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!

 

Advertisements

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!

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.

IMG_4734

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.

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!