A Guide To Feeding Your Reptile
Below are the basic requirements for some of the more commonly kept species of reptile
Reptiles are an amazing and diverse group. This means that they have a large range of requirements when it comes to their diet. Some, like tortoises, are vegetarians – a world away from the sporadic, meat-only dietary pattern of a large boa snake!
With the needs of reptiles being so unique, however, it should be noted that this is a guide, and all reptile diets should be developed in line with advice from a reptile expert. It should also be remembered reptile UV light also plays an important role in metabolism, health and development.
To see a range of nutrition options for reptiles, have a look at what's on offer from our friends in store.
More about feeding your reptile
Bearded dragons are omnivores, meaning that they naturally eat both plants and animals – although not picky over the definition of ‘animal’, most bearded dragons are offered insects as a major part of their diet in captivity to meet this need.
There are three components to a pet bearded dragon’s diet:
- In terms of their meat requirements, this is usually met through insects as these are convenient, generally inexpensive, can be ‘gut-loaded’ (fed high quality food before being fed to your bearded dragon) and can be dusted with supplement powders. Young bearded dragons have a higher need for protein than adult bearded dragons as they are growing and developing, and so have a higher meat/insect dietary demand. Although in the wild adult bearded dragons would still get about 75% of their nutrition from meat sources, pet bearded dragons do not get the same exercise as their wild counterparts, and will suffer obesity on a diet too rich in insects.
- Vegetables/fruit (non-citrus)
- Thus adult bearded dragon should only be getting 25% of their nutrition from insects in captivity, leaving the remaining 75% for the vegetables and fruit part of their diet, topped up with commercial food if appropriate. Avoid citrus fruits, lettuce, spinach and avocado, and keep fruit to only 10% of your breaded dragon’s diet, if at all, as the high sugar isn’t good for them.
- Bearded dragon commercial food
- Commercial bearded dragon foods are readily available. These are generally high in protein, and pre-loaded with essential vitamin and minerals. The hard texture can put off some breaded dragons, but commercial food may be a helpful addition (supplement) to your bearded dragon’s diet.
Other mineral and vitamin supplements are available. Greens should be dusted with supplements (eg Nutrobal) and live food should be gut loaded and dusted to ensure optimum health. All bearded dragons also need clean, fresh water constantly available. If you think your bearded dragon isn’t good at drinking, spraying their vegetables with water can help increase their intake. If you have any concerns about your bearded dragon’s diet, or notice any changes in their eating or drinking habits, get in touch with your local reptile-friendly vet as soon as possible.
Corn snakes are meat eaters, and will need to be fed whole meat such as thawed frozen rodents. Being comfortable with feeding your corn snake on these is an important consideration before thinking about buying a snake. While most snakes are given rodents that are already deceased, some people feel that feeding live rodents is a more natural experience for a snake. Most captive-bred corn snakes, however, will never have been given live prey and may reject it. There is also a risk of injury to your snake from live prey, as well as a risk of picking up infections, especially in wild-caught rodents. The UK legal consideration must also be complied with; meaning prey items are normally deceased when fed.
The size of rodent you offer needs to be suitable for your snake. Snakes eat their prey whole, so won’t be able to manage or may regurgitate food which is too large. Rodents offered should be no larger than 1.5x the size of your corn snake’s midsection and feeding too large a prey item can be detrimental.
Corn snakes also do not need to eat very frequently. A meal every 5-7 days for young snakes, and then every 7-10 days for adults, is enough to sustain them. Offered rodents should be thawed before feeding but never cooked - this may put your corn snake off or make them ill. Overfeeding should be avoided as, just like us, snakes can suffer from obesity.
Many people choose to feed their corn snake in a ‘feeding tub’ – a tub that will comfortably fit your snake, as well as sitting nicely in the vivarium. By only feeding your snake when it is in the feeding tub they will come to expect food only when it is there, reducing the risk of being bitten when your hands are in the normal vivarium, as well as reducing the risk of them accidentally ingesting any vivarium substrate. Another method is to feed them outside of the vivarium in a different container or area, so that they don’t associate the opening of the door with feeding.
Common reasons for a snake to ignore a meal include:
- Shedding, snakes will not eat during the shedding process
- Incorrect vivarium temperatures, this should be graduated, and have hiding places in a range of temperature zones.
- Inappropriate or 'bad' food items.
If your corn snake refuses a meal, take it away and re-offer in another week. Correct any issues you may have spotted with the environment in the meanwhile. Sometimes slightly warming and bloodying/slitting the food item can help.
All corn snakes should also always have access to clean, fresh water in a bowl. Many corn snakes like to lie in their water, so it is important to clean it regularly.
If you have any concerns about your corn snake’s eating habits, as they are usually fairly consistent feeders, always contact your vet for advice.