Cricket farming is a great way to provide cheap high-quality nutritious food for your pet reptiles such as geckos & lizards. Frogs, fish, toads, and spiders all enjoy eating crickets.
Since you are personally raising the insects, you can nourish them well and often unlike commercially farmed crickets. These feeder insects are easy to farm and require little to no attention. The most demanding part of maintaining a cricket farm is the regular misting required.
As you can see, this is little to no work and in this article you will learn how to keep feeder crickets alive. Crickets eat a number of high protein foods including crushed dry cat food, alfalfa pellets, pond fish pellets, tropical fish flakes, and commercially produced cricket feed.
Also leave slices of fruits and vegetables in the cricket container. These provide water as well as essential nutrient that are passed onto the pet that feeds on the crickets.
What Are Crickets?
Crickets are insects that belong to the family Gryllidae. There are several cricket species that are farmed as feeder insects. The popular species reared for food include the Gryllodes sigillatus (the banded cricket), and the Acheta domesticus (the house cricket).
How long does it take for cricket eggs to hatch?
Crickets start off as tiny eggs. After about 2 weeks, they develop into wingless nymphs (also called pin-head crickets). After molting several times, they develop into adult crickets with fully developed wings.
Why Farm/Raise Crickets?
Crickets are arguably the most popular feeder insects. They are nutritious and affordable. While some reptiles will eat dried crickets, most prefer live crickets. You can acquire crickets from the store or you can farm them.
It takes a while to establish a farm that consistently produces feeder crickets, but once the farm is established, you will have an endless supply of insects to feed your pet with.
Crickets are commonly eaten as a snack all over the world specifically in southern Asia. Cricket flour is also used in many consumer foods such as cookies, crackers, bread, and even energy bars.
Live crickets are high in protein (they are 21% protein) and rich in vitamins and other nutrients such as calcium, and potassium.
How to Start a Cricket Farm
- 1. Crickets – We recommend Josh’s Frogs Banded Crickets. They are of high quality and ship fast. Banded crickets are also referred to as tropical house crickets.
- 2. Three Large Plastic Containers – The adults must be stored in a separate container to young crickets. Each 15-gallon container can hold over 500 live crickets. A container most commonly used to house crickets and other insects is the Sterilite 15 Gallon rubber box. Rubbermaid is also a popular choice.
- 3. Metal Screen – This is to cover the ventilation holes we recommend stainless steel screen, but you can use aluminum too. It’s there to prevent the crickets from escaping.
- 4. Heat Source – Get a ceramic heat emitter or heat mat & thermostat. I recommend Fluker’s Ceramic Heat Emitter.
- 5. Bedding – Peat moss, tuff, or topsoil, I recommend Hoffman Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss.
- 6. Water Dispenser – Small chick water dispenser or cricket water gel such as Fluker’s Cricket Quencher (only one is needed to provide the crickets with water).
- 7. Small Container – Lidless 500ml (one pint) deli food storage container such as Freshware Food Storage Containers.
- 8. Food for the Crickets – Commercial cricket food such as Fluker’s High-Calcium Cricket Diet / Dry cat food. You can find both of these foods in pet stores.
- 9. Egg Cartons – A few cardboard egg cartons/containers. These can be found in most households.
- 10. Vermiculite (optional) – It absorbs bad odors and prevents bacteria growth. I recommend Josh’s Frogs Vermiculite.
Steps Needed to Create A DIY Cricket Farm
Part 1. Put everything together
It is important that the containers or tanks provided are large enough. Believe it or not, crickets dislike confined spaces. If the space available is not enough, they will feed on each other until the cricket to space proportion is adequate.
As such, ensure the container is large enough. The Sterlite rubber box and the Rubbermaid box recommended earlier on have enough space to house 500 crickets.
Also the containers have smooth plastic sides which make it harder for the crickets to escape. Similarly, glass tanks also work well. Make sure you have a good lid for whatever container you choose.
The containers have to be well ventilated so the crickets can breathe. Cut a couple of 6-inch large holes in the lid of the box. To ensure the crickets don’t escape through the gaping holes, cover them with a metal screen.
The screen has to be metallic as crickets can chew through plastic and fiberglass. You can use hot glue to fasten the mesh screen to the lid. This should provide the insects with the needed ventilation while keeping the inside of the container relatively dark.
This is optional, but we use vermiculite to create the bedding at the bottom of the container as a base. Some of the key reasons we use vermiculite is that it absorbs bad odors, and prevents bacteria growth. If you choose to use it, the bedding needs to be about 2 inches deep. You will need to replace the bedding two to three times a year depending on the size of the colony.
Place a plastic tub (500 ml) filled with damp peat moss, tuff or topsoil in the enclosure. The gravid females lay their eggs into this. If the floor of the enclosure is layered with vermiculite, then the 500ml plastic tub with the damp substrate needs to be placed slightly higher than the vermiculite. The substrate used for the egg-laying container has to be free of pesticide and fertilizer.
Place a shallow dish with food in the enclosure. Crickets eat commercial cricket food and a number of other substitutes such as crushed dry cat food, alfalfa pellets, pond fish pellets, and tropical fish flakes. All of these foods are high in protein and are important for the production of high-quality nutritious crickets.
There are several ways to provide water for the crickets. You can place a dish of water gel in the enclosure such as Fluker’s Cricket Quencher. You can also place a small chick or reptile water dispenser in the container.
The dispenser has a sponge in it to prevent the water from flooding the enclosure. These two options should provide enough water for the crickets. Additionally, mist the enclosure every now and then.
Put the cardboard egg cartons and/or paper towel tubes inside the enclosure.
Place the 50 odd crickets into the container
In addition to the staple food (cricket feed or any of its alternatives), provide the crickets with slices of fruits, greens such as cabbage, lettuce, & mustard greens, potato slices or peels, and any other vegetable.
This ensures the cricket gets the needed amount of micronutrients. These have to be replaced regularly so they don’t rot or mold inside the container. You can switch the food you feed the crickets every on and then. This keeps them comfortable and happy.
Depending on the temperature of the enclosure, you may need to deploy a heat lamp or heat mat to warm up the enclosure and ensure the crickets breed readily. The warmth also incubates the eggs produced.
The ideal temperature is 80 to 90 F (27 to 32 C). Ceramic heat emitters are better since they do not produce light. An excellent ceramic heater is the Fluker’s Ceramic Heat Emitter.
A light fixture can be used to place the ceramic lamp right over the container. Similarly, the temperature can be regulated with a heat mat and a thermostat.
Instead of taping the heat mat underneath the container as you do with reptiles, you should tape the mat to the top of the container so the heat radiates downwards. Also use a thermometer to monitor the temperature within the container.
With the right temperature, food and water, the crickets will begin to breed. Ensure that the substrate is always moist by misting it regularly. After about two weeks of setting up the colony, you will find tiny oblong eggs (about half the length of a grain of rice) in the peat moss/tuff.
Once the peat moss is filled with eggs move it to a second container. Replace that with a new 500ml plastic tub filled with damp peat moss or topsoil.
The second container acts as an incubator for the eggs. Place the 500ml plastic tubs with peat moss and eggs inside the second container. Seal the container tightly.
The temperature in the container has to be 85 to 90 °F (29 to 32 °C). The eggs will start to hatch in about two weeks. Over 100 tiny hatchlings can be seen emerging from the peat moss.
Place the hatchlings in a new rearing container. Provide food and water for the babies. Misting the peat moss often should provide the babies with enough water. The temperature within the rearing container must be 80 to 90 °F (27 to 32 °C).
After about a week and a half, they will be large enough to go into the original container with the adults. Repeat the process to produce hundreds of crickets. Once the farm is well established, you can start feeding the crickets to your pet.
Setting up a Cricket Farm Overview Video
Pros of Raising Crickets
Cutting down cost is a huge incentive to start a DIY cricket farm. With just about $30 you can establish a basic system with the help of about 50 to 200 crickets.
Of course, you’ll have to wait until the colony is fully established before you start feeding the crickets to your reptile pets. Feeding crickets is easy and cheap. You can also supplement the dry foods you feed the crickets with leftover/discarded parts of vegetables and fruits.
Since you are raising the crickets to feed to your reptiles, it is advantageous if the crickets have high nutritional values. One of the setbacks of commercially farmed crickets is the lack of essential micronutrients such as vitamins and calcium.
Since whatever nutrients fed to the crickets is what your pet acquire, feeding your pet commercially farmed crickets usually results in your pet acquiring fewer nutrients from their meal.
Feeding your homegrown crickets tiny slices of oranges, and greens such spinach ensures they have a high nutritional value.
Constant trips to the pet store or cricket supplier can be tedious. You can avoid these trips by starting your own colony. Maintaining the colony won’t take much of your time and you will always have a steady supply of feeder insects for your pets.
Cons of Raising Crickets
Crickets are noisy, specifically the males. They chirp a lot. This can be a huge disadvantage if you can’t keep them in a place where the noise doesn’t bother anyone.
A few will always manage to escape. While this is not a big deal as the farm will most likely produce many more crickets, escaped crickets can be difficult to locate, and they can chirp loudly indoors.
This can be a problem. Not only will the noise annoy you, but it will also annoy your neighbors especially if you live in an apartment.
Cricket colonies can have an awful smell especially if the colony is not kept clean. Proper maintenance ensures the bad odor is kept to a minimal.
Since the colony needs to be established before you can start harvesting from it to feed your pet, ensure you have extra crickets to feed your pet with. You can start the colony with just 50 crickets.
You should have a mix of females and males so they can mate. While females have three long extrusions on their behind, males have only two. Also, males have short wings that they use to chirp.
Quick Start Kit for a Cricket Farm
If you don’t want to bother with picking and choosing each item there is a quick start kit on Amazon too which has the basics to get started, though you will still need to buy the containers.
As with any insect farming, there are several benefits to raising crickets. If you wish to raise feeder insects for a colony of captive-bred reptiles such as frogs, geckos, and lizards, a cricket farm is a must. Raising crickets cuts down costs. It also eliminates the long trips needed to acquire them.
Lastly, the quality of crickets you raised yourself will be higher than any you can buy. The initial cost of setting up a colony of crickets is also very low. With just $30, you can set up a basic cricket farm.
Maintenance is easy, and upkeep is very low. However, if you have just a few pet reptiles, it may be more convenient to buy dried crickets or even live ones from a pet shop. What do you think? Leave a comment below!