Photo credit: mensatic from morguefile.com
The subject of just what constitutes a proper diet for iguanas is a somewhat debated topic. Many people insist on a certain dry food or a specific combination of fruits and vegetables. The truth is that there are plenty of iguanas out there doing just fine on a variety of diets. What’s important, in my opinion, is that green iguanas need to eat a diet that’s as close as possible to what they would eat in the wild.
And what do they eat in the wild? Leaves and other plant parts. I’ve repeated it in just about every post on this site, and I really feel that it can’t be stressed enough. Iguanas are plant eaters. Remember those charts of the food chain that you had to draw when you were in elementary school? Iguanas are on the bottom of it! They eat plants and then later become prey to be eaten by other animals. It’s the circle of life.
Unfortunately, there is still an unbelievably large number of pet stores and books that will recommend that iguanas be fed mealworms, crickets or other insects as a part of their diet. They are wrong. Animal protein can overload the iguana’s system and send their kidney’s into failure. I don’t know about you, but I’d feel pretty crappy if I was responsible for killing my iguana because I thought it was cool to feed him earthworms. Stay away from animal protein for green iguanas.
What they do need, however, is fresh food and water every day, served in clean dishes. Don’t leave your iguana in a cage with a dirty food dish. You’re just asking for problems when he eats food that’s mixed in with old leftover stuff that’s been growing bacteria for two or three days. Some people feed their iguanas two or even three times a day, and that’s fine. Some iguanas do better when fed several times; others will eat a huge amount once a day and be happy with it. What’s important is that you experiment with your iguana and figure out what its eating habits are. And if there’s any food left over after a meal, take it out so that it isn’t in the cage rotting.
When to Feed Iguanas
The best time to feed your iguana is in the morning, when it’s warming up and getting ready for the day. Iguanas need warmth and sunlight to properly digest their food, so if they eat early in the day they’ll have a full day of sun and warmth to help them digest their food well. Also, feeding your iguana at the same time each morning will help you – because you’ll find that he starts to poop at the same time each day, too. Maintaining regular bowel schedules makes keeping the cage clean easier.
Something to remember when you feed your iguana is that they don’t have big teeth to chew their food. Their mouths are edged with little tiny teeth that they use to rip the leaves and then swallow them whole. Because of this, it’s better for your iguana if you tear their food into smaller bite sized pieces. Green and leaves are pretty much ok just ripped up into manageable sized pieces, but harder to bite veggies like squash or carrots are best shredded. For very small juvenile iguanas, you may want to chop them up very fine.
Just check out this big guy enjoying his leafy greens!