Iguanas are found in many pet stores and those cute little green babies are hard to resist!
Before adopting one you should know that they have very specialized care needs. Their diet is a huge part of those needs and can make their husbandry difficult for beginners.
It is important to feed Iguanas a variety of nutritious plants, while avoiding harmful foods.
Many pet Iguanas are mistakenly fed diets that consist mostly of lettuce and fruit. Though they may seem to enjoy these foods they are not good for them as a staple diet. Some people also feed insects as a protein source, but this is actually very bad for their health.
Keep on reading to learn how to feed the perfect diet…
What Do Iguanas Eat?
Iguanas are considered generalist herbivores. More specifically they are a type of folivore. This means that they eat a wide variety of plants and most of their diet is made up of leaves.
You may be wondering if there is any difference in what do green Iguanas eat vs red Iguanas? The answer is no! Red species eat the same diet and are actually a type of green Iguana that has been bred to express a more red or orange coloration. All of these colors eat the same diet.
Iguanas spend most of their time up in the trees of the rainforest and eat the leaves and vines around them. They also eat fruits and flowers on occasion. Most of the fruits they eat are brightly colored as they seem to show a preference for these foods.
The leaves that wild Iguanas eat are quite high in fiber compared to many of the leafy vegetables available in supermarkets. Having the right amount of plant fiber in a Iguana’s diet is extremely important for proper digestion. This is one of the reasons why you should feed vegetables that have a high fiber ratio.
High fiber plants are normally difficult for most animals to digest. Luckily herbivores have bacteria in their digestive systems to help them break down these plants.
Hatchling Iguanas will eat the bacteria in soil as they climb out of the nest their mother buried their eggs in. Once these babies and juveniles are up in the trees they will actually eat the poop of older individuals! This helps them to get all the beneficial bacteria they need to digest plants.
Do not be surprised or concerned if you see your baby iguana eating its own poop every now and then. This behavior is natural and helps them to get all the beneficial bacteria they need. Some keepers even feed babies parasite-free poop of older individuals to help their digestive systems.
Pet iguanas should be fed a diet that consists of about 60% dark leafy greens, 30% red, yellow, or orange vegetables and 10% fruit.
How much you feed will depend on their age and health, but an adult should get a plate with about 150 to 200 grams of food per day. A baby should have a plate with at least 10 grams of food. If they finish all of this in less than 15 minutes, try feeding more.
They should get enough food so they finish with less than 10% leftover after 15 minutes.
Iguanas are big lizards from the tropical rainforests of Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. They can reach about 6ft long and around 15 pounds so it is no surprise that they need a decent amount of fuel.
When selecting greens pick ones that are high in fiber and calcium like collard greens, dandelion greens and turnip greens. 60% of their diet should be high-calcium leafy greens. Avoid light-colored veggies such as iceberg and romaine lettuce. While these leaves may be given as a treat, they hold very few nutrients and are low in fiber.
To help feed a high fiber diet it is a good idea to mix commercially available pellets with the greens. Pellet diets can be especially useful for babies as they are high in protein and can help meet the needs of a growing lizard!
As well as feeding greens and pellets you can give vegetables that are yellow, red, and orange in color. Good options include mixing squash and zucchini into their meal. These veggies have lots of beneficial vitamins and can make up about 30% of an iguana’s diet.
Fruit and flowers should only make up about 10% of their diet.
Make sure to supplement their salad with calcium powder that does not have vitamin D3 once or twice a week. Also use a multi vitamin powder a couple of times a month.
Supplements will help to make sure their bones are strong as metabolic bone disease is common. You can prevent this disease by feeding a healthy diet with calcium supplements and by using proper UVB lighting.
When preparing food for Iguanas always cut and shred greens, fruit, and veggies into pieces that are smaller in width than the space between their eyes.
Iguanas can easily eat an entire leaf of a plant, but it is usually best to chop their greens. Use a sharpened knife to cut the leafy greens into pieces. Chop fruits and veggies to about the same size or smaller. Make sure to cut round fruit like grapes in half to minimize the risk of choking.
Once all the foods are chopped sprinkle vitamin or calcium powder as needed and mist it lightly with water. Then put the salad in your Iguana’s bowl and let them go to work.
What Do I Feed My Iguana?
Many of the foods for Iguanas listed below can easily be found in your own backyard and local supermarkets! Organic fruits and vegetables are a great choice because they are grown completely without pesticides or other chemicals. If you cannot find organic then always wash them completely before feeding.
You may be tempted to try out all of the Iguana foods on the lists below, and you should! Variety in an Iguana diet is excellent for their health. It is said they eat over 200 different types of plants in the wild! Just make sure when feeding new foods you gradually introduce them.
For example if you are going to add dandelion greens to your iguana’s salad, start by replacing about 25% of the collard greens with dandelion greens. Slowly work your way up to 100% over a couple of weeks. This will allow the beneficial bacteria in your iguana’s digestive tract to adjust to the new food.
As far as meal ratios go, remember to stick to:
- 60% dark leafy greens
- 30% red, yellow, or orange vegetables
- 10% or less should be made up of fruit and flowers
Try picking at least 4 different leafy greens, 2 vegetables and a fruit for each salad you make. A good example would be to feed chopped and shredded collard, dandelion and turnip greens, escarole, zucchini, butternut and some mango.
Leafy Green Vegetables
- Collard greens
- Dandelion greens
- Turnip greens
- Alfalfa hay (also high in protein)
- Cactus (spineless)
- Bell Peppers
- Green beans
- Sweet potato
- Butternut Squash
- Acorn Squash
Fruits and Flowers
- Hibiscus Flowers
- Nasturtiums (they can eat the leaves too!)
- Rose petals
- Sprouted seeds
- Swiss Chard
- Beet greens
- Mustard greens
Always provide your iguana with a nice clean water bowl. Without proper hydration no animal can digest their food properly. This bowl should also serve as a pool as they enjoy a good soak! They will also use this water bowl as a toilet so make sure to monitor the water for poop and clean it regularly.
Iguanas also need a high humidity ranging from 60 to 80% which helps with hydration. They will often lick up water as you mist them.
- Lily of the Valley
- Citrus fruits
- Tomato plant (leaves and vines/stems, the tomato fruit itself is edible)
- Seeds and pits from apples, cherries, apricots, nectarines, peaches, or pears.
How Often Do I Feed My Iguana?
You can feed adult Iguanas every day or every other day. Babies need feeding daily.
Use our feeding charts below as a quick guide.
|Food / Supplement||Ratio||Diet||Frequency|
|High-Calcium Greens||60%||Collard greens, dandelion greens, turnip greens, alfalfa hay, escarole, watercress or hibiscus leaves||Daily|
|Vegetables||30%||Squash, zucchini, bell peppers, green beans, sweet potato, butternut squash or acorn squash||Daily|
|Fruit||10%||Hibiscus flowers, nasturtiums, rose petals, papaya, mango, figs, berries or cantaloupe||Daily|
|Calcium Powder||~1 pinch per 2 pounds of body weight||Mixed with salad||Once or twice a week|
|Vitamin Powder||~1 pinch per 2 pounds of body weight||Mixed with salad||Twice a month|
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are Iguanas Favorite Food?
Iguanas are similar to humans in that they like sweet things! They will often choose brightly-colored fruits such as berries or even bananas. It is very likely they will eat fruits before even glancing at their leafy greens.
If more than 10% of their diet is fruit your Iguana will likely fill up on sugary, high-water, low-nutrient foods. They will then not eat as much of the high fiber vegetables that are good for them.
This is why it is important to stick to a healthy Iguana diet of 60% dark leafy greens, 30% red, yellow, or orange vegetables and 10% fruit.
When fed a mixed salad of greens, vegetables, and fruits Iguanas will usually eat everything in sight.
Do Iguanas Eat Meat?
No. Iguanas have digestive systems that have specifically evolved to eat plants, not insects or meat. Feeding Iguanas a diet that regularly includes insects can result in a protein-overload. When there is too much protein in an iguana’s diet they can experience kidney failure which can be fatal.
There is a myth that baby iguanas eat a lot of insects in the wild, but there is little to no scientific evidence to support this.
Unfortunately this myth has led to some keepers feeding Iguanas insects and even cat and dog food for extra protein. These iguanas seem to develop normally and grow quickly, but around three years old renal failure often becomes apparent. This is quite tragic as a healthy green Iguana can live for over 20 years. Their long lifespan is one of the reasons why they are one of the best pet lizards for beginners!
If you are concerned about your juvenile getting enough protein, look for plants that are high in protein instead of insects or meat. You can also add high-protein commercial pellets into their salad. Just make sure to soak the pellets in water before feeding them.
Why Has My Iguana Stopped Eating?
There are many reasons why an Iguana can stop eating and lose its appetite.
If your Iguana stops eating, starts losing weight or has abnormal poop then it is always a good idea to make an appointment with your reptile veterinarian. If their poop is normal and they are not losing weight it is likely a husbandry problem.
The most common reason for why Iguanas stop eating is because of incorrect tank temperatures.
If the temperature in their enclosure is too high or too low they may not be able to eat. Bacteria that helps them digest their food will start to die if the temperature gets much under 80°F. Check that your Iguana has a basking spot of 100°F and an ambient temperature of above 85°F. It is okay for night time temperatures to drop to around 77°F.
Iguanas also need a 14-hour light cycle that includes using a UVB light. Make sure to keep a 14 hour day and 8 hour night light cycle and replace the UVB bulb every six months.
Internal parasites are another reason for a sudden lack of appetite. Most parasite infections are easily treatable with oral medication, but you should have your Iguana’s poop tested once a year.
When it comes to feeding Iguanas dark, leafy greens that are high in calcium are the best staple food. Up next is red, yellow, and orange vegetables and then fruits.
Aim to feed a diet that is a mix of 60% dark leafy greens, 30% vegetables and 10% fruit.
Collard, dandelion and turnip greens are all great leafy greens that can make up most of their diet. Bell peppers, sweet potato and butternut squash make great vegetables for Iguanas.
Try to not feed more than 10% fruits as they are high in sugar and water and low in nutrients. Fruits do make a great treat though, so make sure you feed them the occasional mango, fig or berry.
After you have chopped and made their salad do not forget to sprinkle on some supplements. If you follow this diet and research new iguana foods (before feeding) you will soon become a bona-fide iguana chef!
Let us know your Iguana’s favorite foods by leaving a comment.