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Sugar Glider

License : Basic

Captive life span : 5-8 years

Size : Head & body length 160-210mm, tail 160-210mm 

Weight : males 115-160g and females 95-135.

Housing : Aviary

The Sugar Glider Petaurus breviceps has seven sub-species. Three occurring in Australia and the other four in New Guinea. The sub species occurring in Australia are, P.b. ariel, Northern Territory extending into Western Australia. P.b.longicaudatus, Queensland and P.b breviceps, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania (introduced in 1830’s). Head and body length 160-210 mm, tail 160-210 mm. Weight, males 115-160g and females 95-135g. In the wild their life expectancy is 4-6 years. In captivity 5-8, however they have been know up to 10 years, the oldest known animal lived to 14 years. You need a Basic License to keep this species in Victoria. Under current licensing laws sub species are not recognised or required to be listed. Individual members of the Marsupial Society do recognise, record and maintain pure sub-species of the 3 that occur in Australia.  P.b breviceps is the most commonly kept of all the sugar gliders. P.b.longicaudatus this sub species’s purity is questionable and has been hybridised with P.b breviceps for many years, there are still pure longicaudatus kept. P.b. ariel is kept in small numbers and has avoided being hybridised and successfully maintained a pure subspecies.


Description - Sugar Gliders are bluey grey in colour with a dark dorsal stripe. Cream to grey underside/belly, with a grey and black tail sometimes with a white tip. Sugar Gliders are a vocal species with a vocalisation range from barking, shrilled yapping and a defiant gurgling chatter (usually heard when disturbing them while in their nest box).

House requirements - When housing any species, the larger the enclosure the better. Current recommended enclosure requirements are 7sq meters for 2 animals and 3m high. Increased floor area of 1sq meter per extra animal. For the construction of a Sugar Glider aviary steel tube would be the best material. Wood exposed to the Glider will be chewed and treated timber should always be avoided. Wire used on aviaries is 12 mm x 12 mm x 1.4mm thick, weld mesh. Furnishing the aviary depends on the space you have, securing branches to the wire or planting them in the ground straight up and down to mimic tree trunks is a good start. The larger the gaps between branches will encourage gliding.  Also consider a network of climbing branches suspended from the top of the aviary. Think about where you place food, stainless steel food bowls hooked onto the wire can be moved around the cage, which will increase your Gliders activity and stimulate them at the same time. Nest boxes should be provided as an alternative to a hollow log, simply because they are usually easier to access, to clean and replace if necessary.  Nest boxes can be lined with fresh wood shavings or a similar bedding material. The more nest boxes that can be provided the better, two would be fine for a pair or a trio of Sugar Gliders. Sugar Gliders will make their own nest within the box. When they are provided with fresh browse and branches. The nest box size is 200 mm x 200 mm x 450 mm high. Entrance hole should be 40-50 mm in diameter. Housing Sugar Gliders with terrestrial species such as Brush-tailed bettongs has been done successfully, this is also dependant on the size of the enclosure. (Bettongs require 20sqm for 2 animals).


Health - Nutritional osteodystrophy - know as hind limb paralysis can be common in captive sugar gliders. It seems to be cause by a calcium deficient diet. Adding calcium to the diet can be done by calcium dusting insects or gut loading insects with a high calcium diet. Ectoparasites - ticks and fleas, signs can be the animal grooming excessively. Routine examination of the fur may alert you to this early. Good hygiene always is a preventative to any disease. If possible quarantine new animals for a period before introducing them to individual or your colony. Endoparasites - do not normally affect gliders with good husbandry practices in place. Veterinary advice should be sought for diagnosis and treatment of intestinal worms. Toxoplasmosis - Toxoplamasma gondii, is a protozoan parasite it needs to be ingested via cat faeces. Prevent animals having access to cats and cat faecal material. Keep cats from accessing food storage areas and equipment areas. Good husbandry and hygiene practises are very important to prevent all possible causes of disease. For information on diet. Breeding & introductions.  Next box sizes & aviary design logon to the Members area.


Diet - Their diet in the wild consists of exudates, invertebrates, nectar, pollen and fruit. In captivity it is not difficult to provided an appropriate diet for this species. Diet used by Healesville Sanctuary - Daily per animal - 6g fruit chopped, 5g corn chopped, 2g sprouted seed, 1g fly pupae, 2 mealworms, 1tsp nectar mix, Dog/Chow Eukanuba pet food kibble. Supplement - Pollen granules– once per week, 3 Sultanas 3-4 times per week, 1g pet health food once per week (Ecopet one small cube), Insects 3-4 times per week.  Nectar Mix - 900ml warm water, 900ml honey, 6 shelled hard-boiled eggs, 150g high protein baby cereal, 6tsp Sustagen. Method- Stir together water and honey until dissolved. Make eggs mushy. Add all ingredients together blend until smooth. Can be stored for up to two weeks. Fresh water should be available at all times. Acacia, eucalypts and other blossoms should be supplied. Fresh cuttings should be given every two or three days. Tip: Use a long plastic container wired to the aviary to hold water and put cuttings in. Another nectar mix that is quite easy is 2 level tbs Sustagen. 1/4 cup farex. 1/4 cup level raw sugar. 1 boiled egg (shelled). Water to mix. Put all ingredients into a kitchen blender and blend until a smooth consistency. 

Other vegetables can be added to the diet, ie broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, it will depend what each individual animal likes. There are also some commercial supplements that can be used in a Sugar Gliders diet. Insectivore rearing mix. Wombaroo high protein supplement. Vetafarm blossom nectar. Sugar gliders do not feed primarily on nectar, it is a supplement. Even try spreading the food around in small amounts for the animals to find themselves. Exercise and a correct diet will prevent Sugar Gliders becoming obese. Obesity can lead to health issues. Cages should be checked daily to remove uneaten food, and refresh water bowls. 


Breeding/introductions - Sugar Gliders use scent to maintain group structure. Careful observation will alert you to possible aggression in animals and changes in the social structure. Sexing is quiet easy with males having obvious testes also males have scent gland in middle of their forehead which develops with age. Sugar Gliders are polygamous in the wild. In captivity keep one adult male to a colony only. A pair of animals is a good introduction to keeping this species. Trios can be kept successfully, both females may not breed as it has been found there can be a sexually dominate female and this female may be the only one to breed. Sugar Gliders breed well in captivity and breed at least once per year. Birth season is April-November with a litter size of 1-2. The oestrus cycle is 29 days. Gestation is 16 days, this species has no post partum oestrus and no genetic diapause occurs. The young will exit the pouch at 70-74 days. They wean around 110-120 days. Males become sexually mature at 8-15 months and females at 12 months. New groups are best made with young animals, recently weaned or under one year old. Ideally when obtaining animals from different places they should be introduced into a new enclosure at the same time, to avoid fighting over already established territories. Introducing an individual to an individual of the opposite sex will usually go well, without incident. Introductions of one animal into an already established group should be avoided. If necessary to do this a new enclosure should be set up with no scent of other Sugar Gliders and new nest boxes provided. Always be observant while doing this kind of introduction until a group structure develops. Sugar Gliders are a relatively easy species and can be rewarding for those looking to keep their first marsupials, or for the already experienced keeper. They are a species that when kept with good husbandry and hygiene practices in place are relatively disease and problem free. Once established in their enclosure with a bit of work from you, they will become friendly, able to be hand fed and patable.

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