Crickets are among the main foodstuffs for pet Leopard geckos and other insectivorous lizards. These insects contain most of their requirements, namely proteins, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, vitamins and water.
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The average nutritional composition for a well-fed grey cricket is ca. 21% protein and 6% fat. Their practicality and ease of breeding put them in the top spots when it comes to feeder insects for Leopard geckos.
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Different sized crickets are fed to different sized Leopard geckos. As a rule of thumb, the crickets should be no larger than the length of the space between the eyes of the Leopard gecko that is being fed.
Commercial crickets are sold as large, medium, small or pinhead sizes. Hatchling crickets, or so-called pinheads, are wingless and literally the size of the head of a standard pin. Pinheads are usually fed to very small and baby Leopard geckos.
Small crickets are larger than pinheads, but still only a few millimetres long. Medium crickets are about 1 cm / 0.4 ” in length and depending on the species, adult crickets grow up to about 2 – 3 cm / 0.8 – 1.2 ” in length.
Selecting the correct crickets for Leopard geckos
There are various criteria used to select crickets for pet Leopard geckos. It is strongly recommended to only feed commercial crickets bought from reputable cricket breeders or pet shops. Apart from their size, other factors will include quality and price. A ‘fresh’, well-fed cricket will be more nutritious and probably also taste better.
How much crickets to feed
As a general rule of thumb, only the amount of crickets that can be consumed within ten to twenty minutes should be given per Leopard gecko. Depending on the size of the Leopard gecko, the size of the cricket and the frequency of feeding, this can be anything from one or two to about a dozen crickets per feeding. By removing free-roaming crickets after the meal, stress and possible physical nibbling injuries can be prevented.
The two main cricket species fed to Leopard geckos in South Africa are the European house cricket, also called the grey cricket (Acheta domestica) and the Common black cricket (Gryllus bimaculatus). Both these species are high in protein and energy. In comparison with most cockroaches, crickets are more proliferous and softer. They are also easy to dust and gut-load. When compared to grasshoppers and many other feeder insects, they are easier to breed, their legs are more reduced and the thorax is easier to digest, which, more importantly, makes them safe to feed.
Feeding crickets to Leopard geckos
Crickets should always be gut-loaded 24 to 48 hours prior to being fed to Bearded dragons. Because feeder crickets have an unfavourable Ca:P ratio (1:12) it is also recommended that they are dusted with an appropriate Leopard gecko calcium supplement two to three times a week.