Melissa holds a bachelor's degree in biology and is a plant and animal enthusiast with multiple pets.
Many believe that a pet lizard must be fed 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 a pet live food, there are still some lizard species you may want to consider. Here is a list of 10 lizards that can eat either vegetarian diets, commercial pellets, or non-living, meaty items.
- Natural habitat: Tropical areas of Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.
- Size: Five to six feet in length.
- Diet: Mostly eat vegetation and foliage.
- Lifespan: Can range between 10 to 20 years.
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 in particular 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.
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).
What Do Iguanas Eat?
- Green beans
- Bell pepper
- Dandelion greens
- Romaine lettuce
Iguana Species That Make Good Pets and Can Be Kept in Captivity
- Green iguana. These lizards are extremely popular and easy to find, although they 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.
2. Rhacodactylus Geckos
- Natural habitat: The islands of New Caledonia.
- Size: Largest specimen is the New Caledonian giant gecko, which can grow up to 14 inches.
- Diet: Genus commonly eats fruit, insects, and sap.
- Lifespan: Some species can live up to 20 years in captivity.
The lizards in this genus are sought after by reptile hobbyist. 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. It was initially rare in the pet trade, but captive breeding efforts increased their population. It is recommended that these geckos have enclosure sizes that are very reasonable.
What Do Geckos Eat?
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 their feed with live insects, and some are more insectivorous than others. With the popular crested geckos, this is optional.
3. Argentine Black and White Tegu
- Scientific name: Salvator merianae.
- Natural habitat: Native to east and central South America.
- Size: Can grow over three feet.
- Diet: Mainly eats insects and fruits.
- Lifespan: Can live 15-20 years in the wild, likely longer in captivity.
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. As they grow larger, their herbivorous tendencies increase. Their appetite is so great that they are actually prone to obesity.
What Do Tegus Like to Eat?
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 potentially up to 60 inches. As these are very large lizards, they also require a large enclosure when they reach adulthood of no less than six feet in length.
- Natural habitat: Southwestern US and Northern Mexico.
- Size: Larger species can be up to 30 inches.
- Diet: Mainly eats leaves, fruits, and flowers.
- Lifespan: Can live over 25 years.
What Do Chuckwallas Like to Eat?
Chuckwallas are unique and less common. These are 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
- Natural habitat: Species are found in Africa, Asia, and Oceania.
- Size: Length of species usually kept as pets range from two to six feet in length.
- Diet: Most species are carnivores. Diet is varied, most adults will eat any type of vertebrae.
- Lifespan: Some species can live up to 15 years in captivity.
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.
Which Iguanas WIll Eat Non-Living Foods?
- 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 it will readily accept meaty foods in substitution for live insects and rodents.
- Natural habitat: North Africa and the Middle East.
- Size: Can range from 10-36 inches depending on the species.
- Diet: Mainly eat vegetation and plant matter.
- Lifespan: Average lifespan is about 15 years.
What Do Uromastyx Eat?
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 birdseed 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-Tongued Skink
- Natural habitat: Australia.
- Size: Some species can grow to around 15 inches.
- Diet: Mostly eats insects, fruits, and berries.
- Lifespan: Can live for 20 years in captivity.
Blue-tongued skinks are another popular choice for a pet reptile and with good reason. Their space requirements are not extreme (minimum of 36-inch terrarium), they are easily tamed for handling, and they eat quite a large variety of foods.
What Do Skinks Eat?
Many keepers feed these omnivorous lizards mostly insects, but they can also eat prepared foods, ground turkey, eggs, fruits, and vegetables. 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
- Natural habitat: South America.
- Size: Can grow up to four feet and weigh 10 pounds.
- Diet: Mostly eats snails, crawfish, and clams.
- Lifespan: Can live over 10 years in captivity.
These impressive-looking reptiles are not easy keepers and require a larger enclosure (at least six feet long for an adult) with a deep water source that the lizard can swim in.
What Do Caiman Lizards Eat?
They 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 eat live snails, they will accept non-live canned snails and other meaty foods.
9. Bearded Dragon
- Natural habitat: Australia.
- Size: The largest species, pogona vitticeps, can grow up to two feet.
- Diet: Mostly eat insects and plant matter.
- Lifespan: Can live over 12 years in captivity.
What Do Bearded Dragons Eat?
These lizards are very popular and are described as being good for beginner reptile owners. 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
- Natural habitat: Eastern Indonesia,
- Size: They can measure between three and four feet in length.
- Diet: Eats insects and plant material.
- Lifespan: Can live around 15-20 years.
Sailfin dragons are great looking lizards, not for beginners, and are rather uncommon in captivity. They require a large enclosure.
What Do Sailfin Dragons Eat?
They are omnivorous and will accept a variety of foods. This can consist of vegetable matter, bearded dragon pellets, and dried and canned insects.
Other Snakes That Don't Need to Eat Rodents (Dead or Alive)
- Pet Snakes You Don’t Need to Feed Rodents
These are some options for people who wish to keep snakes as pets but find feeding frozen thawed rodents and other mammals unappealing.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on July 06, 2020:
Shananigan You are confused because this article is only about lizards that can eat non-live food, that includes foods like eggs, turkey, and dead rodents. Live insects are not non-live food. Since this article is about lizards I wouldn't put snakes on this list.
Shananigan on June 21, 2020:
This article is honestly so bad. Tegus and monitors?? Eat?? Insects??? Tegus and monitors can eat insects, yes, when they are young, but as they get older you have to start feeding them actual meat and dead rodents.
I thought this article was supposed to be repitles that are herbivores because... aren't insects live food? Because feeding canned and dead crickets and such isn't really great for reptiles. Technically you could have even put snakes in here as well as long as people are feeding frozen thawed because.... the rats aren't live lol I'm just so confused by this article.
FutureGeckoOwner on June 15, 2020:
Can leopard geckos eat dead bugs?
Shadow on May 12, 2020:
Can sagebrush lizards eat dead food??????
kiddo on May 06, 2020:
Thank you for this information I am a responsible kid and I want to know which one of these would you recommend
Mom on April 30, 2020:
Which one of these are the best for a pet
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on April 06, 2020:
"You seem like a boomer"
You seem like a hypocrite and an idiot.
olavee on April 06, 2020:
Melissa A Smith: The fact that author of this "article" has to insult reader to feel superior is gross. Most of animals will take substitute food, but it doesn't mean that animal is going to be as healthy as it could be. Commercial reptile food is trash tbh. And your one animal is not proof to anything, and iguanas are famous for their not that friendly attitude. People that look for "herbivorous lizard" are recommended this article, it is first that pops up in google, so don't mislead, half or more of this animals shouldn't be on commercial foods, frozen insects only, it is shortening their lifespan and life quality.
People that look for herbivorous lizards are doing so bc they are not intrested of having insects or rodents in their house, no matter if it's frozen or not.
You seem like a boomer
Luv moo on November 07, 2019:
In that case no animal needs live food. I feed f/t rats. They’re dead. Not live. It’s common knowledge that most reptiles will take dead feeders. What all your readers thought this article was about hebivorus reptles or omnivores that eat eggs. Not dead stuff that’s the same as live stuff.
ReptigirlG on June 17, 2019:
I really like this article and found it pretty true to what I know. I do take issue with the Blue Tongue Skink part. They mention that they are from Australia. The problem is that Northerns are actually the hardest to get. Mosy of the blues are Indonesian in origin. You have the Halmahera and Merauke which are actually the two most prominent.
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on May 09, 2019:
Thelizardandi: I feel like you can't even read. Even the title refutes your claims, this article is solely about lizards that don't need *LIVE* food. This is not about lizards that are easy to care for, or about lizards that don't need animal protein. The article even states certain animals aren't for beginners, ect. It is about lizards that will take substitutes such as freeze-dried, frozen, or canned insects, pieces meat, commercial diets, ect. Freeze-dried insects can be fed with moisture, they are definitely not intended to make up the entire diet. I do not like to feed live bugs, so an iguana was a good choice for me. I've had her for 17 years (by the sound of it, longer than you've been alive?), so I guess I have no "firsthand knowledge". Your ego seems to have invented what you thought you read in this article. You sound like one of those irritating kids who think they know everything on Youtube.
Thelizardandi on May 08, 2019:
This article is extremely misleading. Most of the animals in this list are omnivores. Even if they don't need a great deal of animal protein in their diets, they definitely need some. Monitors are primarily meat-eaters, and Savannah monitors are insectivores, so I don't know why they are even mentioned!
With the exception of crested geckos and bearded dragons, both which DO need insects to thrive in addition to veggies and fruits, the lizards listed here are not easy beginner or even intermediate species. Iguanas, tegus and monitors require huge amounts of space, as well as having very specific heat, humidity and UV requirements.
Freeze-dried bugs lose nutritional value and neglect to provide reptiles with any moisture (which many species get the majority of from their food.) If you can't deal with live bugs, you shouldn't have a lizard. And to the author - a cursory Google search does not give you the necessary knowledge to write about a topic which you don't seem to have much firsthand knowledge of. You are setting people up for bad experiences, and pets for unintentional neglect.
Anonynous on May 07, 2019:
Absolutely incorrect. Freeze dried inswcts have no nutritional value. Also most reptiles get their much needes moisture through their diet, not by drinking. Dried insects draw out much needed moisture from their bodies, rather than aiding in moisture consumption with live insects. If you cant properly care for an animal, you shouldnt own one.
Anonymous on April 07, 2019:
Can crested geckos survive without any insects?
Codey on April 01, 2019:
This is dumb. No lizard actually needs live food, and combining all the hundreds of monitors into 1 category is laughable. Everything can be substituted for frozen/thawed
Melissa A Smith (author) from New York on March 31, 2018:
Yes all lizards have teeth.