Sugar gliders are naturally omnivorous, meaning they eat both animal and plant products. In the wild, they feast mostly on sap and gums (from trees), nectar, pollens, honeydews and a huge variety of insects and arachnids.
In captivity, the most critical part of keeping healthy sugar gliders is to provide a balanced, varied, fresh diet. This means ensuring the correct ratio of carbohydrates to proteins and supplying adequate vitamins and minerals.
Your sugar glider’s daily basic diet should include:
- A nectar mix such as Leadbeater’s mixture
- Commercial pelleted food for gliders, or an insectavore/carnivore pelleted food
Note: Sugar gliders can have lean unseasoned meats as a treat.
All foods should be fresh or frozen. Fresh vegetables and fruits should be washed thoroughly to remove pesticides, and frozen foods should be thoroughly thawed. Insects can be live or canned. Pelleted food should be fresh — do not feed food that has been stored for more than two months. Nectar mixes should be refrigerated and thrown out after three weeks.
If you are giving your sugar glider enough food at night, you should find a little left over in the morning. All uneaten foods should be removed to prevent spoilage, and all dishes should be washed with biodegradable soap and hot water.
Treats can be used to help tame and bond with your sugar glider, but should not make up more than 5 percent of your sugar glider's total daily intake of food. Healthy treats include very small pieces of cooked (not fried) lean unseasoned poultry or beef. Some sugar gliders also like tofu.
Make a Leadbeater’s mixture for your sugar glider by following this recipe:
Modified Leadbeater's Mix Ingredients:
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons raw honey
- 1 shelled hard-boiled egg
- 1 teaspoon vitamin/mineral supplement (designed for sugar gliders, reptiles or small pets)
- 1/2 cup high-protein baby cereal
Mix the first four ingredients in a blender, and then gradually add the baby cereal, blending until smooth. Refrigerate or freeze unused portions. Discard any unused refrigerated portion after three days.
Note: This recipe appears in the book, "Sugar Gliders - A Complete Pet Owner's Manual" by Caroline MacPherson.
Commercial sugar glider food should be prepared and stored as directed on the manufacturer’s packaging.
Freshly prepared Leadbeater's mix can be refrigerated in plastic or glass airtight containers for up to three days. The mixture can also be frozen in airtight packaging for up to six months.
Your sugar glider cage should contain several food dishes and at least two water bottles. Food and water containers should be placed high up in the cage because this is where sugar gliders naturally feed.
Daily fresh water is critical for sugar gliders because they can become dangerously dehydrated without it for even a day. Small mammal water bottles can be used to provide water to sugar gliders as they are less likely than a dish to be contaminated with urine, feces or food. The bottles should be routinely inspected for leakage and should be cleaned with biodegradable soap and hot water at least once a week.
At least two water bottles should be provided in the cage.
Water bowls are less prone to leaking and are more natural and more easily accepted. They allow water to get soiled easily, however, and require frequent cleaning.
Give your glider the following portions of food each day:
Food Portion 1: One tablespoon of fresh fruit, such as apple, kiwi, pear, banana, honeydew, papaya, grape, cantaloupe, watermelon, mango or blueberry. Wash fruit thoroughly to remove dirt and pesticides before offering them to sugar gliders.
Food Portion 2: One tablespoon of fresh or frozen vegetables, such as tomatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, shredded carrot, squash, or pumpkin, mixed sprouts, lettuce (not iceberg), broccoli or parsley. Wash vegetables thoroughly to remove dirt and pesticides before offering them to sugar gliders.
Food Portion 3: One tablespoon of nectar mix (i.e. Leadbeater's mix or other commercially prepared nectar mix for sugar gliders)
Food Portion 4: An unlimited amount of commercial pelleted sugar glider diet or insectavore/carnivore diet, available at all times.
Food Portion 5: Insects such as mealworms or other feeder worms, like earthworms or Phoenix worms, available at pet stores. Feed 10 to 12 small, 7 to 10 medium, or 3 to 5 large worms, 3 to 5 gut-loaded crickets per sugar glider per night. Sugar gliders also enjoy other insects such as beetles and grasshoppers. (Only gather insects from outdoors if you are completely certain no insecticides have been used in the area.) Uneaten insects that are still alive in the morning should be returned to their containers.
Feeding a good quality, commercially prepared balanced diet made specifically for sugar gliders is the best way to ensure your small pet is getting the correct ratio of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. You should also add insects, fresh fruits and vegetables daily. To be safe, add a vitamin and mineral supplement to your sugar glider’s diet.
If you prefer to give your sugar glider a homemade diet, a vitamin and mineral supplement is a must. Use vitamin and mineral supplements made specifically for sugar gliders, or you can offer a cat, dog or reptile multi-vitamin with minerals, including calcium but no phosphorus.