In our feeding FAQ, we will try to answer some common questions about crested gecko feeding, nutrition and diet.
Why a commercial diet? Isn’t “natural” better?
It’s very difficult to simulate a balanced diet in captivity because of all of the factors we just don’t know about yet. Natural sunlight conversion to vitamin D-3 is probably a big component in natural calcium uptake. There are a ton of microfauna that could be providing calcium to the geckos, mostly provided by clay soils that have a high mineral content. Dart frog hobbyists have been experimenting with a feeding system that requires no supplementation using specific substrates, it’s pretty cool.
In New Caledonia, crested geckos have access to a variety of fruits and wild prey, such as snails. Being mollusks, their shells are made of calcium carbonate. Isopods (small terrestrial crustaceans) and other soil microfauna could also supply calcium and other nutrients. The mineral content in their native substrate could become available to Crested Geckos by licking (some geckos in captivity are known to take in a mouthful of substrate) or via calcium in soil microfauna making its way up the food chain. Larva, mold or other microorganisms in rotting fruit could supply additional nutritional enzymes. Or perhaps fermentation itself provides currently unknown benefits. This unique flora of microorganisms in rotting food are such that we are usually unwilling to propagate in our homes.
I think one of the things that makes crested geckos somewhat difficult to supplement is that they are not obligate insectivores. You can’t just give them dusted crickets – although many seem to do well on them. When you start to add in sugar-loaded and phosphorous-heavy foods such as babyfood and blended fruits it really tilts the balance between a diet they can live on and one that causes extreme MBD.
Something to keep in mind is that wild animals in general are not what we consider “healthy” by hobbyist standards. They usually carry a heavy parasite load, for instance, and are hard-wired to eat rotten, spoiled food at every opportunity because there aren’t bowls of food lying around. Wild animals are adapted to their environment to survive to breed as much as possible and longevity isn’t the #1 concern.
Factors not avaialble in captivity
- Natural Sunlight
- Natural high-mineral soils
- Food chain concentration of nutrients
- High variety of fruit
- High variety of insects
- Natural selection of the fittest individuals
Large outdoor simulated environments may not be out of the question for crested geckos; however, for the home hobbiest, these factors are still a barrier to a “natural” method of keeping crested geckos.
Benefits to captivity
- Complete crested gecko diet available
- Safe, comfortable enclosures
- Veterinary care
- Increased offspring survival
- Longevity for captive population
- Species safe from extinction
Providing a naturalistic environment is a good thing, but this must be taken into consideration on where our limits are in doing so.
Why NOT Baby Food?
Most babyfood is a single-source fruit, usually one with a skewed calcium-to-phosphorus ratio. Ca:P ratios are a crucial concern for proper nutrition in crested geckos.
Once baby food is considered “ok” to feed, new users and casual hobbiests especially become complacent, not bothering to supplement every time they feed. They begin to think that dusting the crickets is enough, and don’t bother to provide the variety that is absolutely necessary to keep most crested geckos healthy in captivity. This leads to metabolic bone disease, a very crippling and deadly disorder if left untreated.
Isn’t baby food cheaper than CGD?
No. A jar of baby food will spoil within a few days, so you can expect to use at least one jar of baby food per week, per gecko. Let’s say it’s $1 per week, per gecko. $4 per month. $48 per year, multiplied by each gecko.
Don’t forget the calcium, vitamin D3 and vitamin supplements $6, and they go bad after six months. $12 per year.
Now you have to add in crickets to make this a complete diet, probably a dozen per week at $1 if you have a “cricket card” discount. You can go ahead and use the same supplements as for the baby food. $50 per year.
Total cost of a baby food and cricket diet that may not be properly balanced is $112 for each gecko. That’s being generous, it could cost more depending on where you live.
A one pound (16 oz) bag of Crested Gecko Diet contains everything they need to grow and thrive. It will feed a gecko for $20 per year. Crickets optional.
On cost alone, CGD is the winner. There is no benefit to feeding baby food.
If you don’t want to buy online or pay shipping, you could easily contact a local pet store or gecko breeder in your area to order some for you. No excuses allowed!
Which CGD? Repashy or Pangea?
Allen Repashy has created a diet that most closely replicates their natural diet by observing their behavior in the wild, and also by analyzing their poop. Then he has upped the ante by conducting feeding trials to adjust the nutrient levels that will benefit these animals and allow them to thrive in captivity. Over 7 generations of geckos have been raised on Repashy MRP alone.
The newer Pangea brand, Pangea Fruit Mix Complete, has seen similar results in health with a good feeding response. We use it as well as Repashy products because it is a well-balanced meal replacement on paper and with testing on multiple generations of crested geckos. Matt Parks, the maker of the product, still recommends live insect feedings to supplement the diet and for behavioral stimulation.
I trust a good CGD brand over anything that I could make on my own and why I prefer it over other commercial foods.
Can crested geckos eat crickets?
Yes, crested geckos can eat crickets and many other feeder insects. However, they should not make up the majority of the diet as in the wild, they feed on both bugs and fruits, as well as pollen and nectar from flowers. In some cases, they may even consume flower buds – this is confirmed with their relative species, the Gargoyle Gecko. We have also observed a crested gecko lick pollen/nectar from an orchid flower within a planted terrarium.
Can I dust crickets with CGD?
Although you can dunk crickets in wet CGD, you do not want to rely on it to properly balance out your insects.
Use a product intended for dusting crickets and other insects. We prefer Repashy ICB (now called Calcium Plus) because it is designed to make insects as balanced as possible in all nutrients, not just calcium.
Repashy Crested Gecko Diet is a whole, balanced meal in itself, with a Calcium to Phosphorus ratio of 2:1 – the ideal ratio for geckos and most reptiles. Every time any animal eats an amount of phosphorus, they need an equal amount of calcium to process that. So a Ca:P level of 2:1 will allow the body to process phosphorus and have some leftover to utilize in bone formation and normal organ functions.
Most feeder insects are very high on the phosphorus side. Crickets, for example, are 1:9 without gutloading and dusting. So if you are feeding undusted crickets you have a bad calcium deficit. If you dust with CGD, you are still not fixing this imbalance because it’s not designed to “correct” insects. It may slow the deficit slightly, but the more often you feed insects dusted this way, the sooner your gecko will start developing MBD and other calcium deficiency related disorders.
Can crested geckos eat mealworms or superworms?
The exoskeletons of some insects, especially beetles, can be hard and difficult to digest. Mealworms and “superworms” are actually beetle larvae (grubs), and they are rather crunchy. Some keepers have had issues with feeding these types of live foods. It is recommended to only feed occasionally if you do decide to feed them to crested geckos. Other reptiles kept at higher desert temperatures (80-110 F), such as bearded dragons and leopard geckos, may more easily digest grubs than reptiles kept at lower temperate region temperatures (70s).
If your gecko regurgitates or passes the mealworm whole (undigested), consider feeding only freshly molted grubs or softer insects like crickets, roaches, silkworms and soldier fly larvae.
Can crested geckos eat yogurt or other dairy products?
Many people argue that reptiles would never eat dairy products, such as yogurt or kefir, in the wild. Keeping captive pets is also not “natural” and we need to take advantage of every nutritional and health benefit we can. Soy yogurt, also not a “natural” food source, can also be used to assist feed ill animals to provide nutrition and beneficial bacteria. It’s arguable whether this is helpful; most gut flora is species-specific and the ones in yogurt may be specialized to humans.
Most argue against the feeding of dairy due to the lactose, the type of sugar found in milk, which only mammals can digest. Humans are somewhat able to digest this sugar past infancy, although lactose intolerance affects a large portion of the population. Problems occur when this sugar is not broken down in the small intestine; undigetsted lactose in the large intestine can cause bloating and diarrhea. The latter is dangerous in captive reptiles which are prone to chronic dehydration. The amount of lactose required to be disruptive varies by the individual.
The live bacteria cultures in yogurt, along with naturally occurring gut bacteria provide lactase enzymes to break down some, if not most, of the lactose. It depends on the amount of microorganisms present; it’s possible that an abundance of bacteria can not only neutralize all of the lactose within the yogurt but also help process additional lactose from other food sources. Full fat milk has less lactose than reduced fat milk as it is water soluble and not contained in the fat of milk. Low-fat products also tend to have more milk solids added, causing more lactose to be present. Yogurt and especially Greek yogurt have less lactose than most other dairy products.
Crested geckos eating yogurt in their otherwise balanced diet are not likely to be fed additional dairy sources with substantial lactose content, so it might net out to a non-issue. Dairy products are not worthless as food due to lactose intolerance. The geckos don’t benefit at all from the sugars in lactose (most carbohydrates in cow’s milk come from lactose), and they can experience diarrhea if the bacteria cultures don’t digest it for them. The proteins (amino acids), fat, vitamins, minerals and other micronutrients are still available even in lactose intolerant individuals. Animal proteins provide a more complete amino acid profile with minimum ingredients. Dried eggs, while extremely nutritious, seem to make CGD powders less palatable, so whey and casein are favored in many formulas.