What do lizards eat? The diet of a lizard will depend on their exact species.
In the wild, many lizard species are opportunistic feeders. So, their diet will change through the seasons, depending on what foods are available.
The diet of a domestic pet lizard will depend on the type of lizard you have. For instance, iguanas are herbivores that need a variety of plants and vegetables to thrive.
But, bearded dragons are omnivorous, and will enjoy eating fruits, vegetables, insects, and more.
What Do Lizards Eat?
Lizards are a type of reptile that can be found almost all over the world. In fact, they appear naturally in every continent apart from Antarctica!
Within the group of lizards as a whole, there are thousands of different species. Many of these are becoming popular and common domestic pets.
But, that means new owners are constantly seeking out the correct diet for their reptiles.
There is no single “lizard diet”. Because there are so many different species, the natural diet of one lizard species can differ a lot to the next.
Some will hunt insects and even small animals in the wild, but others will stick to foraging plants for their food.
It’s important to learn about the diet or your specific lizard, if you’re trying to figure out what to feed them.
Feeding them the wrong type of diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies and imbalances.
For now, let’s take a closer look at what lizards might eat if they’re in the wild.
What Do Lizards Eat in the Wild?
Like domestic species, the diet of wild lizard species will vary. Some will eat plants alone, some will hunt insects alone, and some will eat a variety of foods, from plants and insects to other small animals and lizard species.
Because lizards are so widespread across the globe, their wild diets can be quite different from one another.
Many lizards will adapt to the food that is naturally available to them in their home range.
So, their diet will naturally change throughout the year depending on the availability of plants, insects, and other animals. The presence of predators can also affect a wild lizard’s diet.
This will also mean that many lizard species are opportunistic feeders, eating whatever’s available at the time, or hunting and foraging for the most nutritious foodstuffs.
There are plenty of studies looking into specific lizard species diets and patterns, if you’re interested in finding out about an individual species.
But, for now let’s take a look at some general food types that many lizard species will consume. Remember, it’ll vary from one species to the next!
Live insects are a popular choice for omnivorous and insectivorous lizard species.
Bugs are widely available across the world, so this is a foodstuff that lizards will rarely struggle to find.
The choice of insects will vary depending on where a lizard is in the world, and on what’s in their home range. But, some common choices include:
- Non-venomous ants
- And more!
Dangers of Some Insects
It’s important to note here that not all insects are safe for lizards to eat.
For instance, fireflies, or lightning bugs, can be fatal for lizards that consume them. These bugs contain toxins called lucibufagins, which can cause heart failure in lizards like the bearded dragon.
Plus, insects in your yard may have been in contact with pesticides, which can harm lizards that consume them.
If you’re trying to find new insects to give your lizard, it’s best to stick to store-bought, safe options.
You can even buy live insects like crickets in some pet stores.
Omnivorous lizards will often seize the opportunity to eat any eggs that they come across!
Eggs have plenty of protein, and they won’t try to run away when lizards go to eat them, like insects would. So, they’re a much easier food choice!
And this doesn’t just mean bird eggs.
Some large wild lizard species will eat alligator eggs, snake eggs, turtle eggs, crocodile eggs. Even lizard eggs!
If you are keeping an omnivorous lizard at home, the occasional egg is likely to be a much loved food for them.
Some lizard species will also enjoy eating meat, or smaller animals. Usually in the wild, this only applies to larger lizard species.
These lizards will usually prey on small animals like mice, or even smaller lizards.
Of course, if you have a herbivorous lizard at home, they won’t eat any meat.
But carnivorous and omnivorous lizards will have a diet that includes meat.
Fruits and Plants
Herbivorous and omnivorous lizards will enjoy a wide variety of fruits and plants in their diet.
In the wild, this type of food will usually vary seasonally and on location. So, lizards that naturally live in Europe will probably eat quite different plants to those living in South America.
When kept as pets, the fruits, vegetables, and plants we can offer lizards will also partly depend on what’s available.
Be wary of giving them plants from your yard unless you know exactly what they are, if they are safe, and whether or not pesticides have been used on them.
Wash all fruit and vegetables before giving them to your lizard.
Some Safe Fruits and Vegetables for Lizards
- Apple (with seeds removed)
- Collard greens
- Bok choy
- Green beans
- Bell peppers
As you can see, leafy greens are often a great choice. Avoid giving too many high-sugar fruits, as this can contribute to obesity.
And, it’s better to choose darker, nutritious greens than lighter greens with a high water and low nutrient content. Avoid iceberg lettuce and celery for this reason.
Where to Find the Best Lizard Food
Make sure you are familiar with the proper diet for your lizard before buying them any food. Are they herbivorous? Or do they need animal matter to stay healthy?
Generally, pet stores and lizard-specific shops are the safest place to buy your lizard food.
The insects here will be safe for consumption, and the staff will usually be happy and able to recommend some extra options for you.
You can buy herbivorous and omnivorous lizards some fresh fruits and veggies to eat in most supermarkets.
But, make sure you have already researched some safe veggies to offer them. Don’t just buy the first thing you find.
And, wash any fruits or vegetables before giving them to your lizard. Store-bought fruits and vegetables will usually have traces of pesticides on their skins.
You can test out some different foods on your lizard to see exactly what their favorite food is!
Here are some common pet lizard species that will enjoy eating insects, fruits, vegetables, and some animal products:
However, bear in mind that the exact amount of protein necessary in these lizards’ diets varies.
If the idea of feeding meat and insects to your reptile doesn’t appeal to you, there are some lizards that thrive on a plant-based diet.
The Chuckwalla is a great example.
Other lizard species, like the Uromastyx, will thrive on a diet made up of mostly veggies and plants. But, they will need the occasional insect.
Some expert opinions differ in the exact diet of certain lizards.
For instance, some argue that the Green Iguana should be on a herbivorous diet, but others will argue they thrive with a small amount of animal protein.
Either way, it’s a good idea to do your research before committing to a lizard pet, especially if you’re put off by the idea of feeding insects.
What Do Lizards Eat? A Summary
The exact diet of different lizard species can vary quite a lot. But generally, most lizards enjoy a diet made up of leafy green plants, insects, and some high protein animal matter, like eggs.
Of course, you need to research the exact diet for your specific lizard pet. Feeding the wrong type of food to a lizard can have dire consequences for their health.
References and Resources
- Perry, G. & Garland Jr, T. ‘Lizard Home Ranges Revisited: Effects of Sex, Body Size, Diet, Habitat, and Phylogeny’, Ecology: Ecological Society of America (2002)
- Paulissen, M. ‘Optimal Foraging and Intraspecific Diet Differences in the Lizard Cnemidophorus Sexlineatus’, Oecologia (1987)
- Dubas, G. & Bull, C. ‘Diet Choice and Food Availability in the Omnivorous Lizard, Trachydosaurus Rugosus’, Wildlife Research (1991)
- Metzger, K. & Herrel, A. ‘Correlations Between Lizard Cranial Shape and Diet: A Quantitative, Phylogenetically Informed Analysis’, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society (2005)
- Hawlena, D. & Perez-Mellado, V. ‘Change Your Diet or Die: Predator-Induced Shifts in Insectivorous Lizard Feeding Ecology’, Behavioral Ecology (2009)
- Weltig, A. ‘Lizards Beware: Thing That Go Flash in the Night’, Avian and Exotic Companion Animal Medicine
- Anderson, M. ‘Lizards Eating Other Reptiles’ Eggs’, Explore: Research at the University of Florida (2014)