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Article Archive

    Iguana

    Iguana
    • Diet
    • Housing
    • Heating & Lighting Requirements
    • Handling
    • General
    • Helpful Hints
    • Origin: Caribbean, Central & South America
    • Habitat: Tropical Forest
    • Average Size: 5'-6'
    • Lifespan: Average 15-20 years


    Diet
    The diet of Green Iguanas can be slightly complicated, 80-90% should be vegetables and 10-20% should be fruits. Most iguanas love fruits, but they are mineral deficient. They can be given as treats or with a combination of the other food items listed, but should be restricted. Iguanas should eat mostly leafy greens with a dark green color.

    Dark leafy greens that are rich in calcium include:
  • collard greens
  • mustard greens
  • turnip tops & greens
  • alfalfa
  • timothy hay
  • alfalfa chow
  • buffalo grass
  • dandelions


  • Other dark leafy greens include:

  • bok choy
  • swiss chard
  • clover
  • kale
  • beet greens
  • escarole
  • parsley
  • spinach
  • watercress
  • savoy
  • kohlrabi
  • romaine lettuce


  • Other types of vegetables include:

  • alfalfa or radish sprouts (as well as other sprouts)
  • asparagus
  • bell peppers
  • carrots
  • cucumbers
  • green beans
  • jicama
  • mushrooms
  • okra
  • peas & pea pods
  • prickly pear cactus pads (remove spines)
  • shredded squash (green, yellow, zucchini)
  • sweet potatoes
  • soybeans
  • thawed frozen mixed vegetables


  • Spinach and beets have calcium binders in them and should be only be fed in moderation. Cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, bok choy, cauliflower, kale, and other members of the cabbage family can cause thyroid problems if fed excessively, but are fine in moderation. Flowers such as roses, nasturtiums, carnations, and hibiscus are excellent. Mulberry leaves are good if available.

    10-20% of the iguana diet should be various fruits. Figs are one of the few fruits rich in calcium. Apples, grapes, apricots, dates, kiwis, melons, peaches, pears, papayas, raspberries, plums, prunes, raisins, and strawberries are all fine in small amounts. Iguanas are fond of bananas, but unfortunately, they have very little calcium.

    Fresh water must be available at all times. Providing moving water is recommended as is an occasional misting.

    The more varied the diet the better.


    We recommend and use the following food items:

  • Fresh romaine lettuce
  • Yellow or butternut squash grated with carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and any other vegetable you may want to try.
  • Hard-boiled eggs (as treat only).
  • Fruits such as bananas, strawberries, apples and pears.
  • Reptile vitamins should be sprinkled on the food.
  • Commercial iguana food is available here.

    We mix the commercial food into a bowl so it is evenly spread over the fruits and vegetables. Some iguanas need to be coaxed into eating commercial food. Ocean Nutrition “fruit and flower” is one of the favorites here. We have noticed that some lizards love millet spray as a treat and we have continued to offer this as part of their diet.

    When shredding fruits and vegetables please make sure the food is cut-up and offered separately from the other foods. When the Iguana smells food that has been mixed together he will tend to eat a lot less than if offered the food in separate little piles. We feed our iguanas three times a week. Studies show that reptiles who are fed everyday develop a decrease in appetite because their brain gets programmed to think “I don’t need to eat this because I’ll always have food.”

    Iguanas use their teeth to eat, not to bite.

    Housing
    A large wire cage is best, with climbing material. Aquariums do not provide the climbing space necessary for healthy Iguanas, since they are tree dwellers and require a large enclosure. Keeping your reptile in a small enclosure will not keep it small but will cause stress and your pet will be unhealthy and uncomfortable just as a person would if subjected to live in a closet. The substrate of your cage should be cypress mulch. You may choose to use bark or soil substrate and decorate your cage with branches for climbing and maybe some plants. The best bedding we have found is Reptibark- if it gets wet it does not have the tendency to mold like other beddings.

    Heating & Lighting Requirements
    Air temperature in your iguana’s cage should be approximately 88º, with a basking area temperature of around 90-100º. At night, the temperature should drop to about 70-75º. Daytime heat can be provided by one or two daytime incandescent heat bulbs. It is critical that you use a fluorescent bulb with your daytime heat source because iguanas are basically vegetarian. They crucially need UVA and UVB rays, and the only way to get this is through a fluorescent bulb. Daylight bulbs only give off UVA. Correct temperature and good fluorescent light is necessary to allow proper vitamin and mineral usage from the iguana’s food and to help their immune system ward off diseases, like metabolic bone disease. The fluorescent light bulb needs to be replaced every six months. If your cage temperature drops below 70º at night, you need to purchase a reptile night bulb. This bulb gives off heat but the black light is not detected by the reptile, thus providing the iguana with natural darkness for twelve hours and natural daylight for twelve hours so they don’t get stressed. These fluorescent light bulbs need to be replaced every six months. On hot summer days, it may be necessary to unplug your external heat sources because your reptiles can overheat.
    *Never use a hot rock with an iguana, reptiles do not have heat sensors in their skin and cannot tell when they are being burnt. Iguanas do not feel comfortable coming down from the branches to lay on a hot rock.

    Handling
    Start off handling sessions by allowing the animal to explore you, and then you can touch it gently on the top of the head. When you do this, they may even close their eyes. It is not recommended to let the iguana run free in the house unless it is supervised. When going outside on a warm day, use an iguana harness. If they become frightened they will run for the nearest tree. Wash hands before and after handling.

    General Information
    When purchasing an iguana, do not look for the calmest one. Look for one with a fat tail, bright eyes, nice skin, and good muscle tone. After you take your new pet home, be sure to hydrate him with lukewarm water daily for at least one week. They can become stressed and are sometimes unable to find the water. Give your new pet some time to adjust when you get it home and also handle the iguana for short intervals. Like any other pet, it needs to become familiar with its surroundings and learn that you are not a threat. Offer them fresh finely shredded fruits and vegetables, and if he is reluctant to come down on the floor to eat, prop his dish high up in his cage, this is like eating in a tree.

    Your iguana shedding is a good sign of growth! When your iguana reaches maturity at about 4 feet, don’t be surprised if his attitude towards you changes. Hormones take over, and the iguana will become territorial and aggressive, similar to puberty in humans. If they have a cage mate, they can become enemies. This time period passes and the iguana once again becomes calm. It can take 6 months to a few years. It is critical to work with your iguana during this time and to have patience. Frequent handling will keep things in line.

    Helpful Hints
    An occasional nail clipping is necessary because iguanas have sharp climbing claws. Clip their nails with reptile or fingernail clippers. Be careful not to cut too short, only the very tip. Allow your iguana to bathe, we use a plastic sweater box for ours, and have a small submersible pump and an aquarium heater in PVC pipe with small holes cut in it.

    Common sense and proper hygiene are important! Keep your animal in a good environment to ensure years of happy times together. You may notice that there are white markings on the side of your iguana’s cage after the iguana has been in it for a while - this is caused by excess salt which the iguana will sneeze out. Iguanas are basically clean animals, and they often defecate in a given area which can make maintenance easy. Do not clean cages where food is prepared. If you must, then be sure to use bleach in that area.

    Health
    If iguanas are scared, their major defense is to escape and/or lash their tail. Their tail can be dropped off at will if they feel trapped, thus enabling them to run faster. Do not pull on their tail because although it will grow back over several months, they need their tails to store fat and to provide balance. Iguanas will extend their dewlaps (the skin under its chin) when they are scared as well - this makes them look bigger.

    If iguanas are put into a new environment, they tend to freak out and sometimes cause injury to their noses. If your iguana does this, please keep his cage as secluded as possible for a few days and treat any wounds with Rid Rot. If you notice signs of illness do not wait! Reptiles are excellent at hiding their illnesses until they are in the advanced stages. If you notice something wrong, treat it immediately. You may call us or Smoketown Vets, who deal with many reptile cases. We recommend regular vet checkups for all animals.

    Tiny external parasites called mites can cause problems for reptiles. Examine your iguana every day and note any changes in skin condition. Mites generally hide under the chin in lizards.

    We recommend purchasing a book about iguanas. There is such a wealth of information about them that we cannot possibly list all of it on this care sheet.

    If you have any questions about your iguana please call us at 717-299-5691 ext. 1246.