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Feeding Sugar Gliders

What exactly do you feed the little buggers? Sugar gliders are omnivores. They can eat a wide variety of stuff including: fruits, vegetables, protein, and breads and cereals. Their diet should consist of 20% - 30% fruits (some sources say only 5%), 40% vegetables (they tend not to like bananas and citrus fruits can cause diarrhea, canned fruits have too much sugar, frozen vegetables are ok), 25% to 50% protein (such as monkey chow, tofu, cooked turkey or chicken, hardboiled eggs, baby chicks or mice, and insects), and 15% breads and cereals (not too sugary or high in fat). Gliders are high-energy creatures and need lots of carbohydrates which breads and cereals can provide. You can occasionally give them them small pieces of wheat bread, shredded wheat squares (the kind with the raisin in the middle) or other HEALTHY cereals. Try experimenting with new foods, and make sure to rotate favorites to keep gliders from losing interest.

In the wild, insects are a regular part of a sugar glider's diet. They really enjoy eating live insects like crickets and mealworms. However, I prefer crickets over mealworms because they are lower in fat, higher in protein, and have a better calcium/phosphorus ratio. You could also offer a variety of other insects (just make sure they could not have been exposed to pesticides.) If you would rather not deal with live insects, Exotics Central sells freeze-dried insects.

There are also a few sugar glider formulations available such as Insectivore Fare (ZooFare) available from Exotics Central which should be given in addition to fruits & vegetables and leadbeaters mix (it is used by zoos for feeding insectivores.) The second is Zupreem Omnivore Diet. It is a dry pelleted food. The pellets are large (1/2" x 1") so it is best to break them up into smaller pieces before serving. This is available from Exotics Central. It is made by Zupreem especially for omnivores. You would feed this diet in addition to the variety of foods described above. Another dry food that can be given is monkey chow. It can also be purchased from Exotics Central. There is also a nectar supplement called Gliderade which simulates the nectar and sap that is part of a sugar glider's natural diet. It is available from Exotics Central Gliderade is mixed with water and served in a dish. It is blueberry flavored and sweet and not many gliders will refuse it.

Minimalist Diet

2 oz. Zoofare Insectivore Diet, Omnivore Diet, 1 tbsp Leadbeater's Mix or 1 Monkey Biscuit
1/4 cup fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables per glider
1 tsp cooked unseasoned chicken or boiled egg
1/4 tsp Gliderade mixed with 1 tsp water daily
Calcium supplement and Glider Booster once a week
Gut-loaded crickets & mealworms

Keep Omnivore & water available at all times. Feed Zoofare at night, it gets stale if you leave it out too long. Between 6 to 8 crickets and 5 to 7 mealworms can be fed each night. Only a tiny pinch of a calcium supplement and vitamins should be given once a week. This diet is good for beginners and people who want to spend more time playing with their gliders than trying to figure out what to feed them.

What I Feed My Three Gliders:

6 pellets monkey biscuits (broken up)
1 inch cubes of cooked potato, sweet potato, or squash
Two or three kinds of fresh fruit and vegetables
About 2 tbsp. mixed frozen vegetables (they go for this first)
a few pieces of lettuce or other greens (something called organic spring mix)
3 tsp. fruit juice + 1/8 tsp. honey + 1 tsp. yogurt + 2 tsp. babyfood (varying kinds) + enough mixed baby cereal to thicken it (measures are approximate.) I give this mixture every other day, alternating with Gliderade.
1/2 tsp. Gliderade powder mixed with 1 tbsp. water served in a little dish every other day.
2 tsp. Modified Leadbeater's mix
3 to 5 Gut-loaded crickets and 4 to 6 mealworms each
1 tbsp cooked chicken, turkey, fish, tofu or other protein.

Occasionally I will give them pieces of melon and other fruits and vegetables when available, honey (with supplement mixed in), waxworms, cooked chicken, and sometimes a little sample of what ever I happen to be eating.

DO NOT feed your sugar glider:
candy or junk food
onions or foods with onion powder (it is toxic to pets)
wild insects (they could have parasites or pesticides on them)
houseplants (not even if they are non toxic)
distilled water

Things that SHOULD NOT be a regular part of their diet:
Seeds or nuts (only as occasional treats)
cat or dog food
ferret food (It's extremely high in fat)
Any foods with a lot of fat or refined sugar

If you would like to know more about the nutritional content of the foods you are feeding your glider try looking them up in the USDA Nutritional Database. For nutritional information of crickets, mealworms, and other feeder insects, click here.

Sugar gliders should be fed about 1/4 to 1/2 cup food per glider once a day. They may be fed at night or early in the morning whichever is more convenient for you. Make sure you remove any uneaten food after several hours. If your glider eats everything, that probably means you are not providing enough food.

All foods need to be as low in fat as possible, gliders don't handle fat very well. If you are breeding them, too much fat in the mother's diet can cause white spots on the baby's eyes. This means limiting the number of seeds and nuts you feed your glider, maybe only reserve them for treats. Also, stay away from artificial sweetners and preservatives. Many of the low-fat foods are also artificially sweetened. Take special care to avoid these and get only those sweetened with sugar or honey. Aspartame (Nutrasweet) contains phenylalanine which causes brain lesions and lowers the body chemicals that prevent seizures. Saccharin causes cancer in lab animals, this *probably* includes sugar gliders.

There is some controversy over the use of yogurt. The concern is that gliders might be lactose intolerant and also fat content. However, yogurt contains bacteria that digest the lactose. As long as you use no-fat plain unsweetened yogurt, there should be no problems. Please look at Caroline McPherson's article "Are Sugar Gliders Lactose Intolerant?" if you are still skeptical.

You must provide a supplement high in calcium to prevent hind-leg paralysis. Hind-leg paralysis is caused when the glider becomes deficient in calcium or vitamin D3 (necessary to process calcium) or has too much phosphorus in relation to calcium in their diet (phosphorus prevents absorbtion of calcium) and the body takes calcium from the bones until they become brittle and break. They can recover from this, but it usually results in death. Calcium supplements are especially necessary if you are feeding them alot of fruits or vegetables. Fruits and veggies are high in phosphorus and low in calcium, this is also true for a lot of the food commonly fed to sugar gliders. Reptile supplements such as Rep-Cal are for a similar affliction in reptiles, but will do for a sugar glider. It is phosphorus-free and contains natural oyster shell calcium and vitamin D. Another vitamin supplement is Chaparral Zoological Vitamins (Glideamins, Glider Booster.) It is available from Exclusively Sugar Gliders. If you get a powdered supplement, try mixing a small amount into yogurt, baby food, or honey. One of the best ways is to feed the supplement to your crickets and mealworms. You can buy high-calcium cricket food or you can mix a little supplement with baby cereal and feed to the insects for a couple of nights before they are eaten. Supplements should be given no more than 1-2 times a week. The main vitamins and minerals you need to supplement are calcium, vitamin D3, and vitamin E.

Fruit flies tend to be a problem when you leave food out too long. Since you shouldn't use any poisons to kill them, getting rid of them can be difficult. Several things help to keep their numbers low. First, take out uneaten food as soon as possible. Also, you can clean their cages every week. You can hang Fly Strips or try spraying the flies with a water/dishwashing soap/isopropyl alcohol mixture (limited results). The best way I have found so far is to pour a little dark cider vinegar, red wine, or beer into the bottom of a jar. Then cover it with plastic wrap, securing with a rubber band and poke 6 - 10 fruit fly sized holes in it. The fruit flies climb in but can't get back out. If the flies get really bad and nothing else works, you can use a pyrenthrin based insect spray. Be sure to take your gliders and their cage as far away as possible when you try this. Then rinse the cage with a very weak bleach solution to kill any larvae.

More Diet Information Pages:

Pygmy Pets: Feeding Your Sugar Glider
Ruth's Sugar Glider Page: Diet
Glider Diet Articles

Life with SGs Housing