A bearded dragons diet is probably the most important factor that every iguana keeper should study closely if s/he wants to keep one’s jolly reptile alive and kicking for many, many years.
Now, before we roll into the Iguana Diet discussion, I’d like to take a step back to talk about a general misconception that people have about the iguana’s diet.
When I ask people “what do you feed your iguana” they would invariably say that they feed veggies to their reptile pets.
Vegetables are Best!
I am, of course, happy to hear that the reptiles are receiving vegetables, because they are herbivorous, but eventually, this happiness dwindles as the iguana owner begins telling me that he feeds his pet lettuce 90 percent of the time.
In our fast-paced and modern society it is no surprise that people do not know much about vegetables and their nutrient levels.
But I am often surprised as to how little effort pet owners exert when it comes to choosing the vegetables that they give to their pets.
And this lack of proper knowledge can be disastrous for the iguana, because if an owner has been feeding nothing but lettuce to his pet iguana for a year, chances are the iguana will still feed on lettuce even once better vegetables are offered.
Don’t Just Feed Them Lettuce!
Lettuce is fine (it is a vegetable, after all), but compared to other vegetables available in the supermarket or elsewhere, it is a bit lacking in proteins, minerals, and vitamins.
It is deficient in vital nutrients. Now, I am not saying that you should avoid lettuce at all costs; what I am saying here is that you should take some time to shop for better vegetables, so that your reptile will receive adequate and balanced nutrition.
Do this, and I can assure you that if all goes well, and your reptile does not fall ill, your iguana will live longer than other iguanas that are fed with nothing but lettuce.
It should also be made clear at this point in time that “alive and breathing” does not qualify as healthy in the world of iguanas.
An iguana might be breathing and still moving about, but that does not mean that it is robust and healthy. You can ensure an iguana’s health by providing a balanced diet, and that is what this section is all about.
Iguanas Are Herbivores
Now, if you want your iguana to be really healthy, you have to always keep in mind that it is an herbivore. An herbivore is an animal that eats only plant-based food. Other examples of herbivores in the animal kingdom are deer, cows, yaks, buffalos, etc.
When an animal is classified as a herbivore, it means that 100% of its natural diet is plant-based, and cannot be altered to accommodate strange items such as cat food or table scraps (e.g. such as bacon).
Unlike humans, iguanas are unable to digest both meats and vegetables. Although humans become healthier by “mixing it up” (eating both meat and vegetables), iguanas can become severely ill when they are fed any food with animal protein in it.
It doesn’t matter if the animal protein came from beef, pork, or lamb. Animal protein is the same when meat is broken down into its constituent parts. It’s still animal protein and it’s deadly for your iguana.
Your iguana can suffer from permanent organ failure if you feed it meat. Some people might say: well, iguanas have been observed as being able to feed on insects in their native habitat.
I’m not saying that iguanas literally cannot eat insects but in the wild, iguanas only eat insectsaccidentally when feeding on plants.
Are Insects Safe for Iguanas?
It is also possible that an iguana will eat an insect as a last resort if absolutely no edible plant matter is available. Does this mean that insects are a safe food item? Yes and no. Iguanas can eat insects if there is no other food available, but they can’t eat them regularly.
If they do, they will suffer from organ damage. Iguanas can tolerate a little bit of animal protein in the short term, just to survive, but they weren’t built to consume it on a daily basis.
Iguanas have sharp teeth that were designed to hook in and drag plant matter into their oral cavity. They don’t chew, so don’t be surprised if an iguana swallows large portions of vegetables in a single gulp.
How Do Iguanas Drink Water?
As for drinking, they do occasionally drink but it has been observed that iguanas frequently lick water from the surroundings.
So, if you are misting or spraying the enclosure, make sure that the enclosure is relatively clean so the iguana won’t end up ingesting bacteria from its surroundings.
You won’t be able to dissuade the iguana from licking moisture from its habitat, because in the animal’s native habitat, this is how they get their moisture.
Of course, iguanas will drink from their water dish if they are thirsty, so it is still important to place a shallow water dish in their enclosure.
Replace the water daily, and don’t forget to wash the dish if it gets dirty. Iguanas need fresh, clean water and nothing else. Do not experiment with beverages like beer!
Let’s move on to the frequency of feedings. A lot of old books on reptile care recommend that you feed your pet once very few days, or, at the very least, once every other day.
The problem with these old references is that they base their statements on very outdated information. The best practice now is to feed your iguana daily. The dietary requirements of iguanas vary from animal to animal.