Evolution of a Lizard Room, Part IV: Crickets

Left: Tubs used to house crickets. Right: The set up inside a cricket tub.

To continue our series on lab anole husbandry, let’s talk food! We feed our room full of hungry anoles Acheta crickets ordered from Fluker Farms. We house crickets in 21-gallon plastic tubs (bought from places like Target or Home Depot) that have been modified for ventilation – we cut holes in the lids and glue wire screen on top. We provide egg layer mash for food, water crystals (usually used for plants) on a small deli cup lid for water, and egg crates to give them places to hide.

Water crystals

During our breeding season, when we try to emulate the summer season (room temp: 83F, light cycle: 14 light:10 dark), we feed our Anolis distichus adults two week (1/4”) sized crickets three times a week. During our “winter” cycle (room temp: 80F, light cycle: 10 light:14 dark), we feed twice a week. Hatchlings up to about a month old are fed pinheads (3/16”) daily, and then are big enough to eat two week crickets on the same feeding routine as the adults.

Calcium and multivitamin powder used to dust crickets

On a thrice-weekly feeding schedule, we dust with calcium powder (Rep-Cal) once a week. At one stage, we were dusting more often with calcium powder, but had a few problems of anoles getting enlarged endolymphatic sacs. While calcareous accumulation in these sacs seems to be a good sign in geckos, all anoles that have developed these have died shortly after. Has anybody else seen or had problems with these?

As we also had a bout of problems with Vitamin A deficiency, we dust crickets at every feeding with multivitamins (Rep-Cal Herptivite). This powder doesn’t seem to stick on the crickets as long as the calcium does, so we also supplement the crickets’ diet with sweet potato, which turns the crickets a nice salmon colour when they’ve consumed it!

I’m keen to hear whether people do things differently to us. What do you gut-load your crickets with? How often do you feed your anoles?

About Julienne Ng

I study the evolution of color signals. My PhD at the University of Rochester focused on the evolution of dewlap diversity in Anolis distichus. I am currently a postdoc at the University of Colorado Boulder studying the evolution of flower color.

5 thoughts on “Evolution of a Lizard Room, Part IV: Crickets

  1. We feed our anoles four times per week (3-5 times). They are fed a wide variety of food items. Crickets, wax worms, mealworms, superworms, roaches, earthworms, fruit and steamed carrots, among other things (cicadas was my favorite this year). I’ve thought about baby food also, but we do not currently use it. We dust with calcium and multivitamin suppliments at EVERY feeding (unless using earthworms). We gut load our crickets with dark leafy greens, sweet potato, carrots, spirulina (also high in vit. A), and sometimes flake fish food. We used to have more health problems before using such a wide variety of food/prey items.

    We, too, have occasional problems with what appears to be hypovitaminosis A. This is what inspired us to use steamed carrots and high vit. A fruits to let the lizards regulate their own vit. A. It has not been very long, but I do not believe that we have any new cases since we first began to use this. For the lizards in more advanced stages, we are dosing once per week with liquid vit. A oral suppliment. So far, we have not seen any of these ill lizards improve from more advanced stages. What initially spurred this on was a young lizard who developed symptoms who was treated with a topical ointment and injectible vit A. That lizard’s eye returned to normal, and the lizard is doing fine today without any extra supplimentation. I welcome any comments on this as well.

    Also, I do not know this from experience, but have been warned that Herpivite can be dangerous when used too frequently due to some very high levels of some of the vitamins included. Has anyone had problems with this?

    1. That’s interesting, and good to hear that anoles with hypovitaminosis A were able to recover with injectible vitamin A. Was just one dose required? Our vet considered it, but we thought it may be too traumatic on them. However, hearing that it worked with your lizard makes me think we should have gone that route. I ended up feeding affected anoles using a syringe with chicken/turkey baby food for protein mixed with the Herptivite or carrot baby food. It was a lot of added stress on the anole, but it did end up helping some anoles while for others it didn’t.

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