Tips on Keeping Crickets for Bearded Dragons
One very important aspect of taking care for your bearded dragon is to ensure that any live food you provide them is appropriately prepared beforehand and healthy.
Keeping crickets for bearded dragons is an important and simple task, and with a few pointers, we can ensure that they provide the maximum nutritional value needed.
So what is the best way of keeping crickets for bearded dragons?
As a general principle, we want to ensure that we keep our crickets in a warm, clean container and provide food and a means of hydration.
Here are a few tips I have compiled for keeping crickets, a more detailed explanation will be listed for each of these tips below.
- Use a cricket pen to store your crickets in.
- Provide a bowl of gel as a means to hydrate your crickets, don’t use water, they will drown themselves.
- Provide a bowl of Insect Food Powder either mixed into a paste or dry as a source of food.
- Store your crickets in a warm place, you can even use a small heat mat and a thermostat to provide a temperature of around 26c to 28c if you live in a cooler environment.
- Don’t just store them in a box in the garage, the cold will kill them quickly!
Keeping crickets is a really simple task, but there are a few things that you need to be careful with to make sure that they thrive until the day they are fed to your bearded dragon.
Let’s take a look into each aspect and talk in more depth about how to care for your bearded dragon and feeder crickets correctly.
Use a Cricket Pen
When storing crickets you want to make sure that they are held in a secure container where they can’t escape, having a room full of live crickets really is like a scene out of a horror movie, so it’s worth making sure they are secure.
One way to do this is by using a cricket pen, these are just plastic containers that come in various sizes, you simply add a bowl of bug food, and a bowl of bug gel as a means of hydration and then your crickets can live in the container in relative short term happiness.
The container comes with some feeder tubes on each side, the idea is that since crickets like to hide in small dark places, they will crawl into the darkness of the tubes, which makes extracting them much easier.
It’s also a good idea to provide a piece of an egg carton for your crickets to hide or climb on, again helping them lead a happier, if not short lived life.
When you’re ready to feed your bearded dragon, you simply remove a tube, add some calcium to dust the crickets in the tube, and then tap it into your bearded dragon’s enclosure.
Cricket pens are great since they are well ventilated, and provide a great way to actually feed and dust your cricket with calcium without having them jump everywhere.
In general, I find the best option is to go for the biggest cricket pen you can afford, the smaller ones on the market are a little too small, and the crickets can suffocate if they start to get trapped under each other.
Use Bug Gel, Don’t Use Water
Crickets are a little bit stupid, if you give them a bowl of water they will almost voluntarily drown themselves, I’m not sure if this is because they know what the alternative might be, or if they are just a bit dumb.
Instead of a water bowl we use something called bug gel, this stuff is exactly what it sounds like, its a means of hydrating the crickets but instead of using water which they can kill themselves with, we instead use a gel where they will remain safe from drowning.
Just take a few scoops of the bug gel, and place it inside one of the provided bowls that are shipped with the cricket pen.
Provide a Source of Insect Food for Gut Loading
There are a few different ways to feed your crickets, we can use a mixture of fruit or what we call insect fuel, this is just a powder which we use to fatten up the cricket and fill it with nutrients and goodness before we feed it to our bearded dragon.
Gut loading is a term used to describe the method of fattening up the cricket with goodness before it’s fed to your bearded dragon, it’s essential that any insects we provide to our pet are all gut loaded.
When we receive crickets from the store, in general they are not really fed particularly well, so for this reason, at least 24 hours before we feed the crickets to our bearded dragons we want to ensure that they are fully hydrated and are full of nutrients which they can get from the food you feed them.
One super important point to remember is that whatever you feed your crickets, will ultimately end up being consumed by your bearded dragon, so you want to make sure that you keep your crickets healthy and free from germs and diseases.
To feed your crickets, you can simply add some insect food powder into one of the provided bowls from the cricket pen (they usually provide two) and place the bowl alongside the bug gel bowl in the bottom of the pen.
Keep Your Crickets in a Warm Place, Not the Garage
As much as my wife wanted me to, storing crickets in the garage is just not going to work, mostly because these little guys need room temperature to survive, so placing them in a freezing garage is probably the quickest way to kill them.
If you really want to enable them to thrive, you can also provide a little heat to keep them at around 26c to 28c, and depending on where you live, this might actually be room temperature.
In the UK where I live, we don’t often see those temperatures particularly in winter, so, for this reason, I tend to use a spare thermostat and heat mat to bring the temperature up a little.
Regular Monitoring and Maintenance
Adding your crickets into a cricket pen with some food and bug gel and keeping them warm is a good start, but you also need to regularly check on your little critters.
I sometimes add a few pieces of fruit as well as the gut loading powder just to fatten them up a bit more, however, don’t do this too often as there is a lot of natural sugar in fruits.
Also, be sure to remove any uneaten fruit or anything else that can rot every few days, we don’t want our crickets to become ill.
Another point to mention is to never feed iceberg lettuce to your crickets, iceberg lettuce is almost all water and literally provides no nutritional value, feeding crickets that have been gut loaded on iceberg lettuce is the same as feeding them crickets that have never been gut loaded at all.
I keep mine in an office that I work in at home, every day or two I will go back and check on them and perform the following tasks.
- Remove any dead crickets, dead crickets are not healthy for your live crickets, so it’s always best to remove as many dead ones as you can
- Check they haven’t escaped, it’s also a smart idea to keep your cricket pen inside another container (like one of those stacking plastic boxes from Ikea, but make sure you drill some tiny air holes in the top)
- Remove any fruit that you may be gut loading with that can rot, leaving food to rot for your crickets is essentially the same as feeding your bearded dragon rotten food, not good.
How to Add Crickets to the Cricket Pen
When adding crickets to your cricket pen it’s usually just a case of tipping them into the cricket pen through the trapdoor at the top.
When you do this, try and avoid tipping in any additional substrate that may have been placed in the carrier that they arrived in, we will be providing fresh water and food as mentioned above.
One they are in the cricket pen, simply close the lid quickly, crickets are fantastic jumpers, and it’s easy for a rogue one to escape should the lid be left open.
A Quick Tip on the Best Place to Perform Cricket Maintenance Duty
One notable point about crickets is that they are terrible climbers, for this reason, I will often perform all my cricket duties in the bath (an empty bath of course!)
Performing cricket duties in a dry bath ensures that any spillages that may occur during the process will be restricted to one place, it’s actually relatively easy to extract crickets from a bathtub with a scoop even if you spill the whole bag (I have actually done this previously. Eek!)
Are your crickets to big to be fed to your bearded dragon now?
You should only be feeding crickets to your bearded dragon if they are smaller than the gap between your bearded dragons eyes, this just ensures that in general, your bearded dragon doesn’t struggle to eat or digest a cricket.
If they are bigger than this gap, then you will need to dispose of these larger crickets.
How to dispose of live crickets that you no can no longer feed to your bearded dragon
When the time comes and you have to release your crickets from the impending doom of being eaten alive, then really you have two options, both as brutal and sad as the other.
- Place the container into the freezer, the low temperature will just kill them very quickly.
- Destroy them by crushing them, this is particularly brutal and not an option I have personally considered myself, but then again being frozen to death, crushed or eaten alive isn’t really a “choice” is it?
I have seen people argue that releasing them into the wild is OK if you live in cold climates, mainly because either the birds will get them or the cold will, this is something I have never done.
From the options above, I have always placed them in a cold environment such as the fridge or the freezer where I know they will just die off, I am a monster!