Updated February 9, 1999

We would like to state that we are not "experts" in the field of iguana husbandry. However, we do have some useful information, some of which is fairly new that we hope will help you to care for your iguana. We welcome any comments and suggestions you have. We also try to answer all of our e-mail as quickly as possible. We try to refrain from "spanking" people who may have made some mistakes in the past and now are asking for help. We have made mistakes caring for our animals in the past, and we know it is no fun to ask for help, and then be treated like we are horrible people just because we didn't know any better. We figure that if you are on this page, or looking for iguana information elsewhere on the Internet, then you are interested in the health and well-being of your iguana very much, and you deserve to be treated with respect. There is alot of good information out there, unfortunately some of it is guilt and shame provoking. We wish you the VERY best of luck with your iguanas, and hope your igs have long and happy lives.

Now on to the info...

 

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CONTENTS

 

Introduction

The first thing to keep in mind is that green iguanas, if taken care of properly. will grow rather large. Many people buy a baby iguana on impulse, and then when it starts to grow larger than they were prepared to handle, they don't want it anymore. In our experience, these iguanas usually end up for sale in the papers, or pawned off onto local herp societies, who already have their hands full trying to find suitable homes for some of the lesser known, harder-to-care for reptiles. Remember that iguanas do not only grow as large as their tank. When they get older, they will usually either need a large, custom-built cage, their own "iguana" room, or, if you choose, free roam of the house with a well-heated basking spot.

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Selection

When selecting an iguana for a potential pet, it's a good idea to pick the one that seems to be alert, yet reasonably calm when you stick your hand in the tank! This iguana should have clear and bright eyes, be free from sores, abrasions, or other questionable marks, and appear to be in generally good health(not skin and bones).It's probably also a good idea to make sure the iguana is not covered with feces, or that the enclosure it's living in is not completely dirty and disgusting. Excessively dirty living conditions are a great place for bacteria to multiply and disease to spread.

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Housing

A good size tank to start out with for a baby iguana is a standard 30 to 50 gallon tank. As your iguana grows, it will probably be necessary to build or have built a custom cage. The standard for deciding on cage size is one and one half times the length of the lizard in length, two thirds the length of the lizard in width, and the length of the lizard in height. We have found higher is better. Iguanas love to climb and love to be up high.

There are several things that can be used for cage bottom cover. Orchid bark, artificial turf, indoor/outdoor carpeting, newspaper, and alfalfa pellets are all useful for this. Bark or wood chips can tend to attract mites and other insects, so keep this in mind. Cedar chips can be toxic, so avoid using these.

Branches set up for climbing are a necessity. Iguanas are arboreal (tree-dwelling) lizards. The branches should be chosen according to the size of your lizard, and easy for your them to climb and lay on. We do not recommend hot rocks. They are not a natural way for the iguana to absorb heat and they can cause serious burns. Hot rocks should never be used as a replacement for adequate lighting.

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Heating

It is important that iguanas are kept warm enough to digest their food properly, and to fight off disease. Some type of thermometer should be used in the enclosure to keep track of the temperature. A basking spot should be provided that reaches between 95-100 degrees fahrenheit at the closest point to the heat source. The heat source is usually a spotlight set up so that the iguana cannot burn itself by laying against the bulb. Heat tape, undertank heaters, etc. can be used to heat the air inside the tank to around 85 degrees fahrenheit. At night, the temperature can be allowed to safely drop to around the low 70's. Most people's houses are warm enough to provide this temperature range. If not, then ceramic lights work well for this purpose. They provide the necessary heat without the light. Sick or recuperating iguanas will need to have the temperature warmer at night also. Remember to follow directions on all heating equipment and light fixtures to avoid a fire hazard.

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Lighting

It has long been thought that full-spectrum bulbs are necessary for iguanas to produce Vitamin D3 which helps iguanas absorb calcium. Recently, studies have been done that prove that this type of lighting DOES NOT work to duplicate natural sunlight. In fact, in a study done by Dr. Fredric L. Frye, it was determined that you would need 6 to 8 of these lights(commonly called Vitalites) within a few inches of the iguana, 12 to 14 hours a day to have any effect at all. We also know of a university student who did her master's thesis on full-spectrum lighting for reptiles. She used living tissue samples for the study and came to the same conclusion as Dr. Frye. Studies have also been done to show that iguanas can absorb Vitamin D3 through a proper diet. Full spectrum lighting can give off light that LOOKS similar to natural sunlight, so it may be psychologically beneficial for your iguana, but if you are just buying the light for calcium absorption reasons, don't waste your money. Instead, if you can provide them as much natural sunlight as possible, along with a good diet, this would be a far better thing to do as well as cheaper. There is no replacement for the benefits that your iguana can receive from natural sunlight. It does wonders for their coloration and their overall "pep". Remember to always provide your iguana with some shade to get out of the sun if they wish, and to never bring them outdoors in a glass aquarium as the heat inside the tank will quickly rise to lethal levels.

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Feeding

What you feed your iguana will be directly related to their overall health and well-being. Green Iguanas are herbivores, that is, they are plant eaters. Animal proteins, such as dog food, cat food, and various "people food" treats should be avoided completely if possible. Iguanas do tend to like junk food, like pizza, but it is not good for them, and feeding them alot of food like this can lead to kidney failure at a young age. If you do feed your iguana "treats", we'd recommend keeping it at a once per month MAXIMUM to be on the safe side. Kale, bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and other cabbage-related vegetables should be fed only in small amounts. These vegetables can cause thyroid problems if they are fed to your lizard frequently. Spinach should not be fed at all to an iguana, because it binds calcium.

Iguanas require a diet that is high in calcium, low in phosporous, and contains Vitamin D3. Greens should be the staple of the diet. By greens we mean, Collard greens, Mustard greens, Dandelion greens(you can pick these right out of your yard as long as they are not treated with pesticides and washed before feeding), Turnip greens, etc. Mixed vegetables, squash, zucchini, yams, raspberries & blackberries(high in calcium), bananas, and other fruits and vegetables or commercial iguana food can also be added, but the large majority of the diet should be greens. If your iguana is getting a proper diet than no extra vitamins really need to be added to the food.

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Water & Humidity

We have also recently found out that while it is a good idea to provide a bowl of water in your iguanas tank for humidity and soaking purposes, that if your iguana is drinking out of the bowl on a regular basis, chances are that the humidity in the tank is too low. Iguanas get most of their moisture from the air, so regular misting, or even better, a humidifier in the tank will help keep the humidity to a proper level. While in their enclosures, try to keep the humidity level between 95 and 100 percent. There are temperature gauges out there that also record humidity. It would be a good idea to invest in this type of gauge.

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Taming

When you first bring your iguana home, allow it a week or so to become accustomed to its surroundings(acclimated). Then you can start getting it used to being handled and picked up. Start slowly, by first picking your iguana up, and holding it for brief periods every day. Pretty soon, it will become much calmer. We have found that talking softly to your lizard with a soothing, gentle tone while stroking their neck and sides helps to calm them also. How tame your iguana will become depends on how much time you are willing to spend taming it. Some iguanas will remain wary and aggressive all their lives. That is why you really need to take care in selecting a reasonably calm lizard to begin with.

It may be useful to get your iguana used to being on some sort of leash or harness. This is especially helpful to be able to take your iguana outdoors to be in natural sunlight. Many pet stores now sell harnesses specifically for iguanas. Get one that is sturdy, yet not harsh to the iguanas skin. Start out by putting the harness on your iguana indoors without the leash for brief periods at a time to get them used to it. You can then start attaching the leash and attempting to walk around(indoors) with them. They will probably completely freak out at first, especially when they reach the end of the leash, but this is normal. Be prepared and try to avoid entangling your lizard in the leash when this happens. After some time of working with them indoors, if they seem to be much calmer when on the leash, you can then bring them outdoors. They may freak out again once outdoors (all those sights, smells, and sounds!) so make sure your harness and leash is strong and properly attached. Most iguanas will get used to being on a leash after a while, some may never get used to the idea. We haven't seen an iguana yet that will walk on the leash (like a dog), but at least if they are on the leash, they can't escape and get into serious trouble!

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Claw Trimming

It's a good idea to regularly trim your lizard's claws, especially during the taming process. We have plenty of scratches and scars on our hands and arms to prove how important it really is. Unless you enjoy razor sharp needles ripping your flesh, you should learn this technique right away. To do a good job, it usually takes two people. One person should hold the lizard with both hands, one around the neck and area in front, and the other around the area in front of the hind legs. The other person, using a reptile claw clipper (found in most pet stores now) then clips off the sharp pointed end on the claw. Sometimes you may end up cutting through the blood vessel. If this happens, wipe the claw with rubbing alcohol and dip in corn starch to stop the bleeding.

You should also always be mindful of your iguana's tail. Don't ever pick up an iguana by its tail. They break easily, and although they will regrow in time, they will never be quite as beautiful.

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Health

Iguanas are pretty hardy and not really prone to getting diseases if taken care of properly and fed the proper diet. You should visually check your lizard frequently for signs of illness. Anything out of the norm should be monitored closely. There are several diseases and disorders that they can get, which we won't be going into on this page. One thing we can tell you is that kidney failure is a very quick killer. If your iguana is showing signs of weakness, inactivity, excessive drinking out of a bowl, blank staring, and diarrhea, get them to a qualified vet immediately. If the vet says that they can not see your iguana right away, then they may not recognize the signs of kidney failure. You may have to try elsewhere. We have been informed through an e-mail about the dangers of egg-binding in female iguanas. This person's lizard ended up having to get a hysterectomy to save her life. Keep in mind that female iguanas can become egg bound even if the eggs are not fertilized. Talk to a vet or a knowledgeable breeder for more information. There are several books on the market that go into this and other health issues in great detail.

One important thing that we can tell you is to find a good veterinarian. By this, we mean find a caring, experienced vet who is qualified to treat reptiles. This is possibly the most important thing that you can do for your iguana. A veterinarian who knows nothing or very little about reptiles that is treating a sick iguana means possible misdiagnosis of the problem and a probable death sentence for the iguana. It would be a good idea to find a vet before purchasing your iguana. Unfortunately, even with the increase in iguanas and reptiles in general as pets, there aren't alot of qualified reptile vets out there, so you will have to do some shopping around.

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Books & References

You should definitely buy a book along with your purchase of the iguana. Our favorite is "The Green Iguana Manual" by Phillipe de Vosjoli. It has been EXTREMELY valuable. This guy really knows what he is talking about. It also includes iguana diet charts, common diseases and disorders as well as some information on rock iguanas, which is very hard to find.

We would like to thank Edward M. Craft for taking the time to answer our e-mails when our iguana was sick, and for providing us with some of the useful information that you see on this page. We would also like to thank Philippe de Vosjoli for his lifelong dedication to the care and husbandry of reptiles and amphibians in captivity. And finally, we would like to thank all of you for reading this page, and all reptile and animal lovers out there!

We have also included some links which you may find interesting and useful. Check them out!

USEFUL BOOKS
All About Iguanas  - Amazon.com
The Essential Iguana - Amazon.com
The Green Iguana Manual - Amazon.com
The Iguana, An Owner's Guide To A Happy And Healthy Pet - Amazon.com

All About
Iguanas

Click on the book for more information

The Essential
Iguana

Click on the book for more information

The Green Iguana Manual

Click on the book for more information

The Iguana: Guide To A Happy, Healthy Pet

Click on the book for more information

Green Iguanas, The Ultimate Owner's Manual - Amazon.com
Step By Step Book About Iguanas - Amazon.com
What's Wrong With My Iguana? - Amazon.com
Iguana Iguana, Guide For Successful Captive Care - Amazon.com

Green Iguana - The Ultimate Owner's Manual

Click on the book for more information

Step-By-Step Book About Iguanas

Click on the book for more information

What's Wrong With My Iguana?

Click on the book for more information

Iguana Iguana: Guide For Successful Captive Care

Click on the book for more information

 

The Basking Spot
Iguana Iguana
Henry Lizardlover
Bush Herpetological supply
Reptilian magazine
The Iguanas Channel
Repticare services
Sammie's iguana Care Page

 

 

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Iguana Questions and Answers

 

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