How to understand ingredient labels on reptile feeds and the development of Ultimate Exotics Crestie Food.

Article By: DT Dennison, Master of Philosophy (Animal Production Systems) Uni. Stellenbosch

Every reptile owner wants to provide their animals with the best-quality nutrition they can, but what should you look out for on the label?

Ingredient lists will vary, but all successful foods need to deliver the same guaranteed analysis for the target species, and in the same ratio. These have been carefully determined by experts and will ensure the best results for your reptile. 

For instance, if scientific research has shown that the ideal crude protein level in a diet for a particular species is 24%, then supplying that animal with a diet containing 30% crude protein will be harmful. The same principle applies to essential amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and trace elements. 

The most important figures to look out for on the label are:

  • crude protein
  • crude fat
  • crude fibre 
  • moisture
  • ash
  • calcium
  • phosphorus

The next important consideration is to have essential ingredients that are bio available, meaning that they are readily digested and utilised. A list of ingredients can be extensive and contain exotic ingredients which makes interesting reading. This will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, as they try to include ingredients which they feel will appeal to as many users of the product as possible. 

We know that many yellow, orange and red fruits, flowers and vegetables contain antioxidants and beta-carotene, a natural building block for Vitamin A. However, when a vitamin A supplement has been added to the diet, there is no value to more flowers and fruits, except in small quantities. No quantitative research has been done, so one never knows how much can be safely added as, for instance, excess Vitamin A will be stored in the liver and can become toxic.

It is also important to understand what one is reading. For instance, some manufacturers include the formal description of the vitamins, which can be confusing instead of an acceptable international shorthand. This can result in buyers feeling that these products with the long names must be something special, when actually short-hand version is very easy to understand and is something that you will see on your bottle of multi-vitamins at home. 

Some examples: 

Thiamine Mononitrate = Vitamin B1

Pyridoxine Hydrochloride = Vitamin B6

Menadione Sodium Bisulphite Complex = Vitamin K

Calcium L-Ascorbyl-2-Monophosphate = Vitamin C

Copper Methionine Hydroxy Analogue Chelate = Copper

Zinc Methionine Hydroxy Analogue Chelate = Zinc

Magnesium Amino Acid Chelate = Magnesium

Manganese Methionine Hydroxy Analogue Chelate = Manganese

At least three imported Crested Gecko diets have been used successfully in this country, so the guaranteed analysis is giving a good result.

The development of Ultimate Exotics Crestie Food

At Ultimate Exotics Reptiles, we have been breeding geckos for the last 20 years for the wholesale trade. For 15 years we have kept and bred Crested Geckos on a smaller scale and then five years ago, we started to consider Crested Geckos for wholesale, but immediately found the cost of the imported diets compromised the project.

Due to my training in animal nutrition and production, I was able to formulate a diet for our Crested Geckos, which we have been using very successfully for the last three years. The 2020 breeding season was a breakthrough for us in our Crestie Breeding Project. The breeding pairs were our own holdbacks, reared on our own Crestie Food and fed our own Crestie Food for breeding. The result has been phenomenal! 157 clutches giving 305 babies – all growing well on our Ultimate Exotics Crestie Food.

They say, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating!” This has certainly been proven this season. We have decided to market this successful food under the Ultimate Exotics label as Crestie Food.

One of our Crested Geckos enjoying his Ultimate Exotics Crestie Food.

I have been careful to add, as do all successful manufacturers, the natural products that are known to have nutraceutical properties. If you read the imported labels, you will find the macro food groups are on all the labels. The micro ingredients, i.e. the vitamins, minerals and trace elements will be the same for all and need to be. 

The flowers and fruits are added for the nutraceutical benefits and may change from manufacturer to manufacturer, depending on the country and the availability of these ingredients. These nutraceuticals can be obtained from various natural products without changing their value in the diet.

I hope this article has helped to shed some light on these ingredients that you will encounter on the label of these meal replacement powders for reptiles that are available, and I also hope that it will allow you to make better decisions on the products you use. As mentioned, if the results are there and proven through multiple generations of breeding a species, then you are on the right path with a successful diet.

David Dennison, Master of Philosophy (Animal Production Systems) Uni. Stellenbosch


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