Green Iguanas are primarily herbivores at all stages of life. This means that their diet naturally consists predominately of leafy plant matter. We stress the word naturally because as pets, iguanas are sometimes forced to experiment with other food sources such as fruits and table scraps, though they have little nutritional value for your iguana. It is your responsibility as an iguana caretaker to develop healthy eating habits for your pet. Be prepared to shred and dice the proper fresh food for your iguana on a daily basis.
Your green iguana’s diet must consist of greens and veggies that have a high calcium to phosphorous ratio (2:1) in order for calcium absorption to take place and to prevent the most common life-threatening disease in iguanas, known as Metabolic Bone Disease, or Calcium Deficiency. The updated name for this disease is Secondary Hyperparathyroidism. The following foods are recommended for your pet iguana: Broccoli (cooked), mustard greens, spinach leaves, collard greens, kale and dandelion leaves. All of these should be purchased from a reputable grocery store and not picked from your back yard. The latter could contain pesticides and pollutants such as salts, antifreeze, and oil. Always wash the greens very well before feeding them to your iguana.
Juvenile iguanas up to 2 1/2 years old require daily feedings of finely shredded and chopped food. Older iguanas may be fed a diet of coarsely chopped food every other day. The key is to offer a healthy variety of foods!
Basic iguana diets should contain 90% plant matter. Calcium rich plants include: Collards, mustards greens, dandelions, bok choy and kale (only small amounts), swiss chard, green beans, beet greens, and turnip greens. Other vegetables: Frozen mixed vegetables (thawed), shredded squash and zucchini, grated carrots, avocado, and peas. (Members of the cabbage family such as broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts should be fed sparingly since they may cause thyroid problems if fed frequently in great quantities). You may offer small amounts of fruit weekly just for variety. Calcium rich fruits include: Fresh or dried figs, raspberries, and papaya. Others include: Melon, apples, plums, bananas (with skin), grapes, tomatoes, peaches and kiwi. Remember to chop all food to a size appropriate for your green iguana. Other food sources which may be fed in small amounts are: crickets, mealworms, and cooked chicken that is finely chopped.
So why is it that so many pet stores and iguana owners insist on feeding iguanas inappropriate foods such as canned dog food? Well, it’s simple. They don’t know any better. But this is where it stems from: In some parts of the country iguanas are raised for human consumption (eew). So, the iggy farmers must get their “herd” of iguanas big and plump as fast as they can to sell to consumers. They do this by feeding them high protein dog food. Dog food bulks up iguanas faster than anything due to all the protein! But iguanas aren’t built to metabolize protein! And too much protein leads to liver and kidney failure over a short period of time! The farmers don’t care, because the animals are consumed before organ failure occurs anyway. But pet iguanas are kept around long enough to suffer and show the signs of this deadly diet! Be sure to feed your pet iguana what’s best for him!
Reminder: Certain foods listed above should be fed sparingly. All foods in the kale family such as broccoli, kale, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, cabbage and bok choy are can be extremely harmful if fed in large amounts to your green iguana. These types of foods will inhibit iodine absorption, thus leading to problems such as hyperthyroidism and goiter. Spinach contains oxilates. Oxilates will block the absorption of calcium. In addition, the elimination of oxilates through the urinary tract may over time cause kidney stones. When feeding vegetables, remember that fresh veggies have more nutrients and vitamins than frozen or canned.
Many newly acquired green iguanas are somewhat dehydrated due to improper care. During the first couple of months of acclimation, your iguana should be provided with a shallow container of water at all times. Under optimal conditions, your iguana should be offered water only a few hours a day. If you insist on providing water at all times, be sure to thoroughly clean the dish daily. An iguana may defecate in the dish of water, thus causing a rapid spread of harmful bacteria in a warm and humid vivarium (reptile cage). Your iguana will also enjoy soaking and swimming in a bathtub filled with warm water.
You should also mist your iguana (especially juveniles) once a day, several hours before bedtime. This will help provide both water and much needed humidity as well as facilitate the shedding of skin. Do not mist immediately before lights go off. This may cause your iguana to chill.
Animals for Awareness recommends that you supply your iguana with a dietary supplement. Believe it or not, powdered bird vitamins are exceptional dietary aids. Any powdered bird vitamin will work, though some are better than others. Be sure to read the label for ingredients checking for the highest ratio of Vitamin D3. Sprinkle it lightly on your green iguana’s food every other time you feed him. This provides you with extra help in maintaining good health of your pet. We also recommend a vitamin product called Rep-Cal if your prefer not to use a bird vitamin. We use a 50-50 mixture of Rep-Cal and Chirp, and put the mixture in a regular salt shaker. It has also been shown that a light sprinkling of brewers yeast once a week will help to prevent Vitamin B deficiencies.
Keep the vitamins in a cool dark area to help prevent the breakdown of nutrients.