If you have a tropical species that can handle a bit of humidity there are a few bugs that can help with your cleaning tasks from day to day. Here are some different species that can serve as your cleanup crew.
Things To Consider
If you are going to house bugs with your geckos you need to prepare your cage a certain way to keep the bugs successfully. For these three species I recommend using a drainage layer of feather lite or something similar. Then, I usually lay down a layer of window screen to keep soil from seeping through. Finally I use a mixture of coco bedding and cypress mulch. On top of the soil I usually lay down dried organic leaf litter. This holds humidity and gives bugs a place to hide.
All of these concepts are the basic building blocks of terrariums. If you need a starter course in terrarium design consider reading How to Build a Naturalistic Terrarium.
Remember that all insects should be captive bred. Do research before considering harvesting wild insects. Many of these may carry pesticides, fertilizers, and other contaminants they encounter in the wild, in addition to possible parasites. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but know what you’re getting into. Starter generations of all of these insects were wild at some time.
Before 2008 we commonly saw giant African millepedes on the market for $10-$15 each. These massive arthropods were recommended as a cage cleaning companion for many Rhacodactylus species. They never bothered the gecko, and even ate leftover crested gecko meal replacement when given the chance.
Now that African millepedes are banned from importation, due to a mite they carried that threatened cotton crops, there are a few alternatives. It is pretty easy to find millipedes native to the United States for sale on the reptile market. I house Florida Ivory Millipedes (Chicobolus spinigerus) with my Rhacodactylus.
The only downside to keeping these with your gecko is they will dig and disrupt smaller features of a terrarium. They dig, burrow, leave tunnels, lay poop “balls”, and are the largest insect species I am recommending you keep with your gecko.
There are many different isopods on the market. Many people culture these small calciu- rich insects for the amphibian hobby. I was originally introduced to them when I started keeping poison dart frogs.
I currently keep orange isopods as well as dwarf gray isopods. My cat geckos love to snack on these when they are out and about, so for geckos that eat these you may need to replenish the supply inside the tank from time to time.
All isopods require humidity to breath through their gill-like structures. Without humidity these won’t make it very far.
My isopod colonies also house temperate springtails. These consist of a plastic shoe box with coco bedding and damp cardboard covering the surface layer. They are fed leftover crested gecko diet and vegetable matter. Culturing these guys has been pretty enjoyable!
There are two varieties of springtails I am familiar with, also through the dart frog hobby. I keep tropical springtails and temperate springtails.
If you’re looking for a good place to learn the basics I highly recommend Josh’s Frog care sheet MICROFAUNA, PART I.
These are the only insects I’ve had an issue with. Sometimes in humid terrariums they “bloom”, or produce in large numbers. Unlike millipedes you cannot remove them by hand, and unlike isopods, most geckos don’t pay attention to them. They may be eaten by micro geckos, if you keep any that require a temperate environment.
I imagine over time as food becomes more scarce you’ll see springtails die off. There is no harm in this. To remove some to start a new culture you may place a piece of fruit in the cage and collect them around and on the fruit.
For cages where I do not feed crested gecko diet I often drop in a piece of vegetable matter every two weeks or so. This provides the insect life something to eat besides decaying leaf matter and gecko poop.
Otherwise most of these are species you “set and forget”. That’s the beauty of them. Be careful though, I’ve gained as much interest in my insect colonies as some of my geckos. We live in a hobby fueled by addiction; insects can often become part of that mix.
What insects do you keep with your geckos to help make your job easier?