Crickets are an excellent part of a varied diet for many reptiles and amphibians.  Crickets are easy to keep and breed. Following is a comprehensive guide to the raising and keeping of crickets.   

What are Crickets?

The most common commercially available feeder insect is the brown cricket (Acheta domestica) . They are available from pet stores, bait shops, online stores and from as from commercial cricket breeders. They have been a staple food for the reptile industry for many years. They come in a variety of sizes fro the small "pinheads" (about 1/8 inch) to adults (1")

What is the nutritional value of crickets?

The nutritional value of crickets depends greatly on what they are fed. In general crickets are about 69% moisture, 21% protein, 6% fat   and 3% carbohydrates. Crickets have about 21mg of calcium/100g . The nutritional value can be greatly improved by feeding high quality diet and by gut loading.

Feeding and Improving the nutritional value of crickets (gut loading)

A main concern of reptile keepers is feeding food that is high in calcium and low in phosphorous.  This is essential as a part of the way we prevent metabolic bone disease (MBD). The most commonly fed insects and crickets are just the opposite...high in phosphorous and low in calcium. Many dust the insects and worms with calcium powder to correct this.

While dusting crickets works well, there is another method that works better if done properly...Gut Loading.  Gut loading is a term for a technique for increasing the calcium content in an insect, i.e. crickets, stomach prior to feeding. There are many that feel this is worthless but research shows that it is very effective.

The most common method is to feed the crickets, mealworms superworms etc a high calcium food a day or two before feeding the insects to the reptile. The most common food is calcium fortified chicken egg laying mash.

A far better way is to raise crickets on high calcium food. I have found that greens such as turnip greens and dandelions are great for this (the crickets feces is actually bright green). I also feed crickets cactus powder and have made a "gel" out of cactus powder and agar that serves as a water source as well as food. An added benefit is a more balanced amino acid content and a higher omega 3 fatty acid.

In the wild insectivores and omnivores don't have the calcium deficiencies that we see in captivity. I believe this is for 2 reasons. One is the insects don't live on wheat bran or corn meal. Instead they eat a wide variety of food and greens. The other reason is the animals eat a wide variety of bugs.

In captivity we can mimic this (to some degree) by avoiding "mono" diets and gut loading.


Finke MD. 2002. Complete nutritional composition of commercially raised invertebrates used as food for insectivores." Zoo Biology 21:269-285

Issn: 1042-7260 Journal: Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine Volume: 31 Issue: 4 Pages: 512-517
Authors: Klasing, Kirk C., Thacker, Paul, Lopez, Melvin A., Calvert, Christopher C.
DOI: 10.1043/1042-7260(2000)031<0512:ITCCOM>2.0.CO;2

J Nutr.  1975 Aug;105(8):1071-5.  
Essential dietary amino acids for growth of larvae of the yellow mealworm,
Tenebrio molitor L.

Cricket Housing

The container that crickets are kept in needs to be escape proof and well-ventilated. If you are only keeping a small quantity (a few dozen) the Critter Keeper containers are ideal. For keeping larger numbers of crickets, I use large Rubbermaid or Sterlite plastic storage containers. Some prefer glass aquariums with screen covers can be used, however I find them heavy and hard to clean. I cut a large opening in the lid of the storage container and glue (I use aquarium sealer) aluminum window screen over the opening. Nylon screen is easier to work with, but the crickets will eventually eat through it.

I prefer to leave the bottom bare and clean it frequently with a small whisk broom and dust pan. You will need to provide the crickets some climbing and hiding areas. The tube from a roll of paper towels works great and makes it easy to gather the crickets. Cricket food trays can be made from heavy duty disposable plates

Crickets need to be kept warm. Since our house stays around 72°F I use a small ceramic heat emitter to get the temps above 75°F.

Breeding Crickets

Breeding crickets is fairly easy. I usually set up a separate breeding container. In the container I place another shallow container (shallow deli cups work great) with about an inch of fine damp (don't let it dry out) vermiculite. I cut pieces of plastic canvas over the container to keep the adult crickets from eating the eggs. I set up the rest just as described in Cricket housing . Select a dozen or so fat healthy females and half as many males.

Usually the female crickets can be seen laying eggs shortly after adding them to the container. After a day or so remove the deli cup and put it in a separate container. Keep it warm and don't let it dry out. Within 1-2 weeks the eggs will hatch. With planning you can have a constant supply of crickets.