Iguanas are herbivores, which means that they should mostly be eating plant matter — specifically, mostly leaves. In the wild, they eat whatever they can find. In captivity, this often takes the form of leafy green veggies, like spinach.
Generally speaking, animal-based foods like crickets are too high in protein for iguanas to consume regularly. Simply put, they don’t need that much protein. Therefore, crickets are not an appropriate part of an iguana’s normal diet.
That said, iguanas are fine on a diet that is low in these protein-dense ingredients. Generally, crickets and other protein-rich ingredients should be less than 5% of an iguana’s diet.
Young iguanas are growing, so they typically need a diet that is high in protein. These growing iguanas may benefit from as much as 10% of their diet being animal-based sources. However, that is still a relatively small number of crickets, especially considering that small iguanas eat less in general.
What Should an Iguana Be Eating?
Understanding an iguana’s normal diet can help you figure out what exactly they should be eating.
Generally, iguanas should be eating a huge number of leaves of all sorts. In the wild, they would eat whatever leaves were available. In captivity, leafy green veggies are often used to mirror this natural diet. Calcium-rich veggies are preferable because iguanas need quite a bit of calcium in their diet.
As much as 90% of an iguana’s diet should be made up of leafy green veggies, like spinach or kale.
However, their diet would also naturally include a small number of flowers and fruits. These substances are naturally mixed in with the leaves, so it only makes sense that iguanas would eat them occasionally.
That said, fruit should not be any more than 20% of their diet. If you increase the amount too much, you risk pushing out the more nutritious leafy green veggies that they really need. Over time, this can lead to deficiencies, especially in calcium.
Protein-rich foods should be included even less than fruits. For adult iguanas, less than 5% of their diet should be protein-based food, including crickets. That’s not that many crickets. These protein-rich foods are not something that iguanas need at all.
Your lizard will be perfectly fine if they never eat a cricket. It just isn’t a necessary part of their diet.
That said, young iguanas are still growing, so they do require a higher amount of protein than fully grown iguanas. In some cases, they can have as much as 10% of their diet derived from protein sources.
However, it is always best to focus on leafy greens for the most part. Otherwise, your lizard may be at risk of nutritional deficiencies.
Can Iguanas Eat Insects?
Yes, iguanas can technically eat insects like crickets. A small amount won’t typically harm them. However, they do benefit most from plants, leaves, and flowers. Crickets should be considered “extras,” if they are fed these at all.
Most owners never feed their iguana crickets, and their animals do just fine. Iguanas are strict vegetarians, which means that they don’t need any insects in their diet.
That said, crickets and other insects are not toxic for iguanas. They won’t cause any short-term problems like poisonous plants will. However, they may cause issues over time. If you constantly feed your iguana crickets instead of leafy greens, they won’t be getting the nutrients that they need from their diet.
Generally speaking, phosphorous, vitamin D, and calcium deficiencies are common in iguanas that are fed an improper diet.
What Happens If Iguanas Eat Too Much Protein?
Excessive amounts of protein in an iguana’s diet can cause all sorts of different problems. An iguana’s digestive tract employs fermentation as the primary method of extracting nutrition. Meat can’t be digested well through this process.
Too much protein can lead to gout, though this is a relatively rare problem in iguanas. Dehydration, renal failure, and similar problems can also occur. However, these usually only happen when the lizard is fed too much protein for an extended period.
More common consequences include nutritional deficiencies. Since crickets don’t contain everything that an iguana needs, it is likely that your lizard will develop certain nutritional deficiencies if they are fed too many crickets.
Will an Iguana Eat Crickets?
Iguanas tend to eat whatever is offered to them, including crickets. Feral iguanas are particularly prone to eating whatever they come across. However, these iguanas would just as happily eat your fingers if they thought that those were food!
For this reason, many iguanas will eat a cricket if it is offered. However, that doesn’t mean that you should. They may generally be un-picky lizards, but that doesn’t mean that all the foods that they accept are good options. Instead, you should carefully guard what foods are offered so they eat the best diet possible.
This lack of pickiness makes it easy to feed them the leafy greens that they should be eating. You shouldn’t interpret their acceptance of crickets as a sign that they actually need the crickets.
Can Iguanas Eat Any Meat?
Since crickets aren’t a suitable option for iguanas in most cases, you may be wondering if other sorts of meats are better.
This isn’t the case. The reason iguanas shouldn’t be eating high amounts of crickets is that they are high in protein. All meat is high in protein. Therefore, meat should be generally avoided in your iguana’s diet. You shouldn’t feed your iguana any meat unless they need a high amount of protein for a specific reason.
Iguanas should not be given many crickets. These lizards are strict herbivores, which means that they should be eating mostly plant matter. Specifically, iguanas thrive on a diet that contains mostly leaves.
Fruits and flowers can be included but only in small amounts. Crickets are not part of either category. They are extremely high in protein, which iguanas simply don’t need!
Truthfully, there is little reason that you should offer crickets to your iguana at all.
Featured Image Credit: Lexter Rivera-Santana, Pixabay