What Do Iguanas Eat? Food List, Diet, Nutrition, And Facts

Tanya Parkhi
Mar 29, 2023 By Tanya Parkhi
Originally Published on Nov 22, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Fact-checked by Amatullah Gulbargawala
Green Iguana on a tree branch.
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.8 Min

Iguanas are large, herbivorous lizards that make for great pets.

Though an iguana's diet in the wild consists mostly of leaves, fruits, and flowers, you can feed these herbivores an array of vegetables, beans, and herbs as well. These pets require a strictly vegetarian diet, as iguanas are unequipped to digest animal proteins.

Though you can feed your reptile every day, every iguana has a different appetite, so it is better to only feed it as much as it can eat, even if that means it eats only once every two to three days.

There are many different fruits, vegetables, and leaves that you can feed your iguana, though it is always better to check before feeding it a new plant, as there are quite a few toxic species out there.

If you enjoy this article, check out our pages on what frogs eat and what lizards eat as well.

What do iguanas eat in the wild?

All iguanas are essentially herbivorous in nature, which means that they eat weeds, leaves, flowers, and fruits. Though, as there are over 30 different species of iguana in the wild, their diet can differ from species to species due to location, natural availability of local vegetation as well as seasonal changes.

Iguanas are usually found in the content of South America in Mexico, Brazil, Paraguay, and the Caribbean, with a few non-native populations being present in hotter parts of the United States like in Flordia, Hawaii, Texas, and Puerto Rico. Iguanas are large, adaptable reptiles, and prefer living in tropical and sunny places like near coasts, deserts, and tropical forests.

A common species of iguana is the desert iguana (Dipsosaurus dorsalis), which can be found in California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona in the United States as well as in northern and southern parts of Mexico.

Most populations are usually seen living within close range of creosote bush growths, which is their favorite food. They tend to crawl into these bushes and eat the succulent leaves and flowers, as well as burrow near their roots to seek shelter from the overwhelming heat at times.

The desert iguanas also feed on whichever other shrubs are available in the desert.

Besides plants, the desert iguana also feeds on insects, carrion, and the dropping of another iguana. The fiber present in the droppings helps to aid the digestion of plant material, which constitutes the majority of its diet.

Another wild iguana species which lives in the desert and follows similar dietary habits is the Chuckwalla iguana.

Marine iguanas are a unique species of iguana which live in the ocean! They are found only on and around the Galapagos islands and have adapted to life in the ocean quite well.

They have special glands which help them to 'sneeze out' the salt from salt water, making it possible for them to ingest large amounts of it while feeding. Marine iguanas feed mostly on marine algae available around the rocky shore, in which case they have to feed underwater.

During times of food scarcity, they are able to shrink themselves by 20%, which drastically decreases their food intake. This unique mechanism helps them to survive the decrease in algae production during the rise of warmer ocean currents.

What do iguanas eat as pets?

Pet iguanas should be fed a large number of fresh vegetables and leafy greens, making up at least 70% of their diet.

Though it is recommended to feed your reptile daily, you may feed them every two to three days as well depending on how often the iguana seems to be hungry.

Adult iguanas can go without food for around a week, though anything over two weeks is a cause for concern as an iguana starts to lose weight at this point. Severe loss of appetite may be a sign of underlying health issues or sickness.

If your iguana is not eating, then take it to the vet immediately as they could be stressed, sick, or not adjusting well to their environment.

It is recommended to plant some flowers and weeds like alfalfa, dandelions, lavender, basil, peppermint, mustard, and plantain, as iguanas enjoy eating the leaves, fruits, and flowers of these plants very much.

Though adult iguanas prefer eating leaves, weeds, and flowers, an adult iguana can be fed vegetables like carrots, potatoes, peas, corn, okra, green onions, cucumber, parsnips, mushrooms, bell peppers, and squash as well.

Vegetables can be served either cooked or raw, but it is preferable to serve them raw and without any seasoning, as cooking may drain away some essential nutrients. Even though the iguana seems to enjoy them, do not feed your iguana spicy food or vegetables like chilies or jalapenos in large amounts, as it may upset their digestive system.

Iguanas eat fruit as well, this is restricted to a smaller part of their diet as vegetables as much more important.

There are some toxic plants that you should not feed iguanas, such as eggplants, daffodils, mistletoe, hyacinth, and many others. Always check and make sure if any plant is safe to feed your iguana before feeding it to them.

Do not feed your pet iguana animal protein of any kind like cheese, milk, meat products, cooked eggs, insects, rodents like mice, or any other pet food.

This reptile naturally absorbs protein from all the fresh produce they eat, and iguanas in the wild only eat insects or eggs in very rare circumstances.

As the digestive systems of iguanas are not equipped to handle high amounts of protein, it can end up putting stress on the digestive organs and liver, leading to early death or severe sickness.

Iguanas need to follow a strictly vegetarian diet, with added supplements for vitamins and minerals as needed.

Make sure that fresh, clean water is readily available at all times. Keep it in a bigger bowl, as iguanas will drink water from it as well as soak and splash in it from time to time.

As iguanas do not eat meat, there is no reason for them to bite or attack you. In case they do, it may be because they are feeling cornered or scared, or in self-defense.

This also makes them great pets as they are inherently friendly in nature, and raising them with love and care can reward you with a loving lifelong companion!

Beautiful Green Iguana on wood.

What do green iguanas eat?

The green iguana is the most commonly found wild iguana species in the Americas and makes for a very popular pet.

These species are also the most adaptable due to their large habitat range and feed on a wide variety of plants including the leaves, shoots, and flowers of fire bushes, jasmine, roses, dandelions, turnips, hibiscuses, squashes, and melons.

Wild iguanas are arboreal in nature, meaning that they spend most of their lives up in trees, hence they prefer to feed up in the leafy canopies.

The green iguana does not eat bugs and is completely herbivorous in nature.

As wild iguanas feed on a wide variety of plants, they often eat ornamental plants and flowers from suburban gardens as well, which makes them a pest to homeowners. Their favorite food is the wild plum, which is available widely in the Panama region.

What do baby iguanas eat?

Baby iguanas are herbivores and usually eat the same food as adults do, but in smaller amounts due to their smaller statures. Though they eat smaller portions, their feeding frequency is more due to their need for extra nutrients to aid growth. They feed on fruits, leave, and flowers, the type depending from species to species.

If you have a pet baby iguana, there are a number of fruits, vegetables, and leaves that you can feed it to ensure that it receives all the required nutrients. You can also add supplements for calcium and vitamin D3 twice a week.

Some essential greens you can add to your baby iguana's diet are leafy greens like alfa hay, swiss chard, kohlrabi, beet greens, bok choy, green beans, kale, parsley, potatoes, collard greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, turnip greens, and romaine.

You can also feed it fresh vegetables like potatoes, carrots, bell peppers, squash, and peas.

Make sure that all the vegetables you feed your baby iguana are fresh, cut up into bite-sized pieces, and organic, and vegetables make up a large part of the iguana diet and provide it with almost all of the necessary vitamins and minerals.

You can also feed your baby iguana fruit, though this can be fed to them in smaller amounts than vegetables. Avoid feeding them fruit that is high in citric acid - like oranges, lemons, and grapefruits- as these can cause digestive problems.

Some good fruits which you can feed your baby iguana are apples, tomatoes, peaches, apricots, strawberries, bananas (with the peel), mangoes, blueberries, papayas, pears, kiwis, figs, and melons (including watermelon). You can feed your pet iguanas a small amount of fruit every other day.

Also, be sure to avoid fruits and vegetables containing high amounts of oxalic acid, as it can prove fatal to iguanas in high amounts. Oxalic acid can create little crystals in the body by reducing the absorption of calcium, which remains indissoluble and cause irritation to the stomach and kidneys.

Foods like beetroots, spinach, and chard must either be fed to iguanas in very small amounts or excluded from the diet completely.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for what iguanas eat then why not take a look at what pigs eat, or green iguana facts.

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Written by Tanya Parkhi

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

Tanya Parkhi picture

Tanya ParkhiBachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

Tanya is a skilled content creator with a passion for writing and a love for exploring new cultures. With a degree in Economics from Fergusson College, Pune, India, Tanya worked on her writing skills by contributing to various editorials and publications. She has experience writing blogs, articles, and essays, covering a range of topics. Tanya's writing reflects her interest in travel and exploring local traditions. Her articles showcase her ability to engage readers and keep them interested.

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Fact-checked by Amatullah Gulbargawala

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Bachelor of Education specializing in the Language Arts

Amatullah Gulbargawala picture

Amatullah GulbargawalaBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Bachelor of Education specializing in the Language Arts

Amatullah is a passionate student pursuing a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education from Ashoka College of Education. With a keen interest in literature, she has excelled in elocution competitions and is an accomplished writer. She has completed courses like "History of English Language and Literature", "Introduction to Western Political Thought and Theory", and "Development of Soft Skills and Personality". In her free time, Amatullah enjoys reading books and writing poetry.

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