How to Keep Live Food for Your Pet Reptile

Thinking about keeping live food for your pet reptile? You have a lot to consider. Where do you store the live prey? How do you make sure it's safe for your pet to eat? Keeping live food for your pet isn't as simple as using dried or pre-packaged food, whether it's your pet's main entree or a mentally stimulating treat. This guide will help.

Keeping Live Insects

Many pet reptiles love insects, with crickets being the go-to choice. However, dubia roaches are a great alternative to crickets and are gaining in popularity. They're less smelly than crickets, breed quickly, and the young are easier to keep alive. They're also an excellent food source and contain more nutrients than the typical cricket. It's important to know that dubia roaches are illegal in Florida and Hawaii due to their invasive nature. However, discoid roaches are similar and legal in Florida. So, be sure to check with your state's regulations before purchasing feeder roaches.

Regardless of which type of insect you choose to feed your reptile, let's look at four things to consider when keeping live insects.

1. Store Insects in Tight Enclosures

Store insects like crickets in tight plastic enclosures with good ventilation. You can even buy "cricket keepers" for the job. Be sure to keep the habitat away from direct sunlight.

Crickets prefer places to hide or climb, like egg crates or cardboard tubes. Try to keep the temperature range between 70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Adult feeder crickets can survive for up to eight to 10 weeks when given food and water.

2. "Gut Load" Your Insects When Feeding Them

Whatever you feed your insects, your reptiles will ultimately eat too. That's why you should "gut load" your insects about 24 hours before feeding your pet reptile. This means feeding the insects food loaded with vitamins and minerals. Crickets are low in beneficial nutrients, and gut loading is a great way to ensure they're nutritionally optimized for your reptile pet. The Gut Load Cricket Drink is a great choice for crickets of all sizes and is easy to use. Just put the pre-blended mix in a shallow dish, refilling as needed. Other gut-loading options to feed your insects include carrots, oranges, apples, and fish flakes.

3. Keep the Insects Hydrated

Of course, having plenty of water is vital. Rather than using a water bowl insects can drown in, try a water gel or pillow. Water Pillows provide a steady amount of moisture for days before needing to be moistened again.

4. Dust the Insects

Just before feeding them, you may want to dust the insects with a vitamin or mineral supplement. The Calcium Supplement Spray and Vitamin Supplement Food Spray, for example, should be sprayed onto crickets, mealworms, or mice about 15 seconds before serving.

Keeping Live Worms or Grubs

Worms and grubs are another live food your pet reptile might enjoy. These are often fed as treats rather than as the main diet. If you do serve them as the main meal, they should be gut-loaded too, just like insects. You can also spray the Calcium Supplement Spray and Vitamin Supplement Food Spray about 15 seconds before serving.

Three of the more popular types of worms include:


Waxworms don't need special care and can be kept in a refrigerator in their original container for a few weeks. Waxworms are especially tasty to pets like leopard geckos, bearded dragons, tree frogs, and many other small- or medium-sized lizards or turtles. They make a great treat but not a main diet because they can be high in fat.


Superworms are the larvae of a darkling beetle and should be kept in a small plastic container at room temperature — not refrigerated. They can stay in a larvae stage for as long as 12 months. Wheat bran an inch deep makes a good substrate and food source. Carrot or potato pieces are great for moisture. These can be a staple food or treat, but they shouldn't be the only part of a pet's diet. They're great for bearded dragons, geckos, lizards, and many other pet reptiles.


Mealworms (technically the larvae of another species of darkling beetle) also like to burrow. Store them in a large container with smooth sides made of glass or plastic. (Mealworms can chew through cardboard or wood.) Keep the temperature around 75°F for breeding. They'll go more dormant in a refrigerator at 45 to 50 degrees and last about six to 10 weeks.

A good substrate is made of crushed oatmeal, bran meal, or cornmeal about three inches deep and not damp. Or mix in commercial grub food. Use small bits of vegetable like carrots or potatoes for moisture or gel water.

If keeping live worms doesn't work out for you, you can purchase dehydrated worms like Reptile Munchies Mealworms. This can be fed as the primary diet or a treat.

Keeping Live Rodents

The practice of keeping live rodents for snake food is controversial. Some caretakers believe it's unethical not to kill the rodents humanely. You also risk the prey will fight back, injuring your snake.

Even snakes that prefer to eat moving food can usually be enticed to eat pre-killed prey if you dangle it with tongs close to your snake's face. There are only a few cases — mostly with wild-caught snakes — where they refuse to eat pre-killed food to the point of risking starvation.

Keeping Live Prey Is a Popular Option

Feeding live prey like insects and worms to your reptile is a popular choice, whether it's used as the main entree or a treat. Your pet will feel mentally enriched by the hunt and the tasty food. Just make sure you're maintaining the right mix of food to keep your reptile healthy.