As anyone who has ever kept a leopard gecko will tell you, these reptiles mostly depend on insects for their nutrition. So it’s natural for you to want to shake things up a little from time to time by introducing other delicacies. But can your leopard gecko eat pill bugs?
Leopard geckos can eat pill bugs. In fact, their exoskeletons contain calcium that can aid your leopard gecko’s bone development. However, feeding too many can cause impaction. Feed your leopard gecko pill bugs as an occasional treat rather than a primary food source.
What are pill bugs?
Scientifically known as Armadillidium vulgare (Latreille) pill bugs are a species of terrestrial crustaceans that fall under the isopod order. Like millipedes, these crustaceans usually roll into a ball when disturbed. As such, they are sometimes referred to as rolly pollies.
Generally, leopard geckos can eat any isopod, as long as they don’t mind their taste. As such, it’s easy to find pill bugs, sow bugs, potato bugs, and other common isopods being sold as leopard gecko food at pet stores.
What benefits are there to feeding your leopard gecko pill bugs?
The major advantage of offering pill bugs to your leopard gecko is that they can provide them with calcium and other nutrients that aren’t abundant in insects.
Pill bugs and other isopods will eat almost anything you feed them. This makes them easy to gut load.
Moreover, they are excellent scavengers and can effectively feed on any feces, dead insects, and plant matter left in your gecko’s terrarium. In short, they are great bioactive cleaners.
Because of this, they are usually added to a lot of habitats in museums and zoos to make them more naturalistic.
Ultimately, it’s not surprising that some vets recommend offering your leopard gecko a few pill bugs after every six meals. Some have even noted that female leopard geckos seek out pill bugs and other isopods during the breeding season in an attempt to get more calcium.
What risks are associated with feeding rolly pollies to your leopard gecko?
The major risk associated with feeding your leopard gecko pill bugs is impaction. Since the exoskeletons of these bugs contain a lot of chitin, they can easily block your gecko’s digestive tract. That’s why it’s important to only offer pill bugs and other isopods occasionally and in small quantities.
Another thing you need to keep in mind is that dead pill bugs collected from your garden can contain insecticides that can make your leopard gecko sick. Also, they can bioaccumulate lead from food and make your pet sick upon ingestion.
This particular problem is not only associated with pill bugs or isopods though – all invertebrates can bioaccumulate lead.
How to offer pill bugs to your leopard gecko
There are two main ways to do this:
1. Add a few pill bugs to your leopard gecko’s food bowl once a week and immediately remove any leftovers after feeding.
2. Add a few pill bugs to your leopard gecko’s tank, let them live there, and clean up until your leopard gecko feels like eating them.
This means that you’ll only add more pill bugs when you notice that there are few in the tank. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which feeding method is suitable for you and your pet.
You have to keep in mind one thing – the pill bugs you offer won’t satisfy your leopard gecko’s calcium requirement. You’ll still need to feed them other calcium-rich foods like hornworms and black soldier fly larvae. Remember to dust them as well.
How can you properly store pill bugs as food for your leopard gecko?
Generally, pillbugs are easy to raise and care for – they don’t require a lot of your time and energy.
Here’s how to store your pill bugs safely:
1. Get a perforated plastic container and a moist substrate.
2. Afterward, place your pill bugs in the enclosure and look for a suitable spot for them. This isn’t that complicated though – just choose a spot that isn’t exposed to direct sunlight. A cool basement would particularly be great for pill bugs and other isopods.
3. Then all you have to do is mist the container regularly and ensure the temperature is maintained at between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.
4. You can offer any fruits or vegetables for food – you can even toss in some grass clippings or coffee grounds.
The best part is that your pill bugs can share a container with other feeder insects and animals.
Some great additions would be springtails, millipedes, and Bessie beetles. These have the same care requirements as pill bugs. Just ensure that you don’t bring in predators like centipedes or praying mantis.
When feeding your leopard gecko pill bugs, ensure you get them from the right place and offer them in moderation. This is the only way your leopard gecko will enjoy all that these small crustaceans have to offer.