The Green Iguana, Iguana iguana
, is captive-bred by the millions on farms in Latin America. These lizards have specific requirements that need to be met in order for them to thrive, but with proper care they mature into impressive and responsive lizards. Their eventual size of up to 6 feet in length, however, is a serious consideration, as large iguanas are capable of inflicting nasty injuries with their jaws, claws, and tails.
The green iguana's range extends from southern Mexico through Central America and northern South America to Paraguay. They also inhabit Puerto Rico and many other Caribbean islands and have been introduced to Florida and Hawaii. Green iguanas are always found near water and will dive from overhanging branches when frightened.
Green iguanas are very alert, and even long-term pets are easily startled by noises and sudden movements. Males may become dangerously aggressive during breeding season. Natural sunlight, which is essential for good health, may also increase aggression. Iguanas of both sexes must be restrained when handled, and the mouth, claws, and tail should never be allowed near one's face.
Setting up the Terrarium
Enclosure size is a major concern. Hatchlings will exceed 2 feet in their first year, and 3 feet by 2 years of age. Adults average 4.5 to 5.5 feet, with males sometimes exceeding 6 feet. Only one iguana should be kept per enclosure.
Hatchlings will need a 55 gallon tank or equivalent-sized screen enclosure within the first year. Iguanas three feet or larger require a homemade cage or a commercial cage designed for large lizards.
An enclosure measuring 6 x 3 x 6 feet is suitable for an adult, with larger cages being more ideal.
Green iguanas are highly arboreal and will become stressed if kept in enclosures that do not allow climbing opportunities. Stout branches and wooden shelves should be provided. A water area large enough for bathing must always be available. If a safe room is available, exercise time out of the cage is beneficial.
The best options for substrate in an iguana enclosure are newspaper and washable cage liners. Cypress mulch
and other more natural materials can be used, but food must be served in a large enough dish to prevent accidental ingestion of the substrate.
Light, Heat and Humidity
Green iguanas will not thrive without a source of UVB radiation. Natural sunlight is best when possible, but glass and plastic filter out UVB rays and cages overheat quickly in the sun. Fluorescent lighting, such as high-output reptile fluorescent tubes or mercury vapor bulbs (which also produce heat) can be used for indoor enclosures.
The ambient air temperature should range from 85-95°F with a basking area that reaches 100°F. UVB bulbs
or mercury vapor bulbs
should be used to maintain these temperatures. A ceramic heater
or red/black night bulb
can be used after dark, when temperatures can dip to 80°F.
Green iguanas favor humidity levels of 65-75%, but the enclosure must be allowed to dry as well. The cage should be misted on average twice per day.
Strict attention to diet is essential for iguana health. Nutritional deficiencies can develop quickly, and most are difficult to treat. The majority of your iguana's diet – 60% or more, should consist of a variety of fibrous, calcium-rich vegetables such as kale, romaine, dandelions, bok choy, collards, mustard and turnip greens, beet tops, and escarole. Broccoli, peas, squash beans, carrots, peppers, and mixed frozen vegetables (thawed) can make up most of the balance. Spinach binds calcium and should be avoided. Fruit should comprise no more than 10% of your iguana's diet with bananas, pears, apple, figs, melon, berries, kiwi, peaches, and others being offered occasionally.
Juvenile iguanas can be given supplemental feeder insects or boiled lentils, pinto, navy, or kidney beans until reaching 1 year of age. This protein should only make up a small portion of their diet, roughly 5-10%. After this period such items should only be offered as an occasional treat.
For juveniles, food should be powdered with a calcium supplement
or mineral supplements
should be used 2-3 times per week. Most healthy adults only require calcium supplements
once per week.
Young iguanas should be fed two small meals daily. Adults can be fed every other day, but should also be provided with a large water bowl
for drinking and soaking.
Daily Care and Maintenance
Check your iguana daily for signs of injury or disease, such as swollen limbs, wheezing, mites, broken toes, rubbed noses, and unshed skin.
Daily care includes misting the terrarium, changing the water bowl, removing waste and uneaten food, and feeding.
Salmonella bacteria, commonly present in reptile and amphibian digestive tracts, can cause severe illnesses in people. Handling an animal will not cause an infection, as the bacteria must be ingested. Salmonella infections are easy to avoid via the use of proper hygiene. Wash your hands with warm, soapy water before and after handling any animal. Please speak with your family doctor or veterinarian for more tips on preventing Salmonella, or please read our care guide Cleaning and Disinfecting Recommendations
for additional instructions.
When it comes to your new pet, knowledge is the best way to choose an appropriate addition to your family. Learn as much as you can about your new friend before you bring him home to ensure your pet enjoys a long, healthy life.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our reptile room at 717-299-5691 ext. 1246 or [email protected]
Screen or wire terrarium
(never use an aquarium for your Iguana)
UVB fluorescent lighting
(large enough for the iguana to sit in)