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Reptile Nutrition

By: Dr. Nancy Anderson

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Dietary needs and feeding schedules can vary by reptile species; nevertheless, diet is the item of greatest importance for the health of your reptile. Some require a daily balanced mixture of fresh vegetables and fruits, while others go from weeks to months between large prey feedings.

Reptiles can be classified as carnivores, insectivores, herbivores or omnivores. Be sure you are familiar with the diet and feeding schedule for your particular pet. Consult your veterinarian for recommendations.


Water is the most important nutrient. Nothing is more important than an easily accessible, clean water source. Water should be changed at least every 24 hours, more often if a reptile has defecated in the bowl. Water containers should be cleaned with soap and water daily and disinfected weekly. Large, shallow water dishes that allow reptiles to soak and defecate are preferred. Many reptiles need to soak to be able to shed their skin appropriately. To avoid drowning (especially with neonates and tortoises), it is important that it is easy for the reptile to exit the water bowl.

Some lizards, like chameleons and anoles, will not drink from bowls; they require a mist sprayed on plants or the side of the cage. You can use a pin to puncture a small hole through the bottom of a paper or plastic cup. The size of the hole controls the rate that the cup empties. Then fill the cup with water and set in or on top of the cage. Allow the water to drip from the cup onto a leaf. Place a second cup or bowl under the leaf to catch the excess water before it can soil the cage. This system is easier to disinfect than use of dripper tubing.

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