One of the things that keeps people from becoming reptile owners is the potential diet of their new pet. Reptiles eat a wide range of things and you can find reptiles that are vegan and reptiles that are strictly carnivorous. But, it can be a little upsetting to keep a live mouse just to feed it to your pet. People with children probably want to avoid animals like this if they can.
Today, we’re listing 19 reptiles that don’t eat live food.
Most reptiles actually don’t need live food, but some will prefer it. If you don’t want to take the chance you can try getting a vegetarian reptile like a chuckwalla, a crested gecko, or a Russian tortoise. Some omnivorous and carnivorous pet reptiles also might not need live food.
Before we start listing out our top 19 reptiles that don’t eat live food, we’ll talk a little bit about what live food is and when you might need to give it to your pet!
Is Live Food Better For Reptiles?
So many things are up for debate in the reptile world.
Diet is certainly one of them.
All of the pet reptiles we have in captivity today once came from the wild. These animals ate all sorts of foods like fresh vegetables, fruits, insects, live prey, and scavenged prey. While we can’t perfectly mimic the wild diet, some of the common issues we see in pet reptiles do come from improper food choices and it’s not uncommon for people to try and feed their reptiles human food.
A formulated diet is one that is usually made into books or powder that should provide a reptile with the perfect nutrient to live. While this is great in theory, you might find that your reptile doesn’t want to eat this kind of food.
Frozen prey animals like mice and rats are great for owners because they’re convenient and likely more humane. Plus, feeding live rodents to your reptiles can actually be dangerous for them because they can end up being bitten.
The problem with frozen and thawed food is that it loses some of its nutritional value so you might end up needing to give a supplement to your pet along with the thawed meal. The same is true for animals that are fed dead and dry bugs!
There’s no saying whether live food is or isn’t the best option for your pet, but there are some situations where you might not be able to avoid a live meal.
When Do You Need To Feed Live Food?
There are a few situations where you might need to feed an animal that would normally eat dead food a live meal.
Some snakes need stimulation to take a bite out of something. A lot of their hunting instincts are closely tied to movement and heat signatures. Naturally, if you throw a cold mouse into its enclosure, it might not go after it. You can try waving the mouse in front of your snake’s face and warming it up a little in hot water before feeding it out. However, if your snake just won’t go for it, you might need to entice them with something more… well… alive.
Some species of lizards and geckos might only be stimulated to eat by seeing live bugs. If your pet eats veggies and bugs that aren’t moving, that’s great. But, your pet might be one of the ones that only eats food that moves. In that case, you might need to add a few live bugs to your reptile’s dinner plate.
19 Pet Reptiles That Don’t Need To Eat Live Food
Besides the exceptions that we listed above, many reptiles don’t need live food to survive. Most reptiles do well with frozen or dried protein like bugs and mice.
Below, we’ll go over each one of our 19 reptiles in detail. Even though they’re categorized into three groups, they all still have very different diet requirements.
If you don’t want to deal with any animals or bugs at all, you can read about our vegetarians. Our omnivores are animals that will eat plants plus a little bit of animal or bug protein. Again, these bugs don’t necessarily need to be alive when you feed them out. Finally, our carnivores will round out our list. These carnivores are animals that will eat dead food unless they’re a special case.
The next 8 reptiles are all pets that can survive on a plant-based diet. These animals will never need to eat anything like a live rodent, but some of them might enjoy a bug as a snack from time to time. Either way, you’ll be able to get by without offering these reptiles any live food.
1. Green Iguana
Green iguanas are large herbivorous reptiles that only eat plants. In the wild, these beasts live mostly on leaves and foliage. They’ll also eat a small number of fruits, flowers, and vines. In captivity, you can feed your iguana a similar diet. You’ll never have to consider feeding these animals anything more alive than a piece of lettuce!
Green Iguanas might have a simple diet but they’re far from easy to care for. These animals are huge and need plenty of space to roam around. They do best in tropical climates so if you live in a seasonal area, you’ll need to do a lot of work to keep them warm.
If you want to know about the care that goes into these reptiles then check our green iguana care sheet here!
Chuckwallas are large desert lizards who also love their plants. These roamers live off of cactus flowers and fruits, scrub, and dry bushes. In captivity, you’ll want to feed them a diet made up of mostly dark leafy greens. You can supplement this selection with some other vegetables and a few fruits. In the wild, a chuckwalla might occasionally eat an insect but it’s not something they need at all to survive.
These fascinating lizards won’t even require you to buy live food and can make amazing housemates. But beware, chuckwallas can live a long time and are essentially a lifelong commitment!
3. Crested Gecko
Crested geckos might be a controversial animal to call a vegetarian. Their wild diet consists of both plants and bugs but many pet crested geckos are strictly herbivorous. Crested geckos eat leaves, berries, seeds, and insects. Because crested geckos are pretty common and affordable, they also have plenty of diet options on the market.
If you don’t want to feed your crested gecko live bugs, you can give them a ground-up powder as a bug or meal replacer. You can either sprinkle this powder on top of their food or give it to them straight in a dish. This powder is usually made up of a variety of bugs and contains essential nutrients and vitamins that your gecko needs to thrive.
4. Gargoyle Gecko
Gargoyle geckos are in a very similar situation as crested geckos. These small lizards have a similar wild diet made up of plants, seeds, insects, and the occasional small lizard (oh my)! In captivity, these geckos can do well with a mostly plant-based diet and supplementation. However, you might find that these geckos are the type that wants movement in order to eat and may end up needing to supply them with live bugs.
If you’ve never heard of a uromastyx before now, I encourage you to look into them. These pet reptiles are described as sedentary and docile and seem to enjoy spending time with their owners. Unlike our last two selections, these lizards are 100% herbivorous. These reptiles originate in dry sandy areas and have a colorful diest to contrast that!
In the wild, you’ll notice a uromastyx eats vegetables, fruits, flowers, seeds, and even roots. At home, you can feed a uromastyx leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits. You can supplement your pet with edible flowers and seeds that they might enjoy as a nice treat. You won’t even need to provide this pet reptile with live food.
6. Russian Tortoise
Russian tortoises are big herbivorous tortoises. These tortoises are vigorous grazers who eat almost constantly throughout the summer month. In the wild, these reptiles will at anything from dry grass to broad leafy weeds. In captivity, they require a diet that’s high in plant fibers. You’ll want to make sure they have hay to snack on along with other fresh greens and vegetables.
Since these animals aren’t interested in chasing live prey, you won’t even need to supply them with live food. If you did, they probably wouldn’t know what to do with it anyways!
7. Sulcata Tortoise
If you’re looking for a big pet reptile, you’ve hit the jackpot. African sulcata tortoises are huge tortoises that grow from the size of your hand to the size of a coffee table in their lives. These tortoises have a pretty special diet and you shouldn’t consider getting one unless you have the space and resources to do it!
These tortoises are grazers and almost 100% of their diet is made up of grasses and groundcover. Clearly, these animals thrive in areas where there is plenty of food on the ground for them to eat. If you have a nice yard with flowers and plants a sulcata tortoise will see it as a buffet and destroy it in no time. Since they thrive on grasses, this pet won’t ever need live food!
As and added bonus, they’re one of the reptiles that are very unlikely to bite!
Now that you have some options for herbivorous reptiles, we’ll move on to our omnivores. Omnivores are interesting because they usually eat a little bit of everything. Because of this, this is another easy group to feed dry or frozen protein to. Many of the animals on this list eat bugs, but will happily eat them when they’re not alive as well.
8. Box Turtle
Box turtles are omnivorous turtles that eat a huge variety of foods in the wild. A rule of thumb for box turtles is that they need about 50% plant matter and 50% insects or animal protein to make up their diet. Despite their classification as a turtle, box turtles are strictly land animals though they do enjoy the occasional soak. They aren’t great hunters and really won’t do well with live food.
To avoid live food, you can feed your box turtle dried bugs or even frozen and thawed snails, which is one of their favorite treats.
9. Blue-Tongued Skink
Blue-tongued skins are a pretty underrated omnivore. These lizards are endemic to Australia and live in grasslands. Although these lizards are omnivores, their diet is a little different when they’re young. Like most omnivorous lizards, they’ll require way more animal protein as babies and way more plant protein as adults. If you get your skink as a baby, you may end up needing to purchase them live bugs to get them through their youth.
However, if you adopt an adult skink, you probably won’t need to worry about it! Adult skins eat a diet that mainly consists of greens, and vegetables with a scattering of fruits and insect or animal protein.
10. Bearded Dragon
Bearded dragons are one of the most common pet reptiles available. These guys are omnivorous lizards whose diet mostly consists of plants! Bearded dragons eat greens, vegetables, and fruits. Usually, you’ll sprinkle your bearded dragon’s plate with bugs. These bugs don’t need to be alive but many bearded dragons do seem to be enticed by movement in their food.
If you’re not sure what kind of bugs to feed your beardie and it sounds intimidating, we can help. Check out our list of 16 bugs that bearded dragons can eat before you make your decision to rule these gentle reptiles out!
11. Day Geckos
Day geckos are an interesting omnivorous addition to our list. Day geckos are tropical geckos that are medium to advanced for care needs. These little reptiles live on fruit, nectar, and bugs in the wild. They’re opportunistic feeders and will basically eat whatever they can find. In captivity, you can feed them a similar diet. Since they’re opportunists, they’re likely to eat whatever you offer them.
There’s no guarantee your gecko won’t need the stimulating movement of live prey to encourage them to eat, but you might find that they do fine their entire lives without ever consuming a live bug!
12. Red-Eared Slider
The red-eared slider is technically an omnivore but its diet relies heavily on insect and animal protein. They’re also one of the few reptiles that could possibly be kept without heat.
In this wild, these turtles love to eat things like aquatic invertebrates, fish, and algae. In captivity, they can eat the same things. However, since feeding aquatic turtles can be messy and confusing, many commercial turtles’ diets are sold in pellet form. These pellets provide everything your turtle needs to live, you can think of it sort of like dog kibble!
If you ever want to give your slider a treat, you can try feeding out dried mealworms. But don’t worry, this is one omnivore you won’t ever need to feed live animals to.
13. Veiled Chameleon
Veiled chameleons are so cool! These lizards have really interesting feet and eyes and also have an interesting diet. They eat a mix of insects and plants in the wild. In captivity, they’ll eat about 50% insects and 50% plants. If your veiled chameleon chooses to eat dead bugs, you’re in luck. But, they might not choose to and in that case, you’ll need to provide them with something that moves.
If you’ve ever met a tegu, you know that they eat everything! Tegus are true omnivores and will eat almost anything that you offer them. In terms of avoiding live prey, this is a great bonus. Tegus will eat thawed prey and dead bugs. They’ll also enjoy a variety of fresh fruits and veggies. Plus, if you want to avoid animal proteins altogether you can still get by with feeding your tegu dead insects and hard-boiled eggs as an animal protein supplement.
The last category of animals we’d like to discuss is carnivores! Although these reptiles might eat live food in the wild, they may never need live protein in captivity. It’s common practice to feed the animals below things like frozen and thawed mice. If you’re not comfortable feeding animals food items out at all, you can skip to the end!
15. Smooth Green Snake
Smooth green snakes are one of the few snake species that don’t eat rodents in captivity. The tiny slinky animals love to eat insects. These snakes enjoy eating crickets, grasshoppers, and worms. It’s up to your smooth green snake whether it wants to eat only live insects or if dried will suffice. If you’re feeding dry insects exclusively, remember to supplement with a nutritional powder on top.
16. African Egg Eating Snake
If you’re not into the idea of feeding live protein but still want a snake, this snake is the one for you! True to their name, these African snakes eat eggs and only eggs. They’ll take their eggs whole with the shell on, making them one of the easiest pet reptiles to feed in existence!
17. Rough Green Snake
If you’re looking for a snake with a similar diet to a smooth green snake, try a rough green snake! These carnivores eat mostly small invertebrates and locate them in the grass with their excellent vision. Because of this trait, you might be able to avoid feeding this snake live food.
18. Ball Python
If there’s an award for best beginner snake, ball pythons win! Ball pythons are easy snakes that aren’t active during the day. You’ll mostly see them burrowed and hiding away. Most ball pythons aren’t picky eaters and are happy to eat a selection of frozen and thawed food. But there’s always a chance that you might end up with a picky snake that only eats live prey.
19. Garter Snake
Garter snakes are another species of snake that eat a variety of proteins in captivity. You’ll notice in the video above that these garter snakes are snacking on chicken and fish which are obviously not alive! Garter snakes can be fed worms, fish, chicken, and small bugs if you’re squeamish about rodents.
If you want a reptile that you can feed without keeping live prey, there are so many options. You can choose to get a reptile that only eats plants, an omnivore that eats a little bit of everything, or a carnivore that will eat already dead food items. Remember that there are pros and cons to every diet you choose to give your reptile and only you can make the best choice for your pet!