Uromastyx is the name for the genus of spiny-tailed agamid lizards native to North Africa and the Middle East.
There are numerous species and several have viable captive-bred populations. While the are many species, they all share a similar diet in captivity.
What do Uromastyx eat?
Uromastyx eat plants and seeds. Most wild uromastyx eat only a small amount of insects. The vast majority of Uromastyx diet in captivity should be greens.
Uromastyx Diet in the Wild
The exact diet of uromastyx species depend on their location and what food is available. Wild Egyptian uromastyx (Uromastyx aegyptius) eat primarily plant matter.
Only 1.2% of fecal pellets in this study contained insect matter. The vast majority of the diet is made up of leaves, shoots, flowers, and seeds.
They will also eat animal matter if the opportunity is there. Populations of U. aegyptius from Qatar have been found to scavenge.
This study noted that 84% of fecal samples contained only plant matter including barley seeds. The other 16% contained vertebrate and invertebrate matter as well as stones.
The vertebrate matter may be evidence of scavenging behavior. It was noted that wild uromastyx may be forced to eat alternate food due to overgrazing by domesticated animals.
Other species have similar diets.
Animal matter in any form seems to be eaten only when their preferred diet is sparse. Young uromastyx seem to have a similar diet.
The main difference is how often the animals will eat. Young uromastyx need to eat more frequently to fuel their growth.
Most Uromastyx in the wild will defend a rocky territory that includes a good variety of plants. This includes perennials that grow back regularly and annuals.
They will eat a wide range of foods depending on the time of year.
Seeds and flowers will be eaten when the are available. Young shoots are also commonly eaten.
This study notes that they favor grasses and many flowering annuals. They also note a high mortality rate due to starvation.
This was likely due to competition with camels and other domesticated animals. Wild uromastyx must compete over food when it is sparse.
Many parts of their range do not see much rain or plant growth. This means wild animals must scramble to find enough food. Since these lizards are strictly diurnal, they can only supplement their diet with insects that are active during the day.
Uromastyx Diet In Captivity
As you can see, captive uromastyx should have a diet made up of plants. There are a wide range of vegetables, fruits, and flowers that are safe for your uromastyx.
The vast majority of the diet should be greens. Ideally, aim for softer greens as the majority of the diet. About 5% of the diet can be harder vegetables and flowers. Fruit can be offered as a treat.
I highly suggest looking at The Tortoise Table to discover the best options. While it is focused on tortoises, most reptiles can eat similar greens and fruits.
One big difference is how these animals will eat seeds like millet and lentils. Seeds should be offered weekly to help add protein and fat.
Be sure to monitor your uromastyx and offer seeds less frequently if it is gaining too much weight. Breeding females do need fat, but pets require much less.
Not all breeders offer seeds. Some recommend only offering seeds seasonally. This can replicate the availability in the wild. Most plants in the area produce seeds during spring and summer.
It is up to you to choose when to feed seeds. Your vet can help determine if your pet needs more protein and fat. They can also help guide you to the best food choices for your uromastyx.
Fruits are a great treat. They should make up only a tiny part of the diet. Safe fruits can be good for training your uromastyx. You can also use high-value treats to motivate your pet to try puzzle feeders.
Puzzle feeders and toys are wonderful for keeping animals mentally stimulated.
Making your pet work for some of its food is also a great way to introduce exercise for your pet.
This can be as simple as stuffing greens in a Hol-EE roller ball. These are balls made of an open structure. Many reptiles like crawling in them. They make a great feeder toy for reptiles that eat greens.
Safe food options are varied. Collard greens, spring mix, pea sprouts, kale, bok choy, and endive can all be great. You can easily buy seasonal greens for your uromastyx to save money and vary their diet.
Edible flowers like hibiscus, dandelions, clovers, and rose petals are all great treats. Safe fruits include papaya, prickly pear, apples, figs, and cherries.
You should always make sure any food you offer is free of pesticides. Even if you buy food that is safe for humans, it may not be safe for reptiles.
Reptiles are much smaller than humans and cannot take pesticide contamination like we can. Buy organic produce and wash any produce thoroughly.
Bee pollen granules and powder are safe, but not a main part of the diet. They can be a great addition if added weekly. Most uromastyx seem to enjoy them, but all animals have their own preferences.
You will learn what your pet likes. Some animals just don’t like certain foods.
Vitamin supplements and additional calcium are a good idea. You should follow the directions on the package for amounts and frequency.
While a varied diet will help, offering additional vitamins is good for your pet.
Insects should not be a major part of the captive diet. It is very easy to give too much protein. While young uromastyx do need more protein, it isn’t healthy in the long run.
Uromastyx will live a long life with a proper diet.
An occasional treat may not hurt, but it should be very infrequent. Most species have the same captive diet, but keeping an eye out for studies is always a good idea.
For a complete guide to enclosure setup, feeding, daily care and breeding,
check out my Egyptian Uromastyx Care Sheet
Uromastyx are mostly herbivores in the wild. They will supplement their diet with insects or scavenged meat if they do not have other food available.
In captivity, they should be fed a varied diet with additional supplements. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.