Updated: November 30, 2021 by Jennifer Munsell
Iguanas are the most popular of all the iguana species to have as pets. This is mostly because they are smaller and have friendlier, more docile temperaments than most other species. They also have the easiest diet to manage, especially for first-time reptile owners. So, what do iguanas eat?
Green iguanas are strict herbivores. This means they eat a plant-based diet and do not eat any meat or insects. Although this sounds like a boring diet at first, it doesn’t have to be! The more varied your green iggy’s diet is, the healthier it will be!
There are certain types of fruits and veg that are more beneficial in terms of nutrition and fiber to use as staple items in your iggy’s diet, while other food items should only be used as occasional treats. Don’t worry; I’ll go over these in detail to help you decide what to feed your iguana each day.
Additionally, some foods are outright toxic and even deadly to iguanas, even in small amounts! Thankfully, I will also go through these with you to make sure you can provide your green iggy with the healthiest diet possible.
What Can I Feed My Green Iguana?
Green iguanas are strictly herbivorous lizards. This makes them great for reptile owners who do not like dealing with insects or are vegetarians themselves and may have a problem with feeding live food to their pet.
There are a couple of categories of plant food that your iggy can choose from. Dark, leafy greens should make up at least around 60% of their diet. Other vegetables should only make up about 30%, and the remaining 10% or so can be made up of fruits and flowers.
Interestingly, green iguanas are a special type of herbivore known as a folivore. Folivores have digestive systems that are uniquely structured to break down leaves and other fibrous greenery found on trees.
Greens are full of fiber, calcium, and loads of other vitamins and minerals. Dark, leafy greens should make up the majority of your iggy’s daily salad. Try to use a mixture of greens in their meals, as this provides them with a diverse array of nutrients and keeps them interested in their food.
These are some of the best greens to include as staples.
- Dandelion greens
- Mustard greens
- Pak choi
- Alfalfa hay
- Collard greens
- Dark lettuces
- Birch leaf
- Lambs lettuce
- Beet tops*
*Beet tops are high in oxalates. Oxalates bind to calcium and prevent your green iguana from absorbing it. They are nutritious and should be included in your iggy’s diet, but they should not be the main staple green.
**Sprouts should be very young and not fully formed when featured in an iggy’s salad. They are very yummy to most iguanas and are healthy if they have not reached maturity. If the sprouts are fully mature, they can cause bloating, gas, and diarrhea.
All of these greens can be found readily and inexpensively in pet shops and grocery stores, as well as from various online retailers. Alternatively, you can start an herb and greens garden when you purchase your iggy to save time and money in the long term!
When buying greens and leaves from shops or even picking them from your own garden, make sure to rinse them properly of any sand, soil, pesticides, small insects, or other debris.
Small particles of sand and soil can eventually lead to impaction of the digestive system. The pesticides or herbicides can also poison your iggy. Additionally, tiny insects present on the greens can infest your iguana’s enclosure and lead to health problems.
Vegetables aside from greens are also very important to include in your iggy’s daily salad. They are high in vitamins, they taste good, and they provide extra nutrients and starch that your iguana needs to grow and maintain a healthy weight.
The following are some of the tastiest and most nutritious vegetables to include in your iggy’s diet.
- Sweet potato
- Bell pepper*
*Always remember to remove any seeds or pips from your vegetables. Pumpkin and squash seeds in particular can be very big and hard to chew, which can lead to impaction of the digestive tract. The seeds from bell peppers can also cause bloating and diarrhea if too many are eaten regularly.
You can get your vegetables from the grocery store, local farmer’s market, or plant a veggie patch yourself! Nowadays, there are even online retailers you can buy them from and have them shipped directly to your home.
You can cook your vegetables or serve them raw. Cooking vegetables does remove some of their nutrients, though, so we recommend always serving them raw.
Just like with greens, always make sure to rinse your vegetables properly of any sand, soil, pesticides, or small insects for the same reasons stated earlier.
Flowers are an interesting part of any herbivore’s diet! They are colorful, they smell interesting, and they taste very different from the usual fruits and veggies!
Think of flowers for your iguana as a sort of seasoning to their meals. For example, if you were to eat a plain plate of pasta with no salt, pepper, sauce, or pesto, it probably wouldn’t be very tasty. Green iguanas can get bored of eating plain greens and veggies with no “seasoning.” Flowers can add enrichment to their salads and elevate them to be more delicious and varied!
Here are some of the best flowers to top your iggy’s salad with:
You can use these flowers from your garden, a nursery, or even buy them dried. We suggest you do careful research before buying them from your local flower shop because they sometimes use additives and preservatives on cut flowers to make the flowers last longer. These additives can be toxic or even deadly to your iguana if consumed.
Green iguanas love fruit! If they could have fruit every day and nothing else, they would! This is because fruit is packed with natural sugar and tastes wonderful to them. However, fruits’ high sugar content can quickly cause obesity, and they aren’t nearly as nutritious as greens and vegetables. Fruits are also fairly high in oxalates, or oxalic acid, which interferes with calcium absorption.
You need to limit your iguana’s fruit intake to a maximum of 10% of their total diet. Alternatively, you could use 5% fruit and 5% flowers so that your iggy still gets 10% delicious, fragrant, tastiness but without the sugar content of 10% fruit.
Here are some of the best fruits to include in your iggy’s diet:
- Sweet melon
- Banana (with or without skin)
As with vegetables, always remove seeds and pips from the fruits. Even grape seeds can cause impaction, so you need to be diligent about removing them. The only exceptions are fruits like figs and strawberries, since their seeds make up their flesh and are very small.
You can purchase your fruits from your grocery store or farmer’s market or even grow them yourself!
If you purchase your fruits from a store, you need to thoroughly wash the wax off of the skins. Simply put your uncut fruits into a bowl, pour over some hot water, give them a swirl, and drain them. You can rub them dry or leave them to drip dry.
Like most reptiles in captivity, green iguanas need a calcium supplement in their diet. These supplements are usually powdered, though some are liquid and can optionally be fed directly to your pet with a syringe or eyedropper. I recommend powdered supplements, as they are inexpensive, readily available, and much easier to feed to your iguana.
Simply sprinkle some of the calcium powder or put a couple of the calcium drops onto your iggy’s salad every meal while they are a baby or juvenile and every second meal once they are an adult (at least one year old).
Additionally, you can always boost your green iguana’s diet with some chewy vitamins to ensure they are getting everything they need.
What to Avoid Feeding Your Green Iguana
Now that you know what foods should make up your iguana’s diet, read on to learn more about foods to avoid. Some of these foods can’t be digested properly by iguanas, while others are outright toxic and even deadly to them. Be very careful and mindful of what you feed your iguana day to day.
An herbivore’s or folivore’s digestive tract is designed to break down plant matter – and only plant matter. Of course, if the odd bug gets eaten along the way, it is (usually) not the end of the world. However, constantly including insect or animal protein in an herbivore’s diet will cause serious damage to their digestive tract and other organs.
Be sure to always avoid all insect feeders, eggs, mouse pinkies, and chicks. Your iguana likely won’t show interest in them anyway, even if you were to offer them.
While it might seem like you can throw just about any fruit or vegetable into your iguana’s enclosure, this actually isn’t the case. Several foods are highly toxic and deadly to iguanas, such as avocados, spinach, and kale. Avocados are toxic to reptiles, and spinach and kale cause nutritional deficiencies on a large scale due to their high oxalic acid content.
Also, watery vegetables like iceberg lettuce, celery, and cucumber should be avoided because they are mostly water and do not add nutritional value to your iggy’s salad. The high water content can cause upset stomachs and diarrhea in iguanas. Of course, if your iguana is dehydrated, you can offer them a few small pieces of iceberg lettuce or cucumber to give them a quick hydration boost.
As for fruits, while most fruits are safe for iguanas in small amounts, all citrus fruits must be avoided. This includes oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, and more.
Citrus fruits are very high in citric acid. The acid content is high enough to burn and injure your iggy’s digestive tract as well as injure their mouth and tongue.
FAQs About an Iguana’s Diet
Can I feed my green iguana dog or cat food?
Dog and cat food, specifically the pellets, are very high in animal fat and protein. They are designed for carnivorous and omnivorous animals, which your iguana is not!
Plus, the fat content will lead to your iguana putting on an unhealthy amount of weight and becoming obese. The protein content is the biggest issue, since iguanas’ digestive systems are not designed to handle it, and it will make them sick.
Does my green iguana need water?
Green iguanas need a constant supply of fresh, clean water.
They should have a water dish in their enclosure that is heavy enough that it will not be tipped over when your iggy is drinking. The water dish must not be porous at all, either, as it will seep water into the enclosure and interfere with the enclosure’s humidity levels.
How often should I feed my green iguana?
Baby and juvenile iguanas should be fed at least twice a day, as they have fast metabolisms and are growing rapidly during this stage. Adults older than 1 year of age should be fed once a day.
When should I feed my green iguana?
You should feed your iggy in the morning or early afternoon. This allows them to have a full day’s worth of UV light and warmth to digest their food properly. Keep feeding schedules consistent.
What size food should I give my green iguana?
You need to chop your iggy’s food up so that it is no larger than the space between its eyes. This is a general rule to follow when feeding any lizard. By cutting your pet’s food into small, bite-sized pieces, you will lower the risk of choking or impaction.
Can I freeze my green iguana’s food?
Yes, you can! Having a green iguana does not mean that you always need to have access to the freshest veggies around. Cut up your salads and put them in the fridge or freezer for use later on.
Take the frozen salad out the morning before and let it defrost in the fridge or on a countertop. Always make sure the salad is completely defrosted before serving it to your iggy, since frozen foods can cause your iguana’s internal temperature to drop to dangerous levels.
Iguanas make fantastic pets for any reptile enthusiast or first-time reptile owner! They make good companions, enjoy gentle handling, have relatively simple needs, and are vegetarians! If you can provide a large enough enclosure for such a large reptile, a green iguana is an excellent choice.
And now you know what iguanas eat. The iguana diet is completely plant-based, made up of greens, vegetables, flowers, and fruits. Their daily salads should not be boring! Variety is key, and your iguana’s salads can be made to be interesting, colorful, and very tasty.