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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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.

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.

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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

 

The lazy way to spot-clean your leopard gecko’s vivarium

Vivarium set up

Leopard geckos are super easy to clean, as the only regular cleaning you need to do is a spot clean of their droppings, and then do a full clean every few weeks. But I’m never going to pass up the chance to make the tiny task of spot cleaning even easier…

This is by far the best tip I have come across when it comes to caring for my geckos, and I’d like to give full credit to the YouTube page of LeopardGecko for sharing this amazing hack.

As leopard geckos tend to do their business in the same place every time, it’s easy to anticipate where all the mess will be (mine love to do it in their cold hide).

You simply lay a piece of kitchen roll there, and when it’s time to clean, you remove the kitchen paper and replace it with a new one!

I keep some dog poo bags by my vivarium, put the litter in bag, and then dispose. It’s so quick and hygienic!

Here’s my step-by-step guide in photos…

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1. Locate old piece

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2. Replace with new one (I make sure it reaches up the walls so it catches everything!)

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3. Place hide back on top

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4. Dispose of poop!

Review: Exo Terra feeding dishes for leopard geckos

Part of the regular diet I feed my leopard geckos consists of mealworms and dubia roaches; the benefits of these two insects being that they can’t climb smooth surfaces, so if my leos don’t eat any, I won’t have strays crawling around the vivariums.

Therefore, one of the important things I look for in a feeding dish is that they are escape proof- tall and smooth enough that the critters can’t escape.

I bought two Exo Terra dishes; one slightly shallower one (because I find my geckos are more interested if they can easily see wriggling insects) and a deeper one with two handy compartments.


Exo Terra Shallow Feeding Dish

Image result for exo terra feeding dish

Let’s start with the shallower one. It looks great (see photo below for how it looks in my vivarium)! Very natural with a lovely rock-like texture around the edge, but unfortunately, as soon as I put the mealworms in it, they were over the edge and crawling across the vivarium floor. I didn’t even attempt to put the roaches in as they’re much smarter and quicker. They would have escaped and hidden within seconds so I saved myself the trouble.

Having said that, I really do like the look of this dish, and didn’t want to get rid of it, so I tried it out as a water dish for my baby leopard geckos, and it’s perfect!

It’s shallow enough that it doesn’t pose a danger to baby or juvenile geckos, and my lazy leo seems to like treading across it instead of walking around it, so I’m hopeful this habit will keep his feet nice and moist around shedding time and prevent old skin from getting trapped around his toes.

Summary:

  • Very shallow – Mealworms and dubia roaches can easily escape
  • Would be great for non-live food, or for a shallow water dish

Here it is in my vivarium. Sorry that the photo was before I put any water in, but I chose it because you can spot my leo spying on his new dish 🙂

image1

 


Exo Terra Dual Compartment Feeding Dish

Image result for exo terra feeding dish

Now moving onto the dual-compartment dish – again it looks great with a natural rock-like texture, and also is much deeper so I was hopeful that it would prevent any escapees.

When it arrived, it was smaller than I expected, but this isn’t a bad thing. It doesn’t take up a lot of space in my vivarium, and it means I can pile in quite a lot of mealworms on top of each other in the larger compartment. I find when there are more worms in a dish, the more there are, the more they move, and the more they move the more interesting they are to my geckos. Does anyone else find this?

When I tried putting my dubia roaches in this, I had a little more trouble. When I only put the very small ones in the dish, it was fine, however after watching them for a while, some of the larger ones were able to piggyback on top of other ones and get over the edge, so sadly it didn’t pass the dubia roach test!

In the smaller compartment, I have used this to keep my calcium powder in, and I’m very happy. I’m sure the two compartments could also be used for food and water, or two types of reptile food, but I find that it great for keeping the calcium in, and it is very space-efficient in my vivarium.

Summary:

  • Great size, and great multi-purpose dish. It doesn’t take up too much space yet successfully holds quite a lot of mealworms
  • Doesn’t keep my dubia roaches from escaping

 

Where to buy:

I bought my dishes from Swell Reptiles and Blue Lizard Reptiles – yes they’re also available on Amazon but I prefer to support independent businesses 😉