Iguanas | Essential Care Information

Iguanas can make extraordinary pets but they are not for everyone. Green iguanas are high maintenance reptiles that require certain elements to guarantee their survival in captivity. The points outlined below will help you decide if an Iguana is right for you

Close up of Iguana under a lamp

Iguanas can grow large at a very fast pace especially within the first year. Typically an adult iguana that has been properly cared for can grow to 6 feet in length from head to tail. In order to accommodate its growth spurts you will need a cage large enough for it to move about freely without feeling cramped. If you think a 10 or 20 gallon aquarium would be sufficient then you’re wrong. A cage that is 7 ft. x 5 ft. would be the ideal size to allow your iguana to grow and thrive.

Iguanas are excellent climbers and prefer to be high in trees. In order to meet that need, it is suggested that large, tall branches are placed inside the habitat. Remove any sharp edges from the branches to avoid injury to the iguana and make sure that the branches are large enough to accommodate its weight. Cover the bottom of the cage with grocery bags, news paper or fake grass mats. Do not use wood chips, corn cob, or anything else that would be harmful to your iguana if he decides to eat it.

Daily cleaning is essential and waste should be taken out of the cage every day. Leaving it in could cause serious health issues for your iguana especially if they tend to defecate in their water. If this happens, immediately remove the tainted water and replace it with fresh water. You might have to do this several times a day because iguanas like to use their drinking water as a toilet.

Ceramic heat lamp for reptiles
Keeping an Iguana healthy means investing in the right equipment
Iguanas need heat to survive. They are cold blooded reptiles and the temperature in their cage should be at least 85 to 90 degrees. The cage should also be equipped with a basking spot light that creates a temperature of 95 to 100 degrees. A basking spot light emits heat and light to a concentrated area of the cage. This type of heat source allows the iguana to escape to a cooler area when necessary. Juvenile iguanas are especially susceptible to cold and require more heat than an adult. Under-tank heating pads, ceramic heat emitters, and basking spot lights are all good sources of heat. Heat rocks are another source of heat; however, I would not suggest using them because of their ability to burn iguanas due to unstable heat.

Iguanas need UVB light, typically from a reptile lamp as well as a heat source. This type of florescent light enhances their ability to facilitate Vitamin D3 which is necessary for iguana’s to repair and build nerve cells. This particular vitamin also turns calcium into a useable material for bones and assists with digestion. Keep in mind that light from a window is not an acceptable source of UVB light. Sunlight is not capable of penetrating cage walls with proper UVB.

Lights can disrupt sleep. It is not necessary to keep either light on at night as long as you can maintain some warmth in the cage, especially during colder months. Using a ceramic heat emitter would enable your cage to stay warm without adding light. Continuous light will interrupt your iguana’s sleep pattern and potentially cause health issues. Setting up your lights and heating source on timers will create a very effective way to maintain a routine schedule for your iguana.

Humidity is another necessity for an iguana. These reptiles originate from the tropics where the air is extremely humid. In captivity, similar humidity levels need to be maintained in their habitat for proper health. This can be obtained by either having a humidifier close by, a large dish of water in the cage, or misting your iguana with a spray bottle several times a week. Lack of humidity could lead to kidney problems later on in life.

Young iguana being hand fed lettuce
Lighter greens like lettuce are not very nutritious for a young Iguana
Iguanas are herbivores. They do not eat cat food, dog food or anything other than fruits and vegetables. Favourite dishes consist of dark leafy greens like dandelion greens, mustard greens, collard greens, clover, etc. Regular lettuce is an exception. It should not be included in the iguana’s diet because of the poor nutritional value. A proper diet for your iguana should consist of 95% leafy greens and vegetables and 5% fruits. It is important to alternate the varieties of foods to make sure that you are giving your iguana the best nutrition. There is no need to have supplemental vitamins if you are giving your iguana a healthy diet.

Get to know your iguana. It might take a month or more for it to get accustomed to its surroundings and even longer for it to become accustomed to you. When approaching the cage don’t make any sudden movements especially when entering its cage to feed and water. If it is possible, use a side door to enter the cage instead of top openings. Reaching in from above will give the iguana the impression that you are a predator and therefore it will defend itself. Iguanas have four forms of weaponry for defence; a long tail used for whipping and thrashing, razor sharp teeth, claws, and spikes that run down its back. They will not hesitate to use these defences if they feel threatened. By studying your iguana’s behaviour you will be able to calculate his actions and avoid being injured. The lower your hand can be in the cage the more comfortable your iguana will feel. Eventually it will become familiar to your presence; allowing you to move about more freely.

Health issues affect iguanas like any animal. Although they are mostly hardy there are instances when they can contrive diseases from an improper diet. Kidney failure is amongst the greatest killers of iguanas. It is important that you monitor your iguana regularly. If you notice certain signs like diarrhoea, colour change, blank staring, lethargy, or excessive drinking, then you need to get your Iguana to a vet. Iguanas can also be a carrier of Salmonella. Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling to avoid a potential exposure. Nails should also be trimmed regularly by someone with experience.

If you are still considering owning an iguana it is important that you continue reading and learning about this extraordinary reptile. There is always new information that can assist you in maintaining a healthy and loving pet. Iguanas can live to be 20 years old so your dedication to this reptile is rather long. Keep that in mind before you decide to commit. The choice of owning an iguana can be a very rewarding experience and the creation of a wonderful bond between human and reptile.