If you have noticed that your pet iguana is not eating their food it can be worrying. Especially if food has been ignored for a long time or you even notice them losing weight over time. But what could this mean and why would an iguana stop eating? I decided to do some research to find out exactly why this could be. I’d like to share with you what I have been able to find.
So, why would an iguana not eat? An iguana may not eat, or stop eating altogether for a number of different reasons. The main ones include: the temperature being too cold in their enclosure, being too stressed, due to breeding, being ill/sick, or not having access to fresh or desired food.
There are a lot of things to consider regarding any change in the behavior of your iguana. This includes eating. You must ask yourself questions such as: when did they stop eating, when was the last time they ate, has anything changed in their habitat or care etc?
By asking these kind of questions you will likely be able to get a better understanding of what may be the issue.
Nonetheless, when it comes to owning a pet iguana, you must ensure that you are providing them with a high level of care, are strict on their feeding and provide an optimal enclosure. Not doing so can lead to behaviors such as not eating.
Let us now take a closer look at the reasons in why your iguana may be avoiding their food and some practical things you can do in such a situation. The information below applies to red, green, snow, blue, albino morphs, and other kinds of iguanas. So, be sure to keep on reading!
Why Is My Iguana Not Eating?
If your Iguana has been eating well up until very recently then there is likely a specific reason for it. It could be one or many.
Below, we will look at the primary reasons to begin to consider and look out for:
Iguanas are a cold-blooded reptile, and so the right temperature is crucial for their health, well-being and ultimately survival.
Iguanas are unable to regulate their body temperatures in the way of other mammals, like humans. Therefore, we need to manage their temperature for them and do so externally.
Too cold a temperature will impact their ability to digest food and this will likely cease their appetite.
Ideal Temperatures For Iguanas
- Enclosure air temperature: 80-85 degrees Fahrenheit
- Temperatures for basking area: 96-100 degrees Fahrenheit
- Terrarium temperature 78-80 degrees Fahrenheit
- Temperature to be avoided: anything lesser than 73 degrees Fahrenheit
It is imperative that temperatures never fall below 40 degrees Fahrenheit as this can result in death. You’ll also need to prevent them from being able to access heat sources like hot rocks/heat pads as this can result in severe burning and injury.
Instead, ensure your iguanas enclosure is sufficiently large enough and set up optimally. It requires a basking and a UVB light.
If you believe the enclosure is too cold, you may need to get an additional heat bulb or a single bulb of higher wattage to enhance temperatures.
Bulbs should also be checked regularly to ensure they have not broken or stopped working.
An iguana can get stressed about any change. One of the first things they will likely do is avoid eating food. This is common in newly adopted iguanas.
When first get your iguana, let them settle into their new habitat and make the experience as relaxing and comfortable as possible.
Help them get acquainted with your voice; talk to them gently and calmly.
Do not handle or touch your iguana during the acclimatization period, which is around 1-2 weeks.
After this period, if your Iguana is still not eating food, then it may be best to take them to a vet.
Sexual Maturity & Breeding
When your pet Iguana is 2-3 years old, they may go through a short period of not eating their food. This is likely as they reach their sexual maturity. It can last anywhere from 1-4 months; and they may go through periods of eating little and then eating more.
Another similarly related reason is that it could be breading season. This is especially likely if you own a female iguana and you are actively breeding them.
Females are known not to eat around breading season, and even more so if they have a belly full of eggs!
Your pet Iguana may not be into frozen food or food that has been left in the enclosure for too long. Fresh green and dark leaves may appeal your Iguana to eat better.
Feed your pet Iguana during morning time for total digestion. Feed a snack 4 hours before turning off the lights.
Other reasons could be stress, fear, anxiety, liking to the food, enclosure environment, and adaptation.
Sickness and illness is one of the more serious reasons in why an iguana stops eating.
The presence of parasites, gout, impaction, neurological issues, mouth abscesses, bladder stones and/ or diseases such as Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) are the main ones likely to result in the loss of appetite.
Other symptoms related to the sickness or illness will likely accompany a disinterest in food so you need to look out for any other signs and symptoms.
Inflammation, swelling, lethargy, signs of physical discomfort, and perhaps even discharge may be observed.
If you notice any of these or suspect that your Iguana is ill, you should take them to a vet who specializes in reptiles as soon as you can. They may ask you to collect a sample of your iguana’s feces in a iploc bag for testing.
Either way, a qualified veterinarian is going to be able to inspect your iguana, recommend and implement the appropriate treatment. They’ll also be able to support you and your iguana during this time.
How Long Can An Iguana Live Without Food and Water?
Iguanas generally eat 1-2 times a day. They can, however, go without food for 1-2 weeks without any adverse health risks or things necessarily being wrong. Beyond this period, an iguana does require feeding.
Of course this does all depend on the age, size and weight of an iguana. Babies and young iguanas typically eat more often and require more food. This is all part of the growing process.
You should therefore expect and see a slow and natural decline in the amount and frequency of of eating in your iguana. This will happen slowly and for this reason, is usually unnoticed.
Iguanas cannot go so long safely without water. Water is much more essential for maintaining their bodily functions.
Without access to water – iguanas must have a a higher humidity, as much as 70-100% to get the hydration they need. Without this, it can prove fatal.
Therefore, water should always be provided through the misting of their enclosure, through the foods they eat, along with access to drink clean water.
Sickness and dehydration can develop quickly in an iguana if no water/humidity is provided.
What Can You Do If Your Iguana Will Not Eat?
If your iguana is not eating, then first and foremost, you should ensure that good water and humidity are provided in their enclosure.
You should then make sure the enclosure is clean before taking out any spoiled foods or those that do not appear of interest to your iguana.
From there, you want to give your iguana time to settle and become comfortable. Refrain from picking them up or doing anything in which could stress them or unsettle them.
You should then look to try out different, but other suitable foods. It may well be that they do not like the food in which you have been offering.
Feeding them either through a syringe or by hand is an approach undertaken by some iguana owners.
From there, you should inspect them; looking out for any potential signs and symptoms that something may be wrong. For example, if your iguana looks malnourished or emaciated, take them as soon as you can to a vet.
Best Foods To Feed a Malnourished Iguana
Iguanas are primarily herbivorous-plant eating reptiles. More specifically, folivores and leaf eating.
In fact, they have an entire digestive system equipped for such a diet. Their possess a number of microbes in their digestive tract, which enables them to ferment a high amount of fiber in which they should consume in their diet.
This process is actually known as Hindgut Fermentation, and occurs in many reptiles. It is this processes that allows optimal for nutrient absorption in their body.
An iguanas diet should therefore be fiber dense, and be at least 80/90% green leafy vegetables (according to veterinarians).
For a malnourished Iguana however, these foods may not be appetizing. They may not even be enough to help sustain them during this time.
So instead, a malnourished iguana should look to consume higher protein, more calorie dense foods. Whereas fruits should only make up around 10-20% of the diet normally, these can be used a little more in this context.
The diet should still be rich in vitamins and minerals – with the appropriate phosphorous and calcium ratio.
Baby dark greens are a good feed for iguanas as they are abundant in crude protein. You’ll still want to avoid feeding mature leaves as they are full of fat and carbs and low in fiber.
Lettuces, baby kale, pea greens are also other examples to avoid.
Alfalfa is a rich protein source that can be included in the diet, and may be more preferable during times of not eating and malnourishment. Normally, they should only make up to 5% of the diet, but if it gets your iguana to eat when they would otherwise not, may be a increased by 5-10%.
Occasionally, beans, legumes, lentils, and chickpeas can be added to a salad in a healthy iguana all in cooked form. These are primarily advantageous for juveniles. Therefore again, you could look to give these foods to your iguana if they are not eating as a way to boost caloric and nutritional intake.
Below are some safe, higher calorie foods that are best served to a malnourished iguana. While they may make up a larger portion of the diet in periods of low-eating, they should be soon cut back when normal eating returns:
Plants And Vegetables
- Corn: 365 calories,
- Peas: 81 calories,
- Sweet Potatoes: 86 calories,
- Parsnips: 75 calories,
- Carrot: 41 calories
- Persimmon: 127 calories,
- Banana: 89 calories,
- Plantains: 122 calories,
- Figs: 74 calories,
- Pomegranate: 83 calories,
- Mango: 60 calories,
- Grapes: 69 calories,
- Kiwi: 61 calories,
- Pear: 57 calories,
- Blueberries: 57 calories.
Consider that the calorie value states above are per each 100 gram serving of each item. It is best to offer a small amount, and variety of each food.
This will not only boost the nutritional content of the diet but will help ensure your iguana resumes eating.
If, even with these appetizing foods, eating does not return. Again you have another reason to take your iguana to a vet.
Iguanas stop eating for a variety of reasons. It is imperative that you try to identify why, and consider any recent changes that may be a contributing factor to their aversion of food.
Its important to keep your iguana hydrated and nourished; so supplementation may be required with with vitamins and minerals such as calcium. However, its important not to over-supplement and consider that supplements should not replace foods in the diet entirely.
Other than this, let us finish up with a summary of some things to do and not to do to help your iguna resume eating:
- Do not handle your Iguana too much
- Try not to keep altering your iguanas diet with new types of food.
- Ensure all food provided is fresh, suitable and appetizing.
- Give your Iguana plenty of space.
- Ensure your iguanas habitat is clean and maintained.
- Ensure the temperature and humidity is optimal and within the required range.
However, even with the recommendations said above, try not to worry at first. Eating, in terms of amount and frequency, does naturally reduce in age. Adult iguanas can end up eating only 1-2 every 2 weeks and this is entirely normal.
However, if your iguana has a drastic change to their eating behaviors, they are not eating much in accordance to their age, or if you notice anything concerning which could indicate illness, take them to a vet. They’ll be able to figure out the underlying cause and help you to overcome it.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.