Reptiles have a variety of eating habits due to thermo-regulation, egg laying, dietary requirements and more. Reptiles are omnivores, insectivores, carnivores or herbivores and this can have a significant influence on their care and upkeep. Among the easier reptiles to take care of are small to mid-range sized insectivores and omnivores such as leopard geckos and bearded dragons. The more difficult reptiles are larger carnivorous reptiles who require frequent feeding. Some of the factors involved with reptile diets different eating habits of reptiles are described as follows.
• Nutritional balance
The diet of a reptile is a significant aspect of reptile care. Achieving the right levels of protein, calcium and vitamins is just as important to reptiles as it is for humans. Season, temperature, age and gender will influence feeding patterns as hotter temperatures allow reptiles to metabolize food faster and eat more. To illustrate how gender can influence nutritional needs, female lizards may require greater supplementation during times of clutch laying. Moreover, the type of food the reptile would naturally eat in the wild should dictate what it eats in captivity.
• Feeding times
The length of the day, breeding patterns and the age of the reptile can also affect what and how often a reptile should eat. Since all reptiles have unique differences, it is important to become acquainted with the feeding habits, behavior and nutritional needs of a reptile for proper care. For example, some reptiles like Leopard Geckos are nocturnal meaning they are more likely to eat at night and should be fed in the evenings rather than during the day. Other reptiles like snakes may only require feeding once a month depending on how long it takes their digestive system to process a full animal meal.
• Hand fed foods
If a reptile is not eating and becoming thin, one may need to encourage it by hand feeding. If the reptile does not accept offerings of tempting foods such as wax worms, a needleless syringe may be used as a delivery device for pre-mixed reptile food. A veterinary or reptile medicinal food may be provided with instructions or in some cases baby food may provide adequate nutrition to an underfed or malnourished reptile. A lizard may voluntarily open its mouth if gently rubbed along the side, however, some lizards are tougher to get the mouths open in which the syringe itself may be gently coaxed into the mouth or for larger reptiles, a flat plastic cake frosting spreader can be used to open the mouth.
• Omniverous reptiles
Omnivorous reptiles have a wide range of diet foods. They can eat flowers, vegetables, insects and meat and are able to digest all these foods. Some omnivorous reptiles such as bearded dragons eat more insects when they are young making them insectivorous during their early development and then gradually become more omnivorous as they become older. A few types of omnivorous reptiles are the following:
• Carnivorous reptiles
Carnivorous reptiles only eat meat and meat eating reptiles tend to be messier and need to have their habitats cleaned and sanitized more often. Watching a carnivorous reptile eat can be a dramatic and sometimes upsetting experience especially if the pray is live. Such pets may be disturbing to children. Two examples of carnivorous reptiles are Savannah monitors, and boa constrictors.
• Herbivorous reptiles
Reptiles that only eat vegetables are herbivorous, however they are able to eat a large variety of vegetation including fruits, vegetables and flowers. Herbivorous reptiles may be able to eat insects in some cases which would make them omnivores however, in the case of bearded dragons in adult hood, they can survive on a well balanced herbivorous diet. Iguanas, and tortoises are examples of herbivores.
• Insectivorous reptiles
Small insect eating snakes, geckos and basilisks are included in this category. A diet of crickets, flies, grasshoppers, and other small insects that are not poisonous to the reptiles may be fed in addition to worms in some cases. Some lizards may have an immunity to certain insect bites such as spider bites, but others may not. For this reason, it can be a good idea to avoid the more dangerous insects.
In summary there are many species of reptiles and their feeding habits can be very unique. Snakes for example can go quite a while without eating, and some desert lizards can go without water, sometimes indefinitely if their food has adequate moisture within it. Lizards may also eat less during colder and/or winter months as they are cold blooded and thermo-regulate based on external temperature. The warmer they are the more active and hungry they are apt to be. When pregnant, female reptiles may need extra calcium as eggs use a lot of internal calcium and young reptiles may need more protein. In any case, a thorough knowledge of each type of lizard will assist one in furthering ones feeding regimen for reptiles.
Herald Jes and Johann Brandstetter 'Lizards: A Complete Pet Owner's Manual ' New York 1999. Barrons Educational Series, Inc.
Palika, Liz. 'The Consumers Guide to Feeding Reptiles' New York1997 Simon and Schuster Mcmillan Company.