Can Crested Geckos Eat Superworms?
Superworms are lauded as a good staple food for reptiles and amphibians. They’re cheap and widely accessible, and they even pack a considerable amount of calcium. Not something you see in most feeder insects.
This insect is most commonly used as turtle and lizard feed. Since Geckos are lizards, this means your amphibian pet can also enjoy this food!
If you’re tempted to include this larva in your pet’s diet, keep reading! By the end of this article, you’ll have all the useful info you need, including the benefits, the drawbacks, as well as some useful feeding tips!
What are Superworms?
Superworms are the larvae of the Zophobas morio darkling beetle.
They’re very large and stout compared to the average mealworm. Superworms measure roughly 1.7-2.25 inches in length.
They have a pale body, similar to a mealworm, but the ends are darker in color.
This worm is a popular feed option for reptiles and amphibians in the pet trade. Their popularity is partly due to good storage.
Superworms can last for up to two weeks without food. They don’t need refrigeration. They’re also nutritious.
Superworms contain up to 18% protein, 16% fat, and 7% fiber. Compared to mealworms, they contain more chitin. This substance in their shell makes superworms harder to digest.
However, this also increases their fiber and calcium content. Mealworms are up to 2% fiber and 3% calcium. Compare this to the 7% fiber and 10% calcium in superworms.
Are Superworms Safe for Crested Geckos?
Superworms are safe for Geckos as long as they’re fed as part of a balanced diet. They shouldn’t make up the bulk of your Gecko’s food.
You should include superworms as an occasional treat. This means you should only offer them to your Gecko up to 3-4 times a month.
As with other feeder insects, there are some disadvantages you should be aware of. The main issue is the risk of parasitic infection.
All insects are potential carriers of bad bacteria and parasites. Other potential issues include weight gain, digestive issues, and intestinal blockage.
These can easily be avoided by reducing the feeding frequency to no more than once a week.
Benefits of Feeding Superworms to Crested Geckos
I’m going to be honest. Superworms aren’t the ideal food for Cresties. However, your pet can still reap some benefits from this food.
If you feed your Gecko properly, superworms can help in a few ways:
- Superworms provide lots of fiber.
Fiber is a double-edged sword. Too little or too much fiber is equally bad for digestion. But in the right quantity, fiber does your Gecko good! An increase in fiber intake will aid your pet’s digestion and even regulate appetite.
- Worms are good hunting practice.
Do you have a young or just inexperienced hunter on your hands? In such cases, starting with fast insects like crickets and bugs can be intimidating. Luckily superworms are slow, yet still exciting enough for your Crestie to hunt. It’s the perfect way to help a reluctant Gecko ease into the hunting experience.
- They help juvenile Geckos grow.
Superworms are high in protein and fat. For a fully-grown adult Gecko, this calorie bomb can easily lead to weight gain. But developing juveniles could use some extra energy to grow. Just remember, a little goes a long way!
- They’re an exciting treat for your pet.
We all need a treat every once in a while. Your Crestie is no different. And trust me, once they get a taste of the fatty, crunchy superworms, they’ll be hooked. It’s like a happy meal for your pet!
Risks of Feeding Superworms to Crested Geckos
Superworms aren’t always the best choice, especially if you have a hatchling Gecko.
Juveniles and adults can safely consume this food, within limits. But as with anything, there are risks you must consider.
Here are the major issues with superworms:
- Superworms can cause digestive upset.
Superworms have a considerable amount of fat. They’re also high in protein, fiber, and chitin. All of these factors make them heavy on the stomach. Do you know how you sometimes get an upset stomach after a big, fatty meal? The same thing can happen to your Gecko!
- The high fiber content might lead to impaction.
A little bit of fiber is necessary to avoid constipation. But too much might have the opposite effect. You see, Geckos aren’t herbivorous. They don’t have specialized organs to break down the fiber in their food.
All the fiber they consume remains undigested. Too much undigested fiber going through the gut can cause constipation. If untreated, constipation might lead to intestinal impaction (a blocked intestine). This is a serious issue that usually requires surgical intervention.
- Superworms can bite your pet.
Superworms are large and they have powerful jaws. And let’s not forget— they have a feisty attitude. It’s common for superworms to bite both you and your Gecko during feeding. It’s an unpleasant experience that can stress out your pet.
Young Geckos are especially sensitive to these bites. Crested Geckos might become reluctant after experiencing the wrath of this squiggly worm. So, they might even refuse to eat these worms after an unhappy incident.
- They’re a choking hazard.
Superworms are pretty long and fat, compared to other feeder insects. It’s not surprising that live superworms would be difficult to eat. The extra chitin also makes their exoskeleton harder to chew on.
You can help your Gecko out by portioning out the worm. But then again, this kind of defeats the purpose of buying live insects.
- Worms might carry diseases.
This risk applies to any insect. Unless you source the worms from a reputable insect farmer, you never know if the feed is clean. Depending on the growing conditions, worms might carry all kinds of bacteria and even intestinal parasites.
These bacteria and parasites pose a threat to your Gecko’s health. Such infections might cause digestive issues, lack of appetite, vomiting, constipation, and sometimes even organ damage.
- Superworms might make your Gecko fat.
Superworms are high in fat and protein. This means they’re also rich in calories. Excess consumption of calories and fat can, over the long term, make your Gecko pile on the weight.
One of the main issues caused by excess body weight is fatty liver disease. This is bad for your pet’s health and can reduce its lifespan. Luckily, this issue is easily avoidable through portion control and overall diet quality.
- Superworms can escape and hide.
Worms are good at burrowing. Once placed in the enclosure, they’ll start digging their way down into the substrate. You might not even know the worms are safe and hiding. Until one day, you’ll end up with a bunch of nasty-looking beetles crawling around.
Not to mention— all that burrowing might break down the substrate. This can cause loose plant roots.
This also makes the substrate less compacted. Your Crestie might accidentally swallow some of the loose pieces while feeding.
How to Feed Superworms to Crested Geckos?
There are a few downsides to superworms as feed. Luckily, issues like digestive upset, impaction, biting, choking, and weight gain can easily be avoided.
All you have to do is follow these tips for a safe feeding experience. Your Gecko will thank you!
- Choose the right size worms.
Choosing an appropriately-sized worm can prevent choking. This is also a good way to control your Crestie’s portion size. Ideally, you should feed your Gecko superworms that are no larger than the size of its head.
- Don’t forget gut loading and dusting the worms.
There’s no better way to increase the nutritional value of insects. There’s nothing special about this process. You’ll feed and dust superworms like you would any other insect. Superworms eat a variety of foods including leaves, fresh fruit and veggies, oats, other insects, meaty foods, and chicken meals.
- Chop up the worms if necessary.
If your worms are too large, you can always section them into separate pieces. Note that this will make the feeding experience less exciting for your Gecko. On the flip side, this also takes care of the biting issue since chopped-up worms can’t fight your pet.
- Crush the worm’s head to immobilize it.
This is another way to prevent biting. It has the same drawback as the previous method, namely that you’re killing the worm. There won’t be any movement to stir your Gecko’s interest. But in my opinion, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.
- Place the worms in a small container in the enclosure.
Don’t just drop the worms straight into the terrarium. Put them in a small container first. Then, put the container somewhere visible where your Gecko can feed comfortably. Make sure the container is tall enough to prevent the worms from escaping. This is the best way to get rid of burrowing worms.
- Avoid overfeeding your Gecko.
Keep the portion size and feeding frequency in check. No matter how much your Gecko seems to enjoy this treat, it shouldn’t be a frequent occurrence in the diet! For juvenile Geckos, I recommend feeding superworms once a month at most. Older Geckos may consume a small serving up to once a week.
How Many Superworms Should Crested Geckos Eat?
Ideally, you should only feed your Gecko 1-2 superworms per serving. Note that I’m referring to the appropriate size worms!
Choose only the worms that are no larger than your Gecko’s head. For large worms, a portion is two sections, each roughly the size of your Gecko’s head.
Use the distance from one eye to another as an approximate measurement. Start feeding your pet one serving per month and monitor their weight.
You can increase the servings up to once a week if you notice no negative effects.
Where Can I buy Superworms?
One great advantage of superworms is that they’re widely and easily accessible. You can buy them from big pet shop chains like Petco and Petsmart.
They come in live or dried form. Petco even lets you choose between small and medium-sized.
You can also find superworms in other local pet shops, as well as on amazon. Browse any reptile and bird feed section and you’ll sooner or later come across these insects.
Finally, you may also be able to purchase these worms from fishing shops that sell live bait.
Can I Breed Superworms at Home?
You can! And it’s easier than you might imagine. You just need a batch of live superworms to start with. The set-up doesn’t have to be anything fancy.
A regular container will suffice, as long as you find a way to keep the worms separate.
Just note that you’ll need to upsize to a different enclosure once your worms have become adult beetles.
Female darkling beetles lay 70-100 eggs during mating. These take up to 3 weeks to hatch, depending on environmental conditions.
These insects spend up to 5 months in the larval stage, giving you plenty of time for “harvesting”.
Can Baby Crested Geckos Eat Superworms?
Baby Geckos can’t consume superworms. These insects are too hard to chew and digest given their strong shell and high-fat content.
Ideally, Gecko hatchlings should only consume fruit nectar and small feeder insects.
Once the baby Geckos reach the juvenile stage, they can begin consuming small servings of superworms. But you’ll have to ease them into it!
Feed them only once a month at first, and increase the serving frequency as your Gecko reaches adulthood.
What Other Worms and Insects Can Crested Geckos Eat?
Crested Geckos are big insect eaters. They accept a variety of critters to satisfy their savory tooth.
Some alternative feeder insects for your Gecko include crickets, grasshoppers, flies, mealworms, hornworms, waxworms, silkworms, butterworms, cockroaches, beetles, dubia roaches, and even mosquitos.
Remember, variety is key! It’s a good idea to take advantage of your amphibian’s pet-wide palate.
Alternating between different feeder insects keeps things exciting for your pet. This is also the best way to create a balanced diet for your Gecko.
Superworms are a popular and nutritious feed option for reptiles and amphibians. They’re high in protein, fiber, and fat.
They also pack a good amount of calcium. They’re suitable for juvenile and adult Geckos and can be offered as an occasional snack.
As with anything, there are also some noteworthy disadvantages. Live superworms can bite and escape your pet during feeding.
Overfeeding your Gecko with superworms can also cause some undesired side effects such as digestive upset and weight gain.
However, if you take all the precautions I’ve outlined in this article, everything should be fine!