Best Lizard Food and Diet
In general the best lizard food or diet depends on the specie of lizard
and how they eat when not in captivity. That said, lizards that are
primarily meat eaters in the wild (carnivores), may eat vegetables on
occasion. The same is true for plant eaters or herbivores that
might eat small insects for protein. Veterinarians don't fully
understand how lizard health and diseases is effected when a diet fed
in captivity is more varied than a lizard's natural diet.
Check with your vet for the ideal diet for your species. Note
that some species, such
as the Bearded dragon are carnivores as juveniles and then become
herbivores in adulthood.
Lizard Food Made For a Specific
Species is Formulated with the Optimal Balance of Vitamins and
Minerals such as this product for Bearded Dragons, but there is some
debate as to whether the lizard should be fed a wide variety of natural
foods as well.
Lizards kept in a home aquarium also may not get the natural light
levels that would be found in nature. The lack of light results in
certain vitamin deficiencies that need to made up for in the diet. We
do know that lizards in captivity often require supplements, which
include calcium and a multi-vitamin.
There is some new research on feeding that may contradict the advice
received from a local pet store.
What we do know:
- Feeding only 1 food can result in problems. For example,
feeding only pinkie mice can result in obesity and higher than normal
fat intake. This is particularly true when in the wild a lizard
primarily eats insects, and now is eating small mice.
- Lizards that only eat plants in the wild (herbivores) should not
be fed a diet that is primarily the opposite, low fat pet food (dog,
cat), mice, crickets, mealworms etc.
- The effects of feeding the wrong diet may cause a slow decline in
health, vs anything that can be quickly noticed via signs such as
changes in behavior or eating habits.
- Each specific food has different vitamin levels. Some have
no nutritional value, while others are calcium rich
- If you feed wild rodents, make sure that they did not ingest any
mice or other rodents that consumer mouse poison
- Experiment with different foods and check with lizard health
professionals for the best diet. Review the information on each
specie found on this site or use the search box.
- Commercial complete diets that have protein levels of 28% to 32%
may result in later diseases such as hyperuicemia
- Every captive lizard should receive a lizard
multi-vitamin supplement to avoid bone diseases and hormonal
- Avoid wild insects if they live in areas sprayed with insecticides
In general, the ideal lizard diet is still being researched by
veterinarians and scientists. One approach is to ask your
veterinarian or pet store owner for the latest research. You can also
ask a question using the form at the bottom of this page or if you need
a quick response, use this online
veterinary service that is available now for questions and
Lizard Food Nutrient Levels
Lizards and Dietary Protein:
The following are the latest recommendations for protein levels in a
reptile or lizard diet.
Protein Ratio in Diet
|Omnivores and Carnivores
|18% to 20%
|11% to 12%
Note that many commercial reptile or lizard diets have a ratio of 28%
to 32%, which may lead to health problems such as hyperuricemia.
Lizards that eat plants could benefit from some fiber to aid the
digestive tract such as hay.
While there aren't specific recommendations, some veterinarian's
believe that a lizard should have .2% linoleic acid to avoid
artheroscelrosis (when fat is deposited on the walls of arteries from
higher cholesterol levels in the diet).
Lizard Calcium, Vitamin D and Mineral Levels:
Many captive lizards suffer from mineral deficiencies. For example,
feeding a lizard a diet high in meat protein without
anything else results in low calcium levels. This is also true in
lizards that primarily eat insects, since the insect skeleton does not
retain calcium. For this reason, pet stores recommend that insects such
as crickets be gut loaded (insects fed right before feeding to lizard),
and that they should be powdered with calcium.
Because of this a vitamin/mineral supplement such as Exo
is added to the diet. Lizard health depends on the right balance of
calcium vitamin D and phosphorus.
Lizards and Vitamin D: All
lizards require Vitamin D in order to metabolize any ingested calcium.
Vitamin D is naturally manufactured by the lizard's body when exposed
to ultraviolet light or unfiltered (not through glass or plexiglass)
natural sun. The method at which your lizard gets vitamin D varies by
diet and natural or ultraviolet light exposure along these general
- Lizards that Each Whole Mice or Other Animals: Usually receive
enough vitamin D from the diet and do not require a supplement
- Insectovorous Lizards: Gut loaded insects (just fed) and
powdering of Calcium/Vitamin D supplement on food/insects
- Herbevorous (plant eating) lizards with limited UVB (ultra violet
light) exposure: Provide vitamin D/Calcium supplements
Note that it is important not to overdose vitamin D or calcium.
Too much vitamin D, calcium or phosphorus can results to hormonal
imbalance resulting in the levels of calcium, phosphorus or magnesium
become elevated. Conversely, not getting enough will also result
in hormonal problems. The result will be weakened lizard bones,
particularly in the jaw (bone softening called osteomalacia).
Other problems that could result include kidney stones, rickets and
broken bones. Symptoms of a mineral overdose in lizards includes
seizures and muscle contractions that do not return to the normal state.
A typical recommendation for herbivores is to receive a mineral
supplement such as Rep-cal
phosphorous free calcium supplement provided 3x per week.
If you see any of these symptoms, are suspect that the lizard food and
supplements is not meeting the mineral requirements of your species,
consult with a veterinarian either in person, or by using an online
veterinary service like this one. Other lizard
disease related symptoms are a lack of appetite, and when they stay
in the warm areas in the habitat or aquarium.
Raising Your Own Lizard Food
Many owners raise their own foods, such as insects. These insects
need to be gut loaded (recently fed) or else they provide little
nutritional value. Crickets are a popular lizard food raised by
owners. In the case of crickets they should gut loaded with a
food such as Flukers
Hi Calcium Cricket Feed.
Live crickets can also be purchased online from sites like Amazon.
Herbivorous Lizard Food (Plant eating lizards)
lizards, feed a variety of lizard foods to both get your
lizard used to eating many types of foods and to provide a variety of
vitamins.. Feed a combination of green leafy vegetables and to a
lessor amount, insects as follows. Everything listed are safe
foods for lizards. A typical herbivorous lizard diet is 50% greens, 25%
high fiber pellets, 15% vegetables and 10% fruit. The main source of
energy in herbivores is energy produced by fermentative digestion in
the lower bowel. The primary source of energy is from fiber that
breakdown and releases carbohydrates.
To ensure that plant eating lizards get enough protein, make sure that
the diet includes alfalfa sprouts, bean sprouts, soybeans or a small
amount of low fat dog food.
Popular Herbirorous Lizard Species
- Green Iguana
- Prehensile-tailed skins
- Spiny Tailed Agamid
Parenthesis indicates the ratio of calcium to phosphorous. The
goal is to keep the calcium to phosphorous ratio the diet to no less
than 2:1. Ideally the ratio is 3:1 or 4:1. Numbers are listed in
value per 100.0g as reported by the USDA (click link below for
calculator). For example, the ratio in collard greens of calcium
to phosphorous is excellent. NA indicates that values are not available
in the FDA calculator. You can look up any food here. All are
safe lizard foods.
Herbivorous Lizard Dark Green Leaves and Foods:
- Bok Choy (105:37)
- Clover Leaves (NA)
- Collard greens (232:25) - calcium rich
- Dandelion greens/flowers (NA)
- Escarole (NA)
- Hibiscus blossums (NA)
- Kale (150:92) - phosphorous levels higher than ideal
- Legumes (fresh and dried) (NA)
- Nasturtium (known as watercress, entire plant), (120:60)
- Mustard greens (115:58)
- Romaine lettuce (33:30) - higher than ideal phosphorous
- Rose blossoms (NA)
- Spinich (limits calcium absorption, only use with lizards that
receive calcium supplement), (99:49)
- Turnip greens (190:42)
Other Acceptable Lizard Foods:
- Alfalfa pellets
- Alfalfa sprouts (32:70) - avoid
- Beans (all leaves and stems) - NA
- Broccoli stems and leaves (48:66) - high phosphorous, avoid
- Grain breads (NA)
- Swiss Chard (inhibits calcium absorption, only use with lizards
that receive calcium supplements)
- Tofu prepared with calcium sulfate (683:190) - calcium rich,
avoid overdose when used with supplements
- Unsweetened bran cereal (check phosphorous content of brand you
- Wild bird seeds
Fruits and Vegetables
- Apples (6:11)
- Avocado (13:54)
- Berries (blueberries (6:12)
- Grated squash (24:21)
- Melons (9:15)
- Okra (82:61)
- Tomato (10:24)
- Calcium supplements that are in the ratio 3:1 or 4:1 calcium to
phosphorous. (2:1 acceptable). Some vets prefer phosphorus and
vitamin D free Rep-cal
3x per week. Store the supplement in the freezer to reduce oxidation.
The product life is about 6 months if kept in the freezer. Check with
Foods Excluded due to High Phosphorous Levels:
- Beets (1:1)
- Cabbage (dark green) (40:26)
Insectivorous Lizard Food
Lizards that are primarily insectivorous (see insectivorous
lizard species list
here). These lizards primarily eat insects, and
to a lessor extent small pinkie mice, which are smaller than some
insects. Some species will also eat plants. The primary sources of
energy and nutrients for these lizards is from fat (25% to 60%) and
protein (30% to 60%).
It is important to feed insectivores multiple food sources, not just
two. Canned diets (snails, caterpillars and crickets) do offer the name
nutrition as live insects. Canned
have the best calcium/phosphorus ratio of 12:1.
Live crickets can be purchased online,
gut fed at home as the perfect insect lizard food
Insectivorous Species (sample, not
- Alligator Lizards
- Brown and Green Anoles
- Geckos (most)
- Glass Lizards
- Night Lizards
- True Chameleons
- Skinks (most, not all)
Popular and Commercially Available Lizard Insect Food (earthworms
are not an insect, but acceptable):
- Fly Maggots
- Fruit Flies
- Giant Mealworms
- Goliath Worms
- Night Crawlers
- Phoenix worms*
- Silk Worms
- Waxworms (catepillars)
*Butter worms and Phoenix worms have the best calcium to phosphorus
ratio (2:1). Crickets, super worms and meal worms have less than ideal
reverse calcium to phosphorus ratios. Avoid wild insects if they have
come in contact with insecticides.
Also experiment with some of the foods listed in the herbivore section
of this page in a smaller ration (30% or less) to insects.
A calcium supplement that dusts insects just prior to feeding is
recommended along with gut loaded crickets.
Carnivorous Lizard Foods
Carnivorous lizards have shorter digestive tracts. Nutrition is
metabolized from fat intake (25%-60%), protein (30% - 60%), some
carbohydrates and little fiber. Larger lizards receive the nutrition
they need by eating whole prey (an entire pinkie mouse). The biggest
dietary issue with this dietary group is the quality of food provided
and how the food is stored prior to feeding to the lizard.
Like other lizard diets, it is preferable to feed a variety of lizard
foods. If canned cat food is used, it could result in too much calcium
being fed and protein.Online used canned dog and cat foods that are low
fat and in a small proportion of the entire diet.
Popular carnivorous lizards
- Monitors (not all)
- Tegus (not all)
Lizards that are carnivores tend to be larger and able to hunt for prey
in the wild. They will also eat some fruits, insects and possibly eggs.
Typical carnivorous lizard foods include:
- Guinea Pigs
Other Lizard Foods:
Some owners prefer to feed lizards live, freshly killed or defrosted
food (frozen less than 3 months.) All of these are safe options.
After lizard feed is frozen for 3 months there is a decline in
available Vitamin E levels. Fish should be in good body condition
if fed fresh. Frozen fish can lose vitamin E levels after 3 months. If
food is older than 3 months, Vitamin E supplements and thiamine might
can be purchased online. If the mice are more than 3 months
old, there may have been some decline in Vitamin E requiring a
supplement be added to the diet, as well as calcium
Pinkie mice are a popular lizard food option. Some researchers believe
that older pinkie mice have higher calcium to phosphorus content (.79:1
in young, 1.4:1 in older). If pinkies are the dominant diet, a calcium
supplement may be needed. Note that Pinkie Mice can be purchased online
from stores such as PetSmart.
Omnivorous Lizard Food (eats plants and animals)
Omnivorous lizard diets consist of both plants and animals. They will
also eat many of the fruits and vegetables listed above as well as commercial
omnivore reptile food
and canned cat food. Omnivores should
be fed in the ration 75% herbivorous foods and 25% carnivorous.
Popular omnivorous lizards:
- Bearded dragons
- Blue-tongued skink
- Cunningham sink
- Day Gecko
- Knight anole
- New Caledonian gecko
- Veiled chameleon
- Water dragon
These lizards will eat many of the insects and foods listed above. The
best diet is one that is varied, including insects, and plants.
Research your specific lizard species for the correct ratio or
consult a veterinarian. One approach is to ask a question using
online veterinary service such as this
How to Change a Lizard Diet
If you observe your lizard not doing well on a diet, or if you adopt an
older lizard (or from another owner), gradually switch over any
diet. This is done by mashing the two foods together.
Slowly reduce the proportion of the old diet and the quantity of
the new diet.
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Care from A to Z
(Best Book on Everything Lizard)
by Bartlett, R.D. and Bartlett, Patricia
Reptile Nutrition, What's New
C.J. Fleming, Disney's Animal Programs, Orlando, FL, USA
Manual for Pet Health
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