Feeder Insect Review: Phoenix Worms for Leopard Geckos

phoenix worms for leopard geckos

I have recently been reviewing the insects that I regularly feed to my leopard geckos, and this week I’ll be discussing phoenix worms (also can be known as calci worms).

It’s really important to feed your geckos a varied diet of live food, because each different insect offers different nutrition and benefits, and also it’s nice for your geckos to have some variation, as their tastes and preferences can change as they age.

For some frequently asked questions I receive around my leopard geckos’ diets, please see my Leopard Gecko Feeder Insects FAQ post.

Phoenix worm care

My initial thought on phoenix worms was “ugh these are going to be a hassle” because they have to be kept in a soil-like substrate, and need washing before feeding to your leopard geckos, but honestly it takes about 5 minutes, and the time spent doing this is mitigated by the fact that these worms don’t need feeding (more on that soon).

To wash them, I just rinse them under a very gentle stream of tap water, and then dry them in some paper towels to take away any remaining dirt and moisture, and then put them into a feeding dish (I use glass ramekins for my feeding dishes). They need to be completely dry if you don’t want them to climb the surfaces.

They will last 4-5 weeks in cool but not cold temperatures, meaning you can’t put them in the fridge like you would with mealworms or waxworms to slow down their growth cycle.

Phoenix worms are shipped purged, which means that they have nothing in their stomachs. They do not need gutloading or feeding, and doing so is discouraged, because if you do this their digestive system will start working again and the feces will start to contaminate the soil-like substrate that they’re shipped in.

Nutrition

One of the great things about phoenix worms is that they have an almost perfect Ca:P ratio (Calcium: Phosphorous), meaning they’re one of the best things you can feed to your leopard geckos.

Due to the incredible calcium content, these worms have been known to prevent and even reverse metabolic bone disease (if you don’t know what this is then google it and hope that your geckos are nourished enough that they will never get this awful disease!)

They also contain lauric acid, which prevents viruses, and has a number of other properties which benefit your leopard geckos’ health, and finally they have a relatively low fat content.

They don’t smell/ make noise

Unlike insects like crickets, phoenix worms don’t make any noise or smell, so you can’t even tell that they’re there.

They move around lots

These worms wriggle around more than any of the other feeder worms I use. This is great for catching the eye of your gecko and encouraging it to feed.

Cost

As phoenix worms only last about 4-5 weeks before turning into a black soldier fly, it’s best to buy them in smaller quantities so that none go to waste. This means that they can get quite expensive if you want to use them regularly, but I think the benefits by far outweigh this factor.

 

Do you have a favourite feeder insect? Let me know in the comments section below!

 

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Feeder Insect Review: Dubia Roaches

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be reviewing the insects that I regularly feed to my leopard geckos.

It’s really important to feed them a varied diet, because each different insect has a different nutritional profile, and can offer differing benefits to your leopard gecko.

For some frequently asked questions I receive around my leopard geckos’ diets, please see my Leopard Gecko Feeder Insects FAQ post.

I’m going to start with my absolute favourite feeder insect; the Dubia Roach.

Where do I even begin?

They’re easy to keep.

I find dubia roaches to be one of the most low-maintenance insects to look after. They come in a tub which contains part of an egg box for them to hide under, and I just add a thin layer of oats to the bottom, and feed them with vegetable peel from potatoes, carrots, apples etc. (I don’t use anything too moist as it will just go mouldy).

And that’s it. That’s honestly all I do to look after them. Then prior to feeding I’ll dust them with some calcium powder (which stays really nicely on top of their shells), and I’m done!

They don’t smell/ make noise

Unlike insects like crickets, dubia roaches don’t make any noise and don’t smell, so you can’t even tell that they’re there.

They can’t climb smooth surfaces or jump

This is an important one for me, as I like my leopard geckos’ to eat from a dish. If you get a deep enough dish, the roaches will not be able to climb out, so if you have lazy leopard geckos like I do, then you can always be sure that there won’t be any escapees, which could subsequently die and decompose, or irritate your leopard geckos.

They have a good nutritional profile

Obviously this one is very important. They have a soft shell which is easier for your leopard geckos to digest, they have a high protein/low fat content, they gutload well, they can be dusted with calcium easily, and they already have a good Ca:P ratio (Calcium: Phosperous).

They move around lots

Unless they’re left for too long, I find that dubia roaches run around loads which is really eye catching for my leopard geckos. They go into an absolute feeding frenzy when I put roaches in!

They’re cheap (in the UK at least)

I get about 50 nymph roaches for £6-7 from eBay which I think is a great price considering all of the above attributes.

 

So, there you have it. My opinion of why dubia roaches are the best feeder. What’s your favourite feeder?

Handling Nervous Geckos

Anyone who has owned a young leopard gecko will know that they can be EXTREMELY skittish, and these little lizards can move pretty quickly!

Before buying them, I was terrified that they’d run away and get lost down the side of the sofa, or jump out of my hands and hide under some difficult-to-move furniture.

However even my most anxious leopard gecko is fairly easy to handle for extended periods of time using some of the below hacks, and using these tips should give you, as an owner, more peace of mind when you want to play with them.

Hack #1 – smooth sided tub – for the most nervous geckos

This is absolutely the best thing I can recommend for very young and very flighty leopard geckos.

As leopard geckos can’t climb smooth surfaces, this is perfect to have on your lap while holding your gecko, because if they try to jump or start moving too quickly, they will fall into the tub and be easy to catch again.

Even now, I have the tub beside me almost all the time, just in case. I also hold the tub under them as I’m carrying them around, because I don’t want any sudden movements to spook my leos and make them fall from a big height onto the floor.

They are so cheap too, I picked up 2 for £1 from a local store, and a quick search on Amazon brings up plenty of good options.

Hack 2 – blanket den – for geckos you kind of trust

Nearly every time I handle my geckos, I make a blanket den for them. I make sure that I cover any crevices so my geckos won’t try and bury themselves down behind my sofa seat cushions, and I also put cushions under the blankets so that it’s steep around the edges, as crawling uphill is most likely to slow them down.

I think you have to be fairly trusting of your gecko to use this method on it’s own, which is why I always have a tub next to me, just in case I need to rapidly catch them. However I do think it’s good to let my leos have a little wander around to explore, and this gives me extra confidence that I won’t lose them.

It’s also nice for the geckos to have little loose folds in the fabric which they can hide in, as this clearly makes them feel nice and safe. This leads me onto my third and final hack which has made the entire handling experience much less stressful for both myself and my geckos…

Hack #3 – fabric hide – for geckos you can usually trust 

leopard gecko care

As leopard geckos are prey in the wild, they will instinctively seek places to hide under, but it’s not convenient to have a hard hide out when you just want to relax and watch TV with your scaled companion.

This is why my fabric hide has absolutely revolutionized my gecko play time. I can provide them with a safe space to sit while they are out of their vivariums, and this has resulted in much calmer geckos, and a much calmer owner.

I came across this idea on an Instagram account I follow @custom.reptile.homes, and she sells these fantastic pyramid-shaped hides (and also many other cool reptile things!) on Etsy.

How do you handle your skittish geckos? Leave any other hacks in the comments section!

Leopard Gecko Feeder Insects FAQ

On my Instagram page I get quite a few messages asking questions about the insects I use to feed my leopard geckos, so this has prompted me to do a short blog post about my feeding routine. 

Disclaimer: This is what works for me and my geckos, keeping them healthy and happy – I’m not saying that everybody should do what I do.

Over the next month I will follow up this post with several more giving a more detailed overview of the various insects I use. Hopefully you find this helpful 🙂

Q. What do you feed your leopard geckos?
I feed them a mixture of insects; each having its own set of positive attributes and drawbacks. I believe it’s important to feed my leopard geckos as much of a varied diet as I can provide.
Currently my regular feeders are: mealworms, dubia roaches, phoenix worms (aka calci worms), silkworms, and the occasional waxworm. My leos haven’t had crickets or locusts since they were very young – I find them too much of a hassle considering the nutritional content isn’t that great anyway. Also they’re noisy, smelly, they stress out my geckos who are usually too lazy to catch them… the list goes on. But this is just a personal preference.

Q. Which is your favourite feeder insect?
I like different insects for different reasons, but I must say that my favourite all-rounder has to be dubia roaches. They are easy to keep and low maintenance, they have a good nutritional value and contain a high moisture content, they move around a lot and my geckos seem to LOVE them, and they have a relatively soft shell so I don’t need to worry about them giving my geckos digestive problems.
Last but certainly not least, they can’t crawl out of smooth surfaces, so I can put them in a dish and forget about them, without worrying they’ll get lost in the vivarium.

Q. …and which is your LEAST favourite?
As mentioned above, I don’t bother with crickets or locusts, but aside from that, my least favourite has to be silkworms, mainly because they are expensive and so difficult to look after!
They need to be fed a very specific diet of mulberry leaves or mulberry chow ONLY, they die very easily due to things like too much moisture or germs from your hands, and they don’t move around a lot so they’re less stimulating for my geckos. I don’t always have a supply of silkworms but I will continue to buy them because they have a really good nutritional profile so they’re just about worth the extra effort.

Q. Where do you get your insects from?
I now get all of my insects from eBay. I live in central London and I find this to be the cheapest and most convenient option (I don’t live anywhere near a pet store supplying insects!)

Q. How much do your insects cost?
Dubia Roaches – 50 small roaches – £3.33 + (£4.79 postage)
50 Phoenix Worms (Calci worms) – £6.99 + free postage
50 Silkworms – £5.99 + £3.40 postage
Silkworm Mulberry Chow – £2.50 + £3.40 postage
Mealworms 120g tub – £4.49 + free postage
50 Waxworms – £4.49 + free postage

Q. How often do you feed your leopard geckos?
Usually every evening, however if we are going to be away for a night, we will leave extra mealworms just to sustain them until we are home the next day.

Q. How much do you feed your leopard geckos?
Usually about 10 insects per feeding. If they eat all the insects immediately within about 10 minutes, I’ll give them some more, but 8-10 insects seems to be their limit.

Q. Do you dust your insects with extra vitamins?
I dust dubia roaches and mealworms with calcium and/or vitamin D3 powder, but the other insects have quite a good nutritional profile so I tend to just keep those hydrated and gutloaded without adding extra calcium to them. I always keep a pot of calcium in my geckos’ tanks so they can help themselves to it if they need to.

Q. Which feeding dish do you use?
I tend to buy insects which can’t climb smooth surfaces, and I have found that a glass ramekin is absolutely perfect for making sure none of the insects escape!

Q. Any other advice on feeding leopard geckos?
Yes! Only use waxworms as a treat, or if you’re trying to tame your gecko. I only use waxworms every 1-2 weeks.
Geckos LOVE waxworms – they’re like candy (really tasty but really bad for the gecko and can be addictive!).
So if you feed them their favourite food when you’re handling them, they will come to associate you, and your hand, with being fed their favourite treat. I used food to tame my geckos, and had them tame and crawling onto my hand within a week.

Shedding problems with Leopard Geckos

Making sure your leopard geckos have the right conditions to shed is extremely important for keeping your leopard gecko happy and healthy, however the majority of owners will face situations where their gecko struggles to shed properly on their own.

For example, even though my male and female leopard geckos are kept in the same conditions, for some reason my male gecko has had a succession of problematic sheds recently.

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Leopard geckos should always have at least one moist hide in their vivarium – personally I make sure mine always have a moist hide in the cool side of their enclosure, and around the time they shed I will also add one to the hot side as well which creates a more sauna-like level of humidity for them.

You can see in the two photos that my male, Charizard, has shed stuck under his eye, and a little bit of rough skin on the top of his nose.

There are several signals which tell me they’re about to shed:

  • They turn very pale
  • They hide away in their moist hide and don’t walk around much
  • They don’t want to be handled
  • They stop eating their food
  • They start rubbing their faces against things to loosen the skin

However, even though I provide two moist hides, and monitor the humidity levels, my male still struggles getting his face completely clear of old skin. I have spoken to other more experienced leopard gecko owners, and here are some of their pieces of advice.

Tips to help with problem sheds:

  • Create a temporary gecko “sauna.” Get a tupperware box, poke air holes in it, add damp moss/ paper towels and put your gecko in it with the lid on so it can’t get out. Place the sauna over the top of a warm (but not hot) heat source – their heat mat would be perfect. Leave for 30 minutes and check on them and see if the skin is looser. Sometimes it will just come off on its own without your extra help. Sometimes you’ll need to leave longer than 30 minutes.
  • Put your gecko in a shallow warm bath. This is good for geckos struggling with belly or foot shedding. Make sure the water isn’t too hot or too cold, and make sure it is no deeper than belly-level. This should help loosen skin along with some gentle rubbing.
  • Shedding aid by Zoo Med – this had excellent reviews on Amazon so I gave it a try. This worked really well for the rough skin on top of my gecko’s head, but it was very difficult to put on the skin under his eye because he just won’t let me touch there without turning away. Other people rub this on their geckos prior to shedding (when the gecko turns white) and have had great results.

Always remember to check your humidity levels in your vivarium, and please PLEASE make sure you always have a moist hide for your leopard gecko! If skin stays trapped on them, it can cause a restriction of blood flow, causing to loss of toes, infection and sometimes death.

Do you have any more tips and advice for helping with problem sheds? I would love to hear them! Comment below.

How to spy on your leopard gecko

When I first got my leopard geckos I had so much anxiety… Why weren’t they eating? Was one gecko hogging all the food? Do they ever leave their hot hide? Are they shedding easily? Do they bully each other?

So many questions I couldn’t answer because of them being diurnal/ nocturnal, and also because they were very shy and tended to hide when I was around.

So my solution? Buy a camera to spy on them, of course!

As you’ll know if you follow my Instagram (@leopardgeckocare) I post a lot of my leopard geckos’ night time activity which comes directly from my “GeckoCam.”

Here’s a bit about the camera I use…

Zmodo True HD Mini WiFi Wireless Wide Angle Indoor Home Video Security Camera Two-Way Audio, Cloud Service Available

It’s by Zmodo and called the Mini Wifi Cam. I bought mine from Amazon (link above) for £34.99.

IMG_1224It connects to an app on your phone which is called MeShare (iOS and Android), and you can watch a live stream from wherever you are once it’s connected to your wifi network.

My favourite thing about it is that it has a day AND a night mode, so you can see your reptiles even in darkness. It will automatically switch between the different modes based on the lighting conditions.

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My second favourite thing is that it has a motion and sound sensor, so if there is motion or sound, you can instruct the app to alert you whenever there is movement or sound. It will also save a couple of screenshots showing the event that caused the sound/ movement. I switch the sound sensor off, as my leos don’t make any noise, and it just picks up background noise which serves me no purpose.

IMG_5324

Another great feature which isn’t needed for my leos but would be great if you had a dog, for example, is that you can speak into the app and your voice will come out of a speaker in the camera.

I had loads of trouble getting the app and camera connected to my wifi network, but the Zmodo pages were really good at helping me troubleshoot and eventually get it up and running.

The app itself is really easy to use, with a nice interface. You can watch a live stream, it will automatically store all motion-triggered screen shots for 36 hours, you can share the camera footage with other people who have the app, etc.

Getting one of these cameras would be great if:

  • you’re worried that your leopard gecko’s aren’t eating
  • you’re worried that there’s bullying happening
  • you go away for a few nights and need to make sure they’re ok
  • if they have shedding issues

My one reservation about these cameras is I don’t know if Infared light can be seen by leopard geckos, and there’s also a small blue light on the front, so I only use this camera occasionally, and I try to avoid shining it into their favourite hide.

Have you tried using cameras to spy on your pets? Comment below 🙂

Re-homing your reptile – UK

Due to their long lifespans, many people take on the commitment of owning a reptile but cannot foresee circumstances in the future which may mean they can no longer care for their beloved pet.

Whether it’s a house move, ill health or children growing tired of their pets, there are many people left stranded with a reptile that they can no longer keep.

I just came across a link on PreLoved for reptile rehoming/ rescue in Basildon, Essex (United Kingdom) . The ad reads:

We would very much like to offer a personal and friendly home for any unwanted reptiles, Whether it be you can longer care for them or you are no longer wanting to own your reptile, We would love to offer them a kind, loving, forever home!

We have had many years of experience keeping and caring for a wide variety of different reptiles and other exotic pets.

http://www.preloved.co.uk/adverts/show/117130838/reptile-rehome-rescue.html?link=%2Fclassifieds%2Fpets%2Freptiles%2Fall%2Fuk%2Ftarantula%3Fpage%3D2 

If you know anybody needing a new home for their reptile, please share this with them.

Other options for unwanted reptiles are:

  • Selling on sites such as Preloved, Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace, eBay etc
  • Finding a local pet store, or reptile specialist
  • Contacting breeders in the area