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Green Iguanas Omnivores or Herbivores

Discussion in 'Green Iguanas' started by PrimalBeasts, Oct 25, 2009.

  1. Kendalle

    Kendalle Elite Member

    a stray cricket in the enclosure or a fly or a bug on a piece of food that they eat probably won't hurt them, it probably won't damage their kidneys or anything having ate 100 bugs in 20 years, but as a diet it is not what is good for them.
  2. TheVirus

    TheVirus Active Member

    I don't own an Iguana. I'm just curious. Wouldn't the animal be the one who decides what classification they are in? It sounds to me like the animal chooses to be an omnivore by evolution, yet keepers decide they're wrong. Do you guys know if every time an iguana eats a bug in the wild, its because they are starving? If the animals can eat some sort of animal protein in the wild, at whatever quantity, yet in captivity they can't, then I would think something is lacking in captive conditions.

    Kidney failure and fatty liver are caused by conditions. Too much food for one. Insufficient basking temps for another. I wonder how long it would take a large iguana to reach desired temps when they only have access to 105* temps? Why not offer them large basking areas with tons of surface temp options, and let them decide what temp they need and when they need it? Just curious..... :)
  3. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    Actually it is the keepers, not the animal who are attempting to make the iguana anything other than a plant eater!
    In appropriate conditions it IS the animal that chooses to be a herbivore(foliavore actually). In the wilds they choose to consume vegetation. It has been verified time and again by field research where they observed their behavior as well as examined the stomach contents of wild iguanas. It is US who choose to try to make them feed on something other than what is natural to them, either from our ignorance, our misunderstanding, or because we are just so full of ourselves that we don't care that the food we are offering will kill them as long as it entertains us!
    Its not the occasional bug ingested that kills them but the steady diet of animal protein. Nobody knows exactly how much is enough to cause the damage so we eliminate it all together. It actually isn't a part of their diet in the wild so why should we feed it?

    As I stated before, years ago we could only get an iguana to live 4 or 5 years in captivity. Then they died, usually from renal failure! Their organs just could not handle the overload caused by trying to digest animal protein. By eliminating the animal protein we were feeding we now are seeing iguanas that live MUCH longer. Back then a 10-15 year old iguana was almost unheard of. Now its getting to be commonplace.
    Access to appropriate basking temperatures as well as areas to cool off is one of the necessities that they must be provided and one of the reasons a large cage is necessary. But they don't need 105, 90-95 will do nicely.
  4. LLoydene

    LLoydene Elite Member

    I would like to know what evolution theory you are working on!???? Iguanas do tell us what it is they want to eat and it would not be, for the most part, insects [omnivore]. Those that chose to eat these are your abnormal of the species.. And honest to goodness I have yet to see any post that tells me or anyone else that is what they prefer and refuse to eat anything else!! So yes to your question.. We do know what it is that they prefer and it isn't insects.. And Evolution had everything to do with this!!:)
  5. TheVirus

    TheVirus Active Member


    I think you misunderstood me. I never said Iggs should be fed a staple of bugs. I said, if you put bugs in the enclosure and they eat it, then they eat bugs.

    Hey Merlin,

    I don't own an Iguana. My parents owned a couple when I was a child, when the whole Ig craze hit in the 80's. I can't remember them being fed bugs at all.

    I'm an outsider looking in. I have experience and own many species of lizards from monitors and chameleons, to beardies and geckos. I'm more curious than anything.

    At what core body temp does an Iguana operate fully? Does that temp fluctuate based on needs? The reason I ask is, if the core temp for optimal digestion is 98* (just a guess) they will never be able to achieve this core temp in your recommended basking range. If optimal core temps are in the low 90's, then it would take a long time and a lot of basking to achieve this temp in your recommended basking temps.

    In my opinion, with low basking temps like you recommend, its no wonder these animals have a reputation for organ failure. These animals are designed to store nutrients, proteins, etc., and use little energy. If that can't metabolize anything properly, it will just get stored. Its the same for all lizards.
  6. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    Hi, I understand what you`re saying, and for some reptile species it may be true, but iguana`s have lower "activity" temps and a much lower metabolism than for instance varanids, the "low" basking temps you speak of are quite high enough for these animals to achieve their optimum temps, and metabolise their food efficiently, enough scientific studies have been completed on them for us to know what conditions are needed to keep them in good health. Reptiles have very different needs, they don`t all require basking temps in the range of 130 to 160f!
  7. TheVirus

    TheVirus Active Member

    Hey Murrindindi,

    I understand reptiles have different requirements. Basking temps should really be just options. When offered properly, I highly doubt an iguana would not use temps in the 130's.

    I have a friend who grew up in Honduras. When he was young, he would go down by the river to find iguanas to make iguana soup (just like chicken soup except with iguana). He said the best way to find large iguanas was on the banks basking in the sun, or in the limbs that were exposed to sunlight that hung over the river. He also said that it is very hot and humid in Honduras. It would be foolish to assume that surface temps don't get over 100* in Honduras.

    I have applied these temps successfully with other animals besides Monitors. Sandfish, Veiled Chameleons, Painted turtles, Bearded Dragons, to name a few. I've also seen it applied with Uros, tegus, Cyclura, and torts.

    If they use it, I offer it. I let them decide what they need. I don't know why we think we are so much better at being lizards. Offer them choices and watch them show you what they need. I've been successful with this philosophy. It can be applied to every reptile.
  8. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    I have and do own iguanas! And my first ones were back in the early 1970's. At that time people just like you took the idea that all lizards were the same. We were advised to feed them bugs, pinkie mice, dog food, monkey biscuits, all manner of animal protiens.

    They grew fast! But after a few years they died!

    It does indeed. And in this they are like other reptiles. If they have a belly full of food to digest they seek higher temperatures to bask. And when they are well along in digesting they retreat to a cooler shady spot. There is no one temperature at which they keep their body all the time. It doesn't work that way.
    Not really. Considering that the ambient temperature is in the mid 80's it doesn't take them that long to warm up by a few degrees. Iguanas, like most reptiles, are designed to function in this manner. The dewlap as well as the spikes are filled with blood vessels and act like a radiator to soak up and disappate heat. They can also control their coloration, lightening and darkening as needed.
    And if you ever looked at wild iguanas they do spend a lot of their time basking.

    You are not listening! Yes they had a problem with organ failure but we now know exactly why! And it is within our power to prevent it and informed keepers do just THAT!

    And you would be highly incorrect. It has been found that at exposure to 115 degrees iguanas started dying! THESE ARE NOT DESERT ANIMALS!
    You are making the mistake of comparing an animal that lives in a warm humid rainforest environment up in the tree top canopies, with animals that live in the desert and spend their time on sunbaked rock and dry earth. Theres a big temperature difference.
    The foolish part is assuming that it is going to be 130 degrees in the tropical rainforest! In fact the highest ever recorded temperature in Honduras was 109.9 degrees. It was in San Pedro Sula. And that was considered an extreme spike in temperature. The normal highs are in the 90's.

    What makes the tropics feel so hot is temperatures in the 90's with a humidity so thick you can almost touch it. An iguana would never encounter 130 degree temps in their natual habitat.
    Granted if there were bare exposed rock in this temp in direct sun it could reach a higher surface temperature. But the iguanas aren't laying on rock. they are laying on grassy banks, and on tree limbs. And when they get too warm they drop off into the water and cool off! They are just not designed to live in the temperature zone you are suggesting. It would kill them
  9. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    Hi "thevirus", I don`t understand the remarks you make about "core temperatures", reptiles do NOT have a specific "core temp", and you mention as a complete guess, 98f for an iguana? The "activity" temperature of any reptile is variable, they do NOT have a specific temp at which they "operate", unlike most mammals, all species/families of reptiles operate within certain temp RANGES, the difference in captivity is that the range of temps in the enclosure is within fairly close levels to the range they need to live a (hopefully) active and healthy life, they don`t experience the differences they would in the wild, as Merlin says, it doesn't take long to heat up because they don`t cool down to the extent they might sometimes in the wild; and as I stated, enough research has been done on iguanas to know the correct conditions needed for their long-term survival in captivity.
  10. PrimalBeasts

    PrimalBeasts Well-Known Member

    wow, I'd like to thank everybody for responding towards my post. I've really learned a lot and everyone has raised up interesting points. I've learned a lot from this and I hope to learn more :D. I can't wait to have one of these emerald gems in my reptile collection :D.
  11. Gibson90kb

    Gibson90kb Elite Member

    Iguanas sometimes don't like what they see. So they close their eyes. If they don't like an intruder, they make it disappear. ;) Doesn't mean they like it.

    In an evolution sense as you pointed out. Iguanas are in no way equipped to chase and kill prey of any kind. they cannot digest it even if they do come to eat it.

    If it were eaten, Mr iguana probably wasn't happy with its presence.
  12. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    That`s what this forum is all about; having intelligent discussions so that we can all learn what`s good/not good for the animals we keep! :)
  13. Og_

    Og_ Elite Member

    This is the point of this whole discussion!

    An Iguana may choose to eat a bug every now and then in the wild. It may be lacking something that us humans can only guess about!

    Dogs and Cats will chew on grass from time to time. How many people do you see offering bowls of grass to dogs and cats?
  14. TheVirus

    TheVirus Active Member

    Hey Merlin,

    I think your confusing ambient temps with surface temps. I have no doubt that an iguana will avoid ambient (air) temps of 115. The surface of an area can heat up beyond the air. The sun is very powerful. Its like the road or beach on a sunny day. The air temps may be in the 80's, but you'll have to make a mad dash for wet sand when you arrive at the beach. Guessing that our skin is in the low 90's, for the sand to feel that hot, it must be.

    The type of surface needs to be taken in consideration. Color and heat conduction need to be taken in consideration too. A frying pan at 140* might burn you. A dark rock will feel too hot to keep your hand on for long. But a piece of plywood will feel hot, but not uncomfortable. All three surfaces will be around the same distance from the bulb, thus receiving the same amount of heat radiation. If your animal was to bask on the rock, you would have to move it further away from the bulb, so your dragon is getting less heat transfer through radiation. So
    I say not to force them to bask at 92.6342*. I say offer them "surface" temps from the low 90's all the way up to 130*, by offering a bank of low watt bulbs, close to a piece of plywood. This way the animal will never have to use it if the animal so chooses. If he wants to spend alot of time away from the heat source, he can. He will have the ability to heat up rapidly, enabling him to do something else with his life.

    I live in NY. Not only can I find surface temps of 130* while the air is in the 80's, but I can find the native reptiles (snakes, turtles, and five lined skink) using them.

    I'm lazy. I gave up trying to completely decide every aspect and need for my lizards. I now allow them to make decisions for themselves. What I found was that these animals know what they are doing. They don't need us to completely dominate them. They have the ability to satisfy needs themselves through behaviour. I now sit back and watch the masters at work. I try and create an environment where the lizards can satisfy all needs behaviourally. I never have to remove my animal from the enclosure to satisfy a need (baths, nesting, etc). I only have to add to the enclosure (food, water).
  15. Kendalle

    Kendalle Elite Member

    you don't need to give a rock to an iguana they bask in the trees not on rocks, trees don't get that hot, they don't use belly heat, they use the sun on top, if you give them a heat rock they burn them selves on it, it is not what they are accustomed to in the wild
  16. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    That makes sense to me!

    Hi again TheVirus (great name, by the way), I still think what you`re saying as far as iguanas are concerned is quite wrong, these animals live much of their lives high in the tree canopy, they do NOT experience temps in the ranges you give, and also, if the surface temp of the rock is 130f, so is the temp of the plywood, although obviously the rock will retain the heat for longer, it`s still too hot! Iguanas are NOT native to New York, the native animals you may find there will have very different needs to the tropical iguanas in terms of temps etc... You say they don`t need us to "completely dominate" them, the truth is they DO need us to provide ALL the conditions they need to survive, and have long healthy lives. (But you raise some interesting points, and it`s a good discussion)! One final point; how close to the animals do you suggest the bank of bulbs, I`m guessing to within a few inches?
  17. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    Not at all. What I am saying is that to have a 130 degree area in a green iguana's enclosure is completely unnecessary. These animals bask in the treetops on branches and only occassionally down on the ground. They do not seek out hot stones or hot earth the way a desert animal would. They're adapted to receiving heat from above, not their belly. Thats why they tend to burn themselves on things like heat rocks. They don't even realize how hot it is until it is too late.
    And considering that many people keep their iguanas in enclosures that are either the bare minimum or even too cramped, having a basking area of 130 degrees that is large enough for an adult iguana to use it is going to seriously overheat the rest of the enclosure.

    As for us "dominating them"... It is not domination to provide them what they need to live comfortable and long lives. We can only do that by educating ourselves as to what they truly need.
    When it comes to reptile keeping it was never more true.
    One size really DOESN'T fit all.
  18. TheVirus

    TheVirus Active Member

    Hi guys. Again I don't own Iguanas. I'm not trying to get everybody to try anything. I'm just discussing husbandry.

    I'm surprised that you don't understand this seeing that you own a forest monitor and should know how to set up a functional environment that allows for natural/instinctual behaviours.

    I've been hearing "why" heat rocks burn animals for years. In my opinion, it has nothing to do with not feeling heat. It has to do with a faulty heat rock, or a large animal being forced to heat up on a smaller heat rock. It would be the same as a large monitor trying to heat his whole body using a single spot bulb. Thats why I said a bank of bulbs. A large hot spot. This way the animal can bask his whole body at a time.

    I recommend the plywood because it transfers heat slower than rock. It allows the animal to make use of the heat from above. Even veiled chameleons use set ups and temps like this, and they're little : )

    This would take some experimenting. I'd personally start with 50 watt or 90 watt indoor/outdoor halogen flood bulbs.

    I used dominating because its whats done. Every need is provided for when and how the keeper decides. They hydrate when bathed, they nest when removed, they shed properly when misted or bathed, they can't hide or have to use hides at pre-set temps, darkness, tightness, and humidty. They have to heat up at a pre-set temps. Humidity, temps, hides, and every combo of the three are pre-set. The animal makes no choices. They are not allowed a life, they are allowed to not die. Understand, an iguanas only purpose is to reproduce. Every behaviour they have is based on this. What behaviours do you allow for?

    I like to study behaviour, and give the animals the tools they need to fulfill needs instinctually/naturally themselves. I like to offer lots of choices and options. From humidity, to hides, temps, dirt. The real important things to a lizard : )

  19. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    I do not have a monitor of any kind.
    The fact that the heat rock is not operating properly is a given. However, if they could feel the fact that the heat rock was too warm they would move away.
    And if the keeper is intelligent and caring the needs will be provided for, based on what is KNOWN by utilizing the information gathered by years of research as well as successful keepers. You use the knowledge of what they would encounter in their natural habitat. Not just throwing together somethng based on one opinion of what one person thinks is applicable.
    In your opinion. Your statement might be valid regarding those who just buy an animal and plunk it down in an empty 10 gal tank.
    My iguana, as well as the keepers I am familiar with, allow their charges a lot of choices. They have available different temperature and heat gradients so they can move around and make themselves comfortable at the temperatures that they need to be at at any given time, different, proper foods, and enclosures that are suited to the needs of the specific animal.
    That might be true in the grand scheme of the natural world, but in our case these are pets! In your manner of thinking maybe we should also lock predators in their cages so that they can feel the exhiliration of the increased flow of adrenaline,..,just before they are eaten!

    You admit to never having kept an Iguana, yet you are arguing points based solely on your opinions, with no experience to back them up. You are choosing to ignore information, years of knowledge, of what is required to maintain healthy iguanas based on field work as well as experienced keepers.
  20. murrindindi

    murrindindi Elite Member

    Hi Tim, I think the forest monitor remarks were meant for me, my answer (and most other peoples, I would think) is to do exactly as you suggest; provide the correct environment for the particular animal to live a long healthy life, I/we do that!! I think you assuime ALL reptiles live in areas where they experience temps in the130 to 150f range, and that they bask in them, that`s quite WRONG, they (usually) bask in the early morning and late afternoon, once their "activity" temp is reached they become active, then shuttle back and forth from sun to shade throughout the day.
    I use a bank of lights, but they need to be spaced quite far apart because my monitor is 7.5 feet long, I use a combination of Megarays and metal halides, plus either infra-red or ceramic lamps to supplement/ provide the basking and night temps, so I completely agree with you on the needs of each animal, that`s the whole point, the needs of that particular species/family, NOT one way for all! And hopefully people do the necessary research BEFORE they aquire the animal/s; that`s NOT "dominating" the animal, it`s providing for ALL it`s needs in captivity. You do EXACTLY that, I just think you offer too much in the way of the very high basking temps for animals that do not use them, according to the best research available. Explain what "choices" your animals make that other peoples don`t?? A final point: Iguanas, like varanids benefit from UVB irradiation, the lamps you propose do not emmit uvb?

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