What the Iguana guru's don't tell you about these pets

Anastasia the cool iguana
Anastasia the cool iguana | Source

What they don't tell you

Iguanas are reptiles that are imported from other countries, while they really belong on a tropical island somewhere soaking up the sun, people have decided to have these beautiful reptiles as pets. What no one tells you, even the pet stores that sell them, is how difficult it can become to raise them.

Iguana's have become popular pets and many owners in reptile forums are quick to assume that they know everything there is to know about iguana's, but that is far from the truth. When asking in a reptile forum what is wrong with my iguana he or she won't eat? You will be asked what is the temperature of the cage, what type of UV light are you using, how big is the cage, what are you feeding it, and so forth.

Iguanas are creatures that can come with many illnesses. They don't tell you about the parasites (which serve as a purpose in the wild) but not in captivity, or the prolapse of the hemipenes (the male sex organs that will require surgery to fix it if it does not retract its self), or that you will probably be sharing your bathtub with it because they need to soak every day, or that you will spend a lot of money on food that will eventually get thrown out because they can't eat it all when they are small. They also won't tell you that you can't leave them alone to go on vacation and if you don't have a loving friend to come feed them every single day, you will have to pay to board them. They also don't tell you how much calcium these animals need and can get metabolic bone disease and become paralyzed. But the calcium needs to come from a vet not the reptile store. Iguanas can not process that kind of calcium.

Iguanas are very intelligent creatures and I can attest to that because our iguana Anastasia will throw all of her food around the cage if one thing is left out of her dish. She will also keep looking to make sure everything is put back in her cage when it is being cleaned. If you forget something she will fling her food all over her cage also. They also like having a clean cage and if it's not clean she will let you know with her head bobbing up and down.

Of course the lighting, habitat, and temperatures are important, however every iguana should be taken to a vet if they are not eating to see if something else is wrong with them. There is not enough data about iguanas to assume he or she won't eat just because they are not warm enough.

Iguanas can live up to 20 years in captivity and become 6 feet long and up to 18lbs. They do not eat crickets because they are strictly herbivores or vegetarians.

Anastasia and BJ

Iguanas are inquisitive creatures.  They like to see what is going on at all times.  You can call them nosey if you wish.  This picture is of Anastasia and BJ.  Anastasia was carrying eggs at this time.this picture was taken.
Iguanas are inquisitive creatures. They like to see what is going on at all times. You can call them nosey if you wish. This picture is of Anastasia and BJ. Anastasia was carrying eggs at this time.this picture was taken.

Female iguanas and eggs

Anastasia had a calcium deficiency, which left her paralyzed and unable to eat. This is a very dangerous sickness an iguana can have. I syringe fed her Gerber baby food for 7 months of her life. Her jaw was so bowed out she could not possibly eat regular food. Because her growth was stunted and she is about three times smaller then she should be, I never thought I would have to worry about eggs, but how wrong was I.

When female iguanas reach 18 months of age they start developing eggs whether the have mated or not. Our female got egg bound and could not lay them, so we had to take her for surgery and to get spade. Even though we made her a nesting box ,which was a box made with sand and potting soil, she could not lay them. Surgery to remove the eggs was over 500 dollars.

The first sign of her being pregnant was she quit eating. Now I knew her heat and lighting were ok and iguanas need heat to digest their food since they can not thermo regulate their body temperatures themselves and UVB rays to help aid in calcium absorption. Because she had metabolic bone disease, this is what I first thought was the reason she was not eating, but lo and behold when we took her to the vet (yes you need a herp vet for them), her calcium levels were high, which meant she was at the beginning of developing eggs.

We waited two months, because that is how long iguanas carry eggs, then we had them removed and her spade so we would not have to go through this every year.

Anastasia with her eggs.  They can carry as many as 30 eggs at one time.  We were lucky she only had 13
Anastasia with her eggs. They can carry as many as 30 eggs at one time. We were lucky she only had 13 | Source

Anastasias eggs

Preovulatory Stasis happens in female iguanas when they get egg bound and can not lay their eggs
Preovulatory Stasis happens in female iguanas when they get egg bound and can not lay their eggs | Source

Taming iguanas

This is something else that is not told when purchasing an iguana, they have to be tamed. Iguanas are not like bearded dragons and fall in love with their owners as soon as you pick them up. No they run like hell to get away from you because anything bigger then them, they feel is a threat to eat them.

Taming Anastasia was not that difficult because I handled her every day to be fed. So she is as tame as any iguana could get. On the other hand we have BJ that is 7 months old and he still runs around like a rabid dog. They have to be handled every single day in order to get trust from them. Once they are tame you have to continue to hold them every single day because in a weeks time if not handled they will be right back where you started.

Pet them, hold them, walk around with them so they can see everything. We always keep their cages in front of a window so that they can see outside. They also like looking around inside too.

Nails on iguanas are also a problem when trying to tame them. They have to be cut and if you don't know how, you need to take them to a vet to have the trimmed. Their nails are sharp as razors and when you pick them up they hold on for dear life imbedding their nails in to your flesh.

Iguana aggression

Caring for these beautiful reptiles

Iguanas are beautiful reptiles and with the right care they can be a joy to own. Feeding them properly includes their staple vegetables of collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, berries, snow peas, grapes, mangoes and many other vegetables that you can find on the Green Iguana Society.

They should never be housed together because they are loners and can become very aggressive. Their tail whipping hurts. Trust me I have been subjected to that. I made the mistake of putting BJ in Anastasia's cage and not only did she try to bite him after the head bobbing was done, she also came after me and three weeks later she is still mad at me. Yes they do hold grudges.

So in closing I would like to say that these animals deserve to be treated with respect and to be kept as close to their natural habitat as possible. Our two iguanas were rescues from very cruel owners who thought keeping 30 baby lizard's in a ten gallon tank was proper. They were full of holes that the other iguanas made stepping on them.

Then need a vet, need proper housing to accommodate their growth, proper heat and lighting so that they can stay warm. They need to have different levels in their cages so that they can go cool off if they become too hot. These creatures are beautiful and if taken care of the right way can bring you many years of enjoyment.

Friends don't always have to be of the same species

Buffy and Anastasia are buds.  This is not normal for most iguanas and cats but it was love at first sight.
Buffy and Anastasia are buds. This is not normal for most iguanas and cats but it was love at first sight. | Source

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Comments 1 comment

Jesse Padilla profile image

Jesse Padilla 2 years ago from Fremont, CA

Well told. I have a male iguana and you are right on about these points. Turk has free roam of the house and has a sleeping perch and a basking perch. He gets baths weekly and is often outside soaking up rays. They are not a pet I would recommend to anyone as their first lizard.

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