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What Does An Iguana Eat [Explained!]

Iguanas are fascinating lizards that come in many species and are often kept as pets. Perhaps you just got a pet iguana and you’re wondering what to feed it. What does an iguana eat, and how would the diet of a captive iguana compare to one that lives in the wild? What are some common reasons an iguana may stop eating, and how long can iguanas go without food? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions.

What Foods Do Iguanas Eat?

What Foods Do Iguanas Eat

Most iguanas are herbivores; they eat plant matter exclusively. That said, a few iguana species are omnivores, meaning they eat both plant and animal foods.

Let’s take a closer look at the iguana’s diet. Depending on species, their main foods may include:

  • Leafy greens: All iguanas eat lots of leaves. In fact, those who own pet iguanas are encouraged to feed them a diet of up to 90 percent leaves and leafy green foods such as lettuce and kale.

In the wild, iguanas eat many different types of leaves depending on where they live and what is available to them. Some of their favorites include rock rosemary, white manjack, and fig leaves.

  • Fruits and veggies: Vegetables usually make up the second largest part of an iguana’s diet. Iguanas kept in captivity will eat just about any vegetable you feed them, including broccoli, peas, corn, carrots, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, and okra.

Iguanas love various types of fruit, though it doesn’t make up a large part of their diet. Iguanas kept in captivity can be fed small amounts of fruit such as strawberries, grapes, kiwis, star fruit, and bananas.

  • Flowers: Iguanas living in the wild often eat the flowers as well as the leaves of plants. Though the flowers are not as nutritious as the leaves, they certainly make for a tasty treat!
  • Insects and mollusks: Some iguana species, such as the green and desert iguanas, will eat insects, slugs, and snails to supplement their herbivorous diet.
  • Small mammals and reptiles: The marine iguana mostly eats algae in the waters around the Galapagos Islands, but it also occasionally eats baby sea lions. The rhinoceros iguana is known as an opportunistic carnivore, eating a variety of snakes, smaller lizards, and insects along with plant based foods.
  • Carrion: Some species of iguana, such as the green iguana, will even eat carrion during times of food scarcity.  

Check out this video of a pet iguana eating a salad:

Why is My Iguana Not Eating?

If you have a pet iguana (or other lizards), you may observe it going for periods of time without eating. What are the reasons for this, and should you be concerned?

First, let’s talk about some of the main reasons why an iguana may stop eating:

  • Cold temperatures: Iguanas are cold-blooded, like other lizards, and this means they are generally pretty sensitive to the cold. If their environment is too cold for them, it will affect their ability to digest food, which in turn will cause them to stop eating until temperatures warm up.
  • Stressful environment: Much like humans, iguanas can be affected by stress. Anything new, different, or unexpected can increase their stress levels, thus decreasing their appetite.
  • Breeding: Iguanas tend to eat less during breeding season, especially the females. Female iguanas may stop eating altogether for the last month or so before laying eggs.
  • Pickiness: Some iguanas are simply picky eaters. If their food isn’t fresh enough or isn’t what they want to eat, they may stop eating until you replace it with something more palatable.
  • Sickness: Iguanas can be affected by various diseases and parasites, many of which can decrease their appetite. If you cannot identify the reason why your iguana has stopped eating, it may be due to sickness and you should call your vet immediately.

How Long Can an Iguana Go Without Eating?

How Long Can an Iguana Go Without Eating

As you can see in the above section, periods of fasting are sometimes normal for iguanas. During these periods, they may eat very little, or they may stop eating altogether.

So, perhaps you may be wondering, how long can an iguana go without eating anything? 

The green iguana, the most common species found in the U.S., can easily go up to a month without food, and most other species can go for similar periods of time. 

According to Veterinary Practice News, female iguanas typically go without eating for about 4 weeks toward the end of a pregnancy. Both male and female iguanas may also go for up to 65 days without food after copulation (intercourse).

Keep in mind though, these are normal behaviors for iguanas living in the wild. If your pet iguana stops eating suddenly and you can’t determine why, you’ll want to take the iguana to the vet immediately. 

Conclusion

Iguanas are mostly herbivores, though some are omnivores. The main part of their diet consists of green leaves, though they also eat flowers, fruits and vegetables, and occasionally insects and other meat-based foods.

Iguanas may go for periods of time without eating when they are breeding or preparing to lay eggs, as well as when they are cold or stressed. If your iguana stops eating and you can’t figure out why, it may be sick and in need of a trip to the vet.

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