What do dubia roaches eat? It seems like a simple question, but the answer is actually a bit complicated! The topic of insect nutrition is complex, with research being done all the time and new discoveries every day. Researchers must take into account not only the nutritional content of what the insect is fed, but also the way the food is metabolized and the interactions between the different foods they’re given.
Why should we care about what dubia roaches eat? Well, there are two reasons to be concerned about what dubia roaches eat: 1) a proper diet results in healthier roaches and better breeders, and 2) well-nourished roaches pass their nutrition on to the creatures that eat them.
So here are some considerations for feeding dubia roaches based on the results of research and experimentation by both laboratory scientists and reptile and amphibian keepers interested in providing the best for their dubia roaches:
What Dubia Roaches Eat in the Wild
What do dubia roaches eat in the wild? It may be weird to think about, but yes — there are wild dubia roaches! Blaptica dubia, the dubia roach (a.k.a. the orange-spotted roach, Guyana spotted roach, or Argentinian wood roach) are commonly found all over Central and South America, wherever they can enjoy a humid tropical climate.
Wild dubia roaches are frugivores, which means they prefer to get their nutrition from fruits and semisweet vegetables. Interestingly, dubia roaches can digest cellulose fiber to turn it into protein, so even though their natural diet seems extremely low-protein, they’re able to “magically” turn fruits and veggies into a protein source! (This doesn’t mean that you should feed wood to your roaches — it just means that they digest their food differently.)
What you feed to your feeders directly affects the quality of nutrition that your reptile gets. Feeders that are starved will be less nutritious than those fed on a low-quality diet, and those on a low-quality diet will be less nutritious than those fed on a high-quality diet. Although some feeders are innately more nutritious than others, ultimately it depends on the gutload — or what they are fed. The goal of gutloading is to maximize your feeder insects’ nutritional value. So how do you gutload dubia roaches?
A dubia roach gutload should be low in protein. Too much protein in a gutload can lead to excess protein consumption for reptiles, leading to gout, which is a very painful disease where a reptile’s kidneys lose the ability to process protein properly, resulting in uric acid crystals getting deposited in the joints. This is a particular concern for insectivorous reptiles like leopard geckos or young bearded dragons. Feeder insects kept on fish, dog, or cat food are notorious for causing this problem.
According to this study, a low protein diet is suggested to encourage long life in roaches, but hinders reproduction. This means that a low-protein gutload is the perfect way to help maintain feeders. A low-protein diet is also likely to slow growth, which means that if you need a certain size of roach, they will stay that size longer. As a general rule, aim for less than 20% protein (dry matter basis) in a gutload.
A good dubia roach gutload should be plant-based. This is best for reptile health because plant-based diets tend to be low in protein, but they also tend to be rich in vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids. Carotenoids are a bonus, because aside from acting as antioxidants, they also help brighten your pet’s natural coloring! When choosing fresh produce to feed to your roaches, buy organic whenever possible, as pesticide residues can be harmful.
As with your pet reptile, it’s best to offer a variety of high quality foods to your dubia roaches. This creates a more balanced diet for the roaches, since they tend to self-select for nutrition. In other words, they eat what they need when they need it.
Dubia roaches take 2-3 days to fully digest their food, so roaches should be gutloaded for a minimum of 24 hours before feeding to your reptile, especially if they come from a source where they may not have been well fed, like a pet store. Ideally, however, dubia roaches should be gutloaded for 2-3 days prior to feeding.
Foods for Gutloading:
- Dubia Diet
- Bee pollen
- Collared greens
- Spring mix
- Sweet potatoes
If the roaches don’t seem to like your gutload, add a little sugar and/or yeast — just a little bit! This improves palatability, which means the roaches will eat more of the gutload. Table sugar works, but whole fruit or even pure fruit juice is healthier.
Avoid feeding citrus, beans, or meat to your dubia roaches as a gutload.
Growth & Breeding
What do young or breeding dubia roaches eat? Feeding dubia roaches for breeding and rapid growth is a little different from gutloading. The processes of growth and reproduction in dubia roaches requires a higher-protein diet than is acceptable for gutloading. According to the previously-mentioned study, a 23-25% protein diet (dry matter basis) seems to be best for encouraging optimal reproduction.
Of course, growing and breeding dubia roaches requires more than just protein. Young roaches that don’t have an adequately balanced diet will grow more slowly or fail to grow altogether. Adult females with a poor diet reproduce less and produce weaker offspring. A breeding colony of dubia roaches still requires access to fruits, vegetables, and other sources of carbohydrates.
It’s also important to consider that particularly young dubia roaches need access to the adults’ frass (droppings). Nymphs eat the frass because it is very high in nitrogen, and contains the cellulose-digesting and protein-producing bacteria that allow them to survive.
As with gutloading, it’s best to provide a varied, plant-based diet to help prevent nutrient deficiencies and encourage self-selection. The foods that you can use are more or less the same as are appropriate for gutloading, but increase the protein by using high-protein cooked grains like brown rice, wheat, and oats. Oranges can also be offered, which seem to be particularly effective in encouraging breeding.
If you have a colony that is receiving a high-protein diet to encourage aggressive reproduction, it’s best to transfer intended feeders in a separate container where they eat a low-protein, plant-based gutload and purge some of that excess protein from the breeding bin before they end up in your pet’s stomach.
Of course, if we’re talking about what dubia roaches eat, we need to talk about hydration as well. Well-hydrated feeders are healthier and promote well-hydrated reptiles, which can help lower the risk of food- and substrate-related impaction.
You can provide water to your dubia roaches via water crystals like Dubia Dew, or fresh fruits and vegetables. If you use a powdered dubia diet, you can mix it with water to form a thin paste. However, do note that fresh foods tend to mold quickly, so be prepared to replace these daily or every other day at most. Avoid using a water dish, as you will end up with drowned roaches.