Malnutrition and Obesity


An Inadequate diet is a major health concern for captive reptiles and amphibians and can lead to a variety of health issues including metabolic bone disease (MBD), anorexia and kidney disease.  It is also important to understand that lack of appetite may be related to some other underlying stressors, such as interactions with other lizards, available retreats and basking sites.  Be sure you understand your reptile or amphibian’s nutritional needs and a quick google search can provide care information for most exotic species, such as dragons, blue tongue skinks, turtles and frogs.

Native lizards require constant access to fresh water and this can be provided via mist spray (especially for arboreal species) or in a dish. Most native lizards will take both invertebrates and fruits, however because captive diets are unlikely to match what the lizard would consume in the wild, reptile multi-vitamins should also be provided.

Lizards that are underfed or not provided with a suitably nutritious diet will lose condition around the mid-body and base of the tail. Ribs, vertebrae and pelvic bones will begin to protrude under the skin and the animal will become weak and lethargic.


Male Northland green gecko showing signs of anorexia. Note the prominent ribs, spine and
pelvic bones. Northland green geckos are typically solitary and territorial. The scars on the
head visible in the left image, and the second, overweight male in the right image suggest
dominance causing poor health. © Chris Wedding.




Lizards store excess fat in their tail base, abdomen and neck areas, and easily become fat in captivity.  Overfeeding with high-fat foods can also cause more specific problems such as gout.