What Do Green Iguanas Eat?

Exotic Pet Ownership Green Iguana
© David A Litman/Shutterstock.com

Written by Volia Schubiger

Published: October 6, 2022

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A green iguana is a large lizard that can be found in central and southern America. The green iguana is also known as a common iguana or an American iguana. Among its native habitats are Mexico, the Caribbean islands, southern Brazil, and Paraguay. It is not uncommon for them to grow up to 6 feet long and weigh 20 pounds. Among reptile lovers, they are also popular exotic pets. The lizards have a fun and unique personality and are particularly beautiful. Would you like to learn more about iguanas? Are you looking for information on what iguanas eat in the wild so that you can take better care of your pet? Let’s discover what green iguanas eat and what makes them so fascinating.

What Do Green Iguanas Eat?


Green iguanas are classified as herbivores, meaning they mainly eat plants and fruits.

©Sanit Fuangnakhon/Shutterstock.com

A green iguana’s diet consists primarily of plants such as leaves, fruits, and flowers. In general, they are classified as herbivores. Green iguanas are arboreal, inhabiting trees for most of their lives. Due to this, they usually consume leaves, seeds, and fruit produced by the tree. The types of plants they eat depend on their location and habitat since they are found throughout the Americas.

In the wild, it has been observed that green iguanas have been known to eat eggs, insects living on leaves, and snails on rare occasions. It has even been noted that the wild plum is a favorite food of the green iguanas in Panama. Although green iguanas consume a wide variety of food when offered, their natural diet must contain a precise ratio of minerals that they typically find in plants.  

Let’s explore the whole diet of green iguanas now that we know what they eat!

Complete List of What Green Iguanas Eat

A primarily herbivorous animal, green iguanas consume mainly plants as part of their diet. It is possible, however, for them to eat insects at times. However, this is an extremely rare occurrence. 

The most common foods that appear in a green iguana’s diet include:

  • Plants such as hibiscus, bougainvillea, orchids, impatiens, roses, purple queens, dandelion greens, and pink pentas
  • Veggies such as lettuce, carrots, potatoes, turnip greens, collard greens, kale, swiss chard, butternut squash, parsnips, and more 
  • Fruits such as mangoes, plums, apples, pears, peaches, blueberries, bananas with skin, melons, and more 
  • Whole grain bread
  • Natural bran cereals 

As we can see, the regular diet of a green iguana includes a lot of leafy greens, plants, and lots of fun fruits. They particularly need calcium-rich vegetables, which make up the majority of their diet. After learning what the green iguana’s complete diet looks like, let’s discover how they find their food.

How Do Green Iguanas Forage for Food?

Green Iguana

Green iguanas must warm their bodies up before going foraging for food so that they can digest it.

©Holly S Cannon/Shutterstock.com

As herbivores, green iguanas do not spend any time hunting for food. In their natural habitat, they have access to everything they need to consume. Additionally, they are hindgut fermenters, meaning that their high-fiber foods must be fermented by microbes before they can absorb their nutrients. Prior to foraging, wild iguanas bask for about four hours in the morning to elevate their body temperature. This is necessary for digestion. 

After a morning basking session, an iguana leaves its basking location, which is usually a limb of a tree or shrub, to explore the ground or nearby trees or shrubs. Wild iguanas consume leaves, fruit, and flowers from herbs, shrubs, trees, and vines, as we previously mentioned. Generally, iguanas don’t eat seasonal foods and less common plants on a daily basis, so dietary diversity isn’t very frequent either. 

Next, let’s see what pet iguanas eat to stay healthy and strong.

What Do Pet Green Iguanas Eat?

Iguanas suffer from many health problems as a result of an improper diet. In a study of juvenile green iguanas, it was found that the growth of pet green iguanas can be comparable to growing wild and farmed green iguanas on appropriate diets. This is why it is so important to know what foods you can and cannot feed your green iguana. 

The majority of veterinarians recommend feeding iguanas only plant matter, but many others prefer to supplement the diet with food that has been formulated specifically for them. These can be pelleted or canned foods. 

It is recommended to feed young iguanas on a daily basis. In contrast, adult green iguanas should be fed every day or every other day if they are overweight. It is recommended that 80-90% of their diet consist of leafy green vegetables that are dark in color, with no more than 20% of the diet consisting of fruit. Light green vegetables like iceberg or head lettuce and celery contain mostly water and few nutrients. Avoid feeding green iguanas these vegetables.

Iguanas benefit from calcium-rich vegetables such as collard greens, beet greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, bok choy, parsley, Swiss chard, and dandelion. The diet of an adult iguana should include 40-50% of these vegetables. Cactus, broccoli, squash, green beans, sprouts, sweet potatoes, parsnips, okra, cucumbers, asparagus, mushrooms, carrots, peas, and corn are some of the other vegetables that may be eaten. As much as 30-40% of an adult iguana’s diet can come from these sources.

Animal-based protein is generally not eaten by iguanas, so foods with large amounts of protein should be avoided.

What Do Baby Green Iguanas Eat?


Contrary to popular belief, baby green iguanas do not need to eat animal protein in the form of insects.


Earlier studies incorrectly characterized baby and young green iguanas as omnivores, meaning they consume both plant and animal material or partial insectivores. It has been determined that young iguanas are folivores, an herbivore that specializes in eating leaves and will continue to eat leaves throughout their lives. Even so, wild iguanas occasionally consume carrion and insects, even cannibalizing hatchlings.

Despite this, zoologists like Adam Britton believe that such protein-rich diets are bad for the digestive system, leading to kidney failure and premature death. There is, however, still a debate among scientists about all of this.

So what can baby green iguanas eat? It is recommended to feed finely chopped food twice daily to hatchlings and iguanas that measure up to 14 inches in length. Beginners often make the mistake of giving the babies food that’s too hard for them to swallow and digest. During the early stages of development, baby iguanas grow at such a rapid pace that diet deficiencies or excesses can lead to deformities and illness. A correct and balanced diet should be offered to the hatchling right from the beginning in order to prevent future problems.

They can be fed a diet quite similar to adult iguanas as they continue to grow. Leafy greens that are high in nutrients are the best option for them.

Do Green Iguanas Have Any Natural Predators in the Wild?

Iguanas are prey for a variety of predators because they live in a variety of habitats. Green iguanas are not able to defend themselves greatly from predators. Water helps them avoid predators. They also have spines on their back and tail, which they use to defend themselves. This is another evolutionary adaptation to help it live. In particular, the tail has a great deal of power, and they can use it as a whip. As a result of their coloration, they are also able to disappear into the vegetation, helping them camouflage themselves from predators. 

Some predators of green iguanas include birds. Predators such as hawks and eagles are one of the iguana’s main predators. These predatory birds regularly feed on iguanas as well as their unhatched eggs. There have been reports that crocodiles and alligators attack and eat green iguanas. However, the iguana is known to dig up and eat amphibian eggs occasionally as well. Despite not being natural predators, mammals such as rats, dogs, and cats can attack green iguanas in their natural habitats.

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About the Author

Volia Schubiger is a freelance copywriter and content editor with a passion and expertise in content creation, branding, and marketing. She has a background in Broadcast Journalism & Political Science from CUNY Brooklyn College. When she's not writing she loves traveling, perusing used book stores, and hanging out with her other half.

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