In the herp hobby, supplementation refers to the practice of coating your pet reptile's or amphibian's food with a supplement (a dietary additive). In most cases, supplements are a concentrated, powdered form of vitamins and/or minerals.
In nature, animals eat a wide variety of things, be it vegetation, flowers, fruits, insects, worms, rodents, etc. The dietary diversity is enormous—one study found over 40 species of insects ingested by a small number of frogs in a limited area! Each different bit of food will vary in it's composition; some are higher in certain nutrients than others. Together, at least in theory, the reptile or amphibian gets all of the different nutrients it needs from these food sources.
In captivity, providing dietary diversity like this simply is not possible. Food is provided from sources that can easily be cultured at home (such as fruit flies, roaches, etc.) or purchased economically (crickets, veggies from the supermarket). These foods are generally incomplete/deficient in many of the vital nutrients your pet needs to remain healthy—that's where supplements come in! In order to provide a complete diet and get your pet reptile or amphibian the vital nutrients it needs to thrive on a captive diet, it's very important to supplement it's food.
Supplementation is generally very straightforward—simply dust a vitamin/mineral supplement on the food, and you're good to go! There are supplements available for virtually everything you can think of, from calcium, vitamin A, and even specific to veggies. Many all-in-one supplements exist, as well.
Supplementation will vary depending on the species you're keeping, so make sure to do your research! For more information, please watch the video below on dusting crickets. The same basic technique can be applied to a wide variety of feeder insects.
At Josh's Frogs, we rotate through a variety of supplements to ensure that our animals are getting the best captive diet we can provide them with. Our general rotation is between 3 supplements: Rep-Cal Calcium with D3, Rep-Cal Herptivite, and Repashy Calcium Plus.
Rep-Cal Calcium with D3 provides our animals with all the calcium they require for normal bone growth and egg development, as well as normal muscle function. Rep-Cal Herptivite is a broad spectrum multivitamin that provides small amounts of many essential nutrients our animals would not get otherwise. Repashy Calcium Plus contains calcium and vitamins, and uses different sources for many of vitamins. Additional supplements exist to address other specific issues, such as Repashy SuperPig, which addresses coloration in captive animals.
Keep in mind that not all vitamins are created equal, and how much benefit your pets receive from supplements depends on the sources used in the supplement to provide the nutrients. One great example is vitamin A. In Rep-Cal Herptivite, vitamin A is provided as beta carotene, which has traditionally been regarded as a 'safe' source of vitamin A without possible overdose toxicity issues. Unfortunately, recent research suggests many animals, especially amphibians, may not be able to derive needed vitamin A from beta carotene. Repashy Calcium Plus (and Repashy Vitamin A Plus) provides vitamin A in a retinol form, which is more readily available for use by amphibians.
The simple answer is that there's no simple answer. Frequency of supplementation will depend largely on the species you're working with, the nutrients contained in the supplement, and the nutritional value of it's diet before supplementation. At Josh's Frogs, we supplement every feeding, and rotate through the 3 supplements mentioned above. A good rule of thumb is to supplement with calcium at least 2 times a week, and a multivitamin at least once a week.
So, are you supplementing yet? Why not? Hop to it! Supplementation is beneficial to your pets, and will lead to a healthier, possibly longer life. By supplementing, you're providing your animals with a better diet, which is vital to growth, longevity, behavior, and breeding.
Supplementing is in your pet's best interest. Start supplementing today by hopping on over to Josh's Frogs. We have a huge variety of supplements that are sure to meet the needs of your pets, for sale at low everyday prices, fast shipping, and the best customer service in the industry.
Have any questions about supplements or supplementing your pet's diet? Not sure what supplement is right for you? Give us a call at 1.800.691.8178, or feel free to email our help desk at [email protected] with any questions. Remember, when you choose Josh's Frogs, we're there for you every step of the way!