INTRODUCTION: Green iguanas have been kept as pets in captivity for many decades, however their popularity has decreased in recent years as people have become more aware of their large adult size and correlate space requirements. For the appropriately educated individual, iguanas can make interesting pets, but be sure to do your research beforehand. Adult iguanas can reach 3-6 feet in length including their tails. Full-grown adults require something on the order of a small room or very large multi-level cage with adequate out of cage time, making them inappropriate pets for many people, and a challenge for the novice reptile keeper.
HOUSING: Iguanas should be housed singly throughout their lives.
– Cage – A 30 gallon aquarium or Rubbermaid tub is an adequate starter enclosure for an iguana, but will not be appropriate for very long. As your pet grows, you will have to buy or build larger enclosures. At a minimum, an adult iguana will need a cage 4-5 feet tall, 4 feet long and 2-3 feet wide. Offering multiple levels with platforms and/or branches allows your pet to utilize more of its enclosure and pursue its natural climbing habits. Larger iguanas may be kept in a small room or custom built enclosure.
– Bedding/substrate – Newspapers or paper towels are safest and easiest to replace/clean. Vinyl tile (from hardware store) or Repti-Carpet can also be used. If a paper pulp material (e.g. Carefresh) is used, you should feed your pet in a separate enclosure to prevent ingestion. Replace the bedding/substrate or clean the hard surface every 1-2 days to prevent exposure to waste. **SAND, GRAVEL, MULCH/BARK, OR OTHER NATURAL SUBSTRATES SHOULD NOT BE USED DUE TO DIFFICULTIES IN CLEANING, RISK OF GASTROINTESTINAL ISSUES IF EATEN, AND PROBLEMS WITH IRRITATION OF EYES AND DELICATE TISSUE OF MOUTH.
– Cage “furniture” – Platforms, branches, driftwood, cork bark and/or large rocks can be provided for climbing. **HEATED ROCKS SHOULD NEVER BE USED DUE TO RISK OF THERMAL BURNS.
– Temperature/heating – A temperature gradient should be created within the enclosure, with a warm side and a cool side. This allows the iguana to regulate its temperature by changing location. Provide a daytime focal basking area of 90-95°F (use incandescent bulb, ceramic heating element, or red/other bulb; under tank heating pad can also be used if needed) on the warm side of the enclosure. Daytime temperatures on the cooler side of the enclosure should be 75-85°F. Use multiple digital thermometers with probes to ensure appropriate temperatures are maintained. Dial thermometers are often inaccurate. Provide a nighttime temperature range of 70-85°F throughout the enclosure. If needed, a safe under tank heating pad, ceramic heating element, or red bulb can help in maintaining recommended temperatures. Due to risk of burn injuries, always use appropriate rheostats/thermostats if using the commonly available ZooMed heating pads. Heating pads with which we have had good experiences include Ultratherm Heat Pads (beanfarm.com) and Cobra T-Rex Heat Pads (available from many pet stores).
– Lighting – Provide an ultraviolet B (5.0 UVB) light over the basking area (within 18 inches, no glass/acrylic in between) for approximately 12 hours a day. UVB is necessary for vitamin D production and appropriate absorption of calcium from the gastrointestinal system. Replace this bulb approximately every 6 months, as UVB production decreases with time.
Try to expose your iguana to natural sunlight as much as possible during the summer months. DO NOT leave your iguana outside in a glass tank or an enclosed container because it will overheat. Try building an all screen enclosure and make sure part of it is always shaded. Dogs, cats, raccoons, etc. like to eat iguanas, so DO NOT leave your iguana unattended outside unless you are certain the cage is secure.
– Vegetables (70-80% of diet) – Feed variety of dark leafy vegetables, such as collard greens, kale, endive, spinach, romaine lettuce, green/red leaf lettuce, Boston lettuce, parsley, bok choy, and broccoli (leaves and florets). Limited amounts of other vegetables (carrots, squash, peas, beans) can be offered.. Chop/shred greens, spray with water, and offer in bowl or on plate once daily to every other day depending on the age of your inguana.
– Complete diet (20-30% of diet) – Commercial iguana diets (moistened with water) can be offered. Common brands include Rep-cal, Reeds, Zeigler, Scenic, Pretty Pets, or Nutri-grow. Due to higher vitamin and mineral content, iguanas eating mainly a commercial diet (at least 50%) may need to have their multi-vitamin and calcium supplementation reduced.
– Vitamin supplements – If your iguana eats largely greens, you will need to supplement the diet with vitamin and calcium powders. Dust salad with a high quality calcium/vitamin D3 supplement (with NO phosphorous added) 4-5 times a week in juveniles and 2-3 times a week in adults. Dust salad with a high quality multi-vitamin (with a vitamin A source that is NOT beta carotene and NO vitamin D3) once a week in juveniles and once every other week in adults.
– Water bowl – Provide clean, fresh water in a dish/bowl into which your dragon can easily climb (small/low for juveniles). Change water daily.
– Encourage drinking – Mist the environment and iguana 3-4 times daily with water in a spray bottle.
– Soaking – Soak your pet 2-3 times a week in warm, shallow water for 15-20 minutes to encourage drinking, improve hydration, and help with shedding.
SIGNS OF ILLNESS: We highly recommend that your pet be seen for an annual physical examination and fecal analysis with an experienced reptile veterinarian. Please consult a reptile veterinarian should you notice any of the following signs: weight loss, decreased appetite/thirst, abnormal stools, twitching/tremors/seizures, swelling of the limbs, inability to close the mouth properly, discharge from eyes and/or mouth, difficulty breathing, distension of the abdomen in non-breeding animals, masses/lumps, or wounds/cuts/scrapes.