Gutloading, are we doing it right?

cyberlocc

Chameleon Enthusiast
I seen this interesting post from Petr, about Gutloading. Very Good points, so I thought I would put it into this thread format, to get others opinions and or Links on the matter.


Here is my

The sweet & sour story of the gut-loading


Despite the situation got much better within the last decade or so concerning availability of diverse feeders, in chameleon husbandry, a well known (and often ignored) paradox of the balance between the natural and captive food of chameleons still exists:

What they eat in the wild, we do not provide them (bees, wasps, flies, small grasshoppers etc.) in captivity.

AND

What we provide them usually in captivity, they do not eat in the wild (crickets, roaches, larvae of beetles, catterpillars of moths).


One fact, is, that chameleons are very opportunistic feeders, which means that they would probably eat a cricket or worm but some of them they do not eat in the wild anyway. And, they do not eat what they do not get, so, for millions of years they get used to (and dependent from?) eat what they get...


Knowing, that we can not provide full variety spectrum food for the chameleons, we use two

compensation mechanisms to offer to the captive chameleons a food that is “sort of “equal” to natural nutrition requiremens:

  1. Supplementation (adding carbonhydrate of calcium, polen, vitamin mixtures)
  2. Gutloading (adding substances of animal and/or plant and/or fungal origin through filling the intestine of the feeder insects).

Gutloadnig is a smart way how to use the body of an insect to bring nutrients to the body of the chameleon.


So far so good. Or?

No one ever has made actually any analysis what is the nutritional value of chameleon food!

So we do not exactly what they really need! And, so, we start either to think or use our imagination and phantasy or create paradoxal phantasmagories that have no base in facts and science.


The private designers of gut loading recipes (I do not speak about established international companies) produce their formulas and either share them for free or make business of it producing gutloading mixtures. They are driven by two basic drivers:

  1. They want the good/the best for the chameleons (mainly they use them themselves too and share their experience) and/or
  2. They want to earn good money.

None of these approaches unfortunately gives us the guarantee,

  • That their mixtures are correct (and there is lots of evidence, they are not)
  • That their mixtures contain only beneficial things (as we do not know really what is beneficial, they can not prove their selection to be good)
  • That their mixtures do not contain harmful substances (for sure they do)
  • That their mixtures are natural and based either on research or at least on some logic (they are not).

Well, a strange situation, right?


All the designers and some of their alies will say: “I have good experience with this mixture for so and so long”.

This is nice, but there is again NO evidence behind. No one does even simple experiments with a control group. No one does biochemistry analyses of their animals and no one does autopsies to deliver proofs. Everything is based on unstructured subjective assessment if any.


Folks, we are totally blindfolded!


Let me give you some examples.

  1. Spirulina hystery. Spirulina is in. But, tell me how can insects, that are eaten by chameleons eat spirulina? It is an aquatic type of blue algae! At least I am confident, spirulina is NOT eaten by chameleon prey and if, then so marginally, that we can almost ignore it. It contains looots of nutrients, true. But are they really necessary for our animals? Can they digest them?
  2. Vegies and nuts and fruits logic. The fresh and dry mixtures are presented mainly with these ingredients. But tell me: which feeder eats nuts and almonds? Which feeder eats blueberries and strawberries? none...
  3. The most frequent feeders in the wild are bees, wasps, flies and small beetles for most of the species. What are these naturally gut-loaded with? With pollen, nectar from the flowers, that is it... So, where is squash and mint and berries and nuts? Even if we take orthopterans: well, they eat greens... mostly grass... where is the rest of the gutload mixtures?
  4. If you get the receipts of the most popular mixtures, they are really full of substances that can not be digested by chameleons and that would never be eaten by any of the chameleon feeders. I really wonder where the recommendations of cooked qinoa, toasted almond flakes, dried papaya etc come from else, than from irrational imagination... And the worst issue is with the no-name companies that offer dry gutload based on bran, spirulina and some corn or fish flakes for color. This is pure business only. Even a not fair one. They just buy the stuff cheap, mix it and sell it expensive in smaller packages saying something about ballanced gutload... there is no racionale behind, they even can not lead any discussion even if asked and only play the easy money game with easy believing newbies... And do not care that feeding bran is harmful... Some very vocal facebook pseudoexperts in the UK and in the US parrot nonsenses and even have the courage to create their own creations. Total mess.

Chameleons are specialists in feeding on insects right? So, they have an ability to digest plant material?

NO, or very limited one.


So, where is the sense in pushing the insects full of plant matter that they can not digest?! Is it not lacking logic?


Or are we totally mistaken? And, Chameleons are actually omnivores and they digest these 2-5 percent of bodymass (gut content - part is actually partly or fully digested) as a regular part of their diet? So, are they omnivores in fact? Or are they a unique combination of Insectivore/vegetarian/coprophagous?!

Well, but what about 90% of their food being hymenopterans and dipterans that are gutloaded just with sugar water and pollen?


Or is the whole story of gutloading actually irrelevant or of minute importance and important is, to feed the feeders properly so that they become nutritionally valuable themselves? That seems to be close to true. But then gut-loading is really not as important...


The whole area is messy. And before science will provide evidence, we get stuck in the darkness of not-knowing.


I have written this most more to inspire you to think and do research rather then present our state of our knowledge, because this is still miserable. Anyway, some conclusions, we can make...


IMHO

The relevant preliminary conclusions I allow myself to do is:

  1. Care for quality food for your feeders in first line, even more than for gutloading
  2. Do gutloading, and once you do, use simple things and avoid things that the feeders would never eat in the wild
  3. Focus on pollen, as this is the only gutload that has been proven to be the daily gut-content of the feeders of chameleons. And, it is beneficial without any doubt. And, it is natural for millions of years...

And, do research and make your own opinion, do not take as oguaranteed what people want to tell you. Not always they are right. Ask questions and seek for good answers...
 

cyberlocc

Chameleon Enthusiast
The test/idea, that came prior to this.


If you can,

Rin an easy experiment that everyone can do
Inhave done it

septate babies in identical conditions to theee geoups:
1. No gutload (sterved for 2 Days)
2. Gutload with recommended (IMHO nonsensually - receipt of NN of CC) variety of veggies
3. Pollen and juices

Do not intentionally do any other mistakes in hisbandry not any otjer bias and my prognosis is,
You get same result as I
Virtually no difference between 1 and 2
Most vital and best growing: group 3
 

Taylor81

Established Member
Petr and I have had a small discussion on this and like his post. Where we just do not know what they need and in what amounts. I spoke to him about how I think the best approach given this info, and he agreed at the time with me, in a Blanket effect, covering as many nutrients as we can think to cover through our regimens.

This is what I do personally. Including a rich gutload of many vegetables and a few fruits, bee pollen as well as spirulina powder. In this I cover a broad spectrum of nutritional value and have seen healthy animals so I do not think I do anything in error at this time.

I also include bee pollen and spirulina in my supplementation dusting but that is another topic.
 

cyberlocc

Chameleon Enthusiast
Petr and I have had a small discussion on this and like his post. Where we just do not know what they need and in what amounts. I spoke to him about how I think the best approach given this info, and he agreed at the time with me, in a Blanket effect, covering as many nutrients as we can think to cover through our regimens.

This is what I do personally. Including a rich gutload of many vegetables and a few fruits, bee pollen as well as spirulina powder. In this I cover a broad spectrum of nutritional value and have seen healthy animals so I do not think I do anything in error at this time.

I also include bee pollen and spirulina in my supplementation dusting but that is another topic.

Great post, and points thanks for that :).

I do the same thing, more or less. I keep bugs that are not only feeders, rather pets in themselves that I also feed. So I dont really "Gutload" as much as feed my bugs a nutritious diet in and of itself, that just so happens to translate as a "Gutload" as well. I find error in the term "Gutload" and have seen it touted as "feed a good blend of fruits/veggies, 24 hours prior to feeding" and always wondered, so what do you feed them the rest of the time lol? I also include Bee Pollen, and spirulina in my Diet for my bugs.

I actually do have a question, of an issue with "Bee Pollen", and if its the right stuff for the job. Ill make a thread in a minute, I would love to get your thoughts and your dusting plan on there :).
 

nightanole

Chameleon Enthusiast
" they are really full of substances that can not be digested by chameleons and that would never be eaten by any of the chameleon feeders "


Ok, anything that goes in the pie hole; has to be oxidized, temporarily stored, or come out the pooper undigested.

So simply do a fecal float. Is there any undigested material in it? It should be waste(oxidized and dead material), chitin, and soluble/insoluble fiber. If there is "pulp", it was not digested. I have never seen this.

Id say 99% of what humans eat, and what we gutload with, never existed 10,000 years ago. Lettuce was spiny and 50% latex. Apples till about 100 years ago were almost unpalatable just like cranberries. You think that avocado had more than a thin coating of green? You think that carrot was sweet and just a little provided 100% of a lot of micros?

I will bite on the nuts thing, i have not seen an insect bore a hole into a nut and eat it, or eat a cracked open nut.

But strawberries and blueberries? Around here you are lucky to not get stung by "flying insects" that are eating the really ripe berries or the ones that have dropped to the ground.
 

Kaizen

Chameleon Enthusiast
There is a ton of information within Petr's missive, and many useful data points as well. I do not wish to impugn any one position, but I thought I might add some "devil's advocate" considerations here. First, a lot of the above view, assumes that we ought to be replicating the natural conditions our chameleons have evolved to live in. While there is a certain intuitive appeal to this, I think a little critical thinking is in order. I have seen/read/heard data from multiple sources that suggest that the largest part of many chameleons' diet is made up of flying, diurnal insects such as flies of all sorts, bees, and some beetles. And, as mentioned above, these are all pollen carriers--some of which probably do carry nectar in their stomachs. That being said, many diurnal fly species also spend a lot of time on rotting carrion, where they lay their eggs. So, it is not out of the question that certain bacteria present in rotting animal tissue will also be present on some of the chameleons' top prey items. If we are to take replicating natural conditions to its logical ends here, it would seem as though we ought to be using carrion flies that have been exposed to rotting flesh as food items. Indeed, the combination of minute amounts of dangerous bacteria with pollen might have some beneficial part to play in the chameleon's immune system. Just off the top of my head: maybe the pollen does just enough anti-microbial work to render whats left of the harmful bacteria into something akin to a natural immunization dose (just ticking off the possibilities here). But if something like this is the case, then aren't we doing our pets an injustice by not allowing them to be exposed thus?

In a similar vein, wild chameleons are exposed to constant low levels of parasites. My guess is that this too has some positive effect on an immune systems ability to cope with parasites. Does this mean we ought to occasionally expose our chameleons to, for instance, a coccidia oocyst, or the occasional worm egg, just to make sure they have the kind of resistance that they would have in the wild? I mean, they have evolved to deal with low level pressure from such parasites, i.e. exposure to such organisms is part of the natural conditions they have evolved in. I know what you're thinking, but it is no good to say, "but this is captivity, not the wild!" while in the same breath advocating that we ought to be pushing further towards replicating nature with our gut-loading practices.

So, while some of us feel comfortable adopting certain naturalistic approaches to, say, gut-loading or hydration, far fewer are likely to deliberately expose our captive chameleons to dangerous bacteria or parasites--even if, in so doing, we are actually contributing to the health of the immune system. In the same vein, few of us will attempt to grow acacia trees in our enclosures--with their dangerous spines--even though calyptratuses...calyptratii...uh...veileds spend a lot of their lives on them. Examples abound here: I've heard it noted that wild chameleons have up to 50% orange in their urates. Does it follow that we ought to aim for this in captive husbandry (obviously it doesn't follow without an additional premise)? Maybe wild chameleons die of kidney failure from chronic low-level dehydration far more than captives. Or maybe they don't, and 50% orange in the urates should indeed be a goal for our captive charges.

Again, I am not arguing against any particular view, nor advocating any other. What I am doing is pointing to the logical ends of the view that we ought to be replicating nature in our captive husbandry practices. And until someone can say which conditions we ought to be replicating, and provide a consistent principle with which to distinguish such conditions from those we don't want to replicate, I think we all need to trod this path with a critical and reflective mind.
 

cyberlocc

Chameleon Enthusiast
I feed my feeders 24/7 on what they get ate containing. I dont separate or differentiate.

Me too.

Here is the Pollen Thread, you might really like it, as someone who uses pollen as a supplement as well :).
https://www.chameleonforums.com/threads/bee-pollen-the-right-stuff.173676/


" they are really full of substances that can not be digested by chameleons and that would never be eaten by any of the chameleon feeders "


Ok, anything that goes in the pie hole; has to be oxidized, temporarily stored, or come out the pooper undigested.

I will bite on the nuts thing, i have not seen an insect bore a hole into a nut and eat it, or eat a cracked open nut.

Oh there is alot of Beetles/Weevils, that eat nuts, and will bore into them.

We do know from the diet wild study's, that beetles make up, pretty much a majority of chameleon diets, or the largest % of the variety anyway.

We do not know, what those beetles are eating. There is Flesh eating beetles, Nut Eating Beetles, Leaf Eating Beetles, Pollinator Beetles, Poo eating beetles, there is pretty much a beetle to eat anything and everything edible in the world.


To make matters worse, on the pollinator aspect. All the wild diet studys, never say "Bees and Wasps" which would be the only true Solely pollinator. They state
Hymenoptera. Which I take issue with, as that genus, includes Bees, Wasps, Ants, Sawflies, and others.

I have personally seen my Bioactive Chameleon Relish the little sugar ants that make there way into the Viv. Tiny things, big cham, he doesn't care he sweeps them up every chance he gets! He doesn't even shoot at them, just walks up and licks them off the branch, one by one till he cant find anymore. That particular ant, eats the juices of the sweet plants, in his viv. However ants like beetles, range widely in food sources.

Sawflies, do partake in pollen and honeydew, they also eat other insects, as well however.

Drosophila Another large part of the Diet, also partake in wild diets. Alot of which, dont feed as adults, and the Maggot stage feeds on dead and decaying animals, providing pre formed Vit A. Something we avoid in captivity, but is very much a part of the diet in the wild.

Also, fully agree with Kaizen above, my thoughts are the same. I am trying to add little insight here, and just keep the thread neutral, but wanted to add the few thoughts here. I will try my best to remain unbiased in this thread however :).

Also as a addition to Kaizens post, and hopefully jacks and kin will be here soon with said diets. Of the diets I seen, Hymenoptera is a small representative which again is compacted, by the reality that a large portion of that Genus, is not pollinators, or not exclusively.
 
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Goose502

Chameleon Enthusiast
Something to add, if it hasn’t been already. Aren’t chameleons in captivity outliving their wild brethren by like 300-500%? Now of coarse stable diet and protection plays a large factor, but I’d say even those who use poor diet techniques see a better life expectancy than in the wild no? At what point are we “over analyzing” our techniques? But interesting to comb through none the less. The last few weeks on the forums have been my favorite I must say.
 

kinyonga

Chameleon Enthusiast
I don't think the majority of people will ever be able to replicate the chameleons wild life...to me all we can do is the best we can to make them as healthy as we can in the environment that we live in here by making whatever modifications to what we do to the best of our ability.

Gutloading/feeding the insects I do partly to provide healthy insects to the chameleon and partly in the hopes that I can get enough good nutrients into the chameleon that it's healthy. Is it natural...no...but the bigger question might be does it work?

For husbandry...there are some things that I can't do because of where I live...can't put them outside in the majority of the year, have to be careful that I don't create conditions that produce molds and bacteria or cold drafts around the chameleons but try to maintain humidity and airflow and UVB etc.

I have always felt that if my chameleons live long healthy lives and can reproduce healthy babies that I can raise into healthy adults that reproduce healthy babies then things are about as "right" as I can get them or they need to be.

I think that's pretty much all we can do....the best we can.
 

kinyonga

Chameleon Enthusiast
@Kaizen said..."In a similar vein, wild chameleons are exposed to constant low levels of parasites. My guess is that this too has some positive effect on an immune systems ability to cope with parasites"...I had an Oustaleti female once that had a parasite...and it cast off a couple that were alive and I kept alive long enough to get them to the vet. I was asked by pathology to allow it to keep the parasites in the hopes that she would cast off a male so they could identify the parasite species specifically. I did because they said the main affect it would have on her was that I would need to feed her more. She lived a normal length of life and when she died we still hadn't been able to get a male out of her (feeding her extra wax worms seemed to help her expel worms...but they were always female). I took her body for necropsy with the message that the pathology department should be involved to see if they could get a male...and I got a call a couple of days later to say that they had. All this to say that there were no obvious indications that the parasites had harmed her but there were no indications that they had done her any good either.
 

cyberlocc

Chameleon Enthusiast
@Kaizen said..."In a similar vein, wild chameleons are exposed to constant low levels of parasites. My guess is that this too has some positive effect on an immune systems ability to cope with parasites"...I had an Oustaleti female once that had a parasite...and it cast off a couple that were alive and I kept alive long enough to get them to the vet. I was asked by pathology to allow it to keep the parasites in the hopes that she would cast off a male so they could identify the parasite species specifically. I did because they said the main affect it would have on her was that I would need to feed her more. She lived a normal length of life and when she died we still hadn't been able to get a male out of her (feeding her extra wax worms seemed to help her expel worms...but they were always female). I took her body for necropsy with the message that the pathology department should be involved to see if they could get a male...and I got a call a couple of days later to say that they had. All this to say that there were no obvious indications that the parasites had harmed her but there were no indications that they had done her any good either.

Well thats kind of the point of a Parasite, A Parasites life is tied largely to that of the host, if they host dies, usually so will they. They would rather the host not die, and would rather the host is healthy as well, as the host controls there life for the most part.

I think thats pretty usual, that as long as the Animal is healthy and cared for properly, the parasite is largely a non issue. Its when the animal becomes sick that the parasite becomes an issue. At least thats what all my reading on Parasites, have found.

TBH, I have not had the displeasure of having a parasite, however I have seen more people on here end up with dead animals, from trying to treat parasites, than I bet would die from said parasite. If I were to ever have a parasite issue, I am not sure I would treat it, it would be a tough call.
 

Bigsky

Established Member
About gutloading crickets.... when they ingest food and it enters the buccal cavity, the mouth, it is mixed with fluid from the salivary glands, so the food immediately begins the digestive process.... just thinking out loud.
 

cyberlocc

Chameleon Enthusiast
About gutloading crickets.... when they ingest food and it enters the buccal cavity, the mouth, it is mixed with fluid from the salivary glands, so the food immediately begins the digestive process.... just thinking out loud.

Didn't know that, now I am glad I do :).
 

Kaizen

Chameleon Enthusiast
Well thats kind of the point of a Parasite, A Parasites life is tied largely to that of the host, if they host dies, usually so will they. They would rather the host not die, and would rather the host is healthy as well, as the host controls there life for the most part.

I think thats pretty usual, that as long as the Animal is healthy and cared for properly, the parasite is largely a non issue. Its when the animal becomes sick that the parasite becomes an issue. At least thats what all my reading on Parasites, have found.

TBH, I have not had the displeasure of having a parasite, however I have seen more people on here end up with dead animals, from trying to treat parasites, than I bet would die from said parasite. If I were to ever have a parasite issue, I am not sure I would treat it, it would be a tough call.
Unless the parasite is an ILC, in which case it requires the intermediate host be eaten to complete its life cycle.
 

Bigsky

Established Member
Well thats kind of the point of a Parasite, A Parasites life is tied largely to that of the host, if they host dies, usually so will they. They would rather the host not die, and would rather the host is healthy as well, as the host controls there life for the most part.

I think thats pretty usual, that as long as the Animal is healthy and cared for properly, the parasite is largely a non issue. Its when the animal becomes sick that the parasite becomes an issue. At least thats what all my reading on Parasites, have found.

TBH, I have not had the displeasure of having a parasite, however I have seen more people on here end up with dead animals, from trying to treat parasites, than I bet would die from said parasite. If I were to ever have a parasite issue, I am not sure I would treat it, it would be a tough call.
Pinworms are chameleon parasites. What are some others? Especially in the US? I read about wc animals being loaded with parasites, and about fear of wild insects being vectors of parasites.
 

Kaizen

Chameleon Enthusiast
Pinworms are chameleon parasites. What are some others? Especially in the US? I read about wc animals being loaded with parasites, and about fear of wild insects being vectors of parasites.

Many chameleon parasites are pretty host-specific, or at least specific to a particular genus. The chameleon pin worm is a different species than the human pinworm, for example. There are some Protozoan infections that are less specific such as cryptosporidium, and toxoplasma, but I’m not sure about many others. That being said, there is always a risk that wild caught insects might be carrying something that is harmful to your chameleon, but many very experienced keepers say that the benefit of having the variety of feeder, far outweighs the small risk. My chams stay outside all summer, and eat all sorts of wild insects.

There is some recent debate about whether some chameleon parasites are now established in certain areas where there are feral populations of wild chameleons. But it is a debate as far as I can tell, and strong data has yet to be produced on either side.
 

Bigsky

Established Member
Many chameleon parasites are pretty host-specific, or at least specific to a particular genus. The chameleon pin worm is a different species than the human pinworm, for example. There are some Protozoan infections that are less specific such as cryptosporidium, and toxoplasma, but I’m not sure about many others. That being said, there is always a risk that wild caught insects might be carrying something that is harmful to your chameleon, but many very experienced keepers say that the benefit of having the variety of feeder, far outweighs the small risk. My chams stay outside all summer, and eat all sorts of wild insects.

There is some recent debate about whether some chameleon parasites are now established in certain areas where there are feral populations of wild chameleons. But it is a debate as far as I can tell, and strong data has yet to be produced on either side.
I have a light trap that captures night flying insects, mostly noctuid moths. Very little chance of them carrying pesticides or host specific parasites. Dragons and chams readily feed on them. Seems that offering a variety of food is good. Been doing this for over ten years.
 
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