10 Pet Lizards That Don’t Need Live Food

Updated on November 30, 2017
Melissa A Smith profile image

Melissa holds a bachelor's degree in biology and is a plant and animal enthusiast with multiple pets.

Many believe that in order to own a pet lizard you will have to feed live bugs or other living animals. This can be a huge turn off to potential reptile owners who are uncomfortable with keeping insects like crickets and roaches in their home or dislike watching their pets kill other animals. While no lizard needs to be offered live prey like mice and chicks (doing this is rather cruel), most require live bugs and will flat-out refuse to eat non-moving food items. If you don't want to feed live food, there are still some lizard species you may want to consider. Here is a list of ten lizards that can eat either vegetarian diets, commercial pellets, or non-living, meaty items.

1. Iguanas


While most iguana species do not make good beginner reptiles, most of them can be fed a vegetarian diet. It is actually recommended to avoid feeding them animal protein entirely. Green and rhinoceros iguanas, specifically, are strictly herbivorous and are said to only "accidentally" consume the occasional insect in the wild as juveniles. Some iguana species are omnivorous, but their diet can easily be supplemented with a protein-enriched prepared food and canned or dried insects.

Iguana Species in Captivity

  • Green iguana. These lizards are extremely popular and easy to find, although have advanced care requirements like most iguanas. They should only be fed plants.
  • Ctenosaura species. Members of this group are uncommon to rare, often wild-caught, and the most popular species is the spiny-tailed iguana. They are omnivorous but eat mostly plants.
  • Cuban rock iguana. These are primarily herbivorous reptiles with similar care requirements as green iguanas. They can occasionally be fed insects.
  • Rhinoceros iguana. Just like the similarly large green iguanas, they should be fed a strict vegetarian diet.
  • Desert iguana. These small iguanas are not regularly available. While they consume only a small amount of insects in the wild, they fare best on a vegetarian diet in captivity.

Iguanas require more advanced care and most need very large enclosures, so they should be thoroughly researched before being considered. Some iguanas can have hormonal-induced bouts of unpredictable aggression. Be prepared to prepare fresh vegetables every day for the duration of their lifespan (which could potentially exceed 20 years).

2. Rhacodactylus Geckos


The lizards in this genus are sought-after in the reptile hobby. They consist of the crested gecko, which is the most popular species, the New Caledonian giant gecko or leachianus, and the gargoyle gecko. The New Caledonian gecko is the largest and most expensive, having initially been rare in the pet trade, but captive breeding efforts increased their populations. These geckos have similar care requirements and the recommendations for their enclosure sizes are very reasonable.

These geckos are unique in that they require a specially prepared food to do well in captivity and eat it readily. This diet contains all the vitamins and minerals they need for balanced nutrition. Many keepers supplement with live insects, and some are more insectivorous than others. With the popular crested geckos, this is optional.

3. Argentinean Black and White Tegu


Black and white tegus have a healthy appetite and accept a large variety of foods. As juveniles, they should be fed a diet that consists of mostly invertebrates but also plants, and as they grow larger their herbivorous tendencies increase. Their appetite is so great that they are actually prone to obesity.

In addition to plant material, they can be offered whole prey items like insects and the occasional rodent, but other suitable options include eggs and ground turkey. These tegus can achieve an average length 40-50 inches and up to 60 inches. As these are very large lizards, they also require a large enclosure when they reach adulthood of no less than 6 feet in length.

4. Chuckwallas


Chuckwallas are unique and less common, completely herbivorous lizards that come from very hot desert environments. The plant material that they should be fed in captivity is similar to what green iguanas are given: dandelion greens, hibiscus, mustard greens, collard greens, and other vegetables with the proper calcium to phosphorus ratio. These lizards obtain their water needs from the food they eat and require very high basking temperatures.

5. Monitor lizards


Monitor lizard species range from requiring relatively basic care to advanced care and may even possess some dangerous qualities. One example of a monitor lizard that can produce extreme bodily harm is the crocodile monitor. This is one of the longest lizards in the world and can produce deep lacerations with its claws and teeth. Not all monitor lizards readily accept all non-living foods, but here are a few that do.

  • Black tree monitor. This nervous species can be fed frozen-thawed rodents and chicks, canned insects and commercial diets formulated for carnivorous lizards.
  • Spiny-tailed monitor. This is a great species for beginners and stays small. Live insects are recommended but they will also accept non-live insects as well as turkey mixtures.
  • Savannah monitor. This is a very popular species that eats primarily carrion in the wild, so will readily accept meaty foods in substitution for live insects and rodents.

6. Uromastyx


Uromastyx is a genus of the agamid family, which also includes the popular bearded dragons. This is a terrestrial species that is mostly herbivorous in the wild, consuming an insignificant number of insects. In captivity, they should be fed a vegetarian diet. They are fed "iguana-friendly" vegetables but also enjoy eating seeds such as lentils, grass seeds, and bird seed mixes. These lizards should be kept in at least a 20-gallon aquarium when young and a 40-gallon minimum aquarium when they reach their adult size.

7. Blue-Tongue Skink


Blue-tongue skinks are another popular choice for a pet reptile and with good reason. Their space requirements are not extreme (minimum of 36" terrarium), they are easily tamed for handling, and they eat quite a large variety of foods. Many keepers feed these omnivorous lizards mostly insects, but they can also eat prepared foods, ground turkey, eggs, fruits, and vegetable. It is important to provide a variety of food items, but there are many to choose from that don't include anything live. This is another species that can be prone to obesity.

8. Caiman Lizard


These impressive-looking reptiles are not easy keepers and require a larger enclosure (at least 6 feet long for an adult) with a deep water source that the lizard can swim in. They also have an unusual diet that should be composed of mostly snails, other aquatic invertebrates, insects, canned monitor lizard food, and supplemental fruits. While they should have snails, they will accept non-live canned snails and other meaty foods.

9. Bearded Dragon


These lizards are very popular and are described as good for beginners to reptiles. While they are omnivorous, it should be noted that not all individuals will accept canned insects or meaty foods. One trick that does seem to work with them is the use of a vibrating feeding dish. This special device will make the non-living bugs slightly move and breaded dragons seem to be particularly stimulated by it (it doesn't work with all reptiles and many are disturbed by the noise).

10. Sailfin Dragon


Sailfin dragons are great-looking lizards, not for beginners, and are rather uncommon in captivity. They require a large enclosure. They are omnivorous and will accept a variety of foods. This can consist of vegetable matter, bearded dragon pellets, and dried and canned insects.

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