Gutload, are we overthinking it?

cyberlocc

Chameleon Enthusiast
So Gutload, are we overthinking it? I love these more in depth topics, as you all know, they help us grow as a community.

So over the last while, but especially in the last few days, I have absorbed information, that I likely have before. However, all the pieces of a bigger puzzle have fallen together and have my wondering. Are we overthinking gutloads?

We all know, the typical advice around here and elsewhere in regards to gutload. We know the products, that are labeled as useless, and the thoughts that are praised, like variation of fruits and veggies.

In the last few months, we have seen another Idea pop up from Petr Nectas recommending to only Gutload with Bee Pollen (I believe that he said Straight Pollen, and there is good reason for it).


Why does Petr think this, well the answer is that there is data, showing that Chameleons cannot digest fruits and vegetables. Kinyoga, has a better way of saying it.

"Digestion has two parts...mechanical and chemical. Chewing, etc ...mechanical ways...break the food down into smaller pieces and then the chemical digestion finishes the job with the use of enzymes.
The chameleon obviously can chew the food, including whatever is in the insect's system...but do they have the enzymes in their gut to break down the food into small enough pieces/molecules to be absorbed by the chameleons system?"

https://www.chameleonforums.com/thr...tydid-grasshoppers.164652/page-2#post-1562547



However Chameleons can Digest Pollen, can they digest other things, maybe, however some data and Petr suggest, they cannot digest Fruits/Vegetables, this can be seen in their fecals. When a Chameleon consumes Fruit or Vegetables, it comes out in the Fecals, as hole pieces, undigested.

So now, Kaizens great blog on Gutloading brings up a couple theories about that. So lets see his Summary on them.

"For instance, if it turns out that e.g. a bee and its pollen content contain roughly the same nutrients as some complicated concoction of collard greens, spirulina, oranges and hibiscus powder when fed to some variety of roach, then the two views end up agreeing about what nutrients we ought to be giving to our chameleons via gutloading. They just disagree about how we ought to deliver those nutrients. One side says by feeding bees (wasps, flies etc.) sufficiently gutloaded with, and coated in, pollen; the other side says by feeding commonly available feeder insects a complicated concoction of the ingredients listed in theory 1. Some further item/s of contention must stand in between the relevant parties."

https://www.chameleonforums.com/blogs/the-philosophy-of-gutloading-part-1.2437/



I think we can all agree either way, healthy insects, equal healthy Chameleon. But what is needed for a Healthy Insect?

Now the concoction that Kaizen mentions is very similar to a Marketed product. A Marketed product, that gets labeled by the community as Worthless.

Those Little Orange Cubes, by Flukers. We have all seen it, a lot of us have likely used it, and then were told its worthless. The question is, is it? Sure, its mostly water, however if fed in large amounts that doesn't matter does it? The Flukers mix, has Spliruana, and lots of other vitamins and minerals, present in it. Its easy to digest for the Insects, and anything not digested can also easily be digested by the Chameleon. Something that cannot be said of Fruits and Veggies, maybe, we dont think.

We also have to look at the source. This isnt a no name, nobody company selling this product, its Flukers, one of, if not the Largest Cricket farm in the US. If they are feeding their millions of crickets, this orange stuff and it shows up to you healthy and alive, whether you buy it from them direct, or the plethora of other retailers that buy their crickets from them.


So the question is, is Flukers or the numerous other gutload products have it wrong? Or do we? Are we overthinking things, making things harder on ourselves for no reason? Do we really need to have this varied set of fruits and veggies to feed the bugs we feed off? Or could we use, or create our own Insect Gutload, that is at the end of the day, actually superior because it can actually be digested?

Would a Bee Pollen Gel be better? I know Petr does not like the Algae Component in the Gel (Agar Agar/Carrageenan) so you dont have to use Gel, but the food/water source is beneficial.

Your thoughts? Links? Studies? Ideas? Anything, everything :). Lets Discuss!
 

jamest0o0

Chameleon Enthusiast
Bet you could dig up a post from me saying gutload was overrated before petr made it cool :p

Interesting subject though, I think the whole thing is over thought. Just keep some healthy feeders and feed foods similar in macros as they'd have in the wild. Flies lean protein? Great. That's roaches and many other insects too if you can't provide flies. Now one roach is probably equal to many many flies, so maybe the question should be, are we overfeeding??

Variety of feeders is probably best because they'll all be made up a little differently. That's why you're lucky if you can feed a ton of WC insects.
 

cyberlocc

Chameleon Enthusiast
Bet you could dig up a post from me saying gutload was overrated before petr made it cool :p

Interesting subject though, I think the whole thing is over thought. Just keep some healthy feeders and feed foods similar in macros as they'd have in the wild. Flies lean protein? Great. That's roaches and many other insects too if you can't provide flies. Now one roach is probably equal to many many flies, so maybe the question should be, are we overfeeding??

Variety of feeders is probably best because they'll all be made up a little differently. That's why you're lucky if you can feed a ton of WC insects.

Well to be fair, Petr wasn't alone in my realization in this dept. He was a factor, as was our talk the other day, Kaizens Blog, the Fact that Flukers even sells the "Dread Orange Cubes" whilst raising millions of crickets every week. Just a combination of factors.

I know Repashy breaks it down a little better, as they have their Bug Burger, and their Superload, which are ideally both supposed to be used. That is a bit of a pain to suggest others to do, but its good they have good options.

As I am working on these breeding plans, I guess I am transcending from keeper to breeder, and seeing things in different lights as well. My mindset has shifted gears, and I am beginning to see, how unpractical some of the things we do are. Its one thing on a small scale if you have a tiny roach colony, to feed some left over veggies, its a whole other when you have rooms filled with roaches, not that I will, just seeing the other sides. I am taking you through my journey of that transition, and having to look deeper to remove unpractical practices.


As to the overfeeding, actually Petr brought that up too. The answer was yes, I believe he said a Mediterranean cricket per day, so Adult Female dubia every other day I think was the number we came to, to match in roaches. (Those crickets are big, like .5 -.75 grams each big) pretty sure it was a 1-1.5g every other day, was his suggested feeding.
 

jamest0o0

Chameleon Enthusiast
I was just messing around with the petr thing. Yeah I remember him bringing up feeding less, and I can agree with that. It would make sense.

Yes, I have a room full of roaches like you talk about with breeding. IMO the point of gutloading is to just raise a healthy feeder which I would imagine is more nutritious. It's nice if some gutload gets to the cham, but if we're going by what's in the wild, I doubt the gut content of insects chams are eating is anything spectacular. Mostly grasses, pollens, leaves, and rotten crap?
 

Prince of Duval

Avid Member
Well to be fair, Petr wasn't alone in my realization in this dept. He was a factor, as was our talk the other day, Kaizens Blog, the Fact that Flukers even sells the "Dread Orange Cubes" whilst raising millions of crickets every week. Just a combination of factors.

I know Repashy breaks it down a little better, as they have their Bug Burger, and their Superload, which are ideally both supposed to be used. That is a bit of a pain to suggest others to do, but its good they have good options.

As I am working on these breeding plans, I guess I am transcending from keeper to breeder, and seeing things in different lights as well. My mindset has shifted gears, and I am beginning to see, how unpractical some of the things we do are. Its one thing on a small scale if you have a tiny roach colony, to feed some left over veggies, its a whole other when you have rooms filled with roaches, not that I will, just seeing the other sides. I am taking you through my journey of that transition, and having to look deeper to remove unpractical practices.


As to the overfeeding, actually Petr brought that up too. The answer was yes, I believe he said a Mediterranean cricket per day, so Adult Female dubia every other day I think was the number we came to, to match in roaches. (Those crickets are big, like .5 -.75 grams each big) pretty sure it was a 1-1.5g every other day, was his suggested feeding.
I would agree we are probably feeding too much. The same can be said for humans and is more than likely a universal concept that periods of fasting are very beneficial and is the easiest way to extend lifespan.
 

jamest0o0

Chameleon Enthusiast
I would agree we are probably feeding too much. The same can be said for humans and is more than likely a universal concept that periods of fasting are very beneficial and is the easiest way to extend lifespan.

Agreed. Like the old you must eat breakfast! I've gotten on the intermittent fasting bandwagon over the last year and it has felt much more natural for me going 16 hours a day with nothing but water and caffeine and some vitamins. Little off topic, but makes you wonder if that can apply to chams in some way.
 

snitz427

Chameleon Enthusiast
This is going to sound very uneducated, because it is:

if the chams cannot breakdown food in the gut in order to absorb the nutrients... why do we care about things like calcium to phosphorus ratios? Wouldnt thry theoretically require those same enzymes? Or are we saying they dont break down the feeder’s innards?

Again - Im asking as I honestly dont understand. I see some pollen grains and vegetative spirals in fecals. I always just assumed they were undigested remnants.
 

cyberlocc

Chameleon Enthusiast
This is going to sound very uneducated, because it is:

if the chams cannot breakdown food in the gut in order to absorb the nutrients... why do we care about things like calcium to phosphorus ratios? Wouldnt thry theoretically require those same enzymes? Or are we saying they dont break down the feeder’s innards?

Again - Im asking as I honestly dont understand. I see some pollen grains and vegetative spirals in fecals. I always just assumed they were undigested remnants.

Different enzymes different matter.

Either way, not everything will always be broken down when a bunch is consumed some stuff might slip by.

As to the pollen grains, like the pollen balls? Do you not crush those? Those are processed pollen wrapped in thag enzyme shell that only bees can breakdown. You have to powder that pollen. Even then in the powdered pollen, there will be large amounts that are not digestible due to that encapsulation process.

However on the subject of Venables and such. When chameleons eat leaves. They poop out, leaves.

Not a tiny bit of leaf that hasn't broken down, the entire leaf, undigested with the bite marks still shown ect. They dont digest it at all. At least thats the statement/theory, I have never had my cham eat a leaf so IDK.
 

Prince of Duval

Avid Member
To cyberlocc‘s main question here, and based on the evidence presented, then it’s possible we are thinking about this wrong. I would say in order to test this theory, two separate experiments would need to be run in order to gather something more than anecdotal evidence, and may have been already, by supplement companies and keepers alike.

1. Raising sibling insects on two different diets (or more, depending on the number of variables you want to test) and determining if there are measurable differences to one over the other(s) as it pertains to the health of the feeders (size, growth rate, lifespan, etc). If only we knew someone in this thread with a large number of feeders...?
2. Feeding the different insects mentioned above to different chameleons that come from the same clutch to determine if there are measurable differences as it pertains to the health of the chameleons (size, growth rate, blood work, stool testing, etc)

There are of course a number of other factors at play here that would need to be controlled for as much as possible. I would be interested to see if anyone knows of studies that cover any of this.
 

Connorology

Established Member
My understanding is that the science on this topic is fairly lacking and so everyone is winging it to some degree. I know the two exotics veterinary practices I have rotated through both have similar handouts on gutloading they will use as generic advice for all insectivorous reptiles, and that centers around leafy greens (kale, mustard, collared, etc) with rotating fruits and vegetables. I try to use leafy greens, carrots, a little of whatever I am eating produce wise at the moment, and then I'll make repashy superload cubes too. SIlkworms and hornworms just get their respective diets.

I would like to point out that there's more to feeding and digestion than just providing adequate nutrition, and also that we don't even really know what adequate nutrition is in chameleons. Dietary fiber can impact digestion and gut motility, even if it is not digestible. Microbes in the gut can help break down certain macronutrients, or can become overgrown and cause illness in situations where the normal environment has changed. How any of these observations relate to chameleons is unclear, but I would err on the side of trying to replicate the natural diet of prey items, which likely contains a lot of foliage, as opposed to choosing a single item to gutload with. If we did a ton of research into chameleon nutrition and GI dynamics I bet we could design a monodiet gutload, but since we know so little varied gutload and varied diet is basically just to hedge our bets.
 

CasqueAbove

Chameleon Enthusiast
On the Gutload, I don’t think their product is worthless, just over priced.

IMHO first, if feeding proper amount, how much gut content can there be?
Second, I don’t think one week of food maters. The insects need to be raised on healthy food.
Third we already dust to compensate.

As far as digestible goes, I can only assume nature gave them what they need. Fruits and veggies are not a main source of food in the wild.

I would think most insectivorous animals would evolve to take advantage of the high vitamin content in pollen , as it would be on much of their food.

Fluckers is a business, growing the biggest and fastest is not always the healthiest. I would compare it to a mass chicken farm vs organic free range.
 

cyberlocc

Chameleon Enthusiast
To cyberlocc‘s main question here, and based on the evidence presented, then it’s possible we are thinking about this wrong. I would say in order to test this theory, two separate experiments would need to be run in order to gather something more than anecdotal evidence, and may have been already, by supplement companies and keepers alike.

1. Raising sibling insects on two different diets (or more, depending on the number of variables you want to test) and determining if there are measurable differences to one over the other(s) as it pertains to the health of the feeders (size, growth rate, lifespan, etc). If only we knew someone in this thread with a large number of feeders...?
2. Feeding the different insects mentioned above to different chameleons that come from the same clutch to determine if there are measurable differences as it pertains to the health of the chameleons (size, growth rate, blood work, stool testing, etc)

There are of course a number of other factors at play here that would need to be controlled for as much as possible. I would be interested to see if anyone knows of studies that cover any of this.

The problem there is what is the pertaining thing to look for, as a baseline? People will say "The animal that is thriving wins" "The colony that is thriving wins"

Just as chameleons can be, fat and overhead so can insects. So do we gauge by breeding? If breeding roaches will breed best fed high protein highly acidic diet. That same diet will make the roaches unhealthy for the chams to eat, as they store the protein and cause gout in the cham do to the excess uric acids.

Weight? Is that really a good metric? Life span would be good, but you would nedd a heck of alot of chams, and a very long period of time.

The most vividly colored? I have seen a study on Calcium Plus, not science based really on one of the facebook groups. They are showing results that Chams fed Calcium plus, have more vibrant colors. Same animal, fed C+ vs something else. Rephashy does have a "Color + nutrient they claim, and it seems to work. So would colors be a factor of health (some think so?)

What other metrics? How do we quantify thriving vs surviving. How can we really know?
 

snitz427

Chameleon Enthusiast
Different enzymes different matter.

Either way, not everything will always be broken down when a bunch is consumed some stuff might slip by.

As to the pollen grains, like the pollen balls? Do you not crush those? Those are processed pollen wrapped in thag enzyme shell that only bees can breakdown. You have to powder that pollen. Even then in the powdered pollen, there will be large amounts that are not digestible due to that encapsulation process.

However on the subject of Venables and such. When chameleons eat leaves. They poop out, leaves.

Not a tiny bit of leaf that hasn't broken down, the entire leaf, undigested with the bite marks still shown ect. They dont digest it at all. At least thats the statement/theory, I have never had my cham eat a leaf so IDK.

No - a pollen grain as in not quite a cell. I have both - if I feed granules they are wet and crushed, as it sticks to bsfl well.

This is not a leaf in poo - but a tiny particle that looks like a thin hair under magnification. Its a result of plant matter.
 

cyberlocc

Chameleon Enthusiast
No - a pollen grain as in not quite a cell. I have both - if I feed granules they are wet and crushed, as it sticks to bsfl well.

This is not a leaf in poo - but a tiny particle that looks like a thin hair under magnification. Its a result of plant matter.

Where did the plant matter come from? Are you saying you are seeing undigested plant matter from an Insect? Or does your Cham eat leaves? I'm saying that Petr has shown Fecals to Veiled that have eaten leaves, and they poop out the entire leaf.


How any of these observations relate to chameleons is unclear, but I would err on the side of trying to replicate the natural diet of prey items, which likely contains a lot of foliage, as opposed to choosing a single item to gutload with. If we did a ton of research into chameleon nutrition and GI dynamics I bet we could design a monodiet gutload, but since we know so little varied gutload and varied diet is basically just to hedge our bets.

Well thats sort of where Petr is coming from with the Pollen only diet, is the natural diet. Vs how we feed, whether that be a supplement cocktail to give balanced nutrition array that over supplements surely in some areas and not enough in others.

The reason for Petrs Pollen only idea, is pretty simple. 90% of Chameleons wild diet, consists of Bees / Wasps / (Pollen) Beetles / Flies. The LARGE majority of the diet, will either have nothing in the gut (Flies dont eat) or Pollen. Thats it.

The Grubs of the Beetles tend to eat leaf litter and decaying hardwood, the fly maggots tend to eat carrion. However thats not gut content when consumed. There is a splash of leaf eaters, in the diet, but those are not eating greens, or fruits that we have, as those type of crops dont grow in the rain forests of Madagascar. (IDK about Yemen, doubt they grow there either though?)

Bee Pollen is also an Excellent Food Source, if it is Nutrition worthy enough. It doesn't mold or go bad, or rot ect. Thats a huge advantage of gut loading with it, in a syrup, powder, or gel.
 
Last edited:

snitz427

Chameleon Enthusiast
Where did the plant matter come from? Are you saying you are seeing undigested plant matter from an Insect? Or does your Cham eat leaves? I'm saying that Petr has shown Fecals to Veiled that have eaten leaves, and they poop out the entire leaf.

I have no idea where it came from
Or what it is, other than it being plant material. There’s a variety of weird “things” on the fecals related to plants. Pollen granules can actually looks like a parasite!

These are not from my cham fecals (altho I have some somewhere)... but show pollen and some of the plant mattwr I have seen on the floats.

115C3CB3-774D-4EF1-9061-3ACF8C1852A0.jpegF17BDA5E-1B6C-47D2-B262-8035C4DFC176.jpeg00E15B7C-4C63-4032-931A-68C6B4E66294.jpeg
 

cyberlocc

Chameleon Enthusiast
I have no idea where it came from
Or what it is, other than it being plant material. There’s a variety of weird “things” on the fecals related to plants. Pollen granules can actually looks like a parasite!

These are not from my cham fecals (altho I have some somewhere)... but show pollen and some of the plant mattwr I have seen on the floats.

View attachment 264789View attachment 264790View attachment 264791

That may be, Plant matter that was not finished being digested by the insects.
 

CasqueAbove

Chameleon Enthusiast
I have no idea where it came from
Or what it is, other than it being plant material. There’s a variety of weird “things” on the fecals related to plants. Pollen granules can actually looks like a parasite!

These are not from my cham fecals (altho I have some somewhere)... but show pollen and some of the plant mattwr I have seen on the floats.

View attachment 264789View attachment 264790View attachment 264791

Thought I have seen the whole leaf in poop, I have also see slightly broken down. I could see some things getting digested. I do not believe the plant eating is what we think. I have been watching my female and she has been eating less plants, even though on a diet with decreased food. To me this suggests plant eating is not a food source. Now weather it is digestive, for moisture, or just something they do. I do not know.
Point is just by chewing I am sure some is digested, particularly Yemen Chameleon
 

Connorology

Established Member
Well thats sort of where Petr is coming from with the Pollen only diet, is the natural diet. Vs how we feed, whether that be a supplement cocktail to give balanced nutrition array that over supplements surely in some areas and not enough in others.

The reason for Petrs Pollen only idea, is pretty simple. 90% of Chameleons wild diet, consists of Bees / Wasps / (Pollen) Beetles / Flies. The LARGE majority of the diet, will either have nothing in the gut (Flies dont eat) or Pollen. Thats it.

The Grubs of the Beetles tend to eat leaf litter and decaying hardwood, the fly maggots tend to eat carrion. However thats not gut content when consumed. There is a splash of leaf eaters, in the diet, but those are not eating greens, or fruits that we have, as those type of crops dont grow in the rain forests of Madagascar. (IDK about Yemen, doubt they grow there either though?)

Bee Pollen is also an Excellent Food Source, if it is Nutrition worthy enough. It doesn't mold or go bad, or rot ect. Thats a huge advantage of gut loading with it, in a syrup, powder, or gel.

My hesitation to adopt this position is that I think it may be an oversimplification of the diets of wild chameleons and their prey. Some flying insects certainly like nectar, and pollen. They may also opportunistically prey on other insects, consume fruit when available, or even eat decaying plant and animal matter. Orthopterans would presumably have a mostly foliage diet, as would any arboreal caterpillars. Spiders are prevalent in arboreal habitats, and they are carnivorous, as are our mantids and similar insects. And there is likely natural variation in the nutritional content of various insect species independent of gut load. So even if a chameleon eats 50 species of insect in a single day in the wild, all of them having eaten only pollen, that still likely has a different nutrient profile than the 1-5 species most keepers have access to in captivity, all fed on bee pollen.

There is also dietary variation based on species of chameleon and time of year, so I'm not sure how widely we can extrapolate any individual wild diet studies across seasons or species (For example, I'm flipping through the diet section of my "Biology of Chameleons" textbook - one cited source talks about Chameleo chameleon and notes they eat mostly bees and wasps in the spring, but by fall are eating mostly grasshoppers, a study conducted only in spring would have said they only eat wasps). Nutritional deficiencies can take ages to manifest, so its conceivably possible that an animal could be deficient for part of the year when they're eating mostly one kind of insect and sort of make up for it as new prey becomes available with the season.

It's an interesting idea; we don't know one way or the other what a gutload of all bee pollen would do to captive chameleons, or if it would be better/worse/the same. Personally, feeding somewhat varied gutload to my prey items isn't much of a hassle and seems to be working. This is a fun discussion as a thought experiment, but I would strongly advise against switching off of standard husbandry procedures unless there was some long term evidence that is wasn't harmful.
 
Top Bottom