Feeding the terrarium animals

A healthy diet is more than just feeding

In order to keep terrarium pets healthy, it is vital that they are fed appropriately for their species. This is the only way to protect against deficiencies e.g. rickets or lifestyle-based illnesses (fatty liver, renal gout). In order to provide a balanced diet you’ll need to know the animals’ natural eating habits. In a terrarium, omnivores or opportunistic feeders especially like to eat types of food they would rarely find in the wild, or only at certain times of the year. Some herbivores, for example, will also eat live food. If terrarium pets are given fully atypical food, for example, toast soaked in milk, cooked pasta, minced meat or cat food, a surprising number will greedily devour this. However, not everything that the terrarium animals like to eat is good for their health. The reason why green iguanas do not eat cat food in the rainforest is not that the tins are hard to open, but simply because there is none there. Simply giving the animals their favourite food (“he just loves it!”) for convenience or out of excessive care is the wrong way to feed.

How often should the animals be fed?

From once a day to once every 6 months

There is no simple general answer to this question. The amount of food per meal and the intervals between feeds can vary widely according to the species. Young animals usually need to be fed daily in the first few weeks of course, whereas adults only have to be fed 2-3 times a week. Depending on their age, snakes only need food at very long intervals, whereas the small colourful tree-climbing frogs (Dendrobatidae) develop serious problems after only a few days without food. The amount of food given should also be suited for the pet. A lot of animals eat “in advance”, to be ready for the annual dry season in their natural habitat when food becomes scarce. They cannot know, of course, that there will be no shortage of food in the terrarium and, as a result, do not stop this advance eating as their owner generously and continuously overfeeds them. This is why desert animals are at a far greater risk of fatty degeneration than rainforest animals. Overfed animals become sluggish, their sex organs may become fatty, leading to sterility, or they may even die from organ failure, as when their liver stops functioning because too much fat has been stored.

Food for carnivores

Most terrarium animals are “animal eaters”, so-called because they eat whole, live animals. As they are “programmed” to particular stimuli, such as the movement of the live food or, in the case of snakes, the warmth of the small mammal or bird serving as their prey, they can rarely be trained to accept substitute food. There are a few exceptions. Snakes can often be successfully brought to accept dead prey if it is warmed to 37-40 °C (warming them up in hot water or with a hair dryer) before being offered as food.

Nowadays, specialist pet shops offer a wide range of animals as live food e.g. small mammals, grasshoppers, cockroaches, crickets, house crickets, flies, fruit flies, springtails, worms, mosquito larvae, wax worms or crustaceans. Compared with the vast range available in the wild, this is still a very moderate selection. To avoid deficiency symptoms, the type of food animals purchased should be changed frequently instead of buying just one kind.

Last, but not least, the feeder animals that are purchased should be improved by feeding with high-grade food prior to being fed to your terrarium pets. This can be done by feeding them up with high-grade food mixtures such as JBL TerraCrick , bran, herbs, fruit, vegetables and minerals, which significantly improves their nutritional value. Caution: You CANNOT recognise the nutritional value of food animals from the outside! The herbs, minerals and dietary fibres which a cricket eats shortly before being offered as “stuffed” food, are then eaten by a carnivore which would normally not give vegetarian food a second glance. If you don’t want to touch the feeder animals, or risk getting bitten by your terrarium pets when they reach out to bite their prey, you can use a pair of long pincers ( JBL ProScape Tool P straight or JBL ProScape Tool P slim line ) to offer them live food.

In summer, the food on offer to insect eaters can be broadened to include meadow plankton, which you can gather yourself. Do not, of course, pick these from areas with intensive agricultural cultivation using herbicides or similar. Protected species should likewise be released if caught. Obtaining prior permission from the property owner may prevent trouble arising as you collect your food.

Food for vegetarians

Meat isn't everything

Pets which are solely or primarily vegetarian, e.g. green iguanas, chuckwallas or European tortoises, can also be fed with meadow plants (such as dandelion, clover, ribwort), various salad plants and seedlings, chopped vegetables or dried herb mixtures, straw and lucerne pellets in a terrarium. JBL offers three high-grade readymade foods for vegetarian terrarium pets: JBL Iguvert for iguanas and JBL Agivert , as well as JBL HERBIL for tortoises. These foods contain only vegetable ingredients with a high fibre content and only a little protein. Spiny-tailed lizards can also be fed various seeds, e.g. from the bird food shelves. As a rule, animals which are distinctly plant-eating need low-protein food that is rich in fibre and high in roughage to remain healthy.

If, despite careful handling, a food cricket should escape, any free-roaming “creepy crawlies” can easily be caught by non-toxic means such as a glue sheet or a baited trap, JBL LimCollect .

Food supplements

Vitamins and minerals are indispensable

In the wild, animals adapt to their food spectrum according to their exact needs. With their food, the animals absorb exactly what their organism can digest. In captivity, we rarely manage to copy the natural food spectrum completely. This is why it is often helpful to supply vitamins and minerals separately. With JBL Turtle Sun Aqua for turtles and JBL Turtle Sun Terra for tortoises JBL offers two vitamin products adapted to the animal types. For other terrarium animals vitamins in powder form ( JBL TerraVit ) and in liquid form ( JBL TerraVit fluid ) are available. Here, the dosage form depends on the type of food. Powder is very easy to apply to powdered feeder insects, while drops are ideal for dripping on food sticks or a vegetable diet.

In addition to vitamins, a mineral supplement is often necessary. JBL offers a clever complete solution: the mineral powder JBL MicroCalcium is put into a "shaker box" ( JBL CrickBox ) together with the feeder animal. The animals, sprinkled with the powder, can then be directly fed to the terrarium animals from the JBL CrickBox .

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