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What Do Lizards Eat in the Desert? (Really?)

If you are like me, you may be thinking how can a lizard survive in the desert and what do they even eat? Well, let me explain this to you now.

What do lizards eat in the desert? Depending on their species, they can eat insects, small animals, and even other lizards, even including their own species. If they eat other lizards, this is typically a smaller lizard that they can easily pick on.

Now you know what they eat at a high level. Let me explain how they get their water, what predators they have in the desert, how they survive and more.

What Predators do they have in the desert?

There are many different types of predators that a lizard has. In the wild, especially in the desert, this includes many types of birds such as hawks, Eagles, owls and other birds of prey.

Snakes are another known Predators for lizards. Finally, lizards are even known to eat other lizards. You usually find that a larger lizard will prey on a smaller lizard, even if they are the same species.

How do lizards survive in a desert?

When the desert reaches its maximum heat for the day you’ll often find that lizards will hide away from the sun to regulate their temperature. They have an amazing technique to control their breathing and heart rate in this period of inactivity to conserve energy.

Lizards have to be careful in extreme heat because they are cold-blooded animals. Meaning they have to regulate their temperature by moving away from direct sunlight. If they don’t avoid the direct sunlight they could burn to death.

Where do they get their water from in the desert?

The majority of the water comes from the food that they consume. You may be thinking to yourself, how is that even possible?

Extreme Retention & Conservation of water

This is because they have a very unique system of retaining as much water as possible from their food and not expelling it through their body. As humans we are the opposite, we expel a lot of water through common daily activities such as sweating and urinating.

However, when a lizard urinates the majority of it is urates. Meaning a salt particle of uric acid. As opposed to a liquid form that we as humans have.

This is similar to Birds however birds do not do this as well as lizards. This is evident in the watery white paste that you may have seen soiling your car windscreen, remember?

Also, their scaly body is designed to retain as much moisture as possible and not to expel it through this skin.

This process of refining its urine and retaining as much water as possible is quite taxing on their energy levels. But it is beneficial to them, especially in the desert where water is scarce.

Eating For Hydration

Based on this efficient system that they have, they can easily consume a diet of crickets, for example, and retain enough moisture from the cricket to sustain themselves.

However, if they are given the option to consume more water through other means they will still take that option. It’s just that they have a natural survival Instinct to be able to get by in the absence of freely available water.

Related questions:

Q: Do lizards eat plants?

Yes, they do. Lizards are split up into two main groups:

  • Omnivores: who eat a mixture of plants vegetables fruits and insects as well as small animals
  • Herbivores: who typically eat only plants and vegetables.

To put this into context, let me give you an example of a couple of lizards that fit into these categories.

The Famen lizard is an example of an omnivore. It will eat a combination of fruits vegetables and insects and small animals. Then you have the Chuckwalla Lizard. This lizard is a herbivore, meaning it will only consume plants and vegetation.

Q: How long can lizards live without food?

Different lizard species have different time periods that they can live without consuming food. For example, you can expect a Bearded Dragon to last a few weeks without consuming food and still to survive.

A Leopard Gecko, however, could last a bit longer, for approximately one month. A crested gecko will last a bit less than a leopard gecko.

You may be thinking to yourself, how is this even possible? how can they live for this long without consuming food? The answer is, in most cases, they store food in their tails. For example the leopard gecko, it stores water and fat reserves in its fat tail.

It does this instinctively because in the wild it is not guaranteed a meal every single day. So it stores this fat as a clever survival tactic.

Q: How often do lizards drink water?

Lizards need water as much as humans do. It’s one of the most important parts of their diet and cannot be avoided. Without water, they won’t last long at all. Food, yes, they can last a bit longer. But, water is a big problem if they don’t have it.

In captivity, you should be supplying fresh water to your lizard on a daily basis. You should also be cleaning the water container on a daily basis as well. Followed by a deeper weekly clean. Which would be a more thorough clean. For example, using soapy water or detergent to properly clean out the water dish.

However, some common sense is required. Obviously, if the water dish has some obvious debris inside of it, for example, feces, it will need to be swapped out immediately. regardless if it’s less than 24 hours before the last change.

Some Lizards won’t accept water dishes!

Earlier I did mention details about a water dish, however, it is important to understand that not every lizard species expects water to be fed to them in a water dish. This is not expected from, for example, a green anole or a chameleon.

These lizards prefer to have their water taken from droplets on leaves and branches within their enclosure. These droplets are formed by the lizard keeper “misting”, which is basically spraying water into the enclosure on a regular basis.

When I say regular basis, I mean is at least once or twice a day. This includes spraying the water onto the leaves and branches of the enclosure as well as the sides of the enclosure.

You should expect your lizard to Lap up the water droplets after you have done a good job of misting the enclosure.

For other types of lizards, that prefer to have it in the water dish, you should provide a dish big enough for them to submerge their body in. However, not deep enough for them to drown. Remember, lizards are not usually good swimmers.

Having a large enough dish is important because they often use some of this water around their body to help them with shedding, which is a regular thing for them.

A Handy Tip for drip-feeding water

Here is another tip for you, if you want to provide a constant stream of dripping water, for example for a green anole or a chameleon. You can actually use a simple paper cup. Pierce a hole into the top of the cup and then put some water in it. Then place the cup on top of the enclosure.

Once it is there, depending on the size of the hole, which will affect the rate of the water, you should notice it dripping consistently into the enclosure. However, to avoid any unnecessary mess in the enclosure, it is advised to have another cup beneath it to mop up any excess water which isn’t being consumed by the lizard.

Q: What Lizards Live in the desert?

There are quite a few species that live in the desert, but here is a list:


Hi, this is me with my daughter and my Lizard friend. I hope you enjoy my research. Please feel free to check out my "About Me" page to find out more about me.