Reptiles eat a variety of foods to maintain good health. They need a balanced diet to avoid nutritional deficiencies, which can lead to diseases like cancer and gastrointestinal issues.
Insects, mollusks, birds, frogs, mammals, fish and even other reptiles make up the diet of many popular reptile pets. For a balanced insect-based diet, consider gut loading your crickets and worms with Mazuri Gut Loader to ensure your pet gets the right nutrients.
Herbivores eat only plants and plant parts, such as grasses, fruits, leaves, roots, vegetables and flowers. They eat nothing else that needs photosynthesis to grow, including animals and invertebrates. Herbivores can be small — cockroaches, for example — or large — goats and elephants. Those herbivores that eat primarily wood are called xylophages, such as termites and Asian long-horned beetles.
Nature has given herbivores mouthparts and digestive systems that are optimized for a solely plant-based diet. The molars of these herbivores are flat and designed to grind or rasp away at tough plant matter. Their stomachs secrete acids and enzymes to break down plant material before it enters the intestines. They also have shorter digestive tracts than carnivores or omnivores because they do not ferment their food as effectively.
Some herbivores have even evolved to modify the structures of the plants they eat. They do this to reduce the plants’ defensive action and make it easier for the herbivores to feed on them.
Reptiles that eat a lot of vegetation need to be careful not to overdo it. This can cause them to become dehydrated, which is why it is important for them to eat enough water, too. It is also a good idea to offer different types of prey species in order to keep the nutrient levels up. This way, a reptile is less likely to become dependent on one prey type that may be difficult to obtain in the wild.
Some animals may seem to be herbivores or carnivores when viewed in isolation, but they’re also omnivores if their diet is more broadly balanced. In general, omnivores are opportunistic feeders that forage or scavenge a broad spectrum of plants and animal matter. For example, badgers eat everything from plants and fungi to mice and birds. And pharaoh ants, the world’s smallest omnivores, harvest plant matter as well as other insects and even dead vertebrates.
Many carnivores get some plant matter in their diet, either intentionally or unintentionally. For example, a lion may kill and eat a gazelle for the protein and fat it provides. A polar bear, on the other hand, is almost entirely carnivorous.
Reptiles that are opportunistic feeders, such as hermit crabs and coral, are also often omnivorous. However, it’s important not to over-indulge your pet with raw meat or other animal parts since these foods are not part of a reptile’s natural diet and can lead to nutritional imbalance and disease.
For example, turtles do not hunt and eat cows, sheep, chickens or kangaroos in the wild. Feeding them this kind of diet in captivity can cause dehydration, metabolic bone disease from low calcium and vitamin D levels and gout due to excess urination. If you are unsure about your reptile’s diet, consult our veterinarian for advice and recommendations.
Carnivores are predators who consume animals for their primary source of nutrients. Their diets can include reptiles, birds, mammals, amphibians, fish and insects.
They typically have sharp teeth and claws that help them hunt prey, and their mouths are designed for consuming meat. The front two teeth, known as canine teeth, sit alongside incisors that are designed to cut and tear flesh. These teeth are often dark in color and have a jagged appearance, which helps carnivores distinguish their meals from the surrounding vegetation.
Some reptiles are hypercarnivores, meaning they rely on meat-based nutrition for up to 70% of their diet. This includes the polar bear and other Arctic carnivores. Other reptiles are mesocarnivores, meaning they eat a mixture of plant matter and meat-based foods. Examples include the bearded dragon, many skinks and box turtles.
Like herbivores, mesocarnivores are important parts of their ecosystems because they help maintain the ecological balance in food chains and webs. Mesocarnivores also play an important role in helping plant seeds and grains to be dispersed across expansive areas, allowing plants to grow and thrive where they might not otherwise have a chance to do so.
Insects are a great way to add variety and nutrition to your reptile’s diet. But make sure to use a high quality insect feed, such as Mazuri® Better BugsTM, and to gut-load crickets and worms before feeding them to your reptiles. This will ensure that they are nutritionally balanced and offer essential fatty acids, calcium, vitamins and minerals.
Insectivore is a dietary term that refers to any animal that feeds chiefly on insects and similar small creatures. Its use is broader than that of some other dietary categories as it delineates a group that spans several phyla and classes, including hoofed mammals, birds, reptiles, and fishes.
Insectivorous animals tend to be highly efficient predators and play double trophic level roles in their food chains and webs. They are land-dwellers, burrowers and may be nocturnal. They eat a wide range of insects, including those that are pests such as dragonflies, beetles and praying mantises, as well as some arachnids and frogs, toads and lizards.
Interestingly, there are some crocodiles and alligators that are “hyper-carnivorous,” obtaining most or all of their calories from fresh meat. They hunt along rivers, canals and swamps, waiting for unwary animals or birds to approach in order to grab them with their jaws.
Insectivorous reptiles include such species as green iguanas, spiny-tailed lizards, and tortoises. They primarily eat leafy greens and should be offered these in their enclosure daily, supplemented with fruits and vegetables such as carrots, squash, and tomatoes. They should not be fed dog or cat food as these foods are high in protein and can damage their kidneys. They should be offered insect prey such as gut loaded or dusted crickets, grasshoppers and mealworms as well as wax worms.