Iguana Diets — Setting the Record Straight



History Of Iguana Diets On The Internet

Hypocrisy And Untruths

A Side-By-Side View

Further Evidence of a Lack of Understanding

Confused About Alfalfa

Back to the Calcium Misunderstanding

A Poor Knowledge of Fruits

Further Evidence of a Lack of Reading

Flawed Knowledge of Vitamins

Further Misdemeanours

Foregone Conclusions

Author Bios

References Cited
Julie Allison
Alta Brewer
Adam Britton
Katherine Kearns
Anne Marsden
Bill Myers
Kim Scott
Desiree Wong


The question of what makes a good diet for a green iguana is an important one. There has been much confusion and misinformation over the years about what constitutes the best diet for green iguanas. It has literally only been in the last two to three years that some of these issues have been addressed by vets and researchers, and the Internet has been one of the driving forces for this change. However, in recent months a situation has arisen which, far from being productive, is causing much consternation between iguana owners over the issue of diets. Kevin Egan, the proprietor of "The Iguana Den", has been promoting what he calls his "world famous Iguana Den diet". His aggressive marketing has seen intelligent discussion and research take a back seat in favour of a string of attacks on other Internet diets. These attacks have culminated in an article on his website entitled "The Diet Comparison" which, instead of discussing the pros and cons of different iguana diets, is instead a collection of unfair statements, poorly-researched ideas and flawed reasoning. Previous attempts to point out the inconsistencies in Kevin's arguments have resulted simply in more aggressive rhetoric. His most scathing opinions and misinformation are directed against a diet known as the "MK diet" developed several years ago by Melissa Kaplan.

A number of experienced iguana owners, educators and biologists have seen quite enough of Mr. Egan's approach to the idea of diets. His exaggerated claims and belittling rhetoric are choking any meaningful dialogue. In fact, he is sowing unproductive confusion amongst both new and experienced iguana owners, and really is starting to erode confidence in the Internet as a source of reliable and well-researched information on responsible iguana care. If Kevin Egan is, as he claims to be, interested in putting iguana welfare first, then he needs to start supplementing his views on diet with some facts. If you have not already done so, we suggest that you visit Kevin's "The Diet Comparison" page and read it before proceeding with this article.

The various points that Kevin raises in his page, "The Diet Comparison", will be addressed below. Excerpts from his "The Diet Comparison" page appear as red text.

History of Iguana Diets on the Internet

1. "For longer than I care to remember people all over the Internet have been trying to compare the Iguana Den Diet to other iguana diets. There is no argument among most that 2 diets found on the net rank among the best, The MK SALAD and the IGUANA DEN DIET."

The above statements are unfair and incorrect.

Through the work of Melissa Kaplan and Jennifer Swofford, a source of properly researched dietary information has been available on the Internet for a number of years—even before the Internet became the mass-market force is has today become. Both Jennifer's and Melissa's diets date back in their original form to 1993/4 (over two years before Mr. Egan made his appearance on the Internet*), when it became clear after owning iguanas for a number of years that the information found in books and available from pet stores simply wasn't doing the job. Because iguanas are resilient and adaptable creatures, this has led to a delay in acceptance of new ideas on diet in both the pet and vet communities. Iguanas can survive for a remarkably long period of time—several years—on a poor and unbalanced diet, and inexperienced owners may not be able to see the warning signs until it's too late.

Fortunately, new research is starting to change views on iguana dietary requirements in many quarters, and both Melissa and Jen were on the right track all along. Since they first appeared, both of these diets have been refined and modified as the authors learned new information and integrated it into their thinking—perhaps adding some elements and removing others. The dietary information provided now agrees with that recommended by respected reptile nutritionists such as Susan Donoghue DVM and these diets are widely respected both on an off the Internet. It is Melissa Kaplan's diet which has perhaps become the more popular of the two because of accessibility. Jennifer Swofford's diet places more emphasis upon greens, but essentially the two are both deserving of merit.

  Kevin Egan then appeared on the scene—someone who, like both Melissa and Jennifer, had been rescuing and adopting out green iguanas to new homes. The diet he used was his own, and soon evolved into the "Iguana Den Diet" which was posted on his website. He promoted this diet as the one being used successfully with his rescued green iguanas. Fair enough. For reasons unknown, however, he abandoned this approach and soon began to claim that his Iguana Den diet was the only one worthy of being fed to green iguanas. Perhaps he didn't feel he was getting the recognition he desired, because soon he began to attack Melissa Kaplan directly—her diet, her care information, and even her personally. To outside observers, it appeared that Kevin was becoming increasingly desperate to make his Iguana Den diet look like the "world famous" diet he proclaimed it to be.

This first quote of Mr. Egan's, above, points out his lack of knowledge regarding the historical evolution of the research and work of both Ms. Swofford and Ms. Kaplan in developing their widely accepted iguana diets. The Iguana Den diet is in fact the youngest of the "popular" diets on the Internet.

The Internet iguana community initially dismissed Kevin's claims of dietary superiority as healthy competition. When Kevin escalated the proceedings from promoting his dietary philosophy to attacking the competition, he began to lose respect in some circles. This loss of credibility has now reached new levels with the posting of his diet comparison article. The competition that was once healthy is now quite the opposite. As an argument intended to persuade thoughtful individuals, it has, in our estimation, failed. Instead, it highlights the fact that Kevin Egan's grasp of iguana biology and nutrition is lacking in several key areas. For the sake of presenting sufficient information so that individual iguana keepers can make up their own minds, it was decided to formulate this response to the issues raised by Kevin Egan.

Hypocrisy and Untruths

At the start of his article, Kevin Egan makes a number of statements which give a very false impression of his approach to this situation. The hypocrisy and exaggeration of facts here are difficult to miss. The first example appears in the second paragraph of "The Diet Comparison".

2. "I try hard not to get caught up in this battle as I know which one I would choose each and every time."

Of course, Kevin is not only getting caught up in this battle, but he is creating it simply by putting up his diet comparison page. Not only did Kevin Egan initiate this "war", but he is the one who continually perpetuates it. One is forced to ask why, if the Iguana Den diet is supposed to be so good, it cannot speak for itself? Apparently, it cannot. While the Iguana Den diet is certainly not lacking in merit, it does appear to be lacking in both content and philosophy. In the view of many, it does not stand up to Melissa Kaplan's nor Jennifer Swofford's proven diets.

3. "This page is in no way a reflection of my feelings toward Melissa Kaplan herself. It is not planned as an attack on her in no way, shape, or form. Melissa has some truly good advice to offer on Iguana Care, however it is my beliefs, research and experience that allows me to disagree with much of her dietary and nutritional information as you will see on this page."

This is yet another example of Mr. Egan's hypocrisy. Anyone who has followed developments over the last few months will be aware that Kevin Egan has continually attacked and belittled Melissa Kaplan and her diet at almost every opportunity—apparently in order to achieve greater recognition for his own diet. It is quite plain that Melissa Kaplan has a veritable wealth of experience backed up by solid and objective research, and Kevin's criticisms appear to be little more than invective. Contrary to his claims, Kevin appears to have a poor grasp of what "research" actually constitutes.

Kevin, in most of his writings, promotes the idea that an iguana's health revolves around its diet. The implication is that by switching to the Iguana Den diet, all of the iguana's problems will suddenly be solved. This is simply not true. Iguanas require correct husbandry in a number of important areas. An iguana on the best diet in the world will still fare badly if the rest of its husbandry isn't up to scratch. Many beginners make this mistaken assumption, and Kevin should be correcting, not perpetuating, it.


A Side-By-Side View

Kevin Egan presents a table comparing the Iguana Den diet with Melissa Kaplan's diet. Unfortunately, this is where holes in Kevin's argument begin to appear, starting with a serious misinterpretation of Melissa Kaplan's diet. What he doesn't seem to realise, or has simply ignored, is that the MK diet contains a suggested core of greens and vegetables, and that Ms. Kaplan goes on to recommend that this core should be varied with a number of other vegetables and greens in order to contribute to a balanced diet. Kevin is unaware of the fact that his Iguana Den diet is, in fact, a subset of Melissa Kaplan's diet! All the greens listed under his diet can, in fact, be included in the leafy greens part of the MK diet.

4. "I find it very peculiar that Melissa recommends to add EXTRA Calcium to offset the HIGH Phosphorus Values in these vegetables. Adding Calcium will only elevate the calcium levels already found within a diet. Adding Calcium will do NOTHING to help lower High Phosphorus Values. I am curious as to why Ms. Kaplan does not mention that High Phosphorus levels are often associated with Kidney Failure in the Green Iguana. It should also be noted that Adding EXTRA Calcium can cause a condition called HyperCalcemia - An abnormally high Blood Calcium Level. This condition can cause Calcium Crystallization in the Muscles and Kidney Stones."

This except from Kevin's article contains a number of factual errors which will be addressed below. What is most interesting here, though, is the suggestion that Melissa Kaplan's diet 1) contains too much phosphorous and that it 2) could lead to hypercalcaemia. Unfortunately, Kevin hasn't looked at his own table nor understood some key facts about calcium and phosphorous—according to his figures, it is the Iguana Den diet that is more likely to lead eventually to hypercalcaemia in an iguana.

It is a well-established, nutritional fact (e.g. Donoghue 1994, 1996; Donoghue & Langenberg, 1995, 1996) that reptiles require a calcium to phosphorous ratio (Ca:P) in the bloodstream of between 1:1 and 2:1, with iguanas being closer to 2:1 (Donoghue 1993)—that is, twice as much calcium as phosphorous. According to Kevin Egan, the Ca:P ratio of the Iguana Den diet is 3.7:1, whereas that of the MK diet is 2.1:1. This means that the Iguana Den diet contains almost twice the level of calcium deemed necessary for healthy iguanas.

It is puzzling that Kevin Egan does not understand this, one of the most fundamental concepts in nutrition. The Iguana Den diet is more suited, in fact, for iguanas with considerable calcium deficiency to help them recover their calcium stores. After this, calcium input must be reduced significantly. Melissa Kaplan's diet is a far better choice for healthy iguanas, and the intelligent owner can—by following Melissa's suggestions—modify the diet to increase calcium input for an unhealthy iguana. Veterinary advice should also be followed at such a time where calcium supplements are normally provided.

5. "Adding Calcium will only elevate the calcium levels already found within a diet. Adding Calcium will do NOTHING to help lower High Phosphorus Values."

When feeding natural foods, it is the ratio of Ca:P which is important, not the amounts. Thus Kevin Egan does not take into consideration the basics of nutrition and biochemistry. Chemical compounds interact with each other, so it is the ratio of each component which is important, not the numerical amount or weight. All the calcium in the world won't matter if there are other compounds around to bind it all and make it chemically unavailable to the iguana. Adding calcium to offset high phosphorous values is very good sense, as again it is the ratio that is important and not the amount.

6. "I am curious as to why Ms. Kaplan does not mention that High Phosphorus levels are often associated with Kidney Failure in the Green Iguana."

Melissa does mention that high phosphorous values are associated with kidney failure. However, Kevin misunderstands the fact that a high serum phosphorous value is a symptom of kidney failure in green iguanas, not the cause of it (Divers 1997, Barten 1996, Boyer 1996). Further, it is surprising that Kevin missed these statements on Melissa's pages as they can easily be found in her section on "Kidney Failure in Green Iguanas".

7. "…HyperCalcemia - An abnormally high Blood Calcium Level. This condition can cause Calcium Crystallization in the Muscles and Kidney Stones."

This is a vague and incorrect statement. Kidney stones are formed by an excess build-up of uric acid crystals (Mader, 1996), which have very little to do with calcium which normally leads to crystallisation in blood vessels (Murray, 1996), mineral imbalances and intestinal complications (Donoghue & Langenberg, 1996), bone lesions and parathyroid problems (Campbell, 1996).


Further Evidence of a Lack of Understanding

8. "Out of typical fairness I chose to use only the foods that are highest in Ca:P that Melissa recommends to be used."

Kevin has overlooked the fact that Melissa also recommends varying the diet with other vegetables, and that the vegetables she suggests are intended as a basis upon which an well balanced diet can be built. This suggestion is readily found in Melissa's care documents, including her extensive Iguana Care, Feeding and Socialization article.

9a. "Green Beans are typically not a bad food but only contain a Ca:P ratio of 1.2:1 and a protein level of 1.2 grams."

9b. "Squashes are commonly known to be high phosphorus vegetables. I have detailed the exact values for each of these in the table below."

Kevin seems to believe that the Ca:P ratio of individual food items or individual meals is a problem. Again, it is the overall ratio of the diet in aggregate which is important, not the individual components which make up that ratio.

In his table of squashes, he neglects to mention that two of the squashes he lists contain reasonable to good ratios of calcium, and he also misses out varieties such as butternut squash which a number of people—including Melissa—have been recommending due to its preferable Ca:P ratio.

Moreover, many of the values he lists in his comparison table are, quite simply, wrong. As Kevin does not cite his sources, it is impossible to determine the cause of his inaccuracies. For an accurate assessment of the nutritional values of a great many vegetables, the reader is encouraged to check out the United States Dept. of Agriculture's database. Many other values are available in Donoghue & Langenberg (1996), Boyer (1996), and elsewhere.

10. "Melissa makes the statement that Kabocha has been known to bring out the BLUE accent in skin colors. I find this strange that this is credited to only one vegetable as poor a source as it may be. Many users of the Iguana Den Diet will often state that since they have switched from the MK Salad to Iguana Den Diet that not only has their Iguanas eating habits increased as well as the activity levels but the bright greens and blues have started to appear. Bright Colors should be credited to a peak in good healthy and not a specific food."

Kevin conveys the idea that Melissa makes an unsubstantiated claim about kaboucha. In fact, Melissa reports observations about kaboucha made by other researchers. To quote her ICFS article, under the Basic Salad subheading, she actually says, "For the orange vegetable, select one of the orange-fleshed squashes (Kaboucha has been reported to bring out any blue accent skin colors)." Even if she did assert that this squash enhances blue coloration, she would not be alone in thinking this.

Carotene has long been suspected to enhance certain colours—this is common knowledge in the bird and fish hobbyist and breeding literature, as well as being cited in some reptile veterinary literature, including Frye (1991). Given its prevalence in the literature, and the number of widely available pet food products which advertise their color-enhancement additives, it is surprising that Kevin's research hasn't brought it to his attention. Kaboucha and other squashes, as well as many leafy greens, contain these color-enhancing carotenoids.

Kevin is correct in stating that "Bright Colors should be credited to a peak in good healthy and not a specific food". In fact, that is exactly what Melissa says in several articles in her Iguana Care Collection, including Iguana Skin Color and Signs of Illness and Stress in Reptiles. Thus, Kevin is in fact in agreement with Melissa, and both are in this instance supported by vets such as Rossi (1996), who also cite the influence of a variety of factors on skin color such as general health, genetic factors, temperature, hydration, and stress.

Finally, it must be noted that, contrary to Mr. Egan's assertions, thousands of users of Melissa Kaplan's dietary advice have seen a dramatic improvement in the health of their iguana. Melissa feels that her diet speaks for itself and, unlike Kevin, has not felt the need to put up specific web pages telling others how great she or her diet is.


Confused About Alfalfa

11. "Melissa claims that Alfalfa has 15% Protein by value and a 6:1 ratio."

Kevin then lists the values for alfalfa sprouts, not realising (through not reading, perhaps) that Melissa is talking about the mature alfalfa plant which does indeed have the values she claims of 6:1 Ca:P (Boyer, 1996).

12. "It should further be noted that Melissa further discusses a risk of Salmonella related to the use of Alfalfa."

Again, this applies to alfalfa sprouts (which Melissa does not recommend due to their poor nutritional content generally), and not to the mature plant. Furthermore, while the risk of Salmonella contamination from eating alfalfa sprouts may be slight for some individuals, a search of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website on "Salmonella & alfalfa & sprouts" brings up fifteen articles and reports on Salmonella and E. coli-infected sprouts. While iguanas already have commensal or saprophytic Salmonella bacteria in their guts, the serotypes found in human food are typically different, and increased loads of Salmonella could create illness in an already compromised iguana—another reason to only use mature alfalfa.

13. "Furthermore I have found that far more often than not the supply of Alfalfa (pellet or hay) found within pet shops is often contaminated with BUGS."

Perhaps Mr. Egan frequents a particularly poor set of pet stores, but most alfalfa which has been stored properly and is not too old will be quite free of bugs.

Back to the Calcium Misunderstanding

14. "Parsnips on their own have a very poor Calcium to Phosphorus Value of only .5:1."

This may be true, but of course one does not feed parsnip on its own—it should be part of a properly balanced diet. Yet again, Kevin seems to think that any vegetable that does not have a high ratio of calcium to phosphorous is nutritionally worthless. This is clearly nonsense. Kevin is committing an error here more commonly made by neophyte iguana keepers: thinking that the only important aspect of the diet is the Ca:P ratio. In fact, as stated by Melissa in her diet information, as well as Donoghue and other reptile veterinarians and biologists, plant-based protein also plays a significant role in the construction of the green iguana diet. Thus, as Melissa states in her article, she includes the parsnips and suggested alternatives in the diet for their contribution of plant proteins, not for their contribution to the diet's calcium content.

A Poor Knowledge of Fruits

15. "Most Fruits are known to have poor Ca:P values. The Iguana Den recommends the use of fruit only twice per week in order to limit foods with lower ratios."

This statement is in response to the fact that Melissa recommends 1/4 cup mashed fruits in her basic salad recipe. Kevin again doesn't understand the significance of this. Melissa's recommended fruit intake is 11% of the salad part of her diet. When added to the greens (recommended at around 50% of the total intake) this reduces fruit content to around 5% of the diet—which is exactly what is recommended by reptile nutritionist Donoghue (Donoghue & Langenberg, 1996).

16. "However, Fruits do add a nice Vitamin Boost to any diet. It is because of this added boost that the Iguana Den diet can boost the vitamin intake twice per week while eliminating all Vitamin Supplementation."

This statement is curious—it appears that Kevin is claiming that fruits can provide for any shortfall of vitamins, minerals and calcium that an iguana might need. Clearly this is totally wrong. Most fruits are little more than water, fructose, fibre and a few vitamins (Donoghue, 1996).

17. "It should also be known that fruits can also help to entice a poor or picky eater into eating again."

This bears an uncanny resemblance to Melissa Kaplan's exact words on the subject; it appears that there is some agreement after all!


Further Evidence of a Lack of Reading

18. "Melissa follows up by recommending the use of certain leafy greens but only if your iguana eats the Salad first."

Kevin Egan has simply misinterpreted Melissa's feeding instructions, or perhaps he hasn't read them. Melissa recommends feeding the greens after the salad has been eaten, especially with iguanas new to the basic salad, but not leaving out the greens altogether! Some iguana owners prefer to mix the greens in with the salad, others prefer to offer them separately. As with the Ca:P ratio, what is important is the diet aggregate, not the individual components nor when they are fed.

19. "Since I hope that I have pretty much shown by this time in this page how poor the salad is for an Iguana."

Quite the reverse, in fact. What Kevin has demonstrated is a serious lack of knowledge of basic nutrition and iguana biology. That Kevin is promoting his diet as being the best while at the same time also displaying such flawed reasoning should certainly be considered by serious readers when evaluating the Iguana Den diet, especially against those developed by others who have spent many years refining their own successful and widely respected diets.

20. "Consider the idea of feeding Junk Food to a child just before feeding that child a well balanced nutritional meal. The child will be so full of the junk food they will no be able to get what is actually good for them."

While Kevin intends this statement to apply to Melissa Kaplan's diet, ironically it is a more appropriate description of the Iguana Den diet. Any iguana which has been on a very poor diet to start with will show remarkable recovery if placed on a halfway decent diet. That certainly does not mean that "My Halfway Decent Diet TM" is actually good on a long-term basis—a properly balanced diet which considers all the iguana's dietary needs must be provided. So, while the Iguana Den diet may be suitable for helping abused iguanas towards recovery, it should then be adapted to incorporate Melissa Kaplan's or Jennifer Swofford's dietary suggestions to ensure long-term health.

Flawed Knowledge of Vitamins

21. "The MK SALAD would have you adding Powders for a lack of Calcium, Powders for a lack of Vitamins and more powders (Brewers Yeast) to replace Thiamin (B1) do to freezing. I guess it's a good thing that Vitamin is a water soluble vitamin that the body can easily remove since under her recommendation we would be adding Vitamin B when we have already just added a Vitamin powder. There is also a term HyperVitaminosis which refers to a condition in which the animal is overdosed on vitamins."

It has already been demonstrated above that Melissa's diet is not lacking in calcium or vitamins and that it provides a far better balance than the Iguana Den diet. Vitamin supplements are widely recognised as being of potential benefit where they will make up any shortfall of these essential elements in both humans and reptiles. Indeed, vitamin supplementation for herbivores is recommended by professional nutritionists (Donoghue & Langenberg, 1996) and non-supplementation makes metabolic bone disease more likely (Boyer, 1996). It requires considerable excess to lead to hypervitaminosis—which is quite rare in reptiles (Donoghue & Langenberg, 1996). In fact, a lack of vitamins in the diet is a far more common problem in iguanas. Melissa errs on the side of caution, Kevin simply errs.

As for thiamin, it is a long-established and well-known scientific fact that vitamin B1 is destroyed by the freezing and thawing process in warm temperatures. If you follow Kevin's advice, then this essential vitamin will be lacking in the diet if you freeze your iguana's food before serving. It must be added in supplements. Vitamin B1 is not present in sufficient quantities in vitamin supplements to make up this shortfall.

22. Ms. Kaplan also makes reference to a better source of Vitamins in which she recommends a crushed Centrum Tablet. I find it very unfortunate that she has failed to issue any type of dosage for this vitamin that was created to give a full grown human being his daily recommended allowances. Did I mention HyperVitaminosis??"

Melissa does provide a dosage for the crushed Centrum tablet (but, unfortunately for the reader in a hurry, not in the same sentence). She also recommends a different dosing regime for both juvenile and adult iguanas. A juvenile iguana actually requires greater amounts of certain vitamins and minerals than an adult because of its greatly increased need for tissue growth.

Further Misdemeanours

23. "She refers to such things as OXALIC ACIDS as a bad part of any diet. I'm sure she has failed at completely researching this area. Just a little more reading and maybe a little more experience she will someday, just maybe, learn what I have detailed on this same subject on my OXALIC ACIDS web docs."

Melissa has done considerable investigation of the research on oxalic acids—none of which support Kevin's suppositions—and these are detailed in her web articles.

Furthermore, there are numerous references to oxalic acids, and their impact on the iguana and other herbivorous reptile organs and systems, in the reptile veterinary literature (Boyer 1991, Frye 1991, Barten 1993, Boyer 1996, Donoghue & Langenberg, 1996, etc.) and herp hobbyist magazines, all easily found by anyone doing any research on this subject.

24. "It is stated on the MK Diet pages that FIGS as a fruit are the highest Calcium containing fruit, with dried figs being highest of all. On my Fruits - Ca:P page where I have ranked all fruits from the highest to lowest ratios we find her statements to be incorrect once again. Raw figs are actually the 6th best fruit with Dried figs falling behind as the 10th best. I would still find Figs to be a great source of Calcium but truly not the best."

Surely Kevin must be aware that values listed for vegetables vary quite considerably depending upon the authority doing the testing. Values vary depending upon the freshness, variety and genetic variation in the vegetable, not to mention the type of soil in which they were grown—well-known facts which are clearly presented in the various nutritional databases and source books. Since Kevin does not cite his sources, there is no way to check his conclusions. The USDA nutritional database, for example, shows that fresh figs have a Ca:P ratio of 2.5:1 and dried figs have a ratio of 2.12:1.

25. "It is further stated that ALFALFA pellets should be used as a Protein source. I have created a PROTEINS page on the Iguana Den web site that directly discusses proteins within a diet for igs."

Nowhere does the use of alfalfa as a protein source disagree with the current thinking on iguana nutrition (Boyer, 1996; Donoghue & Langenberg, 1996), as it is a plant-based protein source which is also high in calcium. In fact, going back to 1991 (Frye), references appear in the reptile veterinary literature recommending mature alfalfa as a safe and nutritious food source for herbivores.

Donoghue (1995) cites the following requirements for reptiles:

  Dietary Content (% kcal ME)
Dietary Content
%kcal ME
Protein 25-60 15-40 15-35
Fat 30-60 5-40 < 10
Carbohydrate < 10 20-75 55-75

(a) includes snakes, aquatic turtles, monitors, tegus, most lizards, and crocodilians
(b) box turtles, beardies, day geckos, and forest-dwelling tortoises
(c) most tortoises and the green iguana.

The MK diet, when calculated properly based on accurate data and stated quanties, falls well within the stated requirements. Mr. Egan's, based on his own information, is in fact low in protein.

26. "However, I think that thought should be given to her comments that when using Alfalfa the pellets will break down by using the moisture of the salad. This is true, meanwhile it is dehydrating the vegetables and causing a dehydrated diet over all."

Alfalfa amounts to no more than 1/8th of the total amount of food being offered, which cannot be considered enough to offset the amount of water present. Its "dehydrating" effect is insignificant especially as Melissa recommends that water be present at all times in the enclosure in case the iguana requires any. In other words, it doesn't matter how much or how little water each component of the diet contains, as long as the required amount over time is consumed either from the diet or supplemental water.

27. "Melissa makes a simple statement that her diet IS NOT HIGH IN PHOSPHORUS. I simply state: See the above charts for your self and read her statements of why EXTRA CALCIUM must be added to her diet."

Given that the charts Kevin refers to show Melissa's diet providing a near-perfect 2:1 ratio of calcium to phosphorous, Melissa's statement is correct whereas Kevin's chart and comments simply emphasise his lack of understanding.


Foregone Conclusions

28. "Melissa uses the following message at the top of her Picky Eaters Web Page: " I read posts and get email and phone calls almost daily from people whose iguanas refuse to eat certain foods. Most are from people who are trying to get their iguanas to eat a proper diet, such as my iguana salad, for the first time." Well I honestly must agree with Melissa on this statement, since I too read posts and get email and phone calls almost daily from people whose iguanas refuse to eat certain foods. Most are from people who are trying to get their iguanas to eat the MK SALAD. "

There is no point to be made here. You can put lettuce in front of an iguana and it will be eaten far more readily than the MK Salad. That certainly doesn't make lettuce a good diet. What an iguana will or will not eat cannot be taken as an indicator of what is or is not healthy. All the food we offer iguanas differs from their natural diet in the wild, where iguanas sample a large variety of plants. Given an iguana's natural curiosity, it is up to the human caretaker to make sure that the captive iguana's proclivity for eating poisonous plants, human hair, human clothing, pins, pennies, balloons, silk underwear, and other clearly non-nutritious items be kept in check. Frye (1995) cites iguanas as a species that can come to "prefer unnatural diets that are nutritionally inadequate to meet their metabolic requirements for maintenance and growth." Just as you would not let your child decide what an ideal diet would be, the same goes for your iguana.

In conclusion, Kevin Egan's "The Diet Comparison" page provides ample evidence to suggest that Kevin seems not to understand all the issues here, and in fact has no valid arguments nor reasons to dismiss Melissa Kaplan's successful, popular and effective diet. One can only conclude that Kevin is searching for the kind of recognition that Melissa Kaplan has already earned. Melissa deserves recognition through a massive amount of research and hard work which is plainly evident for all to see on her web pages. If there is merit to the Iguana Den diet, then it should be supported with well-researched and accurate information which Kevin has yet to demonstrate satisfactorily in his documents.

This situation, started and perpetuated by Kevin Egan, is very disappointing. Hopefully, new iguana owners will be able to ignore all the nonsense and quickly learn the best ways of keeping their iguanas healthy. After all, that's what we should all be striving for—making sure that iguanas are in good health, and live long and happy lives.

*the earliest archived Deja News RPH post by KE was 10/2/96; MK begin posting to online reptile forums in early 1993; JS has been posting to RPH since 1992.

A show of envy is an insult to oneself. —Yevgeny Yevtushenko


Author Bios

Julie Allison has a BS in Physical Education, with a minor in Nutrition, and MS in Exercise Physiology. She is currently employed in the food industry. She has kept herps for more than 30 years. Her current collection includes Green Iguanas, Spiny Tail Iguanas, Leopard Geckos, Bearded Dragons, and Box Turtles.

Alta Brewer has a M.A. in Psychology and has done doctoral work in Educational Psychology at Stanford. She also has had several years experience doing wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, and has been keeping herps for more than half her lifetime. She currently keeps iguanas, spiny tail iguanas, bearded dragons, Uromastyx, geckos, and White's tree frogs.

Dr. Adam Britton is a professional zoologist with a long-standing interest in herpetology and captive husbandry and management of reptiles, specifically green iguanas and crocodilians. He has been actively researching and educating on the subject of iguanas for ten years, including co-authoring the critically-acclaimed video "Captive Care of the Green Iguana". He currently works in Australia on conservation management and biology of crocodiles.

Katherine Kearns received her B. S. in Molecular Biology from the University of Texas and is currently working towards a Ph.D. in Biophysics at Johns Hopkins University. She began learning about the keeping of herps over eight years ago and enjoys the company of a green iguana and a burmese python.

Anne Marsden earned a B. Sc. in Genetics from London University. Since 1983 she has worked in Medical Technology, Supervisory and Quality Assurance positions in clinical testing. Her major fields of work have been Hematology, Immunology and Infectious Disease. For the last ten years she has worked at a large reference laboratory with particular excellence in Endocrinology. Anne raises her green iguanas and is a successful owner and breeder of Phelsuma geckos.

Bill Myers is a retired Air Force Air Traffic Controller and is currently employed as a deputy sheriff in northwest Florida. He is a animal rescuer/rehabber by choice, dealing mostly with small warm blooded animals and reptiles, mostly lizards, right now. He grew up in the Florida Keys and has been involved with reptiles since the middle 1960's. He has been rescuing and rehabilitating small warm blooded animals for many years and iguanas and other lizards since 1994, about five years. He spends a lot of time researching and reading whatever literature he can get his hands on as well as searching the web for new info.

Kim Scott received a BFA in Visual Communication from Indiana University in 1992. Since that time she has been employed as a graphic designer in the publishing and software industries. Kim has been caring for her four green iguanas since 1993.

Desiree Wong works as a software engineer for the aerospace industry and is completing her M.Sc. in Computer Science and Engineering. She owns one iguana and been studying them for the last three years. In that time, she has co-managed the IRC NewNet #Iguanas channel and has been the webmaster of its home page.

If you wish to contact the authors, you may reach them at: dietcomments@yahoo.com

References Cited

Barten, S.L. (1993) The medical care of iguanas and other common pet lizards. Exotic Pet Medicine 23(6):1213

Barten, S.L. (1996) Lizards. In: Reptile Medicine and Surgery. (Ed: Mader,DR) W.B. Saunders Co., Philadelphia, 324-332.

Boyer, T.H. (1992) Common Problems and Treatment of Green Iguanas. Bulletin of the ARAV 1(1):8.

Boyer, T.H. (1996) Metabolic bone disease. In: Reptile Medicine and Surgery. (Ed: Mader,DR) W.B. Saunders Co., Philadelphia, 385-392.

Campbell, T.W. (1996) Nutrition. In: Reptile Medicine and Surgery. (Ed: Mader,DR) W.B. Saunders Co., Philadelphia, 248-258.

Divers, S.J. (1997) Clinician's approach to renal disease in lizards. In: Proceedings, Fourth Annual Conference, Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians, Houston, TX, pp. 5-11.

Donoghue, S. (1993). Leaping lizards! It's not easy feeding iguanas. Veterinary Technician 14(5), 281-283.

Donoghue, S. (1994) Growth of juvenile green iguanas (Iguana iguana) fed four diets. Journal of Nutrition 124, 2626S-26269S.

Donoghue, S. (1996) Nutrition of the green iguana (Iguana iguana). In: Proceedings of the Third Annual Conference of the Association of the Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians. (Ed: Frahm,MW) A.R.A.V., 148-174.

Donoghue, S., Langenberg, J. (1995) Clinical nutrition of exotic pets. Veterinary Clinical Nutrition 2(2), 57-63.

Donoghue, S., Langenberg, J. (1996) Nutrition. In: Reptile Medicine and Surgery. (Ed: Mader,DR) W.B. Saunders Co., Philadelphia, 148-174.

Frye, F.L. (1991) Reptile Medicine: An atlas of diseases and treatment. TFH, Inc. Neptune City.

Frye, F.L. (1995) Nutritional considerations. In: Health and Welfare of Captive Reptiles (Ed: Warwick, C,. Frye, F.L., Murphy, J.B.) Chapman & Hall, London, 82-97.

Mader, D.R. (1996) Gout. In: Reptile Medicine and Surgery. (Ed: Mader,DR) W.B. Saunders Co., Philadelphia, 374-379.

Murray, M.J. (1996) Cardiology and circulation. In: Reptile Medicine and Surgery. (Ed: Mader,DR) W.B. Saunders Co., Philadelphia, 95-104.

Rossi, J.V. (1996) Dermatology. In: Reptile Medicine and Surgery. (Ed: Mader,DR) W.B. Saunders Co., Philadelphia, 104-117.

Snyder, R.L., Terry, J. (1986) Avian Nutrition. In: Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine. (Ed: Fowler, M.E.) W.B. Saunders Co., Philadelphia, 189-200.

Ullrey, D.E., Allen, M.E. (1986) Principles of Zoo Mammal Nutrition. In: Zoo and Wild Animal Medicine. (Ed: Fowler, M.E.) W.B. Saunders Co., Philadelphia, 515-532.