Calcium is an essential part of any reptile’s diet and can be added in various ways. Dubia roaches, a popular feeder insect, are just one of the many sources of calcium for reptiles, let’s explore why they may be the best option for your pet.
In this blog, we’ll cover:
- Why reptiles need calcium
- Why you should work to add calcium to their diet
- Signs of calcium deficiency in your reptile
- Why too much calcium can be a problem for your bearded dragon or other pet
- And finally, three easy ways to add more calcium into your reptile’s diet.
If you’re raising dragons or geckos, read on! This blog will fill you in on how to be sure your pet receives a balanced diet that keeps them healthy for many years to come.
5 Reasons to Focus on Calcium for Reptiles
Just like us humans, reptiles require calcium in their diets to be healthy and strong.
In reptiles, calcium plays a critical role in these five main functions:
- Bone growth
- Nerve function
- Muscle function
- Hormone synthesis
Note: Female reptiles require additional calcium to produce viable eggs. So, if you are breeding bearded dragons or other reptiles, be sure to pay extra attention to your breeding females’ diets.
Why Add Calcium to Your Reptile’s Diet?
When keeping reptiles in captivity (especially insectivorous and herbivorous lizards), calcium needs to be added to their diet. As pet owners, we can never 100% duplicate the exact same diet our reptiles would receive in the wild, so supplementing specific vitamins and minerals, particularly calcium, becomes one of the most important things we can do for them.
Calcium Deficiency in Your Reptile
Calcium for a bearded dragon (or any other reptile for that matter) is an essential building block to health and vitality.
Without proper calcium in their diets, several problems can arise:
- When blood calcium levels are low in a reptile, hypocalcemia develops, resulting in muscle twitches and lethargy.
- Low blood calcium can also be a precursor to metabolic bone disease, which happens when the body utilizes stored calcium from the bones to compensate for blood calcium deficiency. Metabolic bone disease can be a severe problem for growing reptiles, causing soft or poorly developed “Gumby” bones that break easily.
- Long-term calcium deficiency can also trigger secondary hormonal problems concerning the parathyroid glands that help regulate calcium levels.
The bottom line is this: without the right amount of calcium in their diet, your bearded dragon may fall into ill health.
What About Too Much Calcium?
Too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing. When there is too much calcium in the bloodstream, a severe condition called hypercalcemia can develop. Calcium overdosing can eventually lead to renal (kidney) failure, a fatal condition that we all want to avoid for our beloved pets.
This brings us to a question we here at The Big Shed often get asked…
“How much calcium is too much calcium?”
This can be a tricky question to answer. Ultimately, a veterinarian specializing in exotic pets will be your greatest asset when determining how much calcium your reptile should be consuming. But as a rule of thumb, if you follow the directions on the packaging of a store-bought calcium supplement, your pet should be safe.
Note: There are also natural ways to deliver calcium to your reptile that can be a bit safer (we’ll cover those next).
3 Easy Ways to Get More Calcium into Your Reptile’s Diet
You have options when it comes to adding calcium to your reptile’s diet.
Here are three easy ways to get started:
- Store-Bought Calcium Supplements— There are tons of options on the market when looking for calcium supplements for your reptile.You can choose from calcium blocks, drops, liquid sprays, powders (the most popular), and even salad dressings.
>>Keep this in mind when considering store-bought calcium supplements: the FDA doesn’t regulate reptile supplements. So, unfortunately, there could be anything in that bottle. If you choose to go this route, be on the lookout for filler ingredients like water, sucrose, and flavorings. <<
- Vitamin D— Did you know that reptiles cannot effectively absorb calcium from their diet without active vitamin D (vitamin D3)? Vitamin D3 supports the intestines in absorbing calcium from food. When your reptile absorbs UVB light through their skin, they can convert inactive vitamin D to active vitamin D3. So, without suitable sun or UVB exposure, your pet reptile may become deficient in vitamin D3 and therefore deficient in calcium.
- Feeder Insects— Feeding your reptile live insects is a natural and interactive way to get calcium into their diet. Use the table below to compare the calcium content of seven popular feeder insects.
|FEEDER INSECT||Calcium (mg/kg)|
|Black Soldier Fly Larva||9256|
As you can see, dubia roaches are a great pick when it comes to getting the most calcium bang for your buck. But what about black soldier fly larvae with their super high calcium content? Why not just feed these to your reptiles and be done with it?
Dubia Roaches vs. Black Soldier Fly Larvae
There’s a lot of talk in the reptile community about black soldier fly larvae, as they are known for being the “gold standard” in calcium content for feeder insects. Their sky-high mineral content can actually lead to problems in the long run when fed indiscriminately. As we mentioned above, too much calcium can be harmful to your beardie, gecko, or other pet, so we recommend using black soldier fly larvae as an occasional treat or supplement to a primary feeder insect like dubia roaches.
>>Sign up for our newsletter HERE to find out when our black soldier fly larvae breeding program is up and running (sometime in 2021) <<
Give Your Reptile A Balanced Diet Today
If you’re ready to start naturally incorporating more calcium into your reptile’s diet,pick up some dubia roaches or superworms at The Bug Shed Store right away!
Do you have questions about using feeder insects like dubia roaches to supply your reptile with calcium? Please shoot us a message. Our in-house team of bug nerds will be more than happy to help!