If you have an herbivorous reptile, feeding time can be quite a bit easier than feeding their carnivore counterparts, but it’s not without its own set of challenges from time to time. The feeding process is less gruesome, since you’re generally just making up small salads, but making sure everything is fresh and ready to go and is removed before attracting unwanted bugs can require some planning and practice. If you like to eat salads yourself, then it will often work out well and will give you even more reason to have great ingredients for making salads available in your home at all times.
Digestive process in herbivores
Herbivores break down their food primarily in their colon, and the breakdown occurs with the application of heat and bacteria in their gut, which causes fermentation of the food. So, it’s important to keep your reptile at proper temperature, especially when feeding so that they are able to digest their food. The slower the food passes through the animal, the more efficiently they can uptake nutrients from it, so a diet that contains too much fiber will cause the food to pass through too quickly, reducing its benefit to the animal.
Commercially prepared/canned reptile foods
These foods are meant to be a supplement to fresh vegetables and fruits. Never use commercially prepared canned food as your reptile’s sole source of food. You can mix this food in with your fruits and vegetables to add variety, but be aware that some reptiles may refuse to eat if it is mixed in. Using a good vitamin supplement or calcium supplement is important as well, depending on the needs of the particular reptile you are keeping.
Good fruit and vegetable choices
Variety is the key when feeding your herbivores, but an herbivore’s diet should be composed primarily of vegetable material and not too much in the way of fruit. Some suggestions for fruits and vegetables include:
- Collard greens
- Mustard greens
- Romaine lettuce
- Bok choy
- Green onions
- Green beans
- Sweet bell peppers
- Frozen mixed vegetables
Remember, a high percentage of your herbivore’s food should be leafy greens and vegetables, and only a very small percentage should be fruit. Remember that each type of reptile will have recommended percentage of fruit and vegetables specific to that animal, and it is your job as a responsible reptile owner to do your research before you purchase the animal.
Fruits and vegetables to avoid
Cabbage should be avoided, as it can interfere with calcium absorption in reptiles. You can occasionally feed your herbivore broccoli and cauliflower, but not daily.
Unlike with carnivorous animals, it is quite safe to feed your herbivore inside of its habitat. Generally, the best way is with a shallow food bowl, or on a flat container lid of some sort. Choose the size of the dish carefully, so it is not too large or too small for your animal. Every animal has its own way of feeding. Some reptiles climb right up on top of the food pile and start eating their way down (this can get messy), while others sit beside the food and eat without making as much of a mess. Once your animal has eaten and walked away from the food dish, remove the food from the habitat and dispose of it. If you feed outdoor birds or animals, throwing those leftover fruits and veggies out to them can be a nice treat or if appropriate, you can add them to a compost system for your garden if you keep one.
Unless your animal is specifically a fruit eater by nature, you should stick with about 80% vegetables and at most 20% fruits as a mix. For some animals, that may be too much fruit, so please be sure to do plenty of research beforehand on the requirements of your particular animal.