Dogs and cats are overrated, Iguanas are in. Ever since you were a kid, you’ve always thought about having a mini dragon at your home, luckily having an Iguana is almost the same. It’s just that only they eat leafy greens, vegetables, and staple fruits.
This reptile’s diet is almost as complicated (and as strict) as the diet of an Olympian athlete. It’s hard determining what to feed these mini dragons. But here are several foods to always feed Iguanas as well as several tips on how to take care of them.
- What Do Iguanas Eat?
- What Should You Feed Your Iguana as Pets?
- How Often Should You Feed Your Iguanas?
- What Foods Should Iguanas Not Eat?
What Do Iguanas Eat?
Even if Iguanas look like baby dragons with their green (or red) scales, the common green Iguana like all its cousins and relatives are generally herbivores. Meaning they eat plants, specifically, they eat leaves with assorted forages available to them.
The green iguana is one of the largest lizards in the United States, growing around 4.9 to 6.5 feet long and weighs about 11lbs. Even if they’re bigger than a household lizard, iguanas are actually the most popular reptilian pet in the US despite their difficulty to be taken care of.
They grow quite big considering that iguanas taken in as pets thrive on a diet of leafy greens, and vegetables combined with small amounts of flowers, and fruits.
But in the wild, typically in rainforests around northern Mexico, Caribbean Islands, and around several parts of Southern Brazil, these reptiles feed almost entirely on the leaves of trees and vines, and if they’re lucky, they get to eat some flowers and typical wild fruit.
What Do Baby Iguanas Eat?
Iguanas usually take up to 3-4 years to mature with some even growing after 7 years depending on the diet, habitat, and care received.
A baby iguana’s diet should compose about 95% leafy and green vegetables while the remaining 5% should be around fruits with some multivitamins specially made for baby iguanas. They should also be fed daily with a changing combination of leafy greens, and vegetables.
Suitable food for baby iguanas includes but is not limited to: Kohlrabi, Turnip greens, Bok choy, Mustard greens, Parsley, Alfalfa hay, Swiss chard, Collard greens, Beet greens, several herbs such as Thyme, and sage, as well as other leafy greens or vegetables.
While Swiss chard and spinach are a great source of calcium, they should not be fed exclusively, however when taken in moderation in the forms of treats, kale is beneficial for an assorted diet.
What Do Adult Iguanas Eat?
We’ve already mentioned that our reptilian friends mainly eat leaves and only take in various greens, vegetables, forages, and fruits.
But as they grow older, their diets change, increasing their intake of forages while maintaining 4-5 types of greens (60%) , at least 2 types of veggies (30%), and a few slices of fruits (10%) for a varied diet and complete nutrition.
The majority of the adult iguana diet should primarily be composed of dark, green, leafy vegetables with an assortment of few pieces of fruits. Yellow and red vegetables are also encouraged for a well-balanced diet that will encourage our reptilian friend to eat.
Other than assortments of vegetables, and fruits, calcium-rich vegetables are the go-to food for adult iguanas such as mustard greens, alfalfa hay, bok choy, kohlrabi, escarole, dandelion greens (both leaves and flower), swiss chard, etc.
These vegetables should compose the majority diet of an adult iguana however, other vegetables such as cucumbers, broccoli, green beans, parsnips, okra, carrots, peas, mushrooms, and sprouts could also be in the mix for variety.
Different Diets for Different Iguanas
Let your baby and juvenile iguana eat as much as it wants. But, beginning at the age of 4-5, reduce quantities slightly to avoid obesity. While crickets and mealworms are commonly found in the diets of pet reptiles, this is not the case with green iguanas.
Green Iguanas are the largest species in its family, despite their fairly large size its diet mainly consists of dark, leafy greens, assorted vegetables, and some pieces of fruit (strawberries, blueberries, bananas, apples, and cantaloupe).
Their food should always be shredded, grated, or chopped into small pieces since iguanas do not chew, they swallow their food whole, and even if insects are naturally part of the reptilian diet, this is not the case for green iguanas as they do not necessarily need much protein.
The Desert Iguana is found commonly in the Southwestern region of the United States (South California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah) as they primarily occupy aridly, and dry desert environments.
Like their green iguana cousins, they are herbivores for the most part. Although, it will occasionally eat insects available in the wild.
These iguanas eat the fruits, buds, and leaves of most plants in their dry environment, but are usually seen fond of the leaves on Creosote Bushes. Maybe that’s the reason why they choose to live near them and if the Desert Iguana does eat insects, it usually goes for ants and beetles.
When held in captivity their diet is almost the same as their green iguana counterparts which consist of an assortment of fruits, chopped greens, foliage, and shredded vegetables, including the usual beet greens, mustard greens, alfalfa hay, bok choy.
They are found in dry regions in the Western United States and several islands in Mexico their maximum size reaches around 20 inches with some exceptions found around the Gulf of Mexico.
Being primarily herbivorous, they typically feed on the usual desert leaves, some fruits when available, and edible flowers.
In captivity, the Chuckwalla Iguana should be fed the conventional dark, leafy greens (collard greens, spring mix, arugula, etc.), vegetables (sprouts, pea pods, green beans, carrots), and few pieces of fruits such as mangos, apples, and papayas.
Marine iguanas (also called Saltwater Iguanas or Galapagos Iguana) are the only species of Iguana that spends time in the ocean, and are only found on the Galapagos Islands, and have adapted to an island lifestyle.
They are the only marine reptile that has the skills to forage in the sea for algae because of their blunt snouts that make it perfect for feeding algae underwater which makes up almost all of its diet, making these amazing lizards a hundred percent herbivores.
Since they feed underwater, they ingest a huge amount of saltwater, so they have very efficient salt glands, where they “sneeze” out salt without expelling water avoiding dehydration.
Because of their natural habitat, these iguanas are vulnerable to extinction and have complete legal protection in the Galapagos Islands.
These iguanas are mostly black and can grow up to 18 inches with its tail as long as their body. They are generally endemic to Mexico and are also found around many areas of Central America and islands that are next to Panama.
Wild Spiny-tailed Iguanas inhabit areas where there are places to sprawl and areas to take shelter if the day becomes too cold.
Their diet similarly consists of the diet of the Green Iguana which bulks on leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits, however, at juvenile age a few insects are also sometimes introduced that will gradually shift towards a strictly herbivorous diet.
What Should You Feed Your Iguana as Pets?
Our mini dragons have their diets in common which primarily consists of a wide range of greens, vegetables, flowers, and fruits.
If you can give them Calcium vitamins, and other supplements regularly on top of providing fresh food with alternating combinations, a bowl of fresh water available, and enough space for our iguanas to exercise, then it is home, sweet home!
Diet (70-80%) Dark Green Leafy Vegetables.
The diet of iguanas generally relies on their age, for example, Hatchlings which are 14 inches, serving sizes should be finely grated with pinches of calcium and other multivitamins.
For Juveniles that are 3 feet, fine to medium chopped greens and vegetables should do the work with the occasional staple fruits and for the adults which are over 3 feet, medium chopped leaves and everything above should be incorporated.
Food should always be at room temperature, with proper moisture.
For greens and vegetables, use fresh beans. Wash the pods thoroughly, removing any stems. Make sure to process or hand-chop until the pieces are tiny enough for a lizard that gulps his meal rather than chewing it to eat.
The ideal time to feed your pet is in the morning after it has been warmed up for a few hours by UV rays. Iguanas require heat in order to digest food. Remember that as your iguana grows larger and consumes more food, the amount of food you prepare will increase.
A basic salad recipe is a recommended meal for iguanas. The recipe below produces approximately 3.5 cups of Basic Salad:
· 1/2 cup shredded green beans
· 1/2 cup shredded squash
· 1 medium parsnip, shredded
· 1/4 cup minced fruit (mangoes, cantaloupes)
· Multivitamin and calcium supplements
[Note: This is only a recommended recipe, try exploring with your local supermarket or vet for a variety for your lizard’s diet.]
It is also recommended to take out all uneaten vegetables and greens after 24 hours as fungi easily grow, and this could greatly affect the health of your iguana. Never feed them meat, as their main source of protein comes from vegetables.
Remember the Calcium: Phosphorus ratio – 2.5 or 3:1 Calcium: Phosphorus. Usually the healthiest greens, vegetables, and fruits are in this ratio. Phosphorus should never be higher than Calcium, as this could cause premature deaths for your little one, and kidney problems.
Less Than 20% Vegetables And Flowers
For vegetables and other flowers, as your pet grows older, try incorporating edible flowers such as dandelions. Mushrooms, bell peppers, root vegetables, cactus pads, star fruit, and asparagus are all good choices to be made but remember the Calcium: Phosphorus ratio.
Kale contains high amounts of goitrogens which can cause thyroid problems if consumed in excess.Spinach has a high oxalate content and can cause Metabolic Bone Disease that forms from binding the calcium absorption of these (and any other) reptiles.
When taken in moderation, Kale and Spinach is beneficial as part of a healthy, balanced, and varied diet.
Note: The following vegetables are enjoyed by these reptiles, but it is recommended that you feed this only once a week following, Spinach, Bok Choy, Kale, Broccoli, Sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, Okra, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Parsley, Cucumbers.
Less Than 10% Of The Diet As Fruit
Fruits are more often used for color and hydration rather than for their nutritional value (But the Iguanas like them regardless!) Keep in mind that Bananas, Blueberries, Tomatoes, as well as other non-staple fruits, should only be fed rarely and is mainly given as a treat.
In the same way that certain veggies are more healthy than others, some fruits are better for your pet baby dragon than others. Remember that keeping their food clean, with an alternating combination is key to your iguana’s health!
Basically, iguanas do not need additional protein and other commercial products often. Protein is found in the following foods as well for your Iguana: Watercress, Chickory Greens, Beet Greens, and Turnip Greens (Tops) which account for less than 1g for every 1 cup. Alfafa hay, Mustard Greens, Escarole, and Collard Greens on the other hand offer more than 1g for every 2 cups.
However, if owners want more protein for iguanas, consider using Oat Grain Bread, Wheat Bread, Kale, Dandelion Greens, and Arugula. All these foods account for more than 2g of protein for every 1/8 cup (chopped or sliced), to 2 cups per serving.
Also, click here for more information on what fruits you could feed to your Iguana.
How Often Should You Feed Your Iguanas?
This heavily depends on the age, and sometimes the weight of the Iguanas. They also need daily exercise for them to maximize their growth and to remain healthy which is why baby iguanas are usually fed twice a day with changing their food bowls.
On the other hand, most mature iguanas can go be fed once a day or every other day depending on their weight. Just don’t forget to discard the leftover food from yesterday as fungi easily grows on their food bowls.
What Foods Should Iguanas Not Eat?
Remember, even if they look like baby dragons, that doesn’t mean that they’re carnivores! They should not be fed meat, cat food, or any other regular pet food, even small insects as they’re not designed to consume that.
Iceberg lettuce and Romaines should be taken into consideration as they are low in nutrients and mainly consist of water. However, the following food is considered forbidden and should never be fed to iguanas:
- All sorts of citrus fruits
- Sodas (any carbonated drinks)
- Light Green Vegetables
- Cat and dog food
- Human food
Do take wary of pesticides used in the vegetables, and greens that you feed to your reptile, and always keep your fruits, and vegetables properly moisturized. Always stick to the vegetarian diet.
Fresh food and variety are the keys to any pet’s good health. Feeding your iguanas inappropriate food might shorten their lives and cause health problems.
What is an iguana’s favorite food?
Iguanas are not picky eaters. Their favorite diet is plant materials, and they’ll eat tasty leaves, fruits, and vegetables (Stay Healthy lizards!).
What foods are toxic to iguanas?
Avocados and foods that are high in goitrogens and oxalate content (peaches, raspberries, kiwi, etc.) are considered toxic for them.
Do iguanas bite?
Yes, our reptilian friends do bite, but only for self-defense. But if you’re wondering if their bite is poisonous, No! their bites are not poisonous.
However, if threatened they might whip their lash-like tails (this is almost half of their size), which can cause serious injury if mishandled. Be also careful of their sharp spikes and claws.
It’s definitely fun to take care of a baby dragon that does not breathe fire, and eats leafy greens instead. Given the proper care, diet, and of course patience, your iguana should be your new best friend!
No matter the breed of Iguana, always remember that their diet consists of dark, leafy greens, several vegetables, forages, and small pieces of fruit. Be careful when handling these iguanas as they could cause serious harm if not taken care of properly.
Life’s too short, go buy an Iguana, treat it well, and go back to this article.