Uromastyx Diet

Much of your Uromastyx lizard’s food can come from the grocery store as well as your home garden. Most Uromastyx species are predominantly herbivorous, with insects making up an insignificant part of their natural diet – around 4% or less. As with iguanas, many feel that Uros should take insect protein to have a healthy, balanced diet. This is false.

Captive Uromastyx have done quite well on a completely herbivorous (vegetarian) diet of plant foods. If you choose, you can offer newly acquired Uros some insects to get them to settle in, but this type of food is not necessary. Most herbivorous lizards do best on diets low in animal protein.

Oxalates, Glycosides and Goitrogens

That being said, some vegetable matter is better than others – and some plants have high levels of toxic compounds. Phytotoxins (plant toxins) come in a wide variety of forms. Many are targeted towards insect pests but can also affect reptiles, birds and mammals.

Oxalates and Goitrogens are the most common phytotoxins.

In order to avoid any negative effects and to take advantage of positive effects of these phytochemicals, it is important to provide Uromastyx with a variety of foods every day. See our list of common plant foods for nutrition as well as oxalate and goitrogen content.

Don’t resort to offering up your tropical houseplants for your Uro to munch on, consider the safe, nutritious plants in our list below!

Leafy Greens

Green leafy vegetables can make up the bulk of the Uromastyx diet. Spring Mix salads include baby lettuces (Lactuca sativa) usually including red & green shades of romaine, loose leaf lettuce like oak leaf, lollo rosso, and tango. Often included are  chard or beet greens (Beta vulgaris), mizuna (Brassica rapa), arugula or rocket (Eruca sativa), frisée or endive (Cichorium endivia) and radicchio (Cichorium intybus). Some mixes may also include spinach (Spinacia oleracea).

There are many benefits to using a Spring Mix – it provides nutritious leaf lettuce and a source of moisture, as many Uromastyx species will not drink from a water bowl. Most species should not be provided with standing water as it could bump the relative humidity of the enclosure into high levels (over 35%). Spring Mix is also available year-round, and even Costco carries a bulk package. However, it can spoil quickly if you do not have a large collection or enjoy salad yourself.

Leafy greens last about 5-7 days. Freezing is not recommended, as it reduces the water content, changes the structure and reduces the thiamine (vitamin B1) content.

Uromastyx can be picky eaters, especially with newly introduced foods so it’s best to provide a wide variety every day, in the early morning when they are actively foraging. Their tastes are also seasonal, with some foods ignored at certain times of the year. Uros eat most vigorously in the spring months.

Note that cruciferous vegetables in the Brassicaceae family generally contain high levels of goitrogens and should be limited in the Uromastyx diet. For this reason, we do not recommend feeding cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts. These are all one species, which also includes the leafy greens kale and collard greens that may be used in limited amounts. See our plant nutrition list for goitrogen content of commonly fed plants.

Leaf Vegetable Family Designations

Asteraceae

Lettuce (Lactuca sativa)
Endive/Escarole (Cichorium endivia), aka Broadleaf endive and Frisee/Chicory aka Curly-leaf endive
Radicchio (Cichorium intybus)

While lettuce (Lactuca sativa) as a type has been vilified for being nutritionally incomplete, it is low in oxalates/oxalic acid and does not contain goitrogens. Its 1:1 Ca:P ratio makes it one of the least offensive vegetables to feed but not an ideal green. The Chicories such as endive are, however, a wonderful staple green.

Amaranthaceae

Spinach (Spinacia oleracea) feed sparingly
Subfamily Chenopodiaceae: Beets (Beta vulgaris)

Spinach has also been discouraged as a food item because it is very high in oxalates, but as part of a well-planned diet every few weeks it is not a bad choice. Beet greens have about half as much oxalic acid as spinach so should also be fed with care.

Brassicaceae (Cruciferous vegetables)

kale, spring greens, collard greens (Brassica oleracea, Acephala Group cultivars)
turnip greens, rapini (Brassica rapa)
bok choy (B. rapa chinensis)
mustard greens (B. juncea, B. nigra Sinapis alba)
tatsoi (B. rosularus)
arugula/rocket (Eruca vesicaria)
watercress (Nasturtium officinale)

Again, beware the goitrogens in the Brassica family!

Vegetables

Besides green leafies, a wide variety of mixed vegetables from your local grocery can be offered. Be sure to offer gourds such as winter squash often, even daily, to create a nutritious balance to the diet of greens. Carrots and sweet potatoes can also be used, but provide moderate levels of oxalates, which should be kept low as greens generally contain high amounts.

pumpkin (chopped or grated)
squash (grated)
zucchini (chopped or grated)
sweet potatoes (chopped or grated)
carrots (chopped or grated)
peas
green beans (chopped)
Opuntia (prickly pear cactus)
bell peppers
cucumber
corn (limited quantities)
bamboo shoots
jicama (grated)
parsnips (grated)
sprouts (limited quantities)

Grated, chopped or shredded veggies can be stored, refrigerated, in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Thawed frozen veggies are fine in moderation, but note that their thiamine (vitamin B-1) levels are reduced in the process. Make sure you feed only with fresh green leafies.

Dry Beans & Seeds

Uromastyx have strong jaws that can crack dry legumes. These provide an extra boost of protein (but beware the phosphorus and goitrogen content) and seeds provide some dietary fat. Bean mixes can also be ground into a powder, just be sure to keep it dry as it can become a stuck on mess on toes, tails and bellies. We generally offer a dish of lentils and millet at all times to our Uros when not housed on birdseed.

Lentils
Proso millet (white millet)
Bean Soup Mix (ground, beans only)
Flax seeds (fatty!)

Do not feed these to emaciated and dehydrated uros because this puts a lot of burden on the kidneys. Also stop feeding high protein food when preparing to brumate your uros in the Winter for breeding in the Spring.

Fruits

Generally, fruits should be used sparingly (less than 10% of the diet). Most fruits are suitable for Uromastyx species, but do not feed Starfruit as it is very high in oxalates. Fruit in general tends to have moderate levels of oxalates.

Apple (with peel)
Berries
Cherries
Fig
Mango
Melons
Papaya
Prickly pear
Strawberries

Papaya and fig are high in calcium, but fig seeds can cause impaction in young Uros. Prickly pear cactus fruit is also a good choice.

Citrus foods are said to be too acidic for proper digestion, and too much vitamin C can cause diarrhea. Banana, plums, peaches, nectarines and passion fruits are highly skewed towards phosphorus in their Ca:P levels, so use caution with these fruits.

Flowers

The buds of many of the listed plants make a good addition to the Uromastyx diet. Hibiscus flowers are great, as are dandelion blooms, mallows, squash blossoms, rose petals and nasturtiums. Pollen and nectar are great additions to the diet in moderation.

Avoid the flowers from potato vines, tomato plants, eggplant, tobacco and related species in the nightshade family Solanaceae.

In the wild, Ornate Uromastyx in particular consume a lot of flowers during certain parts of the year. Use them seasonally and to increase the appetite.

Weeds?!?!

Many invasive weeds are highly nutritious to foraging animals. Leaves and blooms can be highly palatable. Be careful off possible toxic effects of harvesting weeds in inorganically enriched soils, as many can soak up nitrogen to toxic levels. Below is a brief list of the most familiar “weeds”.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinate)
Hawkbit (Leontodon spp.)
Cat’s Ear (Hypochoeris radicata)
Clovers (Legume)
Trefoils (Legume)
Mallows
Cheeseweed Mallow (Malva parviflora) – common in the Southwest
Silverbushes (genus Argythamnia)
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea) – high in oxalates
Vetches
Bindweeds
Sedums (avoid sedum acre, possibly toxic)
Nettle
Chickweed

Unfortunately, nutritional data is unavailable for most wild fodder. However, such forage makes up the majority of the Uromastyx’s native diet.

Treats

Sugary, starchy or sweet treats, such as fruits or green peas should be used sparingly. Flowers are excellent treats because they are very nutritious. Use foods that have bright colors, such as red, orange and yellow; white flowers are also favored. Treats can get Uromastyx to tolerate your handling, and can often be “bribed” to walk onto your hand with a favorite treat. This makes it much easier to take them out of their enclosure.

Weekly Feeding Schedule

The below weekly feeding schedule is simply a guideline on how to feed your Uromastyx. The major things to consider are whether you are providing appropriate Calcium to Phosphorus ratios (at minimum 2:1) without providing too high of levels of oxalates or goitrogens. You can find all of this nutritional data in our Plant Nutrition list!

The first section of the Uromastyx food chart lists the daily staples for that week and include two daily greens and one vegetable. Squash and cactus pads can be treated as staple “greens”. The other vegetables should make up 20% of the daily staples. Mixed veg refers to either commercial, frozen mixed veggies or your own blend, depending on preference. The staples section is designed to always have something familiar for your Uros to eat, as drastically changing food items can put them off-feed. Staples should consist of 60-90% of the diet, which helps take advantage of availability (dandelion greens, hibiscus leaves and cactus pads for example).

The rest of the weekly diet can be loosely assembled, with the more food items the better. When feeding less, be sure to use highly nutritious foods such as cactus pads, alfalfa, dandelion, etc.

  Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
  Daily greens + 1 Daily Staple 80%, Staple Vegetable 20%
Daily Greens Spring Mix* Spring Mix Dandelion / Hibiscus Spring Mix
Daily Staple Squash Endive/Raddichio Squash Cactus Pad
Staple Vegetable Mixed Veg* Sweet Potato / Bell Pepper / Carrots Mixed Veg Jicama / Turnip / Parsnip
  60-90% of total diet; can vary by season/availability
 
  Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
  Mix and match from the below rows (up to one item per row)
Goitrogenic Food Bok Choi Collard Greens / Grape Leaf Arugula Kale
High Oxalate Food Mustard / Turnip / Beet Greens See fruits See fruits  
High Calcium Food Mustard / Turnip / Beet Greens Collard Greens / Grape Leaf Dandelion / Hibiscus Cactus Pad
Seed / Legume Bean mix, lentils and/or millet Bean mix, lentils and/or millet Bean mix, lentils and/or millet Bean mix, lentils and/or millet
Flowers See list See list See list See list
Fruits (<10%) Berries / Fig / Papaya / Cactus Pear Cantaloupe / Mango / Tomato Apple / Banana / Kiwi Berries / Fig / Papaya / Cactus Pear
Other Mixed Herbs (see list) Cucumber / Watercress / Spinach Dried hays (see list) Fresh alfalfa (young plant, not sprouts)
  10-40% of total diet; can vary by season/availability.
Total Food Items 16* 13* 13 12
  • / means "or" as these items are matched by nutrition or other characteristics. Combining them should also be ok.
  • * Spring Mix and Mixed Veg each counts as 4 food items.
  • Tip: weigh food items to get approximate %.

Replicating a Wild Diet

See the Uromastyx Native Plants page for information on the plants eaten by Uromastyx lizards in the wild, as well as North American and European substitutes. Spice up your uro’s diet with these edible plants.

Calcium, Phosphorus, D3 and Supplements

Uromastyx Food Summary & Reference Links

Generally, foods safe for desert tortoises should be safe for Uromastyx species. This is not an exhaustive list! If you are interested in the native plants in the Uromastyx natural environment, please see this chart of native plants.

Below are some links to plant foods for herbivorous lizards and tortoises.

Note that there is a lot of controversy on what plants to feed to Uromastyx species, and certain plants and categories get villified. Beyond the truly toxic plants, there is a wide variety of questionable plants that Uros and Tortoises eat with no ill effects. Variety is key! The more you can offer, the more complete the diet.

Good sites with excellent info:

http://www.deerfernfarms.com/Food_Plants.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_plants_with_edible_leaves
http://africantortoise.com/edible_landscaping.htm
http://tortoiseforum.org/iphone/index.php/thread-6786.html

72 thoughts on “Uromastyx Diet

  1. Right now, the temperature has risen again and it is very warm. My Uro is very, very active and running around everywhere in its cage. However, it doesn’t seem to want to eat any food. Also, I still haven’t bought a new UV bulb and I placed its cage near a closed window. Does this work? How can I ensure that my Uro eats? Thanks!

  2. What are your temps exactly? It’s very important to measure and not to guess. They need a basking spot of 120-140, and should be around 100 on the warm end and 85 on the cool end, this allows them to cool down and warm up as necessary. Ensuring proper temps and keeping all areas of the tank well-lit will help get them to eat. We experienced a similar lack of appetite when there was not enough light in the tank. Also be sure to provide the right foods. Winter can keep them from being active and eating, but if you say the uro is active it should also be eating. Otherwise it’s an indication of something not right in the environment and is looking for a way out into more favorable conditions.

    Glass and most plastic blocks nearly all the UV rays so that will not work. Even screen can block it about 35-75% depending on the gaps in the mesh.

    Good luck!

  3. I have two uros one is active basking eating and hiding the whole thing the other one is just moving around but spends most of the time basking walks around its enclosure then returns to basking but it doesn’t want to eat I tried everything. Any ideas what’s wrong or suggestions??

  4. If you are housing them together, you may be witnessing some subtle bullying. Many times reptiles just don’t enjoy having company. If you are housing them separate, you might want to check your diet, your temps and your lighting and make sure they are correct. Check out our Care Sheet for details!

  5. I have to leave for a week and no one will be able to come and feed my uros fresh greens everyday, will they be ok?

  6. You need to have someone come at least every other day, if they go hungry for too long they may have trouble digesting food again, unless they’re in brumation (a winter hibernation). Try to find someone who can do that, even if they are providing just some salad greens, you don’t need to get all of the balanced nutrition, you just don’t want them to starve or dehydrate while you are away.

  7. I just got my very first pair of Uro’s..Loe, love them. I am confused. These words you are using to explain certains things to look for in their diet mean nothing to me. Like goitrogens, etc. I need help. I have them on spring mix, and also the store gave me white millet. Should i go and purchse other bird food, and if so, just for anytype. Please help me. Simplify the words for me so i may get all the info i require. Thank you so much..

  8. My uro is about a year old. I am not understanding the use of legumes. Are they to be cooked first or soaked or just dry. Should I mix them & should I also use bird seed? I thought seeds caused impaction. When is the appropriate time to use sand? He is still on the outdoor carpet bought with the aquarium. When I go to feed him he tends to try to bite my fingers as the “lizard-sitter” hand feeds him. I have only fed him spring mix & fruits (common household) since birth & wonder if I should be dusting with supplements as I did with my bearded dragon. How often should I feed him? Is bathing alright? It’s humid where I live so I never put water in his housing & hope that is ok also. I feel like he has moved on from a baby to a teen & want to make him as comfortable as can be. Different sites recommend different foods so I am very confused.

  9. Small legumes, such as lentils, can be fed dry. Larger beans can be ground, also dry, and then sprinkled onto their greens. I usually just provide a bowl for them to chose when to eat them. Seed is also good to provide occasionally. I’ve housed Uros on birdseed (white millet) and did pretty well with it before moving to a different substrate. I don’t recommend just sand as a substrate. You can use slate tiles with sand poured in between the cracks to keep them stabilized, or you can mix with soil and peat moss for a diggable medium. Sand by itself won’t hold a burrow.

    I definitely recommend supplements (like Repashy Super Veggie or Miner-all Indoor formula if you are just feeding Spring Mix. If it has a lot of spinach, this can be risky as that contains oxalates that bind with calcium, leading to MBD (metabolic bone disease). They also form tiny crystals deposited throughout the body, causing pain, stiffness and impaired organ function. So while they can do well on Spring Mix, you need to be careful with it as it contains a lot of spinach these days. I would feed most fruits very rarely, 10% of the diet max, and try to stick with low-sugar, high calcium options like cactus fruit & papaya. Berries are low in sugar and are good options. Flowers are another great choice. More variety is always better, some sites are very “strict” on what to feed and what not to feed. Lettuces, for example, are often vilified but they are high in vitamins and have a neutral (1:1) calcium-to-phosphate ratio. You shouldn’t rely on them as the sole source of food, so add in as much variety as you can.

    Offer food every day, even when he isn’t active, usually they become less active October-February but depends on species and individual.

    What kind of lighting are you offering? If he doesn’t get access to sunlight or artificial UVB bulbs to create Vitamin D internally, he won’t be able to absorb the calcium in his greens. Repashy & Miner-all Indoor formula have vitamin D3 and other good stuff to keep your Uro healthy.

    Bathing is a little controversial. I don’t do it on a regular basis. Especially if you are in a humid area, they may not be able to dry off thoroughly and get skin problems.

    Good luck with your Uro! :)

  10. At work they said I didnt chop a piece of kale small enough it was about 1/2 piece can a mali uromastyx choke on that ?

  11. It’s unlikely a healthy uromastyx will choke on a large piece of kale. Large pieces do take them longer to consume, but there’s not a need to finely chop their food unless you are trying to make a salad out of foods they don’t willingly take on their own. A chopped up salad is a good way to get them to eat a wide variety of foods. You can use food clips to hold larger pieces to make it easier for them to tear off pieces to simulate wild foraging.

  12. i have an egyptian uro for about a year and half, shes about two years old. in the beginning i was comfortable holding her until shortly after she became aggressive. She started biting me where i bled once and whipping her tail constantly. Since then i havent really held her. I can kick myslef for not holding her afterwards but she’s pretty strong and i would love it if i can hold her and lay with. Is is to late to tame her???? also im 99% sure shes a wild card, willl that make a difference with taming her?

  13. My male Egyptian Uro is being very territorial towards my female saharran Uro and this has been going on for about two days now granted she’s new. But I have had to separate them and am using a piece of glass to allow him to see her but he’s still hissing. Is there anything I can do to calm him down?

  14. Unfortunately, some Uros just don’t get along. I have a male Egyptian that doesn’t like his intended female. They are young, however and this may change for mating in the future. It’s best to house them separately, as they can cause a lot of damage to each other with their powerful jaws. Good luck with them!

  15. We purchased a 6-month old mali uro about 9 days ago. It was eating fine
    at the pet store but has really not eaten here at home. He is in a 4’x2’x2′ cage; we have the basking light (150 W) and infrared nocturnal light one one
    end yielding 130 F on the rock and 100 ambient and 80 on the far cold end.
    I guess it is common for uros not to eat for al while as they adjust
    to the new surroundings but how long can he go without food/water? He still looks healthy, still walks around and basks (after sleeping for 12 hours straight), but ignores the food (even when offered by hand). We don’t have a UVB light (per DeerFern Farms advice) but since he isn’t eating he is also not getting vit. D3…. We’ve tried lots of salad leaves, squash, beans, millet,
    green beans, peas, carrrots. I’d say he has had maybe 10 bites in 9 days.

    He has pooped only once, about 7 days ago (it was small and came out
    hard). I did give him a 5 minute soak yesterday in 100 F water.
    Any advice?

  16. It can take them a while to adjust. If they don’t feel there are enough hides to retreat to in case of danger (such as you!) they may refuse food. Make sure you have a lot of hides and consider putting a log in front of the food bowl to hide his line of sight. Be sure to offer a humid retreat to avoid dehydration. A rubbermade box with a hole in it filled with damp sand mixed with soil or peat moss can work.

    You may want to put up paper to cover the front and sides of the tank. They can be very sensitive to movement and shadows being cast into their enclosures. This can help him feel more secure. Try to avoid hand feeding until he is eating on his own. Try getting some edible flowers – dandelions, hibiscus, etc. and see if he will eat those. If you have the space to garden, ours love any kind of fresh grown green. So a trip to a farmer’s market might give you some more appealing produce than the grocery store. It may take him a while to adjust to the taste of the supplement if you put it on every meal. Try without it, then add a light sprinkle every day until he’s used to it.

    Good luck!

  17. Thanks for the advice. I’ll give that all a try. How long can a 6-month old go without food/water? When do I need to get worried?

  18. I think if he’s not eating by the 2 week mark you might consider taking him to a vet, sooner if he looks lethargic or ill. Even if he’s taking a few bites, that’s some food in his stomach. Usually our new acquisitions take about a week but some do take longer than others.

  19. I have a six year old mali uro and she will eat six times a day if I let her. Is it ok too feed her as much as she wants to eat or is it possible to overfeed. Her appetite increased recently when I got her and cleaned her cage and herself up, she was in poor conditions before I got her. She is very active now and will crawl on me and let me pick her up I just want to make sure i’m not over feeding her.

  20. Generally giving them what they want to eat is fine. If they start to put on excess weight or choose to eat more calorie-dense foods such as lentils, squash, etc instead of leafy greens, you can reduce the amount you feed.

  21. I have a two sold question…
    One…y Nigerian euro has been shedding for months now am I doing something wrong ?
    And two…he’s not eating much
    Some of that I chalk up to I live in Alaska
    And we are going into darkness…I’m just very worried about him there aren’t many vets that do exotic animals here and the closest one is a few hours away…
    Thank you for any help you can give me

  22. Hi Maria!

    Uromastyx shed slowly, and it seems that they are almost always peeling somewhere. It’s quite normal! The darkness can definitely affect him. You can try keeping it warm and bright for 8 hours a day. He will likely go into brumation, where you may not see him come out for days or weeks at a time. As long as he is in good body condition, he should do well. Continue to place food out daily, just smaller amounts to avoid wasting it. You can’t predict what days they’ll come out to eat. They’ll eat and bask for a few hours then go back to sleep for a few days. Good luck!

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