In feeding green iguanas, it is important to understand how these reptiles feed in the wild. The green iguana is a reptile native to Central and South America and Mexico. Studies in Panama found that the iguana eats mainly vegetable matter, including the fruit, leaves, and flowers of certain bushes, trees, and vines, with feeding occurring in frequent, small meals. Thus, iguanas are mainly herbivorous, although they may eat insects in small amounts. Their diet mainly consists of fiber and plant protein, and contains very little fat. The iguana's hindgut is highly specialized to allow fiber digestion, similar to the stomach compartments of cattle. Currently, two schools of thought exist about the proper feeding regimen of iguanas. Some doctors and herpetologists recommend a diet consisting of 100% plant-based matter. Others recommend a diet consisting of 80-90% plant-based matter with 10-20% animal-based protein, such as crickets, worms, and moths (if the iguana will eat these insects).
For juvenile iguanas (younger than 2 years of age), 80% of their diet should be plant-based protein material and 20% animal-based protein material. For adult iguanas, 90% of the diet should be plant-based and 10% animal-based. This decrease in animal protein will help prevent gout and renal failure. Of the plant matter, most (80%) should be vegetable- or flower-based, and only 20% fruit-based. Even though iguanas enjoy the sweetness of fruit, it is mineral-deficient compared with vegetables. Fruit should mainly be considered a treat. Plant-based matter acceptable for iguanas includes the following items. As a rule, anything green and leafy should make up a large part of the diet. Yellow and orange vegetables should also be included. Fiber-rich, vitamin- and mineral-deficient vegetables such as lettuce and celery should be avoided (small amounts of romaine lettuce can be offered as part of the vegetable "salad"). Acceptable vegetables include collard/mustard/turnip greens, alfalfa chow or hay, bok choy, kale, parsley, spinach (less than 10% of the vegetable matter, as spinach contains oxalates that bind calcium), bell pepper, green beans, green peas. corn, okra, cactus, yellow squash / zucchini / acorn squash, sweet potatoes, cabbage, broccoli, and flowers such as carnations, hibiscus, and roses (azaleas are toxic and should be avoided).Flowers, their stems, and leaves can be offered to the iguana.Vegetables can be offered either cooked or raw. The owner should experiment with the iguana to see if it prefers raw or cooked food. Flowers can be home-grown or purchased from floral shops. Floral shops often throw out older, wilting flowers that may be unacceptable for sale to the public, but which reptile owners can sometimes obtain for free.It is prudent to ensure that no chemicals have been recently applied to the flowers or their water containers, however. Flowers, vegetables, and fruits should be thoroughly washed prior to feeding. Fruit can include apples, pears, bananas, grapes, peaches, kiwi, and melons. Especially good are figs (which contain more calcium than other fruits), papayas, raspberries, and strawberries. Appropriate animal-based protein sources include crickets, sardines (drained), tofu, hard-boiled eggs, earthworms, and meal-worms. Dog food and cat food contain too much vitamin D and fat, and should never he fed to iguanas.
Reptile pellets, bird pellets, trout chow, and other fish chows are an excellent animal-based protein source; providing these substances precludes the need for live prey (although you can feed live prey, such as crickets, as the iguana may enjoy the psychological stimulation of catching the live prey). Live prey, such as crickets and worms, should be either raised by the owner or purchased from a pet store or reptile breeder. Never feed an iguana insects taken from the family garden. If owners get their insects from a local pet store, it is a good idea to "nutrient load" them prior to feeding the insects to the iguana. Keep these insects in a container and feed them finely ground rodent or fish chow or fish flakes blended with calcium carbonate powder (if using fish flakes, add high-protein baby cereal flakes). A slice of orange (for crickets) or sweet potato (mealworms) can serve as a water source for the insects. Insects should be fed for at least a few days prior to offering them to the iguana. Before feeding the iguana, the owner should lightly sprinkle the insects with a good multivitamin powder. One ground multivitamin tablet lightly sprinkled on the food each day is also acceptable. To ensure the proper amounts of vitamins and minerals in the diet, the owner should lightly sprinkle all food offered to the iguana with a calcium powder (such as ground calcium gluconate, lactate, or carbonate tablets). Weekly, a light sprinkling of a good reptile vitamin on the food is also recommended. A light dusting means just that, over supplementation can cause problems. Hypervitarninosis D is a common occurrence in pets oversupplemented with vitamins. It can be avoided by holding back on the supplementation. Remember that supplementation is truly necessary only if the animal is not eating a well-balanced diet. Well-balanced diets probably do not require supplementation. Because most owners do not feed well balanced diets, light supplementation may be a necessity. Owners should think of a light sprinkling the same way they would lightly salt food for themselves.
Juvenile iguanas should be fed daily, while adult iguanas can be fed every other day. These recommendations are just guidelines, however, and many adult iguanas will eat daily. Fresh water, offered in a crock that won't easily tip over, should be available at all times. Iguanas not only will drink from the water bowl but will often bathe in it as well (although it is perfectly acceptble to mist the iguana a few times a week). Owners must make sure the water stays clean (many reptiles love to eliminate in their water dish). In summary, iguanas eat mainly plant-based food. Variety is the key. Owners should not let their iguanas get "hooked" on just one or two favorite items; they should feed many items in small portions. The food pieces should be cut into the proper size for the pet: smaller iguanas need their food finely chopped. As with all pets, fresh vegetables are preferred, frozen is second best, and canned is least desirable. Owners can make up about a week's worth of the diet and refrigerate or freeze the rest for convenience.
(Reptile diseases by Shawn P. Messonnier)
Sjá nánar hjá Iguana Life