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Iguanas in the wild are herbivores, and eat mature leaves of trees with some flowers, fruits and berries. This diet is difficult to reproduce with captive iguanas because many plant varieties in different climate areas are actually toxic to iguanas. There is much misinformation available about what iguanas eat which can lead to premature death of a pet iguana.
It is important to understand a few factors concerning the iguanas’ physiology. Their teeth are designed to clip off leaves not to chew or bite, so food must be chopped very small. To maintain good health, an iguana needs a careful balance of calcium and phosphorus, in a 2:1. Metabolic bone disease is a common cause of death in captive iguanas, caused by an excess of phosphorus.
The bulk of your iguana’s food should be leafy greens including turnip, collard, dandelion and mustard greens. These should constitute about 60% of the total daily diet. Other non-staple greens can be used as a small supplement, such as spinach, chard, kale and carrot tops. Iguanas love all lettuce varieties, but they should be fed sparingly, as a treat; lettuce is like iguana junk food! Rotate and mix different greens to ensure a full range of vitamins and minerals, using 2 or 3 varieties in each meal.
Fresh vegetables are included in the iguana’s diet; about 30% of the day’s food. Include green beans, squash, peas, yams, asparagus, carrots and parsnips. Avoid regular feeding of broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, beets, mushrooms, cucumbers, zucchini and bell peppers – use as a treat, not part of the staple diet.
Wild iguanas eat little fruit but some can be fed in small quantities to your pet, but no more than about 5% of the total diet. Too much fruit can cause diarrhea. Do not feed citrus fruits as they are too acidic. Cooked grains can be added to about 5% of the diet. Plants like nasturtium, hibiscus and dandelions, maple leaves and ficus can be added for variation.
Animal protein is dangerous for iguanas, but they do need some plant protein. This is best provided with alfalfa pellets normally fed to rabbits and guinea pigs. Feed up to 10% of the daily diet. Avoid regularly feeding the commercially prepared iguana food as they are often not a properly balanced diet. Supplement the raw salad foods with a pinch of calcium carbonate powder to ensure the proper calcium: phosphorus ratio is maintained.
It is important to keep a regular schedule for feeding an iguana. Finely chop all salad ingredients with a knife or food processor and feed once a day in the morning. Some iguanas will eat once a day, others will come back for a second helping in the afternoon. Remove any uneaten food daily before you feed. You can prepare several days’ of salad and store it in the fridge in zip lock bags.