The Basics of Gutloading

Gutloading is the process of feeding the insects with the nutrition that your chameleon (or other insectivore pet) needs to use the bugs to deliver the good nutritional content. Supplementing with a calcium and multivitamin powder is important, but not sufficient alone for proper nutrition in any species. In the wild chameleons eat many types of insects that have being eating many types of plants to get a naturally well varied diet rich in vitamins and minerals. Gutloading ingredients should be chosen for being higher in calcium than phosphorus and low in oxalates and goitrogens. High phosphorus levels inhibits calcium absorption. While convenient, most commercially available gutloads (Fluker Farms Cricket Food, Nature Zone Cricket Total Bites, etc) are low in calcium, imbalanced and/or insufficient for good nutrition. Creating a well rounded gutload at home can seem daunting but it can actually be fairly inexpensive and easy to make! Use these brief guidelines to guide your choices of produce when you go to the store. Each time you go get two or three options, then rotate them for something else next time. Make sure you wash all produce to eliminate pesticide residues and cut off the peel of fruits and vegetables as they have waxes and pesticides you can't wash off.

Crickets are a readily available staple food source but need to be properly gutloaded with calcium rich vegetables several hours before being fed to your chameleon as they have minimal nutritional value by themselves. Superworms and dubia roaches can also be easily gutloaded.

Best gutloading ingredients to use because they are highest in calcium, low in phosphorus, oxalates and goitrogens. (These should be the primary components of your gutload): mustard greens, turnip greens, dandelion leaves, collard greens, escarole lettuce, papaya, watercress, alfalfa.

Good gutloading ingredients because they are moderately high in calcium and other vitamins/minerals. Should be used in addition to those from the previous category: sweet potato, carrots, oranges, mango, butternut squash, kale, apples, beet greens, blackberries, bok choy, green beans

These fresh fruits and vegetables can be combined with dry gutload mixes such as Cricket Crack, Dinofuel or home made mixes for optimal well-rounded nutrition. Dry ingredients can include: bee pollen, organic non-salted sunflower seeds, spirulina, dried seaweed, flax seed and organic non-salted almonds, among many others.

Gutloading ingredients to avoid because they are low in calcium, high in phosphorus, goitrogens or oxalates: Potatoes, cabbage, iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, corn, grains, beans, oats, bread, cereal, meat, eggs, dog food, cat food, fish food, canned or dead insects, vertebrates.

Vertebrates (pinkies, lizards, etc.) are not a notable part of chameleon's normal diet in the wild and too many animal proteins in the diet of an animal that's not a carnivore can wreak havoc on their kidneys leading to kidney damage and gout due the difference in protein breakdown. Everything your chameleon needs can be obtained through an all-insect diet with good gutloading and supplementation.

This site has nutritional info on many commonly available fruits and veggies to help guide you in choosing good gut loading ingredients: http://www.greenigsociety.org/foodchart.htm
Sandrachameleon has many more blog entries on gut loading and nutrition.

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