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Why it is Important to Know Everything About Iguanas Before Purchasing This Reptile

Updated on March 14, 2017
Anastasia and BJ
Anastasia and BJ

Why These Reptiles Deserve Respect

Iguanas are tropical reptiles and can live up to 20 years or more in the wild. They can live 10 to 12 years in captivity if they are cared for properly. We have decided to domesticate them but so many know little about them to be successful at keeping them.

Many iguana owners, when they first purchase them as iglets or babies think oh it's just a lizzard how hard can they be to take care of. Well honestly they are very complex creatures to take care of.

My husband and I rescued two cruely treated iguanas but I had done enough research on them before obtaining them that I knew they had a better chance at life with us then living in a small tank with 30 other babies climbing over top of them fighting for food and light.

Most iguanas are born with parasites which serve them well in the wild but not in captivity. So they have to be treated. They grow to be about six feet in length and can get up to 18 pounds. No small acquarium can properly hold these animals because under the right conditions they grow at a rapid speed and don't reach full maturity until they are about three years old.


Binky with her eggs removed

Preovulatory Stasis

Preovulatory Stasis is a condition that iguanas have in captivity. Female iguanas produce eggs starting at 18 months of age even if they are in captivity. In captivity the females can become egg bound or unable to lay the eggs. They do not need to be fertilized to produce eggs. Binky had to have surgery to have her eggs removed. We also got her spayed at the same time.

In captivity they do not have the proper care to lay the eggs. They need a nesting box which we made that had sand and a heater underneath it. She would go in and out of the nesting box but refused to lay her eggs. Getting your iguana spayed is probably the best thing you can do for females.

You can also see in her picture above that her eggs are yellow. When iguanas lay eggs the shell is made at the time it is departing the iguana.

Males With Unretractable Hemipenes

All male iguanas have a Hemipenes or male organ. When iguanas go to the bathroom they do all of it at one time. Males Hemipenes come out when they go, but will or should go right back in when finished. If it does not retract and stays out this becomes an emergency. This would require a vet trip immediately. If the Hemipenes dries out it will start dying.

If you happen to notice that your males Hemipenes is not retracting you must keep it moist while going to the vet. The best thing to use is an unscented KY gel. Our male had this happen and the vet had to push it back in and stitch it. This is where education becomes so important.

Male Hemipenes

Metabolic Bone Disease

Iguanas, in captivity, can become calcium deficient and they can acquire an illness called Metabolic Bone Disease. This is a treatable disease but they need calcium prescribed by a veterinarian.

Signs of this disease is a bowed looking jaw, broken bones, refusal to eat. their limbs become swollen and they will stop walking.

This is also an emergency. Binky had MBD and we syringe fed her for the first 7 months of her life. She could not eat her own food put in her house because her mouth was too bowed to eat it. Once we got her on calcium supplements she began to eat on her own about three weeks after she started her calcium supplements.

Iguanas diets are made up of green leafy vegetables which is their main staple. Collard, mustard or turnip greens are something they should have every day. They will also grow in the winter months so if you get some seeds you can actually grow your own. It is less costly to feed them if you grow your own vegetables.

Trying to just feed them anything is not a good idea. They are vegetarians. If you need help with food go to the green iguana society page and look up diets. They have every food they can and can not have. They do need a balanced diet to keep them healthy.

Metabolic Bone Disease

The left side is a normal iguana and the right is an iguana with MBD. You can see how much bigger the left leg is to the right leg.
The left side is a normal iguana and the right is an iguana with MBD. You can see how much bigger the left leg is to the right leg.

Signs That Your Iguana is in Trouble

These exquisite creatures can go down hill fast. It is important that you know them well enough that you can also tell something is wrong.

If they stop eating they may not be warm enough but they also may be sick.

Their urine or the white part of their excrement becomes yellow they are dehydrated and it is wise to spray some water into their mouths and take them to the vet for fluids if you can't get them to drink. They should be sprayed daily for hydration. You should always have a tub of water for them to bathe in. They soak of water through their opening at the base of their tail.

If you notice they are not producing excrement something is wrong also. They should go every day several times a day.

If they are tame and become totally aggressive they might have something going on if its not mating season.

Get to know your iguana very well so that if something is not right you will be able to make a quick decision to take them to the vets.


Iguanas can be spoiled.

Unlike people think, Iguanas are very smart reptiles. They will show their wild side when they don't get what they are used to getting. Binky will throw her food all over her house when she is not pleased. Yes even reptiles can show bad behavior when they are upset.

Let Them be Free

If you want an iguana just for the sake of wanting it, be prepared to spend money and it can become costly for vet visits and to feed them in the beginning. You waste more food then they can eat when they are little. In all reality let them be free in their own habitat in the wild.

The only reason we took these two babies is because they were being abused. Reptiles were made to live outside, breed outside and be in a climate of tropical conditions. We rescue animals but it has also come with a price. You can't just leave them and go on vacation. You have to board them or have someone come and feed them. You can't just throw them in a cage and that is it. They need heat and lights and the correct diet. If you still insist you want an iguana then please educate yourself.

This is only half of what you could be getting yourself in to. Make sure you are ready to give this baby a good life.

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