What Do Capybaras Eat?

Being a long time capybara fan, I was always wondering what do they eat in the wild and what do people feed their pet capybaras. I did some research, and here’s what I found.

What do capybaras eat? Capybara is a herbivore that only eats plant matter. It grazes mainly on grasses and aquatic plants, as well as fruit and tree bark.

Many new capybara owners have no idea what it takes to care for the biggest rodent in the world. Capybaras are not a popular pet choice, and that makes it harder to find any information on their diet, and it makes it more difficult to care for them. There are particular things you must do when feeding your capybara to optimize its digestion and health.

What Do Capybaras Eat In The Wild?

Capybaras are herbivorous animals, no matter where their home is. They have instincts and reactions, just like any other creature. The capybaras rely on us to provide for all their needs: food, shelter, enrichment, and companionship.

Capybaras are grazing animals, just like cows and grasses form the staple of their diet, which means they should have access to grass. There were cases where capybaras would break out of their zoo enclosures if they had no grass to graze in order to eat grass.

Capybaras are also known to be picky eaters to the point where they would feed on the leaves of one species of plants or grass and disregard other species surrounding it.

Read our related post Whoa! Capybara’s Teeth Are Amazing – 6 Unusual Facts About Them.

In the wild, during the dry season, capybaras would eat a greater variety of plants because of limited availability. Capybaras spent similar times feeding on reed (Eleocharis interstincta) and Paratheria prostrata. During the rainy season, reeds were almost ignored by the animals which fed mainly on Hymenachne amplexicaulis, a grass with a significantly higher content of energy and protein.

Hymenachne amplexicaulis

This freshwater species is native to the tropical and subtropical regions of the West Indies, northern South America, and Central America. This robust grass species usually grow to be 1-2.5m tall.

The flat, triangular leaves are 10–45 cm long and up to 3 cm wide and have a prominent clasping bases, or auricles. The grass is known to survive comfortably in about a meter of water for 20 years.

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How to Feed Your Pet Capybara

Where capybaras live is just as important as what they eat. Just like humans, our surroundings and what we do is related directly to our diet.

It is essential for capybaras in zoos or being kept as pets, to have a diet that replicates as closely as possible their natural diet in the wild. The diet of the Capybara is mainly made up of grasses and aquatic plants, along with fruits and berries and the occasional munch on soft tree bark. Because capybaras did not evolve to eat two or three meals a day, they must be allowed to graze when they are hungry.

Like other species of rodent, their four front teeth grow continuously throughout their life meaning that they must gnaw and chew their food to grind them down which they do in a back and forth motion rather than from side to side.

This means they must have access to coarse foods. Several pet capybaras have died due to tooth problems which developed as a result of the wrong diet. So if you’re entertaining the idea of having a pet capybara, please, please make sure they have access to the proper food they need.

Make sure they also have access to tree bark, stone or something similar to chew on. If they have access to your home, keep cables behind furniture or out of reach of capybaras as they sometimes go out of their way to gnaw on them.

Read our related post on capybaras Do People Eat Capybaras?

If you give your pet capybaras enough rodent stones to chew on, they’ll be happy and healthy animals.

Important feeding tips to consider:

  • diet should be augmented by adding appropriate pellets,
  • if there is insufficient grass to provide enough for daily grazing then green leaf vegetables such as cabbage, lettuce etc should be introduced,
  • the vegetable shouldn’t have a high sugar content
  • they shouldn’t eat fruit for the same reason,
  • carrots are a no-no because of too high Vitamin A levels as this can cause liver damage,
  • you can give them probiotic like Benebac or Bio 3 to treat mild cases of diarrhea.

Do Capybaras Eat Their Own Poop?

Some omnivores and herbivores like rodents and rabbits will consume their own feces because a diet of plants and vegetable material is hard to digest. Capybara being a rodent does eat their own poop as well. It is called autocoprophagy. But…

The kind of poop they eat is called cecotrope, also caecal pellets, or night feces. The cecotropes are different in composition to the usual oval-shaped feces, and contains up to 37% more protein and 30% less fiber. Cecotropes are passed through the intestines and subsequently reingested for added nutrients.

Other Considerations

Of course, the food will be just one of your many expenses as an owner of the biggest rodent in the world. In the wild, capybaras never stray far from water and it shouldn’t be any different for them in captivity. Just look at one of the many many YouTube videos of capybaras enjoying a nice and relaxing onsen citrus bath in a Japanese zoo and you’ll see just how spoiled they can get.

Life of a capybara owner

Capybaras in the wild live in savannas and dense forests and reside near bodies of water. Having a pool they can dip in many times per day is a must.

Capybaras that live as pets require a habitat that is carefully set up and cared for. Forcing your capybara to live in inappropriate conditions may harm it, and make it sick and unhealthy.

Capybara Is A Social Animal

Capybaras are highly social animals and they usually live in groups of 10–20 individuals but can live in groups of up to 100 animals as well. That’s why you should highly consider getting two capybaras instead of a single animal.

Regarding feeding, If capybaras in a herd are competing for food this will lead to aggression. To prevent that, you should keep an eye on them during feeding time to ensure there’s no competition between them for food that could lead to aggression. It is hard to get rid of aggression once it settles in between animals.

Capybaras are friendly to other animals and one of the reasons is that if they don’t feel threatened, they really don’t care what you do around them.

bird on a capybara
Bird chilling on a capybara

Would you have a capybara as a pet or would you rather enjoy them in the wild?