In the wild reptiles and amphibians that eat insects. Which we refer to as insectivores eat a wide variety of those insects. Those insects eat a wide variety of plants, roots, nuts and even other insects. In the wild reptiles and amphibians are getting all sorts of vitamins and minerals in their diet. In captivity, we’re unable to provide that kind of variety. Due to most keepers provide between one and three different types of feeder insects to their animals. That’s just not enough. That’s why it’s so important to sneak in those vitamins and minerals in other ways. I’m going to be sharing with you the importance of dusting and gut loading your feeder insects’ nutrients. That is absent from a captive reptile’s diet. That would be vitamins E, vitamin b1 also known as thiamine, vitamin A calcium and vitamin d3.
Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant. It helps boost a reptiles immune system.
Vitamin b1 also known as thiamine helps make sure that their nervous system is functioning properly. If they lack vitamin b1. They can develop neurological issues including seizures
Vitamin A is utilized for iron skin health as a result. Reptiles lacking in vitamin A often have issues shedding their skin as well as eye issues like conjunctivitis.
Calcium is one of the most important minerals in a reptile’s diet. Not only do they need it for bone and in the case of turtle’s shell growth but females need extra calcium reserves in order to produce eggs. If a female reptile does not have enough calcium in her system to produce eggs. She’ll take it straight from her bones and that can lead to all sorts of health issues.
The last vitamin often lacking in a captive reptile’s diet is vitamin d3. This is essential in order for a reptile to metabolize calcium into their bodies. If a reptile is lacking in vitamin d3 and therefore it’s not able to metabolize calcium. That’s when they often get something called hyperparathyroidism or metabolic bone disease. For short we just call it MBD. That’s really an umbrella term for all sorts of bone deformities that can occur and do occur if a reptile doesn’t have vitamin d3. In the wild reptiles absorb vitamin d3 through their skin while basking in the sun and absorbing those ultraviolet rays.
In captivity, we keep the majority of our reptiles indoors. Where they do not have access to fresh sunlight. That’s why you have to provide vitamin d3 in another way. The good news is that there are two pretty simple ways that we can provide vitamin d3 to our reptiles.
The first of which is by providing a UVB light that will kind of replicate the sun’s rays. Allowing them to absorb that d3 into their bodies through their skin. This is often used for reptiles that like to bask in the sunlight in the wilds. Like diurnal species such as bearded dragons or like Cuban false chameleons.
Now it’s important to note that if you use a UVB light you have to replace that bulb every six to eight months. Even if the bulb still appears to work the UVB from it will wear away after about six to eight months. For nocturnal species of reptiles that don’t bask in the sun.
They can actually be sensitive to the sun’s rays like leopard geckos are. It’s best to get them their vitamin d3 in the form of a powder. You just dust their insects with a calcium powder that’s fortified with vitamin d3. Then they metabolize that internally.
Now what species of reptile you are keeping will determine what type of calcium powder you want to provide them. With calcium either has vitamin d3 or it does not or it has high levels or low levels of d3. It’s important to know that you can OVERDOSE a reptile with vitamin d3 and that is actually toxic and fatal to them.
If you have a like say a bearded dragon that likes to bask in natural sunlight and you provide them with a UVB bulb. They should actually do not want to provide them with calcium powder, that has high amounts of vitamin d3 because that could overdose them. Instead, you want to provide them with the calcium powder that has lower amounts of d3 like Miner-All. If you have a nocturnal species of reptile such as a leopard gecko. That does not bask in the light they come out at night. Then you have to give them their d3 in a different way. Instead, you just get them the calcium powder with high amounts of vitamin d3. Then they’ll just metabolize it through their food. In a nutshell for diurnal basking species of reptiles. I would recommend Miner-All because it has quite low levels of vitamin d3. It shouldn’t cause any toxicity or overdose issues.
Whereas if you have a nocturnal species of lizard I would recommend Rep-Cal. Calcium powder with vitamin d3.
Now that we’ve discussed the importance of adding extra vitamins and minerals into your captive reptiles diet. Let me explain to you which ones you should be using. We’ve already touched on vitamin d3 in calcium with the Rep-Cal and Miner-All and how each is best for just different types of reptiles. However what about all of the other vitamins that may be lacking in your reptiles diet.
Well to make sure your reptile is getting enough vitamin A and vitamin b1, or thiamine. We recommend the Rep-Cal Multivitamin. This one contains all three of those vitamins and it’s a wonderful generic multivitamin to use for really anything.
Now the question is how often should you be using these powders. That is the debatable part and really it’s something that I just recommend doing your own research on. It’ll vary based on the species you have its age its size and its breeding condition.
The general rule of thumb is to use a calcium powder twice a week and a vitamin once a week. Yet babies that are growing more and need more calcium in their bodies, will need a little bit more calcium in their diets. Whereas reptiles that are an adult and they’re not growing as much don’t need quite as much calcium. This also plays a role in breeding reptiles.
If you have a female that is producing eggs you definitely want to increase her calcium intake during the breeding season. Whereas if you have an adult male lizard he probably doesn’t need as much calcium.
Some reptile keepers and breeders will tell you that you should dust your insects separately. Like one meal should only be dusted with calcium and another meal should only be dusted with a multivitamin. The thought behind this is that calcium degrades multivitamins. That’s recently been proven not to be true. There’s actually a lot of keepers out there who will blend the two together and just dust them all at the same time.
They’ve actually found benefits in the presence of one actually assisting in the absorption of the other. It might be beneficial to mix them together. Yet after you dust with calcium or a multivitamin.
It’s important to feed the insect immediately. Because that insect will start grooming itself and cleaning off all the powder that has coated its body. The longer that insect goes without being eaten the fewer vitamins and minerals are gonna be on its body. The reason why they like to clean themselves off right away is that insects breathe through a series of spiracles. Which are small openings along the side of their abdomen and these powders kind of block those sphericals. It makes it hard for them to breathe so you can’t blame them for wanting to clean themselves off. That is why it’s so important to feed those dusted insects right away. We’ve pretty much-covered dusting insects.
Now about gut loading insects you’re essentially just feeding the insects a vitamin and mineral enriched diet. That they themselves are healthier when the reptile eats them.
Many keepers that use the gut loading technique will feed the insects more naturally like plant-based diets like carrots. That way you can boost their vitamin A levels. Or Dark leafy greens like kale or collard greens to help boost their vitamin e levels.
You can actually buy calcium-fortified feeder insect diets. That way their calcium levels are also higher than normal. Another route you can take is a kind of hack in the reptile community. You can buy chicken layer formula which is a food you feed to chickens while they’re laying their eggs. That’s very high in calcium because it’s increasing the chicken’s calcium level for when they’re producing eggs. You can use that for feeder insects too.
That covers everything I wanted to share with you in terms of the importance of adding extra vitamins and minerals into your reptiles diet and how often you should be doing it as well as what brands or what types you should use basically it all boils down to doing your own research. I always encourage people to grab their information from at least three credible sources before making an educated decision. When it comes to their own animal because not only will it vary based on the species. You have but also its age its size its gender and its breeding condition. That can really make the usage of each one of these very there’s no real like one answer fits all reptiles anyway keep doing your own research