Keeping and Breeding Food Animals for Lizards

The best insects to breed for food are crickets, grasshoppers, and cockroaches. Other insects that are difficult to get or to breed are too demanding for the beginning terrarium-keeper. If you are interested all the same, consult the reference list.

Raising Crickets


Crickets (Acheta domestica and Gryllus bimaculatus): Excellent for breeding.
Mormon cricket (Anabus simplex): Less productive than other cricket species; nevertheless, recommended for variety.
Camel cricket (Ceuthophilus) and the North American Nemobius.

Maintenance: For enough of a supply for small lizards, a 1.2-cubic-yard (40-liter) aquarium, closed with a cover of fine wire or plastic screen.

Equipment: Paper cylinders and egg cartons, which increase the running area and provide cover. They must be replaced as soon as they are dirtied with the excrement of the crickets. Use a bird-cage water holder for a water container.

Food: Apples, carrots, green leaves. Dog kibble is especially suitable because it is enriched with vitamins. Add multivitamin preparation to the drinking water (0.07 ounces per quart [2 ml/L]).

Breeding: Laying dishes — for example, 1-quart (1-liter) plastic storage boxes — filled with a soft, damp, spongy mixture of Peat moss and sand, leafmold, or pine needles should be placed in the breeding cage. If you need many crickets, the laying dishes should be transferred to a rearing container once a week. Then in every rearing container there will be crickets of approximately the same size, which will avoid time wasted in sorting them later. If you have only a small rearing container — which is enough for a small crop of insects — the crickets must be sorted according to size at feeding time. The opening to the drinking-water container should be closed with a swab of cotton so the young crickets can't drown.

Temperature: 77 – 86°F (25 – 30°C). Place container in a heated area, on a heating cable or heating pad, or on top of a fluorescent light fixture.

Grasshoppers (Romalea microptera; Dissosteira, Melanopus)

Also an excellent food insect, considerably larger than crickets. However, they require a higher consumption of electricity and demand more time than crickets.

Warning: People who are allergic to pollen should not keep or breed grasshoppers!

Maintenance: Cage 20 x 16 x 20 inches (50 x 40 x 50 cm), ventilated by means of wire screening either as a cover or built into a side wall. Stagnant air, particularly when humid, is bad for breeding. Since the grasshoppers can jump quite far, it is recommended that a small trap door or sliding door (at most 5×5 inches [12 x 12 cm]) that will only allow passage of the keeper's hand and arm be fixed on the cage.

Equipment: Sliding trays of perforated tin permit hygienic maintenance: the feces and urine can fall through the holes and be removed easily from the shelf underneath. Crumpled wire screening can be used as a frame for climbing.

Feeding: Grass, 4- to 6-inch- (10- to 15-cm-) long wheat shoots — but be careful, because a sudden change of food leads to diarrhea; make changes gradually! In addition, white clover and wheat-shoot clippings enriched with a vitamin-mineral supplement.

Breeding: Cut one or two openings about 4×4 inches (10 x 10 cm) large in the tin floor; under it slide a laying tray at least 4 inches (10 cm) high.

Egg-laying medium: Soft, damp mixture of peat moss, sand, and leaf- or pine-needle mold. Transfer the laying trays weekly to a separate breeding and raising cage, which can be smaller than the cage for the breeding insects. The perforations in the floor should not be larger than 0.04 inches (1 mm) or the freshly hatched grasshoppers may slip through. For optimum use of space, use a piece of crumpled wire screening as a climbing structure.

Temperature: 83 – 95°F (28 – 35°C). Place a heating cable or pad under the cage. As a source of heat and light, install an incandescent bulb in the cage and turn this off in the evening. Temperature changes between day and night make the grasshoppers hardier.


American cockroach (Periplaneta americana)
Oriental cockroach (Blatta orientalis)
German cockroach (Blatella germanica)

Very adaptable and reproduces well; therefore its recommendation is limited only because escaped roaches quickly become a plague in the house!

Maintenance: Like crickets, but need more places to hide, such as paper tubes and egg cartons.

Feeding: Like crickets but give them more fruit.

Breeding: Like crickets, but laying trays are not necessary; egg bundles will be laid on floor or in hiding places. Transfer of eggs into rearing cages is not necessary. Note: Scald the roaches before feeding them to lizards so that they can't escape.

Small Mammals

If you keep large lizards, it is worthwhile to breed mice or rats. But even for the middle-sized, insect-eating lizards a feeding of baby mice can provide a welcome change. Breeding these rodents offers scarcely any difficulties if a cage arrangement like those in laboratories or at large-scale breeders (such as pet stores) is used.

Maintenance: Cage area 16 x 10 inches (40 x 25 cm) for one male, six females, and young. Using more breeding animals is not recommended because the mother animals may be disturbed by the resulting commotion. Result: premature births, too little production of milk, gnawing and eating of newborn. Use wood chips for bedding material, dust-free so as not to irritate the mucous membranes of nose and mouth. Renew chips often. Ensure sufficient ventilation with fresh air.

Position of the cage: in an easily ventilated area at a temperature of at least 65°F (18°C).

Feeding: Special food for rodents, specifically Rat and Mouse Feed, available in agricultural-supply stores, feed stores, and pet shops. Kitchen scraps are not adequate!

Reproduction: Gestation period 20 to 22 days. Usually 6 to 10 young per litter; in exceptional circumstances as many as 20. Females will be receptive again one day after delivery, so a new litter may be expected after three weeks. Within 12 to 15 months — after this time breeding animals should be changed — a female can bear as many as 150 young.

Maintenance: Cage area 16 x 10 inches (40 x 25 cm) for one male, two females, and young. More breeding animals will require correspondingly more space. Position, bedding, and feeding like those of mice.

Reproduction: Gestation period 21 days; but it can last as long as five weeks if an especially large litter is still nursing. Usually 9 to 12 per litter, rarely 20 and more young. After 15 months the breeding animals should be changed; until then 100 to 120 offspring can be expected.

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1 Comment

  1. An interesting article. Easy to read and understand. Thank you.
    With respect to cockroaches, I recommend the breeding of Blaptica dubia - easy to breed and not known as escape artists. I also recommend Elliptorhina chopardi - dwarf hissing roaches - more patience with respect to breeding and they can climb most surfaces but not regarded as a pest animal.

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