Trevo Moth (Chilecomandia moorei). As far as is known, they are found only in Chile, where their diet is comprised entirely of Trevo Bush (Trevoa trinervis) leaves.

Butterworms are collected rather than captive-reared, & are subjected to low levels of radiation before being exported from Chile. Irradiation prevents them from pupating, thereby addressing US Department of Agriculture concerns that the species could become established in the USA. This process, & the fact that they cannot be bred commercially, renders Butterworms a bit more costly than similar insects, but I believe their value as a food source merits the extra expense.

Nutritional Information
Being wild-caught, Butterworms likely provide nutrients absent from commercially-reared insects. They also exceed all other typical feeder insects in calcium content (please see Introduction, above), with only silkworms & phoenix worms approaching them in this regard (some find silkworms to be delicate, & phoenix worms are quite small, but both are also worth investigating).

The Butterworm’s protein content of 16.2% is on par with that of crickets, phoenix worms & waxworms, & below that provided by silkworms & roaches. Fat content stands at 5.21%, which is less than (considerably so, in many cases) that of all other commonly-used feeders.

Please Note
The nutritional needs of reptiles & amphibians vary by species & by individual age, health, & other factors. The fact that a food is “low in ash” or “high in protein” does not necessarily mean that it is a good or bad choice for your pet. Please post specific nutrition/feeding questions below.

Why Use Butterworms?
In addition to their nutritional value, Butterworms are readily accepted by a wide variety of reptiles, amphibians, tarantulas, fishes, scorpions, birds & small mammals. They vary in coloration through shades of yellow, red & orange, & have a distinct, “fruity” scent. I’ve not seen any research on the subject, but these qualities perhaps may make them attractive to predators…in any case, Butterworms often incite interest from reluctant feeders.

Butterworms range from ½ inch to 1 ½ inches in size, with the average in most containers being ¾ inch. They are far plumper than waxworms, & ideally suited for both small & larger pets.

These colorful, chubby caterpillars are more active than waxworms & phoenix worms, yet can easily be confined to a shallow bowl or jar lid. I’ve found this to be especially useful when keeping certain treefrogs, geckos & other arboreal species that are reluctant to feed on the ground. Butterworms may also be used to provide important dietary variety to insectivorous snakes (Smooth Green Snakes, etc.), terrestrial salamanders & others that tend to accept relatively few traditional feeder species.

Butterworms can be kept under refrigeration at 42-45 F for at least 4, & possibly up to 6, months. I keep my refrigerator at 39 F, and have had no problems with losses at that temperature over periods of 2-4 weeks.
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Elizabeth Freer

Active member
#98---Common Mealworm & Superworm Dry Diets & Beddings -- Use something else!

See below for low phosphorus mealworm & superworm dry diet & bedding recommendations.

We wish to approximate a 1.5-2.0 calcium : 1.0 phosphorus ratio with the insects & worms we feed our geckos.

With the exception of Phoenix worms (BSFL), all the bugs & worms we feed our geckos are much higher in phosphorus than calcium. Phosphorus impairs the absorption of calcium. Feeding high phosphorus foods to the bugs/worms makes correcting that imbalance impossible. That's why supplements containing very low amounts of phosphorus as well as very low phosphorus content in the feeders' diets are important.

We lightly dust bugs & worms to correct this imbalance. The 24/7/365 gut load is the most important thing you can do! Dusting should be secondary. Build a better feeder body! Feed bugs & worms the highest quality dry diet possible 24/7/365 + add low phosphorus/high calcium veggies in a dish off to the side (for example: pesticide-free collard greens & dandelion greens).

Wheat germ, wheat bran, & oats contain HUGE amounts of phosphorus in comparison to calcium. Check out the ratios! I don't recommend wheat germ, wheat bran, or oats either for keeping or for breeding mealworms or superworms OR for feeding bugs or worms in general.

Click: FoodData Central
Enter some food like wheat germ
Scroll down for calcium and phosphorus per 100 grams, for instance, and compare

Kretschmer's Wheat Germ is commonly sold in the USA.

WHAT CAN BE USED INSTEAD? Here are low phosphorus mealworm & superworm dry diets & beddings sold in the USA.

Finely grind the following foods in a coffee/spice grinder or place them in a tough plastic bag and pound them with a hammer.
  1. Already ground ---> Click: Cody Castellanos' Professional Reptiles' Pro Gutload
  2. Zoo Med's Natural ADULT Bearded Dragon Food -- needs grinding
  3. Albers’ All Purpose Poultry Feed -- needs grinding
  4. Purina Layena Crumbles -- needs grinding
Here’s a caution about poultry feeds in general.
I only recommend Albers' or Purina Layena Crumbles' brands of poultry feed. If you cannot find those in the USA, don't buy poultry feed. Some poultry laying feeds contain diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth is a natural antiparasitic for bird flocks. If ingested by insects, diatomaceous earth is fatal.
In addition make certain the chicken feed is NOT medicated.
If diatomaceous earth is in a product, it should be listed on the label.​

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(click to enlarge)​

I encourage anyone who's thinking about keeping mealworms, superworms, et cetera, on a bed of wheat germ, wheat bran, or oats to check out the ratios of calcium : phosphorus first! According to this USDA Foods List, wheat germ is hugely high in phosphorus and extremely low in calcium. Judging by those numbers how could we ever approximate the recommended 1.5-2.0 calcium:1.0 phosphorus levels that way?

On the 14 September 2015 I confirmed in person with an experienced Registered Dietitian that this USDA foods database provides excellent and very reliable information.

For additional help click this USDA link: FoodData Central. Just enter almost any food in that link and then scroll to see calcium, phosphorus, et cetera.​

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Use a (very) fine mesh stainless steel colander to sift through the mealworm bedding when you refresh it.

I have a super fine mesh colander that’s 6.25 inches in diameter. Mine looks much finer than strainers I link here.
  1. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0798TX144/ref=dp_cerb_2
  2. https://www.macys.com/shop/product/...84963490531886_dev-c_ext-_prd-848113011120USA
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Elizabeth Freer

Active member
#99---Mealworm & Superworm Tips . . . . . . acpart, Hilde, & swisswiss -- April 2021 (update)

Click: https://www.geckosunlimited.com/community/threads/35613 Mealworm breeding [the info begins on post 2 by gbhil]

Another valuable mealworm thread: https://www.geckosunlimited.com/community/threads/79242 Mealworms

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If you are setting up mealworm bins to breed them, don't use Timberline's vita-bugs "giant mealworms". Those giant mealworms have been hormonally treated and are infertile!

I keep my mealworms on a bed of ground Albers' All Purpose Poultry Feed in a 6 quart Sterilite bin at room temperatures of ~70*F (21.1*C). Add a dish/lid of chopped collards or pesticide-free dandelions flowers/leaves off to one side. That keeps their dry diet mold-free & dry. Turnip greens & mustard greens are other high calcium/low phosphorus options.

Feb 2016 - Scroll to post 35 for an interesting "drawer type" mealworm breeding setup used by swisswiss: https://www.geckosunlimited.com/community/posts/459442 Cricket farm geckos

Diatomaceous Earth Alert: Some poultry/chicken feeds contain diatomaceous earth. Both Albers All Purpose Poultry Feed and Purina Layena Sunfresh Crumbles do NOT contain diatomaceous earth.

"Some chicken laying feeds contain diatomaceous earth as a natural anti-parasitic for bird flocks. If ingested by insects, diatomaceous earth is fatal. The microscopic diatoms cut up their insides and cause a nasty death. It is also used topically for insect infestations as it will cut through exoskeletons or soft bodied worms and cause "bleed out." I have not read of anyone accidentally using a chicken feed with it in there and what effects it had on a colony of roaches/crickets/mealworms, et cetera, but I believe better safe than sorry and to warn people of it in case someone wants to use a different brand."

Quoted from hmarie186 -- 1 February 2015

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Mealworm & Superworm Tips . . . . . . acpart/Aliza -- April 2021 update

"1. Keep both mealworms and superworms at normal room temperatures. The refrigerator is too cool for them.

2. Aliza (GU's acpart) uses this already ground Professional Reptiles' Pro Gutload (1-775-359-1085) for her mealworm & superworm bedding as well as for her insect and worm food.
"The bedding, obviously, doubles as gutload. When most of the bedding has turned into droppings, I either add some of the original stuff or sift out all the droppings and put in new bedding. This is easier to do with superworms since they're bigger. Sometimes I lose tiny mealworms in the sifting process."

3. In Europe you could do one of the following:
  • Get a variety of grains and cereal and put them in the blender. They can eat whole grains, but it will be much easier for you to get them out of the bedding if the grain is ground up.
  • OR Buy some chicken feed that does not contain diatomaceous earth.
Most veggie peels work well. You can also feed crickets, mealworms, and superworms vegetable pieces that you would normally throw away: eggplant peels, carrot tops, cucumber peels, broccoli and cauliflower stems, Bell pepper cores, sweet potato ends, apples, and strawberry tops. They completely demolish them!

Very juicy veggies and fruits are not a good idea. I tried cantaloupe rinds once and it was a disaster!

Remove seeds from apples and Bell peppers. Apple seeds can, and have, caused choking!

4. I feed superworms by dropping 1 at a time in front of the gecko. For a very reluctant gecko, I hold the gecko and gently poke the superworm at the mouth until it bites the worm. I have a gecko that rarely eats in the winter and a few years ago he was losing a lot of weight. I used a hypodermic needle to poke the superworm, got some of the guts on the end of the needle and poked it (gently) into the gecko's mouth. He didn't get much, but it did some good and he eventually started eating again. He's about to go into his annual winter fast, but he weighs 90 grams right now.

5. I don't have any problem keeping mealworms alive at high temperatures. The only thing is, the higher the temp, the faster they'll turn into beetles. I have no AC, so it can occasionally get into the 90's in my house! If I wanted to keep the mealworms cool, I'd keep them down in the basement, but I'm not into running up and down the stairs every day. I buy them small, knowing that they'll grow larger soon, but it will extend the amount of time they're usable. I do breed them, so having them morph isn't a problem for me. The only other problem in hot and humid environments is having grain mites infest the bedding. Here's an article about how to deal with that: http://www.geckotime.com/how-i-got-rid-of-grain-mites/"

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Hilde: On separating the casings from the mealworms - March 2015

"I use one of these: Amazon.com - Polder 6631-75 Stainless-Steel Sink Strainer with Extending Rubber-Grip Arms - Colanders

"Place the strainer in a tub (I use a drawer from one of my storage racks), then dump the whole mess, mealworms and substrate, in there. The strainer can sit in the tub, or extend the side grips to let it hang. Shake it a bit to let the substrate and small worms fall through. Larger worms and the castings will stay put. I do this outside if possible, since it gets a bit dusty. Next just blow air over the strainer to blow the castings out.

"The larger worms go into a new raising container. The smaller ones that fell through with the substrate go back to the original container, with some fresh substrate added to the old. Trying to separate small ones tends to kill them, so I leave them until they're big enough to get trapped in the strainer. It also allows any eggs to hatch, no use wasting them by pitching them out with the substrate. As long as there aren't any beetles to lay more eggs, it generally takes about 2 cleanings to get the worms big enough to separate out completely, leaving only the old substrate which can then be pitched.

"Big worms get can get fresh substrate the same way, strain out the old, blow the casings out, and return them to the container with fresh substrate."

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:( Wheat germ, wheat bran, and oats contain HUGE amounts of phosphorus in comparison to calcium. Check the ratios! I do not recommend those beddings for breeding mealworms at all.

  • Wheat Germ -- Show Foods
    calcium 39
    phosphorus 842
    ratio: 1 part calcium : 22 parts phosphorus

  • Wheat Bran -- Show Foods
    calcium 73
    phosphorus 1,013
    ratio: 1 part calcium : 14 parts phosphorus

  • Oats -- Show Foods
    calcium 54
    phosphorus 523
    ratio: 1 part calcium : 10 parts phosphorus

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May 2017:
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