feeding alligator hatchlings

Aligators, caimen, crocodiles, terrapins, tortoises and turtles exotic to South Africa.

feeding alligator hatchlings

Postby Iggy » Wed Mar 14, 2012 7:53 pm

We have 2 little hatchlings (rest of the eggs dud :( ) and am struggling to find out how much I should be feeding these little ones. We think they were in the egg a bit too long and started out quite weak so we have been feeding daily instead of the recommended every other day. They showed little interest in roaches and mealworms,but are readily taking little pieces of chicken heart and the occasional liver, supplementing with calcium and a general reptile multivitamin. Planning to upscale to pinkies or parts of pinkies when they are a bit bigger, and have guppies in the tank which they show no interest in. At the moment I am feeding them 2 little slices of chicken heart a day which amounts to about 1/5 of a little heart. It seems a tiny amount but they don't seem hungry for more afterwards, and I don't want to overfeed them. Any advice welcome! (they are now about 1 week old,and getting stronger every day).
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Re: feeding alligator hatchlings

Postby mania » Wed Mar 14, 2012 8:31 pm

Hi Iggy
congrats on the hatchlings.
Before I sold off my collection I had a caiman, I know its different to the alligator but would guess very similiar with feeding. When I first got it, it was about 3 weeks old, fed it 2 pinkys every three days, and the odd few crickets on the days inbetween. Then once a month I would get about 5 guppies/ tiny goldfish and put it in its tank so it could exercise to catch its own prey and help keep it a little fit, also heard that too much fish for them would be bad because of something either the oils or fat (cant really remember). A nice thing with the pinkys is they had the bones in them for calcium for the caiman so didnt really have to calcium powder the pinkys, just the crickets. With your little guys being a bit weak maybe keep the feeding everyday just till they a little stronger but not too much because i realised with my guy when i would feed him that his stomach looked big he would still seem adiment for more food (not sure where he thought he would put it) Had the little guy for over 2 years before selling him off and never seemed obese so think i did the right way for feeding.
hope that helped a little but maybe the more experienced could help more?
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Re: feeding alligator hatchlings

Postby Sico » Thu Mar 15, 2012 6:44 am

Iggy, I started off feeding mine every two days, but noticed that she was constantly looking for food. I have gone to feeding her a smaller amount daily. She is a bit larger than yours (roughly a foot long), and she takes up to a whole chicken heart at a time (every other day), feeding her a smaller amount now, she takes about 1/2-2/3 of that quantity daily and seems to be much happier about it. I feed her a mix of chicken heart strips (she really enjoys this), whole chicken mince (full of everything, used for dogs/cats), lean beef mince, strips of white fish (hake etc), various live prey (whatever is available at the time from inverts to pinks to piglet bits), whole chicken (diced), and I vary the diet, so basically keep a whole bunch of everything in the fridge, and every day give her something different until I reach the bottom of the list and start from scratch again. She seems to snap some things up faster than others (raw whole chicken is def. not her favourite), but given enough time she will eat everything presented. She's pretty much just like the monitor lizard, with smaller capabilities.
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Re: feeding alligator hatchlings

Postby Iggy » Thu Mar 15, 2012 10:18 am

Thanks guys, that helps a lot! Sico, based on that I think the quantity they are getting is probably about right for the size so that makes me feel better! They don't seem to have much fat reserve at the base of their tails, which is why I increased the feeding schedule a bit, will see how they go, but as I said, seem to be getting stronger daily :)
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Re: feeding alligator hatchlings

Postby Warren Klein » Thu Mar 15, 2012 10:36 am

Firstly congratulations on hatching out these baby gators. Where all the other eggs infertile and how many did your female lay in total?

Hatchlings do hold a significant amount of yolk in a sac within their body cavity and this can sustain them for several weeks. However they still normally begin eating within a few day of hatching and the yolk sac provides supplement rather than the main source of nutrients.

In the wild juvenile crocodilians generally eat about 3%-4% of their body weight per week and this obviously falls as the animal grows. In captivity food intake should be similar to that of wild crocodilians if we want to avoid obesity and keep them in the best shape. As a general guideline, juvenile crocodilians should be offered food 2-3 times per week. Regarding what to feed, variety is the best choice as it is more difficult to persuade crocodilians fed on a single (favorite) type of food to switch to another because crocodilians form habits very quickly. Once hatchlings start to eat meaty food they don’t seem to want insects anymore so keep changing it up. Variety will also ensure their growing body receives a balance of essential nutrients. Remember that juveniles also have the highest calcium requirements due to their rapid growth and development of osteoderms. Bone meal from the butcher and mashed up chicken necks (skin and fat removed)are both good sources of calcium for this purpose.

Another important fact to remember that goes for both adult and juveniles which is often overlooked, is that whole prey items are the best choice as a food source. Whole prey items contain essential minerals and vitamins missing from muscle meat alone. Larger prey should be divided into bite size chunks, as long as they are getting all the internal organs, bones and all.

Hope this answers your question and all the best rearing the hatchlings.
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Re: feeding alligator hatchlings

Postby Sico » Thu Mar 15, 2012 10:41 am

I've only just got mine, and she is the first crocodilian I've kept, but all the literature I have (precious little out there, or the books cost a fortune, but I did manage to get a couple) suggest that it is normal. I think at this point in their lives most of their metabolism goes into growing, especially if they are being fed, so it makes more sense to me to feed them smaller amounts with greater frequency. as HH says, the bigger the variety the better. It's a bit of a mission to give "whole prey" equivalent to such small critters, but mine seems to take decent sized roaches/locusts/beetles without a problem, and she'll soon be on rat pinks as well. I think if you can vary every meal with something different, you should be ok.
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Re: feeding alligator hatchlings

Postby Iggy » Thu Mar 15, 2012 2:37 pm

Thanks :) She laid around 50 eggs, only 4 were fertile. We decided to open the eggs as they were well overdue, and found 1 with his head out of the egg and squeaking in the nest (we left them with mummy), who is one of the two we have. One was dead in the egg, another hatched out after we broke open the egg (the other one we have now) and the third was alive when we opened the egg but when we returned next morning was dead :( . I suspect they battled to get out of the eggs as there was absolutely no yolk left and their tails were already looking quite thin, and as mentioned, they were quite weak. Tried them on pinky parts but they seem a bit big for them yet, though maybe I should try again now they are eating well. Live prey seems to hold little interest, other than a couple of mealworms, no interest in roaches or in the little guppies with them.
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Re: feeding alligator hatchlings

Postby Warren Klein » Thu Mar 15, 2012 4:48 pm

Only 4 out of 50, that's a shame but better luck next year. Even newly hatched gators can easily take pinkie parts. One of the most important factors in getting baby crocodilians to eat is correct water temps 28-30 degrees and a suitable feeding platform from where food can be taken from the water’s edge with ease. This could be as simple as a piece of slate stone on a brick. Food should always be placed in the same position to get a routine started. If you throw little pieces of meat on this feeding spot, normally just the slapping sound of the meat hitting the spot is enough to get a response (you can also start to get them to associate feeding with a special sound of your choice). I would not offer too many meal worms as they have a tough integument and are not that nutritious anyway. Hatchling won't easily take guppies either as they are too fast and they don't catch them underwater. If you want them to take live guppies, they must flap around abit or be in shallow water and not totally submerged for the hatchling to catch them. Once they are settled in their enclosure and get used to their keeper and feeding routine they will take just about any food item you offer. ;)
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Re: feeding alligator hatchlings

Postby Sico » Thu Mar 15, 2012 5:31 pm

I found the piece of slate next to the water to work very well. She figured it out within three days, and now if you walk anywhere near her cage, she swims over to where the slate is, and lifts herself out of the water to have a look see what she has been left. I'm getting her used to a "whistle" when it's food time, and she seems to be picking this up pretty well. Highly intelligent animals these and a real pleasure. Iggy, I'll be looking for a male from your next clutch >hint< :)
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Re: feeding alligator hatchlings

Postby Warren Klein » Thu Mar 15, 2012 5:59 pm

That's good to hear Sico. Even if you had more than one animal in an enclosure you could train one to respond to a "whistle" and the other to a "click". Just because they have small brains does not mean they are slow by any means. You say you’re looking for a male, surely you can't tell that your hatchling is a female already? Mind you, you’re in the medical field so you would have access to a speculum.
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Re: feeding alligator hatchlings

Postby Sico » Thu Mar 15, 2012 7:42 pm

HA! I try and avoid gynae work... it was sexed at the croc farm HH
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Re: feeding alligator hatchlings

Postby Iggy » Thu Mar 15, 2012 7:48 pm

Thanks guys, that is much more info than I could find anywhere!! Lots about your "juvenile" but nix about your "hatchling" - so many thanks! Will up the water temp a bit, also didn't find any info on that only on tank temps, so the water is a bit cooler than it should be which explains why they spend most of their time on the brick in the water which is under their heat emitter. They spend no time at all on the land area though,which also has a basking spot.
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Re: feeding alligator hatchlings

Postby Warren Klein » Fri Mar 16, 2012 9:03 am

You very welcome Iggy,

Alligators are the most cold tolerant crocodilians, and they can be kept at room temperature water but it is always good to keep hatchlings and juveniles warmer to get them feeding well and off to a good start. Their basking spot is also important and should be in the region of 45-50 degrees which is hotter than most reptiles except monitors would like.

HA! I try and avoid gynae work... it was sexed at the croc farm HH


Don't be surprised if your "female" turns out to be a male the next time it's sexed. Sexing hatchling is quite unreliable and a bit of guess work. in a few years once your gator is big enough to comfortable fit a pinkie finger in the cloaca, you'll be able to tell with more certainty.
An inaccurate naturalist is a pest and a danger, forever perpetuating illogical deductions and landing later naturalists in trouble. Damm and blast them all to hell in the most painful way. C.J.P. Ionides
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Re: feeding alligator hatchlings

Postby Sico » Fri Mar 16, 2012 9:35 am

You're probably right, She's almost a year old at the moment, and apparently the clutch was mixed males/females. I'm not that worried at this point, but I would like the "other" one
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Re: feeding alligator hatchlings

Postby Iggy » Fri Mar 16, 2012 10:59 am

Sico, if we can provide the "other one" next time around I will definitely let you know ;) though we also left them to incubate naturally, and if we do the same it will also be difficult to give you the correct sex at hatchling size. Their basking temps are in the right region, so that is good to know they won't be cooked!! These two are definite keepers though :D
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