ReptiFiles was provided a free sample of Lugarti Premium Gecko Diet in exchange for an honest review, whether positive or negative. The review below is our honest, unbiased opinion.
One of the many reasons why reptile keeping differs from having a more “traditional” pet is that instead of using a pre-made kibble or canned diet, reptiles often require fresh, whole foods — whether that be live insects, frozen birds/small mammals, or leafy greens. This requires the keeper to know exactly what foods to offer to their pet, and in what ratios.
Crested geckos, and certain other arboreal gecko species, are something of an exception to this rule. After their re-discovery and introduction to the reptile hobby in ~1994, they were initially fed on baby food blends and live insects to replicate their wild diet of nectar, fruit, and insects. However, blending your own fresh gecko diet tends to be both imprecise and wasteful, so it wasn’t long before Allen Repashy developed the world’s first commercial crested gecko diet meal replacement powder (CGD).
Since then, many different brands have introduced their own crested gecko diet formulas to the market. Some have been wildly successful, earning the trust of both keepers and breeders worldwide. Others have earned a spot on the blacklist for being unpalatable and of questionable quality. This means that crested gecko keepers tend to be skeptical of new formulas, and new brands wishing to break into the “inner circle” need to work hard to earn their trust.
One of the most recent brands to attempt this challenge is Lugarti.
Who is Lugarti?
Lugarti is a relatively new and rapidly growing reptile brand to the U.S. hobby. Their website displays an ambitious mission statement:
“Driven by passion and a deep love for reptiles, we strive to create the best reptile products in the world. We focus our efforts on quality, innovation, and style. Good is the enemy of great, and great is not good enough. Excellence is our only acceptable standard. We will never make a product just to sell a product. Everything we create will always be the BEST option available. We are dedicated to setting new industry standards and continuously raising the bar.”
Having released their Premium Gecko Diet earlier this year, it comes with some serious hype:
- “Hands down, the highest quality diet for frugivorous geckos in the world!” — @lugarti, Instagram, August 10, 2020
- “This new diet is guaranteed to be the best, highest quality diet for all frugivorous geckos on the planet. It has a secret ingredient that nobody has ever used before, and I guarantee you that once we launch this, the other name brands will quickly try to copy our innovation.” — @lugarti, Instagram, December 22, 2019
Crested gecko diets form the majority of most arboreal geckos’ nutrition in captivity, which means that any issues with the diet’s quality or formulation can have direct effects on the geckos’ health. This effect is compounded if the gecko is fed strictly one brand of CGD or without supplementary live insects (neither of which is a recommended practice).
For this reason I took extra care in evaluating Lugarti’s Premium Gecko Diet for this review. Special thanks to Lugarti for being willing to provide some insight into their formulation and testing processes.
- 20% insect meal, 60% fruit
- designed for use with fruit-eating geckos
- made with human-grade ingredients
- dubia roach meal sourced from insects raised in laboratory conditions on a natural diet including fresh fruits and vegetables
- comes in a 2oz (56g) or 8 oz (228g) resealable pouch
- intended to be mixed with water prior to serving
- uneaten gecko diet should be discarded after 24 hours
Guaranteed Analysis (same for all flavors)
- Crude Protein (min) 25%
- Crude Fat (min) 7%
- Crude Fiber (max) 9%
- Moisture (max) 8%
- Ash (max) 9%
- Calcium (min) 2.5%
Ingredients (Dragon Fruit flavor):
Dried Watermelon, Whey Protein Isolate, Dried Dragon Fruit, Dubia Roach Meal, Dried Fig, Bee Pollen, Dried Whole Egg, Rice Bran, Dried Honey, Dried Coconut, Ground Flaxseed, Lecithin, Algae Meal, Kelp Meal, Potassium Sorbate, Xanthan Gum; Probiotic Blend: Maltodextrin, Bacillus subtilis, Aspergillus oryzae, Bacillus amyloliquefaciens, Enterococcus faecium, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus acidophilus; Vitamin & Mineral Blend: Calcium Carbonate, Cellulose, Choline Chloride, L-Ascorbyl 2-Polyphosphate (Vitamin C), Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Beta-Carotene, Cobalamin (Vitamin B12), Niacin (Vitamin B3), Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Retinyl Acetate (Vitamin A), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Biotin (Vitamin B7), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Menadione Nicotinamide Bisulfite (Vitamin K), Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3).
Ingredients (Guava flavor):
Dried Watermelon, Whey Protein Isolate, Dried Guava, Dubia Roach Meal, Dried Fig, Bee Pollen, Dried Whole Egg, Rice Bran, Dried Honey, Dried Coconut, Ground Flaxseed, Lecithin, Algae Meal, Kelp Meal, Potassium Sorbate, Xanthan Gum; Probiotic Blend: Maltodextrin, Bacillus subtilis, Aspergillus oryzae, Bacillus amyloliquefaciens, Enterococcus faecium, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus acidophilus; Vitamin & Mineral Blend: Calcium Carbonate, Cellulose, Choline Chloride, L-Ascorbyl 2-Polyphosphate (Vitamin C), Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Beta-Carotene, Cobalamin (Vitamin B12), Niacin (Vitamin B3), Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Retinyl Acetate (Vitamin A), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Biotin (Vitamin B7), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Menadione Nicotinamide Bisulfite (Vitamin K), Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3).
Ingredients (Passion Fruit flavor):
Dried Watermelon, Whey Protein Isolate, Dried Passion Fruit, Dubia Roach Meal, Dried Fig, Bee Pollen, Dried Whole Egg, Rice Bran, Dried Honey, Dried Coconut, Ground Flaxseed, Lecithin, Algae Meal, Kelp Meal, Potassium Sorbate, Xanthan Gum; Probiotic Blend: Maltodextrin, Bacillus subtilis, Aspergillus oryzae, Bacillus amyloliquefaciens, Enterococcus faecium, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus acidophilus; Vitamin & Mineral Blend: Calcium Carbonate, Cellulose, Choline Chloride, L-Ascorbyl 2-Polyphosphate (Vitamin C), Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Beta-Carotene, Cobalamin (Vitamin B12), Niacin (Vitamin B3), Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Retinyl Acetate (Vitamin A), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Biotin (Vitamin B7), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Menadione Nicotinamide Bisulfite (Vitamin K), Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3).
According to Robert Coral, owner of Lugarti, the Premium Gecko Diet began development in 2014. It has been tested with crested geckos, gargoyle geckos, and leachie geckos. The manufacturer did not perform side-by-side comparisons with other brands of gecko diet during this process, but anecdotally-speaking, they did notice that the geckos seemed to grow faster and more robust on Lugarti Premium Gecko Diet compared to other popular brands.
For the purposes of this review, I tested the Guava and Dragon Fruit flavors of Lugarti’s Premium Gecko Diet. I did not have a chance to try the Passion Fruit flavor, as it was released after I received my samples.
Looking at a block of ingredients can be confusing, so let’s break it down:
Protein sources: whey protein isolate, dubia roach meal, dried whole egg
Using more than one source of protein diversifies the number of amino acids present in the diet, increasing the likelihood that it will meet all of the gecko’s nutritional needs. These sources of protein are animal-based, making them more likely to be compatible with an animal that has evolved to get its protein mainly from insects and small vertebrates. Furthermore, using whole food ingredients for protein rather than sticking to a protein isolate has the added benefit of including the diverse array of other nutrients that these foods contain.
Fruit: dried watermelon, dried fig, dried passion fruit/dragon fruit/guava
Fruit is important for more than just flavor (although it’s good to see real fruit being used rather than flavoring agents). These whole fruit ingredients are important sources of dietary fiber, carbohydrates, and vitamins. Fig is particularly noteworthy here, as it is a food that New Caledonian geckos are likely to eat in the wild.
Vegetables: algae meal, kelp meal
It may seem strange to see vegetables of any kind on the ingredients list, since arboreal geckos are not known to eat vegetation, but algae and kelp are particularly nutritious, and are often touted as “superfoods.” They are good sources of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and are particularly noteworthy for their iodine content.
Fat sources: dried coconut, ground flaxseed
Fat is not bad — like many other things, fat only becomes bad in excess. Fat is an important nutrient that is involved in many different functions, including providing energy, supporting cell growth, assisting nutrient absorption, and producing hormones. The combination of coconut and flaxseed provides both saturated and unsaturated fats, as well as a variety of fatty acids, with a kick of fiber and minerals on the side.
As mentioned earlier, flower nectar is part of crested geckos’ natural diet. Honey is essentially concentrated nectar, which makes it a natural choice for a sweetening agent to increase the diet’s palatability and carbohydrate content.
Vitamins/Minerals: Bee pollen, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, L-Ascorbyl 2-Polyphosphate (Vitamin C), Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Beta-Carotene, Cobalamin (Vitamin B12), Niacin (Vitamin B3), Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Retinyl Acetate (Vitamin A), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Biotin (Vitamin B7), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Menadione Nicotinamide Bisulfite (Vitamin K), Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3)
This is a pretty good array of vitamins and minerals to round out the vitamins and minerals already provided by the whole food ingredients which make up the majority of Lugarti Premium Gecko Diet. Calcium, vitamin D3, and vitamin K are important for ensuring healthy bones (among many other things), vitamin A and beta carotene are both present to reduce potential for vitamin A overdose, vitamin E is present for general wellbeing, and all of the major B vitamins are present. Bee pollen in particular is a nutritional powerhouse likely to be present in arboreal geckos’ natural diet.
In other words, the vitamin and mineral blend present in this diet seems to cover the most important bases adequately.
Probiotics: Bacillus subtilis, Aspergillus oryzae, Bacillus amyloliquefaciens, Enterococcus faecium, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus acidophilus
Probiotics are important to maintaining a healthy gut biome in reptiles. Science is just beginning to understand the influence that gut bacteria have on their host’s health, but so far a healthy gut biome has been strongly correlated with good health in general. In regard to reptiles specifically, a good gut biome is likely to improve digestion, reduce symptoms of stress, support immune function, and keep parasites in check.
Thickeners: rice bran, cellulose, xanthan gum
Thickening agents are very important to achieving a good texture in CGD. All three of these ingredients are well known to be safe, and as a bonus, rice bran is a good source of a wide variety of nutrients.
Additives: lecithin (emulsifier), potassium sorbate (preservative), maltodextrin (stabilizer)
Additives are a necessary evil if you want a food product to have any kind of shelf life. Considering that it can take 6+ months to go through a single pouch of CGD if you only have one gecko and rotate through more than one flavor or brand for variety, shelf life is very important here. None of the above seem overtly potentially harmful, and the list and quantities of additives seems to have been kept to a minimum.
Because the ingredients for all three Lugarti gecko diet formulas are more or less the same aside from the main flavoring component, the guaranteed analysis is also the same between the three.
How does Lugarti Premium Gecko Diet’s guaranteed analysis compare with other established and trusted insect-based gecko diets that I keep in my pantry? (click to expand)
Looking at the table above, Lugarti contains more of each nutrient than most of the other diets. To the untrained eye, this definitely looks like something worth bragging about, but when it comes to animal nutrition, more isn’t always better.
The relatively high protein content and moderate fat content help explain why Robert Coral reported faster growth rates in the geckos which were raised on this diet, although personally I would like to check their overall body condition.
The ingredients list suggested that Lugarti Premium Gecko Diet is high in fiber, and that’s exactly what we see in the guaranteed analysis. Most reptiles are not built to digest fiber (that requires a very long intestinal tract that is only found in strictly herbivorous species), similar to humans. However, that doesn’t mean that fiber is a bad thing or even unimportant. Fiber is known to be important to gut health, helping maintain healthy intestinal motility and gut flora. It also helps regulate blood sugar and may even help regulate the population of intestinal parasites.
It’s always nice to see a high ash content. Ash is generally a collective term for the minerals present in a food, which includes things like calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, copper, potassium, etc.
Lugarti Premium Gecko Diet has a substantially higher calcium content than the other diets listed. This seems like a good thing at first, but there is such a thing as too much calcium. 2.5% calcium and 0.7% phosphorus gives this formula a 3.6:1 Ca:P ratio, which I find a bit high. According to Loughrill et al., Ca:P ratio should be between 1:1 and 2:1 for best bone health and development. Calcium and phosphorus have a delicate balance within vertebrate physiology, and just like too much phosphorus can interfere with calcium absorption, too much calcium interferes with phosphorus absorption. However, according to the Phosphorus Fact Sheet for Health Professionals, it seems that this only happens in cases of extreme excess in calcium, such as can be caused by excess supplementation. This leads me to speculate that the extra calcium in Lugarti’s CGD formula may help compensate for the presence of high-phosphorus, low-calcium feeder insects in the diet. At very least, the extra calcium is unlikely to be harmful to the gecko, and may be particularly useful for use with reproductive females.
Although not all of the diets outlined above provide their calcium-to-phosphorus ratio, this is something that I would like to see advertised in every crested gecko diet’s guaranteed analysis.
Overall, Lugarti Premium Gecko Diet is above average compared to the most established brands, but not so much so that it is likely to be a cause for concern. Plus, doing the same thing as other, more established, brands isn’t always the best way to go.
Straight out of the bag, Lugarti Premium Gecko Diet clumps readily and is not easily pourable. Because it clumps well, it’s easy to get a heaping spoonful. It doesn’t have a distinctly fruity fragrance compared to most other diets I’ve used, which I find strange.
The most unusual thing about this diet is the consistency. Both the Dragon Fruit and Guava flavors that I tested were very thin, even when I mixed 1 part powder to 2 parts water per the instructions’ recommendation. Every other CGD that I have tried has had a texture comparable to cream, but this one is like whole juice.
Unfortunately I couldn’t really preference test this product. I have a colony of mourning geckos and a crested gecko that regularly eat CGD, but neither is particularly reliable. The mourning geckos eat extremely little due to their miniscule size, and the only evidence I have that my crested gecko eats at all most days is that he’s still alive. Plus, they’re nocturnal, so that makes observation difficult — although in retrospect I should have set up a night-vision webcam.
Have they eaten the food when it’s been offered, though? I have concrete observational evidence of the mourning geckos eating the Dragon Fruit flavor, (several at one time, too, which is unusual), so it must be at least palatable enough for normal consumption. Anecdotal evidence from other keepers also supports that the diet is palatable.
Things I Liked About Lugarti Premium Gecko Diet
- Contains insect meal derived from dubia roaches rather than black soldier fly larvae
- Contains bee pollen and honey to represent these elements of geckos’ wild diet
- Contains probiotics and lots of fiber for gut health
- Uses fruits that have not been previously used for CGD, creating sensory enrichment value
- Good selection of vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients
- Each ingredient in this formula seems to be thoughtfully selected and their presence is well justified
- Minimal additives
- Human-grade ingredients
- High solubility makes it nutritionally dense, which means that it may be particularly helpful for geckos that have trouble gaining weight
- High calcium content is good for reproductive females
Things I Didn’t Like About Lugarti Premium Gecko Diet
- Thinnest gecko diet I’ve tried
- High solubility means that one pouch of Lugarti CGD is unlikely to last as long as an equivalent amount of a different brand
- Sticks like glue to plastic food dishes once dry, difficult to remove without extensive soaking
Conclusion: A Worthy Addition to Your Gecko's Rotation
ReptiFiles Rating: 5 stars
After evaluating Lugarti Premium Gecko Diet’s ingredients list and guaranteed analysis to the best of my ability and comparing them to what is known about crested geckos’ nutritional needs, it is likely to make a high-quality and trustworthy addition to your gecko’s routine. Although it has some inconvenient texture qualities compared to the MRPs we’re used to, the texture does not seem to bother geckos, and may in fact be beneficial for particularly small species like mourning geckos.
Of course, at this point Lugarti Premium Gecko Diet still lacks the extensive, widespread testing that comes from being a primary diet used by breeders, so that still needs to be done to prove the formula’s reliability. That being said, I do not anticipate it causing any problems.
Which geckos can eat Lugarti Premium Gecko Diet?
Lugarti Premium Gecko Diet is appropriate for use with tropical arboreal geckos such as:
- Chahoua geckos
- Crested geckos
- Day geckos
- Gargoyle geckos
- Leachie geckos
- Mourning geckos
It can also be used as a sweet treat for other omnivorous species!
Our Advice for Using This Product:
- This formula dries out fast, so make sure to replace it every 24 hours.
- For a thicker consistency, use less water.
- Using Pangea’s biodegradable gecko cups makes cleanup much easier.
- Get all 3 flavors to help prevent boredom.
- Use Lugarti’s diet in a rotation with other trusted CGD brands (Pangea, Repashy, Leapin’ Leachies, Zoo Med, etc.) to create nutritional variety as well as variations in flavor.
- Courteney-Smith, J. (2014). The Arcadia Guide to Reptile & Amphibian Nutrition. United States: Arcadia Products.
- de Vosjoli, P. (2005). Crested Geckos. Advanced Vivarium Systems.
- Hamper, R. (2005). Crested Geckos in Captivity (With Notes on All Rhacodactylus Species). ECO Herpetological Publishing & Distribution.
- Loughrill, E., Wray, D., Christides, T., & Zand, N. (2016). Calcium to phosphorus ratio, essential elements and vitamin D content of infant foods in the UK: Possible implications for bone health. Maternal & Child Nutrition, 3, e12368. https://doi.org/10.1111/mcn.12368
- Phosphorus – Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. (2020, June 4). National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Phosphorus-HealthProfessional/