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Green Iguanas - Diet

Iguanas can make interesting pets but great care must be taken to maintain a proper environment. Your pet iguana can live for 12 to 15 years and grow to be up to 6 feet long and 15 pounds, therefore, they do not make good pets for everyone.

A healthy baby iguana should be a bright green color. It should be alert and bright-eyed, watching for activity both inside and outside it’s cage. The iguanas belly should be rounded with no loose skin folds. The rear legs and tail base should be well muscled and NOT bony. The skin should be smooth without lumps or dark patches or any discoloration. There should be NO discharge from the eyes, nose, mouth or vent. Iguanas have nasal salt glands so a dried, white discharge (salt) around the nostrils is normal. It would be unusual for a healthy baby iguana to be passive and to let you pick it up easily.

Your new iguana should be kept separate from any other pet iguanas already in your home. New iguanas should be seen by your veterinarian for a complete physical exam that would include a fecal analysis, body weight check, parasite treatment, etc.


Your iguana is a folivores, meaning in their natural habitat they would eat leaves from trees. In captivity, they are kept on strict vegetarian diet. You should supply a variety of acceptable leafy greens, vegetables, flowers and fruits to replicate the diet they would choose in the wild, and the nutrients they would receive from that diet. Each iguana salad meal should contain ingredients from each of the 3 following categories.

Greens: for calcium – 40% - 45% of diet, daily mixture
Mustard greens, collard greens, mulberry leaves, grape leaves, hibiscus leaves, nasturtium leaves, escarole, dandelion greens, clover and carrot tops.
(dark green outer leaves only – no pale, bleached leaves)

Vegetables: 40% of diet
Green beans, peas, turnip greens, rutabaga, parsnip, butternut squash, acorn squash, sweet potato, zucchini, carrot, lima bean, jicama and chayote.

Fruit & Flowers: 10% - 20% of diet, fed primarily as treats
Papaya, pear, strawberries, raspberries, mango, grapes, apricot, peach, cantaloupe, casaba and honeydew melon, kiwi, figs, nasturtium flowers, hibiscus flowers and rose petals.

Occasionally the following may be fed in very small quantities: kale, parsley, beets and beet greens, banana, apple, spinach, pasta, bok choy, broccoli and cauliflower.

All ingredients for your iguana salad should be fresh, free of pesticides, washed well, either chopped or grated and the salad thoroughly mixed to prevent ‘selective eating’. Store salad in your refrigerator and serve at room temperature.

Alfalfa is a good source of both fiber and protein and should be included in the daily diet. You can use any alfalfa form available to you; pellets, mini bale, powder or tablets.

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are common in pet iguanas. Vitamin and calcium powder should be added to every iguana salad and mixed in thoroughly.

Commercial iguana foods are not required to prove potency or safety. Products may vary widely in levels of ingredients. Use caution with commercially prepared foods and always read the label instructions carefully. Look for diets where the main ingredient listed is alfalfa and ones that carry a ration of approximately 100 parts vitamin A to 10 parts of vitamin D to 1 part vitamin E. If you are feeding a commercial iguana food, it should be limited to less than one-half of the total diet fed.

Feeding & Supplement Schedule

Hatchlings – up to 14” in length
feed twice daily, finely chop the salad ingredients
vitamin powder – 1 small pinch per feeding 4-5 days per week
calcium powder – 1 small pinch per feeding 7 days per week

Juveniles – up to 2.5 years or 3’ in length
feed once daily, fine to medium chop salad ingredients
vitamin powder – 1 small pinch per feeding 4-5 days per week
calcium powder – 1 small pinch per feeding 7 days per week

Adults – over 2.5 years and 3’ in length
feed once daily or every other day, coarse chop or grate salad ingredients
vitamin powder – 1 full pinch per 2 lbs of body weight 2-3 days per week
calcium powder – 1 full pinch per 2 lbs of body weight 4-5 days per week

Green Iguanas - Housing

Every captive iguana is under some degree of chronic stress simply because it is in captivity. It is therefore in the iguana’s best interest for you to provide the most suitable housing possible. This would include climbing branches placed diagonally in the cage and securely anchored, good ventilation, no sharp or abrasive surfaces and a safe hiding place.

Additionally, iguanas need to maintain a minimum body temperature for digestion, growth, healing, reproduction and immune system function.

The ideal habitat should be 1.5 to 2 times greater in length than the total length of your iguana and at least half that length in width. For example, if your iguana is 3’ long from nose to tail, then your cage should be 4.5’ to 6’ long and 2.25’ to 3’ wide. The preferred height of the cage should be approximately 6’, to accommodate climbing branches and hiding places.

The floor of the cage should be lined with a material that is easy to clean for you and easy to use for your iguana. Newspaper and astro-turf make excellent substrate materials.
Less ideal but adequate materials would be:
Orchid or reptile bark – NO CEDAR or REDWOOD
Alfalfa pellets – dusty and odor producing when wet
Indoor/outdoor carpeting – difficult to clean

Never use sand, cat litter, gravel crushed corn cob or miscellaneous wood shavings.

Heat, Lighting & Sunbathing

Iguanas are ectothermic, meaning they gain their body temperature from the surrounding temperature of their environment. Proper body temperature for your iguana to maintain digestion, growth, healing, reproduction and immune system function is 98 degrees. Overhead heat sources and ‘basking’ are best.

In the wild, iguanas use a technique called thermoregulation. They move all or parts of their bodies into or out of direct sunlight to control their core body temperature. Therefore, it would be unnatural for the entire cage to be a uniform temperature. Heat lamps should be used over one portion of the cage, allowing the iguana to mimic his natural behavior of moving in and out of the light’s heat. However, heat lamps should not be left on 24 hours a day. The voluntary minimum temperature for an iguana is 64.4 degrees but ideally should not drop below 72 degrees to avoid stress and immunosuppression. Digital thermometers should be used (at least two – one at either end of the cage) to monitor for correct temperatures inside the enclosure

Iguanas require both UVA and UVB light. Sunbathing, even just 15 to 30 minutes per week, can be very beneficial for your iguana. Glass will actually block the UV rays for your iguana, so if you are using a terrarium enclosure, you should have a separate wire cage just for sunbathing with an area provided so your iguana can get out of the direct sunlight is he chooses.

Ventilation for both glass and wire cages is crucial. Free roaming should be discouraged because of the threat of trauma, escape and the inability to adequately control environment temperature.

Water should be available to your iguana at all times, and water bowls cleaned and changed daily. Your iguana will also greatly benefit from the humidity generated by using water bowls with large surface areas. Misting is also a way to add humidity to the environment. For additional humidity, real plants can be used in the cage but be sure they are well secured and stable as your iguana will likely try to climb them. A good rule of thumb is to use plants with a trunk/stem size that would match the diameter of your iguana’s body.

Learn more about diet & nutrition for different animals below:

• What? My Pet is Fat?
• Introducing Your Pet to a New Diet

• Pet Bird Nutrition
• Iguana Diet
• Nutrition for Rabbits