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Green Iguana Care

An Exclusive Guide on Taking Good Care of a Green Iguana

Caring for a green iguana is not easy, for this reptile grows to 6 feet in length, and thus requires a large amount of space. Review the details below to assess if you are up for the task...
PetPonder Staff
Last Updated: Mar 8, 2018
Harvesting carrots
The green iguana or common iguana (Iguana iguana) is native to Central and South America. They inhabit the rainforests of northern Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean Islands, and southern Brazil. Among the largest lizards in the Americas, green iguanas grow to an average length of 6.5 feet, and usually weigh about 11 pounds. With proper care, a green iguana can live for 20 years or longer.
However, the unfortunate truth is that most iguanas in captivity (as pets) die within the first year itself. Many others are turned loose by their owners, and some are given to reptile rescue groups. These facts should be pondered over before one decides to make an iguana a pet. A widespread misconception is that green iguanas are good pets for first-time reptile owners. The truth is that they require specialized care that most people aren't equipped to provide.
Enclosure: Your iguana, though small at first, will eventually grow to a length of 6 feet or more. Another factor to be aware of is that green iguanas spend most of their lives in the jungle canopy, descending only rarely. The perfect size of a cage for a full-grown iguana is 12 feet in length, 6 feet in width, and 9 feet in height. Only buy or adopt an iguana if you have this amount of space to spare. The enclosure should be filled with branches and shelves, so they can climb and lounge at a height. Do not allow it to roam free throughout the house.
Temperature: Like all cold blooded reptiles, iguanas too need to be kept warm. One of the reasons they live in tree canopies is because they get sufficient sunlight there. During the day, the temperatures should be maintained at 80° to 85° F, with a basking spot of 90° to 95° F. The best source of heat is through an overhead radiant source, not a hot rock (which can burn your pet) or heat tape. The ideal nighttime temperature is between 75° to 80° F. One must verify the temperature with a thermometer at regular intervals. They require a humidity level of 65 to 75%, which can be achieved through several mistings per day.
Light: This creature requires an ultraviolet lighting source providing UVA and UVB. This is essential for its digestion, proper calcium metabolism, and skeletal development. You need to use fluorescents made for the reptile pet trade, and a good option is a Vitalite®, with proper UV rays. Mercury vapor bulbs are another option, and they provide good heat as well. Additional sources of heat can be infrared ceramic emitters or incandescent basking bulbs.
Substrate: Line the enclosure with non-toxic ink, butcher's paper, paper towels, indoor/outdoor carpeting or artificial grass. Whatever material you use, ensure that there are no dangling strings or anything else that your iguana's nails may get entangled in. As iguanas lick their surroundings, wood shavings, mulch, sand, or powder types are bod choices. It is very important to keep the enclosure clean, so soiled materials must be removed daily and replaced with clean fresh sets. If the soiled one needs to be reused, it must be disinfected first.
Diet: A good diet for your iguana is about 40 to 45% greens, 40 to 45% other vegetables, 10% or less of fruits, and less than 5% of other grains or commercial diets. Greens to be used include collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens (with flowers), escarole, and water cress. Good vegetables are green beans, orange-fleshed squashes (butternut, Kabocha), snap or snow peas, parsnip, asparagus, okra, alfalfa (mature, not sprouts), onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, sweet potato, zucchini, yellow squash, and carrots. Fruits that may be used are figs (raw or dried), blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, grapes, mangoes, melons (cantaloupes, honeydew, watermelons), papayas, bananas, and apples, but never rhubarbs. There must be a constant supply of fresh clean water.
An important aspect is regular cleaning and disinfecting with a 5% bleach solution. Remember that buying or adoption means making a commitment to care for this creature for the next 20 years. Before getting an iguana, also consider this―how fair is it for an animal that spends its lifetime in a rainforest, to live within a glass/mesh box? Someone very wise said that, "only those animals that choose to stay with the owner after being released can rightfully be kept as pets."