Keeping Reptiles Newsletter
  Issue 2 Vol 4 February 2009
Optimum Nutrition for Iguanas In this Issue

by Roberta A. Avila-Guevara CVT

The Green Iguana is a vegetarian with specific dietary needs. When kept as pets, iguanas can become picky eaters. They will eat only what tastes good, regardless of the nutrient value of the food. It is important to start these lizards on an appropriate diet from the beginning. This insures that the iguana gets the nutrients he needs and keeps him from deciding what his diet will be.

Optimal Iguana Dietary Triangle


Vegetables make up the majority of the iguana’s diet. These foods can be placed into groups that help determine which ones are the best choices for these animals. The groups start with leafy greens and non-leafy vegetables. Each of these groups are then divided into categories that give information on the nutrient content of the food. These categories are used to decide what foods can be a part of the iguana’s diet and what ones should be avoided.

Nutrient rich leafy greens provide the largest portion of the diet. This group consists of calcium-rich foods that iguanas need through out their lives. These greens include mustard greens, chard, collards, turnip greens, dandelion greens and the flowers, romaine, parsley, endive, cilantro, and leeks. Some leafy greens are low in their nutritional content and therefore, should be given in very limited quantities such as once every week or two weeks. These greens include butter lettuce and boston lettuce.

Of course, iceburg lettuce should be avoided altogether because there is no nutritional value in this type of lettuce. Oxalates and phytates are naturally molecules that bind to calcium and prevent the iguana from absorbing it. Greens that contain these substances should not be a part of the diet. They include: spinach, chard, beets, rhubarb, beet greens, bok choy, and kale.

Non leafy Vegetables also provide a large portion of the iguana’s diet in correlation with leafy greens. This group also consists of categories similar to leafy greens that can be used to determine appropriate choices for the diet. Vegetables with a high nutritional content include: okra, snow peas, snap peas, bell peppers (all colors), mushrooms, green beans, yams, and squash. The low nutrient group includes zucchini, olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions.

Do not include carrots and beets in the diet, these vegetables contain the oxalate and phytate molecules. Vegetables that belong to a group called cruciferous should also be provided in limited quantities. This group contains substances that can cause goiter, a condition that leads to swelling due to an enlarged thyroid gland. These vegetables include cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage. All vegetables should be washed and cut into small pieces before being served.


In the wild, fruit is a seasonal hors d’oeuvre for iguanas and should be given in limited quantities. It also contains high levels of phosphorus. Phosphorus is a mineral required by the iguana for basic chemical reactions. It compliments calcium in a specific balance known as the calcium to phosphorus ratio. If phosphorus is available in levels contrary to what is normal, this delicate balance is offset and it can result in skeletal problems. For these reasons, fruit needs to be selected carefully before being added to the diet.

Providing small amounts of fruit is important due to the ability of this food group to dilute the necessary nutrients in vegetables. Good choices are bananas, figs, melons, strawberries, apples, and plums, skins included. Avoid fruit that is high in fat, such as avocados; fruit high in acidity, such as oranges, and grapes and raisins, as these are known to be toxic to dogs and cats.

Grain-Based Foods

Iguanas can be given special treats such as cream of wheat and bread on occasion because these grains supply a minimal amount of plant based proteins, carbohydrates, and vitamins. Choose whole grain bread without added sugar and cook the cream of wheat before offering it.

Foods To Avoid

For years, the dietary needs of iguanas have been misunderstood. Confusion remains over the provision of plant based proteins versus animal based proteins. Evidence has proven that iguanas are strictly herbivores and therefore they should not be offered any animal proteins including crickets, worms, pinkies, dog food, cat food, or monkey chow. Commercial iguana diets are also in question. Most of these diets are high in fat and low in nutrients and are unnecessary. If these animals are fed a variety of nutrient rich vegetables and fruits with occasional grains, all of their dietary needs will be met.


Born and raised in Boulder, CO. USA, Roberta is a Certified Veterinary Technician, practising since 1999. Herp keeping has been a hobby since she was able to walk. Roberta owns and cares for two large Leopard geckos, one Blizzard gecko, one Garter snake, one California King snake, one Green iguana, and one Veiled chameleon.

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  1. Optimum Nutrition for Iguanas
  2. How to Create a Humid Hide For Your Leopard Gecko Or Crested Gecko
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How to Create a Humid Hide For Your Leopard Gecko Or Crested Gecko

By Walter Kern

A humid hide (lay box) is a place for your gecko to retreat to rest, retain moisture for ease of a shed, and even lay eggs. Most geckos do need a humid hide but you should check your animal's specific care sheets. This area can be decorative or simply functional. The information provided below will describe one way to design a low-cost, functional hide.

Gecko hide materials

The supplies you will need to make your humid hide include a soldering iron, hide material (I've chosen vermiculite), cheap plastic sandwich box, milk jug cap (or equally sized cap), and a marker. The hole can be made with a drill bit of the appropriate size but I find the iron cuts cleaner and easier to use.

Gecko hide materials

Start by tracing a circle on the top of the plastic sandwich box lid by using the jug cap and marker. It really doesn't matter if you select one corner as I do or if you place the circle in the middle.

Gecko hide materials

It also does not matter if the circle is not perfect.

Gecko hide materials

Before you begin melting the hole out of the plastic top, make sure you are in an area that has PLENTY of ventilation. The fumes from the melting plastic is toxic and should not be inhaled. Also, be very cautious with the soldering iron as it is very hot and can easily slip, resulting in a nasty burn. Now, with a hot soldering iron, slowly start a hole on the circle.

Gecko hide materials

Slowly work the iron around the line until you've completely traced the entire line with the soldering iron.

Gecko hide materials

With the hole cut out, you may want to go around the circle one more time with the iron to melt down any small, sharper points left on the plastic.

Gecko hide materials

Now, you are ready now to add the hide material. One decision you will have to make will be to decide on the contents of the hide. Materials such as paper towel, sphagnum moss, peat moss, vermiculite, etc. can all be used. Consider the material's ability to hold moisture and how easy it is for the geckos to make a mess. I typically add enough material to cover any eggs the females may lay. As an example, for crested and leopard geckos, I add about an inch and a quarter of vermiculite or sphagnum moss.

Gecko hide materials

Ready for water! I like to add enough water to make the material damp but not 'wet'. If you can pick up the material and ring water out, the mix is too wet. You will need to check the hide at least once a week for moisture. If it is too dry, simply add a small amount of water.

Gecko hide materials

As simple as that! Don't forget to unplug your iron :)

Wally Kern operates Supreme Gecko. Our focus is on both producing quality leopard geckos and crested geckos at a great price but more importantly offering reputable customer service.


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