What is Gut loading? (Explained)

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Are you having a hard time choosing which insect feeder is best for gecko’s nourishment? Worry no more as we got you covered!

Commonly, reptiles feed on commercially available insect feeders in local pet stores. The problem however is the quality of nutrients it contains. Most insects bought in the market are insufficient when it comes to vitamins and minerals and are not sufficient to promote a healthy and balanced diet.

Gut loading is the way of ensuring that your reptiles are getting the right nutrients for their body. Through this process, the insect feeders or prey animals are fed highly nutritious food so that they can pass the same nutrients to the reptiles ones they are fed. In this way, insects such as crickets, mealworms, and dubia roaches are prepared to be the best food containing lots of nutritional value, suitable for your reptiles’ development.

Gut loading can be made by feeding your insect feeders or prey animals with vegetables, fruits, and other nutritious products designed for such purposes. You can also feed them with the right portion of protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. And the moment these insects are eaten by your pets, the nutrients absorbed by the insects will be transferred to your pet.

What Are The Benefits of Gut Loading?

According to research, most insects lack calcium and Vitamin A nutrients in their body. However, when a higher concentration of such vitamins and minerals is added to their diet, it also increases the levels of dietary elements. 

The process of gut loading will allow the optimal concentration of nutrients in the insect’s body. This is especially true when insect feeders are given nutrient-dense foods. Aside from these benefits, it will also prevent diseases resulting from nutrient and mineral deficiency such as Metabolic Bone Diseases or MBD and hypovitaminosis.

Gut loading helps in curing Metabolic Bone Disease or MBD. 

This is an issue for most reptiles which has an insufficient supply of calcium and vitamin D in their body. Common symptoms are swollen legs and arched spine and softening of jaws. This kind of disease can be improved by dietary supplementation.

To cure this disease, all you have to do is add calcium supplements to your gut-loaded insects. This will help strengthen their bones and keep them healthy and active.

Gut loading can also help cure Hypovitaminosis.

Hypovitaminosis will happen if the insects fed by your reptiles do not contain essential nutrients for their growth and development. It occurs when there is a deficiency in vitamins A, B, E, and other essential vitamins that the body needs. 

The common symptoms of hypovitaminosis are lethargy, decrease in appetite, weight loss and skin problems. Gut loading the insect with nutritious food will provide them with the vitamins needed therefore curing such deficiency. 

Insects suitable for Gut loading

Gut Loading Crickets 

Crickets are the most common insect-feeders for reptiles, amphibians, and other animals. This is because it is readily available in the market and is also nutritious when cared for properly. This is also easy to breed and matures within 45 days. 

Feeding Crickets poses an extra challenge for your reptiles since this insect is agile. They jump and move quickly making your reptile eager to catch such prey. They can also last 2 weeks without food and water.

Gut-loading your crickets are easy since they eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. They can feed on apples, bananas, carrots, squash, green leafy vegetables, grains, and cereals. Crickets can also eat grass and plant seeds, tropical fish flakes, and lettuce.

Make sure that fresh and tasty plants are always provided so that they will grow healthy and well-packed to provide your reptiles with essential nutrients for optimal growth.

Things to remember

  • Avoid feeding your crickets with acidic vegetables and fruits such as citruses as well as broccoli and spinach.
  • Always change the food from time to time to prevent the build-up of molds and bacteria. 

Gut Loading Dubia roaches

Dubia roaches benefit from leafy greens, fruits as well as vegetables. To increase the calcium content of your insect, feed it with spinach, collard green, kale, and broccoli. You can also add other fruits and vegetables to make your insect packed with essential nutrients. 

To raise the Vitamin A concentration, you can add to their diet orange vegetables such as squash, pumpkin, carrots, and potatoes. 

Diversity is also the key to raising insects for your reptiles. Carbohydrates, proteins, fat, and other minerals and vitamins are also essential. You can add this to their diet every time you feed them

Things to remember

  • Don’t feed your dubia roaches with citrus fruits as it can cause indigestion to reptiles. Citric acid can also harm your insects since this is acidic.
  • Don’t feed dairy products and meats. Although we want your insects rich in calcium, it also contains a high level of fats which may lead to liver problems.

Gut Loading Mealworms

Mealworms are also common prey for reptiles. They are the larvae of darkling beetle and they are one of the most common insect feeders for geckos. They are easy to care and resilient. They can last for 3 weeks without food and water. 

Mealworms are also non-picky eaters. Hence, gut loading is not a problem. As an insect feeder, crickets are normally fed with fresh vegetables such as squash, potatoes, and green leafy vegetables. They can also feed on commercial gut load formulas such as mealworm chow and mealworm keeper.

Although mealworms are essentially nutritious, gut loading is still necessary for your gecko’s sake. In gut-loading mealworms, you are assured that they have the essential nutrients your retile will need to grow healthy.

Things to remember

  • Avoid feeding your mealworms onions, citrus, and avocado since these plants are harmful to your reptile.
  • Gut-loading mealworms should be done at least 24 hours before feeding them to your reptiles. 

Final Thoughts

Geckos in their natural habitat are usually healthier since they have wide access to a variety of insects in the ecosystem. These insects, which they feed on, eat a wide range of materials, from fruits, dried leaves, roots and other organisms. Hence, they are also dense when it comes to nutrition.

On the other hand, reptiles in captivity depend on the insect feeders given for their daily consumption. They depend on such insects for nutrition, growth, and development. 

Insect feeders which are available on the market are lacking when it comes to nutritional value. Therefore, it must be gut-loaded with materials containing high-quality vitamins and minerals so that it will continue to provide your geckos the essential nurtient they need in order to grow healthy and happy. 

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