Proper diet for your green iguana is crucial, as for any other lizard. Learning how and what to feed your lizard will help you take the best care of your iguana. This post will cover the basics and introduce you to the foods that you can and must not give your iguana.
It will cover best foods for iguanas, give facts about goitrogenic and high oxalate foods, as well as provide you with lots of other facts. At the end you can also find a table with toxic and non-toxic foods for your iguana pet. Make sure to read other articles about iguana diet here (part 2 and part 3).
What should I feed my pet iguana?
As we have mentioned in the facts article, iguanas are herbivores and enjoy eating veggies, fruits, green salads and plants.
Even though iguanas can be omnivores in the wild and can eat small animals to survive, you shouldn’t be giving your iguana any live insects or animals. You should aim feeding your iguana mostly with vegetables and green leafy veggies.
Green vegetables and some fruits will provide your iguana with proper nutrition and vitamins, as well as extra source of water.
When giving your iguana any lettuce occasionally, make sure to feed it extra food, as lettuce is mostly made of water. That doesn’t mean that lettuce should be left out completely – it will provide your iguana with water, fiber and some vitamins for good digestion.
The best foods to feed your iguana are:
- Fruits, such as plums (you should remove the stone), bananas, figs, melons, watermelons, apples, peaches, pears, pineapples, mangos, papayas and even guava. Iguana will also enjoy berries such blueberries, raspberries, mulberries and strawberries. Chop these fruits into small pieces and remove any small stones to prevent impaction or choking. Your iguana will appreciate delicious fruity deserts on their own or in their green salads! You can get your fruits from supermarkets or other shops.
- Vegetables, such as chopped carrots, sweet peppers, zucchini (courgettes), pumpkins, sweet potatoes, different beans (lima, green, butter, snaps), corn, green and sugar peas, squash and turnip greens. If you cannot find fresh vegetables for your iguana in winter, you can get frozen and some canned vegetables. Chop veggies and fruits into small pieces that iguana can swallow.
- Green leaf vegetables, such as dandelion, kale, mustard, radish, collards, hibiscus leaves and romaine lettuce (sometimes). You can also buy mixed leaf salads for extra diversity.
- Premade commercial foods – these are ready to eat and are usually fortified with extra vitamins and supplements. There are different types of foods available on the market made specifically for lizards. They include wet canned foods, to juvenile and adult snacks and bites. You can try these pellet foods for a change in a diet, as emergency food, or to supplement the main diet. Make sure the food is moist before you give to iguana, as they swallow foods and don’t chew them. These foods are usually dry and your iguana needs to take in water with its diet.
- Don’t forget about water. Even though water content is high in vegetables and fruits, provide a bowl with cold water for your iguana every day. Your iguana might also bathe and poop in this water, so make sure to change it and clean the enclosure every other day.
Foods that you must avoid feeding your iguana:
There is a list of foods that you must not feed your iguana. You should be extra careful as some foods or flowers can kill your iguana. So, forbidden foods for your iguanas are:
- Don’t feed your iguana any live insects, bugs, rodents, dog or cat food, meat or other foods high in protein. As iguanas are herbivores, they must stick to a vegetarian diet. Any protein in their diet will cause disorders with their kidneys and livers over time. Of course, few insects won’t kill your iguana, but you should still avoid foods that are high in protein.
- Also, don’t feed your iguana any soybeans. They are high in protein and contain phytoestrogens and can interfere with growth and reproduction.
- Never give your iguana plants or flowers that have been sprayed with pesticides. This is very common,
and you should be careful. Wash any vegetables and greens before feeding your iguana. Take extra care with flowers, such as roses or hibiscus – wash and keep them outside for 2 weeks before giving to your iguana to eat or to climb on.
- Avoid greens that have high oxalic acid in them, as they bind to calcium and prevent it from being absorbed by iguana. There are many vegetables that contain this acid, but some have more than others. While giving your iguana vegetables that have some oxalic acid won’t harm, ones high in acid should be avoided. Long-term consumption will lead to storage oxalates in kidneys in crystallized or mass forms, as well cause calcium deficiency. Vegetables high in oxalic acid are spinach, rhubarb, celery, beetroot, chard, fried potato chips, parsley and leeks.
- Fruits high in oxalates include kiwi, figs and small berries. These can be given occasionally as a treat but try to limit the portions.
- Avoid giving tofu, as it is high in both protein and oxalates.
- Don’t give your iguana much broccoli, Brussel sprouts and kale. These foods can interfere with production of thyroid hormones. What is more, brussel sprouts from supermarkets also carry Salmonella, E. coli and other bacteria, as farmers grow them in wet and warm conditions. Don’t give your iguana any raw sprouts and make sure to cook them thoroughly for your own or iguana’s consumption.
- Don’t give your iguana any avocado as it is toxic for your pet.
- You should avoid caffeinated drinks, such as tea, coffee, coke, sports drinks etc.
- This may sound crazy, but I must mention it – never give your iguana any alcoholic drinks or sweets.
- Never feed your iguana dairy products and eggs.
So, what are oxalates and oxalate acid and why do you need to avoid high oxalate foods?
Foods, that are high in oxalic acid, or oxalates, can cause renal failure in your iguana in a long-term. The problem is, the oxalates bind to calcium and other minerals in the food consumed by your iguana. Then, the acid doesn’t let this calcium be absorbed and used by iguana.
This can lead to calcium deficiency and kidney stones (and failure), as oxalates bind to calcium and other minerals and are not removed with urine.
You can give your iguana foods that are high in oxalates, but very rarely as a treat. If you have been giving your iguana lots of foods high in oxalates, eliminate them and provide your pet with extra calcium and other trace mineral supplements.
Foods high in oxalates include spinach, kiwi, figs, berries, wood sorrel, rhubarb and others listed above.
What are goitrogens and why do you need to avoid goitrogenic foods?
You should avoid giving your iguana goitrogenic foods as they attach the iodine from the food and interfere with the absorption. This can cause thyroid dysfunctions, such as goiter.
Foods that contain high levels of goitrogens are mustard, cabbage, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, Bok Choy, kale, rutabaga. Again, you can give your iguana some of these foods, but make sure to take care of iodine supplements. Don’t overdo it though.
Toxic and non-toxic plants for iguanas
Below I will provide you with a table of toxic and edible plants for your iguana. Be careful when giving plants to your iguana, wash them before consumption. Don’t give your iguana any plants that have been sprayed with insecticides and call your vet for any extra information.
|Toxic plants and flowers for iguana||Edible plants and flowers for iguana|
|Azalea||Hibiscus, including leaves and flowers|
|Buttercup||Roses –petals only|
|Yew of any type||Acacia|
|Apple leaf croton||Viburnum|
|Poison ivy, German ivy, Glacier ivy||Rosemary|
|Cacao tree||Thyme flower and leaves|
|Wild cherry||Garden sage|
|Jack-in-the-pulpit||Thistle, including creeping, Canadian, Californian|
|Red maple||Sweet acacia|
|Yellow or other jasmine||Chickweed|
|Air plants||Fir- balsam, Douglas, subalpine, white|
|Felt plants||Purple passion|
|Oak||Green bean pea leaves|
|Rattle bush||Zebra plant|
|Calla lily, Easter lily and other lilies||Cotoneaster firethorn|
|Cowslip||Hollyhock flowers and leaves|
|Thorn apple||Baby’s tears|
|Poinsettia||American and European Beech|
|Nightshade, any type||Magnolia|
|Eggplant||Geranium flowers and leaves|
|Panda plant||Hen and chicks|
|Christmas rose||Day lilies only|
|Devil’s ivy||Maples leaves|
|Dracaena palm||Natal plum|
|False hellebore and false henbane||Mother of Pearl|
|Swiss cheese plant||Radish|
|Coral plant||Lady’s mantle|
|St James Wort||Autumn olive|
|Spurge Laurel||American bittersweet|
|Pokeroot and pokeweed|
|Weed, including Jimson weed|
|Castor bean, extremely dangerous|
The list is much longer, and you should consult your vet for more information. Avoid any toxic plants as some can kill your iguana straight away.
Others will cause toxins or calcium to accumulate in the body, leading to renal failure in few years. Comment below if you have any questions or suggestions!
Read next part of iguana diet that will discuss the importance of supplements here.