How often should I feed my reptile pet?

You usually munch on three meals a day, but do lizards, turtles, and snakes do the same? As you make final plans to bring your new reptile pet home, you may wonder how often you should offer a meal to your new bestie. Great question!

How often should I feed my reptile pet?

Each species has its own feeding requirements, so be sure to consult an exotic veterinarian and ask the seller what they've been doing so far and feed your reptile pet on the same feeding schedule. However, as a general rule of thumb — or scale? — reptiles don't eat as often as us humans.

Animals in the wild catch and forage for food when they can rather than counting on three squares a day. Most lizards like a meal every two to three days, but of course, this can vary by the size and age of the animal. Younger pets tend to eat more frequently than adults and seniors. Snakes and turtles have slower metabolisms than lizards and can go longer between meals, especially when kept in cooler conditions. Think of this: our reptile pets just don't burn calories as quickly as we do, so they don't have to eat as often to restore energy.

Here are specific care instructions to give you a range of ideas for how often to feed a reptile pet:

If you haven't already, establish a relationship with an exotic veterinarian who cares for reptiles so you can learn more about your new pet's care and needs.

What do reptiles eat, anyway?

As you discover how often your pet needs to eat, you'll learn not all reptiles like to dine on the same things. Reptile appetites fall into four categories:

Carnivores: These reptiles only eat meat. For example, monitor lizards and all snakes are carnivores and only eat other animals, such as rodents, fish, or insects.

Herbivores: Vegetables, fruits, and other plant materials are on the menu for these pets. Some lizards and tortoises fit into this category. The most popular herbivore is the green iguana. Also in this category are the uromastyx and monkey-tailed skink.

Insectivores: These reptiles lick their lips at the sight of all things creepy-crawly, like bugs, beetles, flies, mealworms, and insects. A few insectivores include day geckos, leopard geckos, anoles, White's tree frogs, and some varieties of chameleons.

Omnivores: Some reptiles love variety and eat a mix of meat and plant foods. These are omnivores. The blue tongue skink, slider turtles, and bearded dragon are a few examples of omnivores with healthy appetites.

Some animals fit into a few categories or grow into new ones as they age. For example, tadpoles dine on plant matter such as algae and decaying plants as herbivores, then grow into frogs that eat bugs as insectivores and sometimes small amphibians as carnivores. So, you could call frogs omnivores over their lifetime.

And Always Offer Water

In addition to food, every living creature needs water to thrive. Yes, this includes our desert reptile friends too! Some reptiles like to lap up water, while others soak and absorb moisture through their skin.

You can add water to your reptile's habitat by adding a terraced dish, using a mister, or installing a decorative waterfall. Be sure to use a water conditioner to neutralize any chloramines, chlorine, or heavy metals found in tap water.

And pets like aquatic turtles swim, drink, eat, and do almost everything in the water.

Reptiles Don't Eat as Often as We Do

Reptiles may not look for breakfast, lunch, and dinner like we do, but they do have specific feeding requirements to stay healthy. Once you know what species of pet you plan to spoil, learn what types of food they crave and how often they want a full tummy, and you'll be the best reptile parent ever. As you prepare to welcome your new reptile into your family, check out How to Set Up a Reptile Tank. You're one step closer to having a new scaly friend by your side!