This forum is for discussing topics of caring for and breeding feeders (crickets, roaches, etc.) for those interested in raising their own bearded dragon live feeders.
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OK, so, not yet a beardie owner, but planning on being so, and on going with crickets for at least the get-go. (Sorry folks, still struggling with the notion of setting up a breeding colony of roaches in my home. )
So, I was planning on grabbing 1000 crickets to start, and putting them in a Rubbermaid storage bin. Cut a little screen top into the lid, etc. etc. I had a few other cricket questions:
1. I've read a bit about feeding and watering them, and I know that you have to periodically clean up the dead one and any sheddings. This may be a silly question, but do you clean up the sheddings/dead crickets while the live crickets are still in the bin? Seems like it would be a pretty chaotic operation! On the other hand, I can't quite figure how you could easily separate the live ones from the dead ones. Do tell!
2. How do you water your crickets? One site I found talked about a special gel product called "cricket gutload," but is that the main option?
3. Are there any special tricks to grabbing a batch for your beardie to eat? Just stick em in a cup with some vitamin dust and shake em up?
4. Do you guys usually feed your beardies OUTSIDE their cage? Or put the crickets into the cage? If outside, where do you feed them?
"A little screen top" -- from what I've heard, more ventilation is better to keep crickets from smelling so bad.
Well, if you have egg crates stacked pretty much vertically, the vast majority of the live ones will hang out there and the ones on the floor will move out of the way as you wipe up the debris. I usually use a large tweezers that came with some sort of child's bug explorer kit to pick up the dead ones. If they are really alive, they will hop away. If they are nearly dead, they get fed to the beardie.
I fold up a few sheets of toilet paper, dip in water and place on the floor of the container. I usually replace them every other day.
At first, I would just grab them with my hand. But as I was smearing cricket poop all over my fingers and under my fingernails, I thought there must be a better way. So I modified one of those disposable gladware containers to scoop them up. I dump them into a large oatmeal container and when I have enough, I put the lid on and shake them around a little. Simple and no escapees.
We feed him outside the cage, and that way if he doesn't eat all of the crickets, we can easily get them back in their tank. We use one of those clear plastic storage bins that are only six inches high. We haven't had any crickets clear that height.
You don't have to buy expensive gut load water gel, get the water gel crystals from walmart in the garden center thats used for plants-just check that it's plain gel with no fertilizers added. It's a plain, hard crystal and 2 oz dry added to 1 gal of water will water for a long time. I take out 2 teaspoonsful, and add water to it in a ziploc container with lid. Then put it in a small lid or bowl and into the keeper. No drowned crickets and no excess water that creates too much humidity. And a jar of it is cheaper than the gut load gel.
The rubber maid bin is fine, just make sure the screen area is very large to ventilate or they will get stinky. Use the egg crates set vertically, and you can shift the crates to another bin and shuffle the left over live ones into the second bin, then, dump the debris from the bottom in the trash or down the toilet. Next, before putting the crickets back in, wash it thoroughly. I use 1 tablespoon of bleach in a gallon of water. Pour this solution into the bin, let it sit for 10 minutes, then dump, scrub off any stuck on debris, rinse THOROUGHLY for several minutes. Wipe out the water, and let the bin sit for 45 min to 1 hour to allow any residual fumes to disapate. The bleach solution will kill bacteria from the deads as well as any possibly tiny parasites that might be lingering in the debris and it's safe to use as long as you rinse thoroughly and allow for the dry time. If you don't thoroughly clean the tank, it not only stinks, it harbors bacteria that the crickets can become infected with and pass on to your dragon. Make sure the bin is thoroughly dry too before putting the crickets back, excess water creates excess humidity and too much humidity will kill the crickets. With 1,000 crickets at a time, they will get messy and stinky very quickly, so you'll want to clean the bin about every 4 days.
To get crickets out of the bin easily, add old toilet paper rolls or paper towel rolls(cut in half), toss them in the bin, crickets will crawl in and hide in these, then you grab a roll, shake it into a container, and your ready to dust them-easiest way I've found. You can feed in your dragons viv, but be sure to catch any left overs as they will chew on your dragon at night. Or, use a rubbermaid dish tub and feed your dragon in there.
As far as the dubia roaches, It took me a little to decide to get them. They don't climb, don't fly, don't smell, don't bite and cleaning is about every 2 to 3 months other than picking out an occasional dead or the shed shells. And, they are by far much healthier and more digestible for dragons. I don't pick these up by hand, I use tweezers (it's the girl in me showing!LOL) but, my 14 week old baby LOVES them! If you decide to go with the roachy bugs, let us know, we can help you get them set up right. A really good roach vendor that I use is Marcus from http://www.afexotics.weebly.com He's also a membre here and has great bugs at great prices. He's a good source of info too. A couple other good vendors to check out are: Ian at http://www.theroachranch.com or Jason at http://www.theroachguy.com all three of these guys are awesome vendors with healthy roaches.
Hope this helps.
Crickets are messy and stinky. At the beginning I was repelled even at the idea of have a roach in my house. Now I love them. The cricket stink and intensive cleaning really made me change my mind on roaches!
I'm with Isabelleandpaul on this one. The smell and constant cleaning was what made me start considering the roaches. Then, finding the nutrition info, showing without a doubt that the dubias are a nutritionally superior feeder is what changed my mind. Yeah, they are a creepy bug, but, the lack of cricket smell is such a huge relief! Now, if I get some crickets, it will be just a few for variety, and I have no intention of using that bin for crickets any more, I've changed that bin over to a super worm colony.
Just how bad do crickets smell? I dunno, I guess I'm still squeamish. I can't help but think about what would happen if the roach container got knocked over or something. Not to mention what it may do for any future relationships I might have. (Divorced)
Certainly good desensitization training for overcoming roach aversion, I guess.
I still think I might start out with the crickets, just to get the ball rolling.
Are roaches more expensive to buy "a la carte," or is it pretty much a wash?
If you are buying them every week or two, just as feeders (like you would crickets) then yes, they would get a little expensive. But, if you buy feeder sizes and enough adults to start breeding, in a couple months you'll have a self-sustaining colony. And yeah, crickets stink horribly. After about 3 days, you will always have some dead ones at the bottom of the cricket bin and a lot of urine and poo from the crickets. They start to decompose pretty quickly, combine that with the waste smell, and it will make the whole house smell if you don't keep on top of the cleaning. I was cleaning the bin every 3 to 4 days to keep it under control. Crickets are a good staple, but, they just require a lot of upkeep and are expensive as well (I was spending $40 every 2 weeks on crickets). Another thing to note here is that crickets are also more likely to carry parasites than the dubia roaches (I know, it doesn't sound logical, we all know that the common household cockroach can carry diseases and parasites-but the dubias are "captive bred" and it's not that common to with the dubias). I understand your fear of the tipped roach bin-I share this fear! I am very careful about how I handle the bins, and they are the large sterilite bins, so they are less likely to be easily tipped. Also, from my understanding, if a dubia does get loose, they will die within just a few days without the food and water gel we provide in the bin. Ask Janie (zebraflavencs) about this, she's the roach queen and can explain why they won't survive outside the bin better than I can.
Give the crickets a try, you have an idea what your in for. And, if you decide you can't stand the crickets, give the dubias a try. Check out the websites I listed before, and you'll get a good idea of what it will cost to order just feeders versus starting a colony. If you go with feeders, with a young dragon 2 to 3 months old, expect to go through about 350 to 400 small (1/4 to 1/2 inch) a week (little dragons can eat 30 to 50 small dubias a day). Based on that quantity, you can get a good idea of cost.
I did go the cricket way at the beginning (and still occasionally). Buying them in bulk (1000) will save you money, in my case that much lasts me 2-3 weeks, but that depends on the age of your beardie. Use the standard water cristals for hydration, and get some cricket food for gut-loading (I tried flukers and now I have rep-cal, can be fed to roaches too). I usually shake the egg crates in a bag to get the crickets to feed Balrog, put some calcium powder, shake the bag, and pour in the viv. Yes, I feed inside the viv, I find it more convenient.
You'll see the dead ones usually are on their back in the crickets container, so you can pick them up by hand. I find them gross, so I use a paper towel...and remember to take a deep breath before opening the container!
So, Sandy, it sounds like you have a breeding colony of roaches, but that you keep them in sterilite. From what I read, you need to keep dubias warm in order for them to breed, and heat mats and stuff shouldn't be used with sterilite. How do you control the temp for your roaches?
A human heating pad, set on med to high (depending on ambient room temps). Most roach colony keepers use the sterilite or rubbermaid totes. Many use heat tape, I've seen pics of set-ups with tubs sitting on wood slats or bricks and the heat tape run underneath, others use ceramic heat emitters, low watt, mounted above the screen on bricks. I know Jane (zebraflavencs) uses these bins, and the way her vivs are built, she can set the bins on top of them, close to the heat lamps and hers breed fine (she has over 10,000 of them-talk about a lot of bugs! Thats why we call her the Roach Queen!). I chose to avoid the heat tape as I've never used the stuff before and wasn't comfortable with that idea. I've had the human heating pad on one end of the bins (the egg crates are verticle and pushed to this side, the food/gel on the other to prevent the heat from drying it out) and haven't had a problem. The first couple days after setting this up (especially that first day) I monitored the heat pad constantly, checking the bottom of the bins to make sure nothing was being damaged or melting. The heat not only provides them with that 85 to 90 F temp range, but, with the bowl of water gel and the sliced oranges I put in on small bowls, it also creates some moderate humidty (which they also need, just not high humidity). I originally considered an under tank heater, but was warned that they could get too hot and damage the plastic-and no way in Hell was I going to take a chance of burning a nice little escape route! From my understanding, if you use heat tape it needs to be a certain size and type, I've seen some mention flexwatt. For me though, the heating pad seems to be working great, I already have a ton of little, tiny babies, and noticed another batch of new, tiny, white babies yesterday, probably around 30 of those and theres already over a hundred others that are about 1/8th of an inch.
So when you have a colony, when it's time to feed beardie, do you just have to tweeze ones out that are the "right size"?
Yeah, I know it's girly of me (I'm normally a tom-boy type), but I wield a set of tweezers like a weapon! LOL If my hubby is home, he'll reach in and pick up 7 or 8 of them for me in the right size range and put them in the feeding tub (I don't feed the dubias in the viv, if they hide, they can climb the silicone seal in the corners even though they can't climb the glass-not taking a chance of escape that way!). I use the big, yellow plastic tweezer you can get at any petstore. It's a little tricky the first couple times, but you'll get used to it.
I have a taller container, and actually faunariam or however you spell it I believe, to help with the smell I put a little bit of granola on the bottom. My pet store carries water gel (crickets are suicidal) and a cricket feeder. It is kinda like a dust stuff. I have a little tube in my cage that they hide in. I grab the tube and drop the crickets into a ziploc bag with dust and then drop them in Sierra's cage. It is a wonderful time of my day. when I feed him outside the cage it is either by hand or I let one at a time on the floor and let Sierra chase them. As for cleaning, I buy my crickets at a hundred at a time (i'd rather buy than breed) so I usually don't have to worry about cleaning. But if I have shedders I just stick my hand in and grab the yuckies out
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