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Discover What Do Iguanas Eat in the Wild




A hungry iguana with an open mouth and tongue out, about to devour some plants - showcasing what do iguanas eat in the wild.

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Have you wondered, “What do iguanas eat in the wild?” These fascinating creatures have diverse diets depending on their species and habitat. In this blog post, we will explore the feeding habits of various iguana species, from the tree-dwelling green iguanas to the ocean-grazing marine iguanas. Prepare to embark on a journey through the wild world of iguana diets!

Short Summary

  • Green iguanas, desert iguanas, marine iguanas and spiny-tailed iguanas have varied diets that consist of leaves, flowers, fruits and occasional animal matter.
  • Young Iguanas require a protein-rich diet with essential nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus and potassium for optimum health.
  • Human activities can greatly influence the diets of wild Iguanas, so it is important to reduce human impact to preserve them.

Green Iguanas: An Overview

Green iguana enjoying a yellow flower meal.

Green iguanas, a remarkable species of lizard also known as the green iguana, are native to the Americas. These primarily herbivorous reptiles make their homes in tree canopies, feasting on leaves, fruits, and flowers. Young green iguanas thrive on a plant-based diet, occasionally consuming insects, eggs, and snails in their natural habitats of Central and South America. While they are fascinating creatures in the wild, pet green iguanas have also become popular among reptile enthusiasts.

Ensuring captive green iguanas have a diet similar to what they would eat in the wild is essential for their health and well-being.

Diet Composition

The diet of green iguanas is predominantly plant-based, with leaves, flowers, and fruits forming the mainstay of their meals. Opuntia, a cactus, is an ideal source of nutrition for these herbivorous lizards. Cuban iguanas, a closely related species, have also been known to consume animal matter, such as: occasionally

  • eggs
  • dead crabs
  • fish
  • birds

These reptiles have evolved to eat plants, meeting their metabolic needs by ingesting plant matter, including green beans, which provide essential potassium.

Desert Iguanas: Adapting to Harsh Environments

Desert iguana consuming a green plant in the desert.

Desert iguanas are uniquely adapted to life in high temperatures and arid environments. They are known for their incredible heat tolerance, remaining exposed in the scorching sun long after other lizards have sought refuge.

In the wild, desert iguanas consume fruits, buds, and leaves of desert plants, particularly the creosote bush, providing essential nutrients for survival.

Foraging Habits

As herbivores, desert iguanas primarily forage for plant material, such as:

  • cacti fruits
  • flowers
  • seeds
  • colorful vegetables

These nutritional choices are also suitable for adult green iguanas, highlighting the similarities between the two species regarding diet.

Desert iguanas also use the creosote bush for camouflage, blending seamlessly with their surroundings while searching for food.

Marine Iguanas: The Ocean Grazers

Marine iguana grazing underwater.

Marine iguanas stand out among the various iguana species due to their distinct feeding habits. These unique reptiles are the only known iguanas to feed on marine algae in the ocean and along rocky shores. While marine iguanas are not typically considered pet iguanas, their fascinating behavior makes them an interesting subject for reptile enthusiasts.

Marine iguanas have adapted to foraging in the aquatic environment, traversing the seabed in a serpentine motion to consume algae.

Algae Consumption

Marine iguanas are exceptional grazers, feeding on various types of algae found underwater and along the shoreline. Marine iguanas in Punta Espinosa consume approximately 27,000-29,000 kg of fresh algae yearly, surviving exclusively on underwater algae and seaweed.

This impressive feat showcases the adaptability of iguanas to their environment and resource availability.

Spiny-Tailed Iguanas: Speedy Opportunists

Spiny-tailed iguana perched on a rock.

Spiny-tailed iguanas are speedy creatures. They have earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the fastest lizards, reaching a speed of 21 miles per hour. These agile reptiles prefer rocky habitats with nearby trees for climbing and abundant rocks and crevices for hiding.

Regarding diet, spiny-tailed iguanas have adapted to consume diverse foods, including leaves, stems, flowers, fruit, and even small animals, eggs, and insects, when necessary.

Varied Diet

As omnivores, spiny-tailed iguanas require a diet that includes plant and animal matter, similar to a pet iguana’s diet. They consume:

  • leaves
  • flowers
  • fruits
  • small animals like lizards, mice, and birds
  • eggs
  • insects, such as crickets and grasshoppers

This varied diet allows spiny-tailed iguanas to adapt and thrive in their natural habitat, showcasing their opportunistic nature.

Feeding Habits of Young Iguanas

Young iguanas, particularly during their growth and development phase, require a protein-rich diet to ensure proper growth and health. This includes the consumption of insects, snails, and even carrion. Baby green iguanas, for example, are folivores specializing in eating leaves but may occasionally eat insects and carrion. It’s interesting to note that green iguanas eat a variety of food items to fulfill their nutritional needs.

Providing a balanced diet for baby iguanas, especially during their transition from young to adult iguanas, is crucial in supporting their growing bodies and preparing them for a healthy life.

Nutritional Requirements for Different Iguana Species

Different iguana species have specific nutritional requirements to maintain optimal health. Essential nutrients, such as calcium, phosphorus, and potassium, are crucial to their overall well-being. For example, the calcium-phosphorus ratio for iguanas should be 2:1, and calcium supplements should be administered every few days.

Proper nutrition is vital in preventing health issues, such as metabolic bone disease, a common condition in captive reptiles due to inadequate calcium intake.

Toxic Foods to Avoid for Wild Iguanas

Toxic green plants that pose a danger to iguanas.

While wild iguanas have adapted to consume various foods, they should avoid certain toxic items, such as:

  • kale
  • spinach
  • iceberg lettuce
  • celery

Consuming animal protein can also harm iguanas, as their bodies struggle to process it, placing strain on their liver and kidneys.

A huge variety of toxic plants threatens iguanas. These include:

  • Amanita
  • Azalea
  • Baneberry
  • Black locust
  • Boxwood
  • Daffodil
  • Ergot
  • Foxglove
  • Ghostweed
  • Honeysuckle
  • Ivy
  • Lantana
  • Lobelia
  • Malanga
  • Mexican breadfruit
  • Moonseed
  • Narcissus
  • Periwinkle
  • Pokeweed
  • Rosary peas

Iguanas must stick to non-toxic plants like hibiscus, dandelion greens, and mulberry leaves.

Human Impact on Iguana Diets

Human activities can significantly impact the diets of iguanas, leading to changes in their natural feeding habits and food sources. For example, tourists providing grapes to iguanas in the Bahamas could affect their dietary habits.

Habitat destruction, pollution, and introduction invasive species can also harm iguana diets. Understanding and minimizing the human impact on iguana diets is crucial in preserving these fascinating creatures and their natural habitats.


In conclusion, iguanas are fascinating creatures with diverse diets, depending on their species and habitat. From the herbivorous green iguanas to the marine algae-grazing marine iguanas, each species has unique feeding habits and nutritional requirements. Humans are responsible for understanding our actions’ impact on these creatures and ensuring that we protect and preserve their natural habitats. Together, let’s work towards a future where iguanas continue to thrive in the wild.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do iguanas ever eat meat?

Yes, iguanas do eat meat occasionally. They are mainly herbivorous and folivorous animals, eating leaves and weeds, flowers and fruit. But they will also eat small insects, lizards and other small animals, nesting birds and eggs.

What foods are toxic to iguanas?

It is important to note that iguanas should avoid eating toxic foods like onions, garlic and mushrooms. Additionally, certain vegetables, like spinach and cabbage, cause gout and liver problems in iguanas. Therefore, they should be avoided or fed in moderation.

Iguanas should also be provided with a balanced diet that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables. Fruits such as apples, bananas, and melons are all good choices. Vegetables like carrots, squash, and sweet potatoes are also available.

Do iguanas eat mice in the wild?

Based on the evidence, iguanas do not usually hunt and consume mice in the wild; they use a mainly plant-based diet.

Though some pet and wild iguanas are known to eat mice, this behavior is not typical of iguanas.

What do iguanas eat?

Iguanas are primarily herbivorous animals that enjoy eating plant-based food like foliage, flowers and fruit, but they occasionally consume small animals and insects.

What do green iguanas eat in the wild?

Wild green iguanas feed on foliage, fruits, flowers and other plant matter. They also consume eggs, insects, and snails as part of their diet.

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