It is no secret that Iguanas love munching on veggies and fruits. However, not all veggies and fruits make good food options for Iguanas. If you are a new iguana owner, you have probably wondered whether you can give your iguana zucchini.
So, can Iguanas eat zucchini? Yes, zucchini is a safe vegetable choice for iguanas. As a low-calorie veggie, zucchini contains reasonable amounts of antioxidants, fiber, m=inerals, and vitamins. However, zucchinis are not particularly dense from a nutritional standpoint, meaning they should only be used as an occasional snack and not as a food staple for iguanas.
Read on to discover all the caveats about feeding your iguana zucchinis. Just because they are safe and non-toxic does not mean they can be consumed daily and in large amounts.
THE ZUCCHINI VEGGIE IN A NUTSHELL
Native to Central America and Mexico, zucchini (Cucurbita pepo) is summer squash. Zucchini belongs to the same family as melons and cucumbers, and from a botanical standpoint, it is a fruit, but interestingly we generally treat it as a vegetable (in fact, it is the only fruit starting with “z”). Zucchini has a mild flavor and can be used both raw and cooked.
Nutrition facts about zucchini
These are some of the nutrients found in one cup (124 grams) of raw chopped zucchini:
- Calories: 21
- Protein: 1.5 g
- Fat: 0.4 g
- Cholesterol: 0 g
- Carbohydrates: 3.9 g
- Fiber: 1.2 g
- Sugars: 3.1 g
- Sodium: 9.9 mg.
And here are the zucchini’s vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Folic acid
As you can see, containing over 94% water and no cholesterol, zucchini is a low-calorie food. Despite having various vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber, it is still considered a nutritionally poor veggie for iguanas, meaning it should be fed with caution and moderation.
THE RIGHT DIET FOR IGUANAS
Contrary to popular belief, iguanas do not eat meat – they are strictly herbivorous lizards. Well, to be more precise, they are folivores meaning they thrive on tree and vine leaves. In the wild, in addition to leaves, iguanas will occasionally eat some fruits and flowers.
In captivity settings, pet iguanas should be fed foods that resemble their natural diet – namely, exclusively plant material. Generally speaking, your iguana will need dark leafy green veggies (80-90%) and some fruits (10-20%).
There are suggestions about enriching your iguana’s diet with commercially available pelleted or canned food formulated for this lizard species. However, their quality and suitability for iguanas are somewhat questionable.
First, they usually contain animal-sourced protein, which can cause liver and kidney damage if fed regularly to iguanas. Second, commercial iguana foods often have suspicious ingredients – for example, many contain copper sulfate, and there is not enough research demonstrating this chemical’s safety for iguanas. Last but not least, many iguanas refuse to eat dry foods.
The bottom line is, stay on the safe side and stick to veggies and fruits with proven health benefits for iguanas.
CAN IGUANAS EAT ZUCCHINI?
Yes, zucchini is a safe, healthy, and non-toxic veggie for iguanas. It is low-calorie and with several nutrients like fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Although iguanas can enjoy zucchini, following the proper feeding guidelines is important.
What about other zucchini parts?
Basically, all zucchini parts are edible, and that includes flowers, leaves, and peels. However, if feeding these parts, it is paramount to prepare them properly, and by that, we mean give them a thorough washing.
If thoroughly washed, the peel is the healthiest part of the zucchini because it contains the highest antioxidants.
The only zucchini part that you need to discard is the stem. The stem is hard to chew and should not be offered since it poses a choking hazard.
HEALTH BENEFITS: IS ZUCCHINI GOOD FOR IGUANAS?
Let’s start with the reasons why zucchini make a good treat choice for iguanas.
Zucchini are low-calorie snacks
It is hard to find a tasty and healthy snack option. Luckily, zucchini is precisely that – a non-junk snack for iguanas. Obesity can be a problem in iguanas and can also lead to other health risks. However, with only 21 calories per cup, zucchini is the perfect low-calorie veggie.
Zucchini provides a hydration booster
As mentioned, zucchini is mostly water, meaning when fed rationally, they can help keep your iguana well-hydrated. Just keep in mind that zucchini are no substitute for a water dish.
Zucchini provides a fair amount of fiber
As herbivores, iguanas thrive on high-fiber diets, which they efficiently break down into usable nutrients. Zucchini, especially the leaves and peel, are rich in fiber, thus ensuring healthy and digestive health-boosting meals for iguanas. The high fiber amount also promotes a healthy and well-functioning cardiovascular system.
The zucchini peel is loaded with antioxidants
The zucchini peel contains several different antioxidants, including lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene. Antioxidants protect the cells from free radicals and prevent oxidative cell damage.
Zucchini contains calcium, thus preventing MBD
Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) is one of the most common health issues in captive lizards. Poor dietary and husbandry conditions cause it – mainly lack of calcium and vitamin D. Although zucchini is not the wealthiest calcium choice for iguanas, the content is enough to contribute to MBD prevention.
Zucchini contains a kaleidoscope of vitamins and minerals
Zucchini is rich in several vitamins like vitamin A, C, B6, and folic acid. They are also rich in minerals like potassium, iron, and magnesium. Each of these nutrients has a specific role in the body and is considered essential.
HEALTH RISKS: IS ZUCCHINI BAD FOR IGUANAS?
On paper, zucchini sound pretty great – they are low in calories, sugar, and fat and high in fiber and antioxidants and iguanas love the taste. So, why not feed them all the time? Well, here are some risks associated with giving your iguana too much zucchini.
Zucchini is not a staple food
Zucchini make excellent treats, but they are not a staple food mainly because of the high water content. Eating high-water foods in excess amounts can cause diarrhea, and an iguana with diarrhea is at serious dehydration risk. In case your iguana has diarrhea, it is critical you seek veterinary help.
Zucchini is often contaminated with pesticides
Unless shopping exclusively organic, the zucchini will probably have pesticide residues accumulated primarily on the peel. Pesticides pose a severe health threat for iguanas, just like they do for people. Putting the zucchini in a colander and giving them a thorough washing will help minimize the number of pesticide residues.
FEEDING GUIDELINES: ZUCCHINI FOR IGUANAS
As you can see, there are both pros and cons of feeding iguanas zucchini. To use the zucchini health benefits while avoiding the potential risks, it is necessary to stick to the zucchini feeding guidelines for iguanas.
It is also essential to make a slow and gradual zucchini introduction. Give your iguana a tiny chunk (preferably shredded) and see how it reacts to the new food. The sudden implementation of new foods may upset the digestive system and cause gastrointestinal issues.
How much zucchini can iguanas eat?
Iguanas can eat several small and shredded zucchini chunks per serving. To achieve a balanced meal, you can mix the zucchini shreds with nutritionally dense plants like escarole, endive, broccoli leaves, collard greens, hibiscus, watercress, or rose petals.
Do not offer zucchini in combination with other nutritionally poor and water-rich choices like iceberg lettuce, cucumber, asparagus, or watermelon.
How often can iguanas eat zucchini?
Iguanas can safely eat zucchini once per week. This is because you want to ensure a balanced and nutritionally rich diet for your iguana. Eating zucchini more than once per week will not directly harm the iguana but will limit the intake of other vegetables and fruits with higher and denser nutrition profiles.
How to prepare zucchini for iguanas?
Just like people, iguanas can enjoy their zucchini in two ways – raw and cooked. Obviously, the raw version is healthier as cooking takes away most of the nutrients.
With that being said, we should accent the importance of purchasing the right zucchini for your iguana. Luckily, zucchini are readily available in both supermarkets and local farmer’s markets.
When choosing, make sure there are no signs of molds and spoiling and the zucchini look healthy and fresh. As a general rule of thumb, if the zucchini looks like something you would eat and serve your family, it is safe for your iguana.
Once you have the zucchini home, you need to wash them properly. Commercially grown zucchini are heavily treated with pesticides which can leave residues, especially in the peel. Buying organic zucchini eliminates this risk, but they are not always available and come with rather hefty price tags.
The best zucchini serving method for iguanas is shredding. You can immediately slice the zucchini before serving or shred them in advance and store them in the refrigerator in an air-tight container.
Finally, keep in mind that iguanas can be messy while eating. To avoid making even bigger messes make sure the shredded zucchini is served in a food bowl. Because of the water content, zucchini are prone to quick spoiling. To prevent your iguana from eating zucchini that have gone bad, remove all zucchini leftovers from the enclosure.
OUR FINAL THOUGHTS
Zucchini can be a great addition to your iguana’s menu as long as it is used and served correctly. All in all, zucchini is a healthy part of the veggie mix, but it is not a staple food and must not be used as a substitute for leafy greens.
Another key takeaway would be to purchase fresh and, if possible organic zucchinis and give them a thorough wash before serving. Zucchinis taste tremendous, and your iguana will be happy when offered.