Green Iguana Pet Care
Iguanas are one of the most popular reptiles among the pet trade. Because of availability and the low cost to purchase, iguanas are the most deceptive reptiles. Iguanas can grow to be six feet long and can have horrible temperaments. However, iguanas can make excellent pets.
Iguanas originate from Central and South America. They are large, herbivore lizards that are amazing creatures to be husbanded. They range from greens and browns to specialty morphs such as blue, albino, snow, and red. They have long claws, a powerful tail, and a wicked bite. They are excellent tricksters at playing dead.
The following information is from what I have personally found to be effective when keeping Green Iguanas. I have kept reptiles and exotics for over 12 years. I have husbanded everything from scorpions and spiders to blue-tongue skinks and giant leaf tailed geckos. The following information is for anyone wanting to know about iguanas and the proper care they need.
Before I start, I want to clarify that the following information is what I raise my iguanas by. There are too many websites with false information and too many reptile enthusiasts who claim iguanas are hard to care for due to their supposed extensive care requirements. I am going to be completely truthful and bold with my information.
Iguanas will grow to be very large animals. Most iguanas will reach four to six feet in length. If you do not have the room to create a habitat that is at minimum six feet long by six feet tall by three feet wide, stop reading now. If you keep an iguana in an inadequate cage they can develop dwarfism. The iguana will stunt his growth and can cause other health problems or longevity problems. Iguanas come from tropical environments, so try to mimic that environment in their habitats. As you can see from my picture of my own iguana's cage, I have vines, plants, and shrubbery that allow the iguana to feel it is still a part of nature. Once the iguana has the space it needs and the details of nature, it will feel secure and at home.
Iguanas come from tropical environments. However, trying to keep a cage as large as that required for an iguana is ridiculous. I keep my iguana's room and my entire home at 70 degrees. Most websites will say that the cage temperatures should not dip below 75 or even 80 degrees. This is not true. Iguanas are extremely hardy lizards and can live in some of the most stressful conditions. I am not saying to keep your iguanas in the refrigerator, but I am validating that typical home temperatures of 68-70 degrees at night are fine for iguanas. Iguanas require heat lamps and UVB lights. As you can see in my photo, my iguana has a 24 inch UVB bulb, 10.0, and has a 100 watt halogen heat lamp. The UVB helps the iguana regulate his cycle and absorb his nutrients. The heat lamp provides adequate warmth and allows the iguana to actually digest his food. The heat lamp location, the area under the lamp, should give your iguana a basking temperature of about 90-95 degrees. I am horrified to see websites that claim they need temperatures of 100+ to properly digest their food. Most iguanas and reptiles for that matter will overheat at temperatures of excess of 100+ degrees. Mid 90's are excellent temperatures to aim for. If you like to allow your home to dip below 65 degrees at night, I do recommend a night light bulb for your iguana to maintain some warmth at night. Again, shoot for a 70 degree basking spot at night when using a night bulb.
Iguana Humidity and Water Needs
Keep fresh water in the cage at all times. I keep a large Tupperware, three feet by a foot and a half, filled with an inch of water for the iguana to poop in. It makes cleaning the cage a lot easier. I also have another Tupperware, about one foot squared, which I keep filled with water also. This water source is available in case one source has poop in it. Many websites will state that iguanas need elaborate humidity and ventilation systems to keep an iguana healthy. This, again, not so. Make sure the iguana has enough FRESH water to hydrate himself. Spray him with a water mist two or three times a day to force him to lap water from his body and cage. Lastly, a bath once a week will help maintain hydration. My rule of thumb is this: take your iguanas back leg. Find the fattest part of the leg. Give the leg a gentle pinch and watch to see how the skin reacts. If the skin snaps right back into place, your iguana is perfectly hydrated. If the skin moves awkwardly slow back into place, your iguana is dehydrated. Some place in the middle could mean more misting or baths in that iguana's future.
Iguanas are strict herbivores. Any animal proteins are not good for them. Most iguanas will eat anything that is offered to them: cheetos, lunch meat, pizza, rats, string, and even wires. None of these are good for an iguana, but most will at least attempt these once, twice or always. Eggs are animals proteins. Cheese is also not good for them. The following is a list of food that can ALWAYS be offered to iguanas: collard greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens, green beans, snap peas, okra, and parsnip. These foods can be fed all the time. These are the proper essentials to an iguana's diet. You can add prickly pear, apple, watermelon, cantaloupe, strawberries, raspberries or even blueberries as treats. Fruit only needs to make up 10% of an iguanas diet, but fruits are not essential to their well being. Leafy greens and vegetables are most important. I want to make a quick mention of about watermelon, iceberg lettuce and romaine lettuce. Watermelon is mostly water. If you had a dehydrated iguana, it is a quick and tasty way to improve their hydration. However, watermelon contains very little nutrition. If you are looking for a more nutritious treat, look at the list of other fruits. Iceberg and Romaine lettuce contain NO NUTRITIONAL VALUE for your iguana. DO NOT feed iguanas this food. Iguanas get hooked to these tasty lettuces and can refuse to eat anything but. Play it safe and do not feed them this garbage.
Iguanas do not trust humans from birth. It is innate to them. However, with proper handling and trust building techniques, iguanas can grow to trust humans. Males will go through a breeding season that can happen once, every year. They get extremely territorial, aggressive, and dangerous. During this time, your once docile male will try to eat your face. He will lose interest in food and will be focused on killing anything that comes near him. Keep offering him food in smaller amounts of course to maintain his health. Female iguanas, as long as they are not gravid (pregnant), remain docile for the year.
Iguanas dislike humans from birth as I have said before. Here is a quick guide to build trust with your iguana. Starting from when the iguana is young, under a foot and a half, start showing that your hands are not predators. First start by just putting your hands in the iguana's cage. Change the water bowl, take out old food; show the iguana that your hands are nothing but providers. Next start by touching your iguana. Touch the sides of the iguana's body. Approach from the side if possible. If your hand comes from above, most iguanas decipher this as a predatory approach. Once the iguana seems calm with touching, as in it does not run away when being touched, try to hold the iguana. Gently place one hand under the belly of the iguana, supporting the entire body, and lift the iguana into your hand. Keep the iguana in your hand inside the cage. Do this until the iguana does not fight or run from this exercise. Once the iguana is comfortable being held in the cage, slowly remove the iguana from his cage while continually supporting his body. It is common for most iguanas to climb to the top of human heads. This is normal. Iguanas feel safest at the highest vantage point. An easy way to break an iguana from this habit is to do the following. Have your iguana's body fully supported. Use two hands. One hand to support the front legs and the other hand to support the back end. As the iguana is twitching and squirming to escape, hold the iguana's back to your chest. Keep the iguana's face pointing in the same direction as yours. The stability of your hands and the safety of your chest pressure calms most iguanas down immediately. I have used this technique on male iguanas in breeding season and they become like melted butter in my hands. A quick tip: do not let a squirmy iguana discourage you from holding it. If you put an iguana back into his cage when he squirmy, or biting, or scratching, or tail-whipping, it only encourages the iguana to repeat this behavior to get what it wants. The best thing to do is wait for the iguana to stop squirming for a few moments. Once the iguana has returned to a calm state, place him back into his cage. This method will only encourage the iguana to realize that a calm behavior will get him to be left alone.
I want to add this section to completely inform my readers. I did not want to leave this at the end in the attempt to trick you into feeling like you can handle an iguana. I put this warning here to show you that these warnings are atypical, but serious threats. Iguana bites hurt like the worst burn you have ever felt. Most bites will tear skin, draw blood, and can require surgery in extreme cases. The iguana's claws will scratch you. Most of the time you will end up with markings and even a few blood drops. Wearing long gloves or wrapping your arms in a towel will help. You can clip and file your iguana's nails, but you do usually end up with scratches unless you are wearing gloves or taking other precautionary measures. The iguana also has a powerful tail. The tail is used as a whip and it hurts. I have been whipped in the face, back, and arm by an aggressive iguana. It hurts and it leaves marks. The whips can draw blood too.
So, after reading the warnings section, why would anyone want to raise an iguana? Iguanas can become great pets and even companions with proper care and treatment. It is satisfying to raise an iguana into adulthood and become connected with the animal on a level of extreme trust. I have raised reptiles for over twelve years. I use many of the trust techniques on my animals that I have described in the above information. All my animals do not fear me and some even seem to show joy when being handled.
Iguanas can make great pets if properly raised. The information I have provided is what I follow to raise my iguanas. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I have over twelve years of experience and can answer all your iguana questions. Thank you for reading.