One of the most overlooked, but very important, tasks you can do to ensure good health for your bearded dragon is by taking care of feeder crickets and other feeder insects. When feeding your bearded dragon feeder crickets you want to make sure those crickets are safe, nutritious, and full of beneficial vitamins and minerals.
You also want to make sure you are keeping the feeder crickets under the best conditions possible to help prevent parasites and unhealthy situations for yourself and your bearded dragon.
Here’s a few tips on taking care of feeder crickets for bearded dragons.
Use a Kricket Keeper
The most convenient method of keeping crickets is by using a Kricket Keeper. The Kricket Keeper is a small plastic housing made especially for feeder crickets and other feeder insects.
Here are some of the features:
- Vented, removable lid with trap door
- Two “capture tubes” for catching crickets
- Flap covers to prevent escapes
- Gut load and cricket quencher cups
The Kricket Keeper comes in small and large sizes, and is a great way to store feeder crickets until they are ready to feed to your bearded dragon. It also makes catching just the right amount of crickets without needing to worry about crickets running loose all over your house. The small size is adequate for two – three dozen medium crickets while the large can hold about five – six dozen medium crickets.
Now, let’s go over how to properly set up the Kricket Keeper so your crickets stay fresh and remain healthy during storage.
Properly Setup the Kricket Keeper
Just adding the crickets to the Kricket Keeper is not enough to make sure your feeders are the most nutritious they can be. Most purchased feeders are malnourished and not very nutritious right from the pet store. You will need to boost the nutritional value of your feeders while they are in storage.
This is done by gut loading the feeders with a nutrient, vitamin, and mineral rich feed especially formulated for feeder insects, typically called gut load. You will also need to provide some moisture so the feeders do not become dehydrated.
We also use Fluker’s Cricket Quencher as a source of moisture for the feeders. You do not want to use water because the crickets will jump in and drown. The Cricket Quencher is a gel and prevents drowning while giving the feeders a water source.
You can also use Fluker’s Orange Cube Complete Cricket Diet for both gut loading and hydration.
Once you have the Kricket Keeper, gut load, and cricket quencher, it is time to use the small cups that come with the Kricket Keeper. Add enough gut load to fill one cup, and add cricket quencher to the other cup.
Once the cups are filled, place them in the center of the Kricket Keeper. Some bearded dragon parents like to place a chunk of egg crate (you can get the egg crate pieces from the pet store when you purchase the crickets), or cardboard, to give the feeders a hiding place.
We do not usually do this because you want the crickets to hide in the capture tubes for easy catching. It’s up to you whether you provide a hiding spot, but they are not required.
Replace the lid and slide the capture tubes back into the lid. Raise the trap door for adding the crickets.
Now your Kricket Keeper is ready for feeder crickets!
Adding Crickets With No Mess
The easiest way to add crickets to the Keeper is by dumping them in via the trap door located on the top of the lid. Usually when purchasing feeders from a pet store the crickets will come in a plastic bag (much like when buying fish), or in a small box. If using a plastic bag, hold the bag upright so the crickets congregate at the bottom. Tear a hole in the top of the bag large enough for the crickets to slide out of.
Hold the hole of the bag over the opened trap door and tilt the bag over, dumping the crickets out into the Keeper. You may need to thump the side of the bag to jiggle any straggler crickets out.
Quickly shut and latch the trap door after all crickets are out of the bag. The crickets will probably jump and bounce around for a minute or two after all the commotion.
Now your Kricket Keeper is full of hungry, thirsty crickets. Once the feeders calm down you can literally watch as they gorge themselves on the gut load food and cricket quencher.
Leave the feeders in the Keeper to feast for at least 24 hours before feeding them to your bearded dragon.
Other Feeder Insects
Although crickets are a very popular and convenient feeder insect we recommend varying the diet by also offering other feeders such as roaches, wax worms, and horn worms. Roaches, crickets, and horn worms should make up the staple portion of the insect diet, while wax worms, silk worms, meal worms (for adults only), and nightcrawlers can be additional portions of the diet.
Feeder roaches can be kept in Kricket Keepers just like crickets. You still need to provide a quality gut load food and cricket quencher will work great for supplying moisture. Roaches also love to hide in dark places so the capture tubes work nicely for collecting for feeding.
Generally, when purchasing horn worms from the pet store they come packaged in a self-containing cup. These cups come with appropriate servings of pre-made horn worm food and do not need any special set up. Set the cup upright with one side tilted very slightly to allow air into the cup. You will also need to dump any poop that has collected on the lid when opening.
Horn worms grow very quickly so you may need to feed them to your bearded dragon pretty often.
Meal Worms, Wax Worms, & Other Worms
Meal worms, wax worms and other worms come in their own cups for storage. There’s no special set up needed for these feeder insects. If you feed your bearded dragon nightcrawlers you will need to rinse them off with water before feeding to remove any soil off the worm.
Good Food = Good Health
Offering your bearded dragon good, nutritious feeder insects will go a long way towards good health and longevity for your bearded dragon. As the saying goes, “You are what you eat”, the same goes for your pet reptile. Boosting the nutritional value of the feeder insects will lessen illnesses and disease for your bearded dragon.
Pet store feeders can be infested with parasites and viruses that could be transferred to your bearded dragon. Provide your bearded dragon with the best feeder insects by breeding crickets yourself. Learn how to with the Crickets Breeding Made Simple e-book.