Are you wondering what to feed your pet iguana?
Or maybe you’re still trying to decide if an iguana is a suitable pet for you, and you want to find out what iguanas eat so you know how to care for one in the future?
If so, this article is for you.
We’re uncovering the best food for iguanas, sharing some helpful background information on green iguanas (the most popular pet iguana), and giving you some insider tips on feeding your pet iguana.
Iguanas are herbivores, specifically folivores (leaf eaters), so the best food for iguanas is dark green leafy vegetables. However, they also enjoy other non-leafy vegetables, fruits, flowers, and commercial iguana food.
Before we dive into explaining the best food for iguanas, we need to become better acquainted with these fantastic lizards.
We’ll first uncover the various species of iguanas and learn which type is the most popular iguana found in captivity (your pet iguanas is most likely a member of this species), discover where this species comes from and what their life is like in the wild.
The Various Iguana Species
There are over 35 different species of iguanas in the world today.
Yep, you read that right, 35! Iguana species live everywhere from the Galapagos Islands to Arizona, thriving in everything from ocean-side homes and rainforest-rich areas to desert regions.
The most popular and common iguana in the Americas and the pet industry today is the Green Iguana (often just called the iguana).
So chances are, if you have a pet iguana, it’s a Green Iguana.
Green Iguanas Background
Green iguanas are native to an extensive rainforest range.
They live in the wild in the rainforests of northern Mexico, the Caribbean Islands, southern Brazil, and Central America.
Green iguanas are arboreal creatures, meaning they are tree-dwellers.
They live most of their lives up in the canopy of rainforest trees, typically only coming down to mate, lay eggs, and move to a different tree.
Green iguanas are large lizards, sometimes growing as long as 7′ feet in length (from snout to tip of tail) and weighing up to 20 pounds.
What Do Green Iguanas Eat in the Wild
To better comprehend your pet iguana’s food needs, it’s important to understand iguana’s dietary habits in the wild.
Green iguanas are herbivores, meaning they subsist on a diet of plants; however, on rare occasions, green iguanas in the wild have been known to eat eggs, leaf-dwelling insects, and snails.
Because of their tree-dwelling nature, green iguanas live primarily on plant foods found up in the trees, like leaves, fruits, and flowers.
Still, their specific geographical residence (and the foods available there) dictates what types of plants the green iguana eats.
For example, green iguanas in Panama love feeding on the abundantly growing wild plums found in Panama forests.
Best Food For Iguanas
Now that we know a little more about green iguanas (the most popular pet iguana species), including where they live and what they eat in the wild, let’s discover the best iguana food for your pet iguana.
As mentioned above, green iguanas are herbivores, specifically folivores (or leaf eaters).
They live primarily on a diet of leaves from vines and trees in the wild, with some fruits, plants, and flowers mixed in.
But what about captive iguanas?
This may come as a surprise, but your pet iguana still has the same dietary needs and preferences as iguanas living in the wild!
It’s important to provide your pet iguana with a diet closely mimicking the nutritious, herbivorous food it enjoys in the wild.
With this in mind, one of the essential foods to feed your captive iguana is dark green, leafy vegetables.
These types of vegetables should make up about 80-90% of your iguana’s diet.
Iguana-friendly leafy vegetables include:
- beet greens
- mustard greens
- dandelion greens
- collard greens
- turnip greens
- alfalfa hay or chow
- bok choy
- Swiss chard
- red or green cabbage
In general, stay away from fiber-rich, vitamin- and nutrient-deficient light green vegetables like iceberg lettuce, celery, and romaine lettuce.
These vegetables are mainly fiber and water and contain very little nutrient value.
Another thing to note is the light-colored inner parts of many vegetables are less nutritious than the darker, green leaves on the outside.
The primary goal here is to ensure your iguana has as much nutrient-rich food as it can get.
Many other non-leafy vegetables are also great food choices for captive iguanas.
These are served raw or cooked, although raw is the better choice as more nutrients are retained.
Just make sure you don’t rely on non-leafy vegetables too heavily and neglect to give your iguana the leafy, rich-green foods it needs to thrive.
Vegetables your iguana will love include bell peppers, green beans (and other beans), and broccoli.
Though safe and healthy for your iguana, the following vegetables should make up a smaller percentage of its diet than the previous ones mentioned.
These include squash, cactus, cooked sweet potato, cucumbers, asparagus, mushrooms, shredded carrots, peas, okra, parsnips, and corn.
Iguanas enjoy eating fruit; however, fruit should only be given sparingly and should never make up a large portion of an iguana’s diet since it is generally mineral-poor.
Consider giving your iguana fruit as a treat once or twice a week or sprinkling small amounts (as a dressing of sorts) on top of its other food.
Iguana-friendly fruits include bananas (with skin), grapes, apples, star fruit, pears, tomatoes, kiwis, peaches, guava, melons, and mango.
Other particularly healthy fruits your iguana will enjoy are apricots, raspberries, strawberries, dates, and figs (for their high calcium levels).
In the wild, iguanas eat flowers, so providing flowers now and then as treats is a good idea.
Flowers like carnations, dandelions, hibiscus, geraniums, and roses are excellent choices.
Grow these yourself at home, or purchase them from a flower shop (although you will need to make sure no chemicals were ever sprayed on the flowers or put in the flower’s water).
Although your captive iguana needs a diet primarily (80-90%) made up of fresh leafy greens, vegetables, and fruit, it is helpful to supplement this with a commercial-made iguana food source.
Some of our favorites include:
- Rep-Cal adult iguana food is formulated to ensure proper growth and health by providing complete and balanced nutrition
- Veterinarian recommended food containing natural plant and fruit ingredients iguanas love and provides 100-percent complete daily nutrition they need
- Tested successfully for adult iguanas (more than 12-inch long from nose to base of tail) by reptile veterinarians
A Word on Animal Protein
Some captive iguanas may enjoy eating animal protein food sources like live crickets, pinky mice, mealworms, and even table food.
However, these are not necessary to their diet and are considered by many to be poor dietary choices for iguanas, so it’s best to stay away from these foods entirely or offer them only infrequently.
Never feed your iguana dog or cat food as it contains too much fat and Vitamin D.
Things to Remember When Feeding Your Iguana
Iguanas do not chew their food, so make sure you always cut up their fruits and vegetables into bite-size pieces they can easily swallow so they don’t choke (especially for baby iguanas).
Give your iguana a healthy portion of fresh leaves and vegetables every day, and if they consume it all, give them some more.
If any food is left over in their cage the next day, discard it.
Baby iguanas will require more food and may need to be fed up to 3 times a day.
So there you have it! The best food for iguanas is dark green leafy vegetables.
These should make up about 80-90% of their diet.
Other vegetables iguanas enjoy are carrots, asparagus, bell peppers, and cucumbers.
Some fruits and commercially made iguana foods are used to supplement and add variety to their diet.
We hope you found this article helpful and feel better equipped to feed your pet iguana properly!