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.

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…

IMG_3858

1. Locate old piece

IMG_3860

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

IMG_3861

3. Place hide back on top

IMG_3862

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 😉

Which substrate for leopard geckos? Pros and cons.

One of the most confusing and stressful parts of planning your leopard gecko’s enclosure is knowing which substrate to buy. I have used several of these, so I am going to list the pros and cons of each type below.

It is quite well known that loose substrate (such as sand) can cause impaction when ingested, which is fatal to leopard geckos, yet it is so commonly used because pet stores push the product due to its high profit margins, and also because it will ensure return customers every time the sand needs to be replaced.

Even though I knew the risks, I’m ashamed to say I was pushed into buying sand initially by a reptile pet supply owner, and I felt too uninformed to push back. After all, who was I to argue with a ‘reptile expert’?

I am going to start with my favourite substrate which I currently use – vinyl (yes – just the type you’d put in your kitchen)!


Linoleum, tiles, slate and vinyl
RECOMMENDED

lino

Pros

  • Doesn’t cause impaction
  • Very easy to wipe clean
  • Mimics natural habitat of leopard geckos
  • Conducts heat well
  • Easy to source
  • Easy to cut to size
  • Geckos won’t get toes caught
  • Looks good, lots of styles to choose from
  • Doesn’t wear out
  • Doesn’t harbour germs
  • Geckos won’t get toes and teeth caught

Cons

  • Usually have to buy a minimum quantity therefore…
  • …slightly more expensive than other substrates
  • Doesn’t absorb smell of gecko droppings

* I will sell the remainder of my Vinyl flooring to anyone who needs it! Please visit my Etsy listing here


Reptile Carpet

carpet

Pros:

  • Doesn’t cause impaction
  • Cheap
  • Easy to source online
  • Easy to cut to size
  • Conducts heat well
  • Looks natural

Cons:

  • Geckos can get toes and teeth caught
  • Doesn’t absorb the smell of droppings
  • More difficult to wipe clean
  • Can harbour germs
  • Needs to be replaced frequently

Paper towels/ kitchen roll

kitchen

Pros:

  • Doesn’t cause impaction
  • Very cheap
  • Readily available almost anywhere
  • Easy to replace
  • Geckos won’t get toes and teeth caught
  • Great for housing babies on

Cons:

  • Doesn’t look particularly nice
  • Can go soggy quickly in a humid vivarium
  • Doesn’t absorb the smell of droppings

Sand (and other loose substrates)
NOT RECOMMENDED 

sand

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Readily available in most pet stores
  • Easy to sieve droppings out
  • Absorbs smell of droppings
  • Geckos won’t get teeth and toes caught
  • Various colours

Cons:

  • The leading cause of impaction in leopard geckos – this can cause them to die
  • Messy – sand can get everywhere if you’re not careful
  • Uneaten insects can bury in it
  • Has to be replaced quite frequently