There are approximately 9,500 different species of reptiles on the planet and some of these ancient creatures are wonderful pets. Crocodiles are not typically pets, but they are avid and aggressive carnivores and tortoises are all about their veggies. There may be many types of reptiles kept as pets but there is no “one formula for all reptiles.” What is nutritious for one reptile is not right for others and can cause them severe malnutrition and health problems. You must feed your pet what it needs and should know what they need before buying one.
Live food is part of the reptile-owner lifestyle for many species. Depriving an obligate carnivore or omnivore of meat kills that animal by malnutrition and is animal cruelty. Improperly fed and hungry reptiles can be aggressive and who could blame them? With the wrong diet, a reptile is slowly starving to death and suffering. You are warm-blooded, move, and may smell like a meal in a time of starvation. Avoid this by feeding a reptile the things it requires to live.
If you are a reptile owner, you need to know what the reptiles you have want and need to eat. Researching to find science-backed reptile nutrition ensures their health and a long lifespan. Feeding your reptile, regardless of species means finding the proper ratio of pellets or a commercial reptile food, fresh foods (including insects for some), and the necessary supplements that support their health in captivity. The optimal pet reptile diet varies widely, and each species have their unique requirements.
What do snakes eat?
Snakes are almost entirely obligate carnivores, even those that eat raw fertile eggs. They require protein in the form of rodents or small mammals, from mice, rats to large cockroaches. Snakes do not need, want, or tolerate fruits or vegetables. They require fresh clean water daily. In nature, snakes will eat rodents and insects and will eat birds, rabbits, hares, any mammal they catch, and which can fit past their jaws and the rare raw egg for the protein-rich contents a snake craves. There are a few exotic African egg-eating snakes. They eat exclusively small eggs such as pigeon, finch, quail, and small chicken eggs. These toothless snakes can eat eggs sourced from local farms, farm animal sanctuaries, friends/neighbors, or even from your pet birds. Store-bought eggs are not the right eggs. They require only eggs that can hatch into baby birds.
You can feed snake’s rodents that are appropriately sized for your snake from pinky newborn to full-size rats. Full-grown pythons need grown rabbits. These rodents can provide complete nutrition to a snake as these rodents were fed a nutrient-full diet of pellet feed and can be sourced frozen, freshly killed, or alive. Frozen, killed, or live feeder animals are available at exotic pet shops and even pet supermarkets. The types of meat a snake prefers can be warm-blooded or even other reptiles or amphibians. No snake can live as a vegetarian. Most snakes prefer to eat food that is moving so defrosting and warming up a frozen mouse and using tongs to mimic animation if necessary. Many snake-owners call using like food “mastering the zombie mouse dance”. If you are squeamish, you do consider a snake as a pet! Even snakes who will eat frozen and defrosted mice require rodents to live and if you cannot handle feeding a pet, you should not purchase it. Some snake owners who have more than one mouth to feed even consider breeding mice or rats to always have fresh food on hand.
What do lizards eat?
Lizards have great diversity amongst their dietary requirements. Most common pet lizards are omnivores and chose to get their protein from insects. A few species are herbivorous. Predatory carnivorous lizards generally are not kept as pets and are obligate carnivores. Crickets are a favorite lizard food and are simple insects. Wild lizards eat a variety of insects from worms, beetles, crickets, and roaches. Certain lizards will also eat smaller lizards, pinky mice, and birds. Lizards who are not pure carnivores need vegetation to eat and enjoy vegetation and fruits they find.
Most pet lizards eat crickets, mealworms, waxworms, and so-called Superworms as an occasionally fatty treat. To address potential nutritional deficiencies, lizard food can have a vitamin supplement rich in calcium and other nutrients that allow them to absorb vitamin D from their UV lights to develop strong teeth and bones either dusted on their insects or added to their daily chop of bite-sized lizard-safe vegetables and fruits. Bearded dragons are a common pet lizard and are happy omnivores. Other lizards requiring more vegetation to insects are anoles, geckos, and Iguanas. These lizards still need regular protein provided by insects.
What do turtles eat?
Turtles and tortoises are not even exclusively- vegetarian reptiles, but many species are. These slower-moving or semi-aquatic pets prefer easy to eat foods such as dark-leafed lettuces, beet greens, and other leafy greens such as dandelion greens. Tortoises and turtles also will eat species approved fruits and flowers grown and certified organic to ensure no pesticides or chemicals were used that can hurt your pet. Some species of aquatic or semi-aquatic turtles eat feeder fish such as comet goldfish or insects. A nutrient-balanced and species-tailored diet is required.
The herbivorous species of turtles and tortoises might be appealing to you if you are a vegan and want to pet that shares your beliefs and practices. Turtles and tortoises need supplements to address any deficiencies in their diets and can have complex nutritional requirements that an educated pet owner can provide.
Nutritional deficiencies in amphibians and reptiles lead to weak bones, teeth, improper growth, and molting, as well as causing them to have weaker immune systems and shortening their lifespans. Pellets are only available for certain species and provide complete and balanced nutrition and all necessary supplements. Turtles and other reptiles that can eat pellets should always have a portion daily along with their diet or fresh foods, including insects. Supplements can be sprinkled on foods or even added to some species water.
Feeding your reptile correctly will keep healthy and allow you to enjoy the companionship and beauty of your pet for its full lifespan and ensure your pet is well, fit, sated, and happy in your care.