One of the many wonderful things about lizards is their diversity. But of course, this means that one of the confusing things about lizards is trying to figure out which species eats which food.
The majority of lizards, and indeed any reptile, will need some form of protein from insects or prey. It’s common for these to be fed live to your lizard, so you will need to gut-feed and care for the insects too.
Some will also require greens, such as leaves and vegetables. Then some breeds need certain percentages of each food group for a healthy, balanced diet.
It could be dangerous to assume your lizard will eat what another breed eats. So, below is a guide to the diet of the most popular lizard breeds in the UK.
A Guide To Feeding Your Lizard
Because they are all so diverse, every lizard breed requires very specific (and differentiating) needs when it comes to food, environment and handling. Below is a rough guide on what to expect.
Beardies are the most common lizard in the UK. They are omnivores, so will eat both animals and greens. Bearded dragons aren’t picky over which animal this is in the wild, but in captivity, it will often be insects.
Insects are a great choice because they are inexpensive to buy in bulk, can be gut-loaded (fed high-quality food which will be passed on to your dragon) and can be dusted with calcium and supplement powders. The insects should be alive, and no larger than the mouth of your bearded dragon.
Variety is key here. Popular insects include:
- Crickets (e.g. brown house crickets)
Remove any insects which have been uneaten after a few hours, as they can bite your bearded dragon and cause stress.
Safe greens include:
- Wild plants; dandelion, clover and plantain leaves
Avoid spinach as this prevents calcium absorption. Too much cabbage or kale can also affect hormone production.
Your bearded dragon should be given fresh greens every day, with uneaten produce removed.
Young dragons should be given a balanced diet of 65% livefood and 35% greens, with the greens gradually increasing as they get older. You can read more about caring for bearded dragons in our care sheet.
Leopard Geckos, House Geckos, Anoles
On the other hand, the lizards above do not eat greens. They are known as insectivores and live on a diet of only meat. While this can be easier for many owners as you don’t have to prepare salads and research which greens are safe, it can be hard to maintain.
Meat should be given in the form of insects. These need to be alive – most leopard geckos, for example, will not touch dead insects, even if it is all they have. Live food should be given when they are most active in the evening, and when you can watch them.
Common insects for an insectivore are:
They should be small enough for your reptile to swallow, no larger than the space between their eyes.
High-calorie insects, such as waxworm or superworm, are great as treats. But they are high in fat, so should be given sparingly. Too much fat can result in hepatic lipidosis and cardiac disease.
Did you know? Geckos store fat in their tails, so it can be hard to spot if they are obese
Are there any vegetarian lizard species?
Technically, yes. The Uromastyx is a popular vegetarian pet lizard in the UK. Since being in captivity, they are largely fed a completely herbivorous (vegetarian) diet.
Green iguanas and their sub-species cousins are also largely herbivorous, although not common pets. Tortoises and some turtles are herbivorous if you want a reptile but none of the below appeal.
Most are given fresh salad daily and a bowl of dry seeds. In fact, they love seeds. Good options include:
- Dry or sprouting lentils
- Pelleted food designed for herbivorous reptiles
When it comes to greens, these should make up the bulk of the diet. Good options include:
- Collard greens
- Mustard greens
- Turnip greens
- Dandelion greens
- Swiss chard
- Green beans
- Pumpkin and squash
Avoid light greens, such as iceberg lettuce and celery.
Some people argue that it is unfair to give a lizard a vegetarian diet. Live food, such as crickets and roaches, can be given as an occasional treat. Superworms and silkworms are also nutritious sources – but they can’t eat vertebrates such as mice.
Juvenile uromastyx will usually be given more insects than adults, but most show a natural waning interest in insects over time.
Iguanas are uncommon in the UK, given their complicated care needs, large size and often bad temper. But green iguanas and their sub-species cousins are also herbivores, folivores and frugivores. This means they eat mainly leaves, weeds, flowers and fruits.
This is their natural diet, too, so not for human ease.
Common pet lizard feeding mistakes
Lack of calcium
Calcium is an important part of lizards diet, as they need it to build and maintain bones. It also has an important part to play in metabolism.
But often they don’t get enough. Retiles which eat mammalian prey, such as snakes, will get calcium from their food. Because reptiles consume an insectivorous (only insects), herbivorous (only plants), or omnivorous (plants and prey) diet, calcium and vitamin D3 supplements should be sprinkled on their food in order to aid their diet.
It often comes as a powder, so is simple to use.
Feeding too much protein
Some lizards are largely herbivorous, so too much protein can be damaging to health, causing intestinal trouble.
Even some lizards which eat meat, such as bearded dragons, need larger portions of greens than meat. Too much protein can cause impactions and isn’t good for their liver.
Insects like superworms contain a lot of fat, too, which can cause an unbalanced diet and obesity.
It can often feel daunting wondering what to feed your reptile, but if you’re worried, then you can always speak to your vet or find online forums dedicated to lizard owners. Each lizard has different dietary requirements, so as well as our general feeding advice, you should look into the specific dietary needs of your particular species too.
If you’re still deciding which lizard you want as a pet, then it may be a good idea to ask yourself if you can handle live food. If you can’t, then a herbivorous lizard will be best – or even another reptile like a tortoise.