What Foods To Feed Your Reptiles

Also of Interest

Feeding Habits of Reptiles
Bone fractures, soft-tissue mineralization, renal complications, and tetany can develop. If you can't find species-specific information for that rare swift you have, research the requirements known for other species of swift and other lizards that live in the same places as they do, and compare what is known about yours habitat type, lifestyle, habits, etc. Let the fish swim in the water bowl or special feeding bowl, large enough for the aquatic turtle, or semi-aquatic lizard, snake or turtle to get into and swim to catch its prey. Snakes Feeding baby snakes may present some unique problems. The light from fluorescent tubes resembles more or less the natural UVB in the shade of a sunny day spread over a relatively large area. Humidity is an important environmental - and health - factor. The etiology is not clear, but it is commonly thought that diets high in protein may predispose reptiles to gout.


These predators were almost certainly capable of killing the largest of their herbivorous contemporaries. In the typical reptilian posture, limbs project nearly perpendicular from the body and bend downward toward the ground at the elbows and knees. This limb posture produces a sprawled gait that some biologists label as inefficient and awkward.

Its continued persistence in thousands of amphibians and reptiles shows its effectiveness and high efficiency for lifestyles designed for energy conservation. At rest the reptilian trunk and tail lie on the substrate; during walking and running the body is held only slightly above the substrate and bends from side to side to increase the length of each step from each sprawled limb. A few terrestrial reptile groups exhibit an evolutionary shift in limb posture from the horizontal to the vertical.

This same shift produces the erect posture seen today in birds and mammals. This vertical posture was typical of late dinosaurs, and presumably, like those of birds and mammals, the dinosaur joints had locking mechanisms to reduce the muscle energy required to hold the body erect when standing still.

The only living reptiles that use a vertical limb posture in walking are the crocodiles. Some young crocodiles use a galloping gait, much like that of a bounding rabbit , for high-speed escape; the body flexes up and down rather than from side to side for this type of locomotion. Crocodiles also use a belly-slide gait. This is also an escape behaviour , even though the body rests on the substrate; lateral undulations of the body and tail and the quadrupedal limb sequence propel the crocodile down the river bank into the water.

Each joint of the body passes through the same curves, pressing against the same object and thrusting forward.

Heavy-bodied snakes such as pythons and certain rattlesnakes can move forward without undulation. This rectilinear movement depends on the ability of snakes to stretch or contract their bodies along its longitudinal axis. By raising a part of its belly, stretching that part forward, lowering it to the ground, and repeating the process alternately with other parts of the body, a heavy snake can move forward smoothly in a straight line.

A variety of modern lizards are bipedal when running. The collared lizard Crotaphytus collaris of the United States and the frilled lizard Chlamydosaurus kingii of Australia are capable of bipedal movement, a phenomenon that was widespread among the dinosaurs. Presumably, bipedalism among the dinosaurs began, as it did among modern lizards, as a means of obtaining a faster running speed. Because the centre of gravity is in front of the hips, modern bipedal lizards must move forward continuously in order to maintain a semierect posture; they can stand still in that position only for very short periods.

The sprawled limb posture of bipedal lizards causes each limb to swing outward as it is brought forward and to push the body sideways and forward when each leg thrusts backward against the ground. Bipedal dinosaurs eliminated this side-to-side motion by shifting to a vertical hind-limb posture.

This posture supports the body in an upright position, and the limbs swing directly forward and backward.

So successful was this mode of locomotion that dinosaurs utilizing it dominated terrestrial life for millions of years. We welcome suggested improvements to any of our articles. You can make it easier for us to review and, hopefully, publish your contribution by keeping a few points in mind. Your contribution may be further edited by our staff, and its publication is subject to our final approval.

Unfortunately, our editorial approach may not be able to accommodate all contributions. Our editors will review what you've submitted, and if it meets our criteria, we'll add it to the article. Still others will only eat during the day. Offering food outside the optimal feeding times for the species may result in reduced intake or failure to feed.

Some reptiles may be unwilling to feed when they are being watched by other animals, including humans. Still others will compete so fiercely with other cagemates for food that injuries may occur or the cagemates may themselves become reluctant to feed and so slowly starve to death. Thus, observation of captive species must be done carefully so as not to stress, or alter the behavior of, the animals being watched.

Feeding frequency may also lead to nutritional problems. Some hatchling lizards and small adult lizards need to feed several times a day. Other lizards may feed comfortably once a day or once every other day. The feeding frequency may change throughout the year due to breeding season or coinciding with natural cycles found in the animal's native habitat, such as the dry or wet seasons, cool winters, hot summers, or breeding season.

Wash your hands with hot, soapy water, rinse thoroughly, and finish off with cold water. This will remove the scent of other animals - predator and prey - from your hands and give your hands a cooler thermal signature than the prey you are offering by tongs or forceps, please to reptiles who use heat sensing to locate prey.

Feeding Frequency There are no cut-and-dried rules on feeding reptiles. Each species will have its own requirements. Feeding amounts and frequency are based as much on the reptile's evolved dietary needs and metabolic size as it is on its being maintained in a proper environment. Generally speaking, smaller reptiles need to eat more frequently than larger reptiles; younger reptiles more often than older ones; insectivores more frequently than vertebrate eaters; and herbivores more frequently than omnivores or carnivores.

Most young lizards and herbivorous reptiles will need to eat every day, whereas young snakes may eat twice a week. Sick reptiles, or those preparing for breeding, may need to eat more or more often than healthy adult reptiles not in breeding season.

Reptiles tend to eat more during the seasons that coincide with the highest food availability in their native habitat generally corresponding to our spring and summer months than during the cold or dry seasons. A reptile who acts hungry probably is. Caretakers being struck or bitten by an otherwise tame and calm snake or lizard when they put their hands in or near the enclosure is another sure sign.

Except for certain gorge feeders such as savannah monitors and Burmese pythons , a reptile maintained in a proper environment, who gets plenty of exercise, and is fed a healthy diet, is difficult to overfeed.

If they are not hungry, they will not eat. Commercial Foods Commercial reptile foods dried, broth-flavored insects, "sausages", frozen, canned and dried foods sound like the perfect answer to what to feed your lizard, snake or chelonian. The only problem is that, despite packaging, advertising, and pet store claims, except for some of the aquatic turtle foods, these food products were not longitudinally tested and many are proving to be less nutritionally "complete" and "balanced" as claimed.

Reptile keepers and veterinarians are finding that animals maintained on many of these foods exhibit developmental abnormalities growing too fast or too slow and nutritional deficiencies such as metabolic bone disease. It is best to not consider these as suitable substitutes for whole prey or fresh plant diets. Snakes Feeding baby snakes may present some unique problems. Captive bred snakes remain genetically programmed to recognize certain scents and shapes as being "food.

Most baby snakes do not feed for the first several weeks after hatching as they are still living off the remains of their yolk which is retained inside their bodies; this takes about days.

In the wild this time would be spent finding water, basking, sleeping, and hiding spots, and generally learning about its environment. In captivity, they may often be started on rodent prey, specifically pinky mice, causing them to imprint on the prey and so become willing feeders on at least that species of rodent for the duration of its life.

Methods to help them start feeding on proffered food items, besides ensuring they have a properly set up and furnished environment, are discussed above and in the articles referenced below. Chelonians Aquatic turtle hatchlings will often begin to feed in small containers, with water deep enough for them to swim and dive and equipped with a haul-out place.

Wriggling insects, such as pinhead crickets, moving on the surface of the water will attract the hatchlings' attention and stimulate the feeding response. Once they are feeding easily and heartily, they can be fed in their regular enclosure.

If feeding many hatchlings, care must be taken to not overcrowd the feeding enclosures. If they are being fed in their regular enclosure, some should be removed to one or more separate feeding enclosures. Care must be taken to watch them carefully to see if any are not able to compete successfully for the food.

Terrestrial turtles are omnivorous. A selection of finely chopped or shredded plant food can be placed in a feeding container or in a substrate-free area of their enclosure. The prey arthropods may be mixed in with the plant matter or placed on top of it.

Mixing the prey with the plant matter is a good way to get them started eating the plant matter. Tortoises are grazers and should be offered a variety of vegetables and leafy greens as well as drier roughage for foraging.

The chopped vegetable and leafy greens should be set out on a jar lid or other flat surface, enabling the small tortoises to easily climb on and forage in the midst of the food. They may be kept on a mixed bedding of alfalfa and timothy hays. This will give them traction to walk on unlike alfalfa pellets , and is easily moved about so that it may be burrowed under. Since tortoises will try to eat everything, no wood, paper, gravel, or other substrates should be used, nor should Styrofoam-type plates be used to as a feeding plate.

Lizards Carnivorous lizards should be separated at meal time to reduce aggressive competition for food. Depending upon the individual lizard's prowess, some may need to be placed in smaller containers to restrict the movement of their prey. Insectivores should be offered a variety of prey items to maximize nutrient intake.

Herbivorous lizards may also need to be separated to reduce feeding competition. As with neonate tortoises, shallow serving platters should be used to enable easy access and foraging in the food.

Omnivorous lizards may need to be separated for feeding if they are not able to compete successfully with cagemates. They may be fed in a manner similar to omnivorous box turtles, with their animal prey mixed into their plant matter. In addition, crickets should be offered to them either in their enclosure or in smaller feeding containers to ensure they are able to catch them. Just because they can go a long time without feeding doesn't meant they should.

While there is nothing to worry about if your hatchling doesn't feed until after its first or second shed, or your adult isn't eating during breeding season, or your carnivore of any age isn't interested in food during pre-shed and shedding , an apparently healthy reptile whose environmental needs are being met and who is being offered appropriate prey in the appropriate way but who still won't eat has a problem.

Systemic infections, heavy loads of internal parasites, boid inclusion body disease , congenital deformities, gut obstructions, and more can cause inappetance or inability to feed. If force-feeding is necessary, don't shove a whole prey down its throat. Temperatures should range from 75 to 95 degrees, but it is best to keep changes within that range as narrow as possible.

Several methods can achieve the appropriate temperatures. A low-wattage incandescent bulb or ceramic heat emitter can be suspended over the enclosure, but take care not to let the insects jump onto the heat source, which may facilitate escape or cause thermal burns. A digital thermometer can be used to find the optimal distance from the top of the enclosure to the heat source. Heat pads placed underneath the enclosure also maintain adequate temperatures. Feeding crickets a proper diet is critically important both for the health of the crickets and for the animals eating them.

Cricket diets can be purchased online and found at most pet stores. Adding squash, carrots, sweet potatoes and some mixed greens to this base diet is important for providing other nutrients and moisture. Offering fresh food items on a daily basis ensures the proper health of the crickets, and removing uneaten food items is helpful in reducing the odor associated with culturing crickets. Mealworms Tenebrio molitor are also a great food item for many insectivorous reptiles and amphibians.

One mealworm contains several times the caloric content of a single cricket. Thus, feeding your herp mealworms helps to maintain its body mass. One drawback of mealworms is their thick, chitinous exoskeleton. Secondary to the difficulty in digesting these insects, overfeeding mealworms often causes regurgitation in herp pets. Feed the worms to herps in moderation. Mealworms can be purchased in bulk and are easily maintained in a 5-gallon bucket.

The substrate should consist of wheat bran, and moisture can be provided in the form of potatoes, carrots and occasional leafy, green vegetables. Again, remove uneaten food items to reduce the smell associated with culturing these insects.

In the past 15 years or so, the king mealworm Zoophobias spp. These larger mealworms are popular because they are more conspicuous movers and often a more appropriate size for larger insectivorous reptiles. Several companies offer cockroaches for insectivorous herps. These insects are easily reared in plastic tubs, and most of them do not require substrate. Like crickets, cockroaches require warmer temperatures for optimal production.

Keep them at temperatures around 75 degrees. Many species of cockroaches, such as lobster roaches Nauphoeta cinerea , can climb smooth surfaces, including glass, so extra precautions must be taken to ensure that the enclosure is escapeproof.

Several products can be smeared along the top lip of the enclosure to prevent escape. Vaseline is the cheapest product to use. Simply place a 1- to 2-inch strip of Vaseline along the top of the enclosure. A number of cockroach species do not climb glass. One such species is the orange-headed roach Eublaberus posticus. Although this species does attain a larger size, the instars the stage between molts are of an appropriate size for many species of lizards and frogs.

Culturing cockroaches has significantly cut down on our monthly cricket bill, and despite our initial disgust at the thought of raising these insects in our home, they actually have a number of benefits over crickets. These benefits include decreased odor production, a reduced chitin-to-meat ratio, and in some cases more conspicuous movement.

Silk moth larvae Bombyx mori can also be acquired via several online resources. Vendors typically have them at reptile expos, as well. Silkworms can be maintained on a diet of mulberry leaves, and a mulberry leaf powder can be reconstituted to feed the worms during the winter months. A simple plastic container works well to maintain a group of these worms. Depending on how much they are fed and the temperatures at which they are maintained, these worms can grow very quickly and to a large size.

Keep them at a temperature range between 70 and 85 degrees, and they will do well. Mulberry leaves have a high mineral content, so silkworms make a nutritious food item and can be an excellent source of calcium. Easily reared, they are relatively inexpensive if raised from a small size or egg.

Like silkworms, tomato hornworms Manduca quinquemaculata can be picked up from a variety of online sources. However, do not use wild-caught tomato hornworms because these may be toxic to your insectivorous herp.

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