Green Iguana Care Sheet.
Steve Woodward. 29/12/00...(Last update
12th December 2012)
Common Name: Common Green Iguana. (Green Iguana).
Scientific Name: Iguana iguana.
Central & South Americas.
5' - 6' Total Length.
The Green Iguana,
An arboreal lizard, mainly from the South & Central American rain forests,
sometimes seen in captivity in the reptile houses of zoo's and wildlife parks, the Iguana is a large colourful lizard, mostly mottled shades of green in colour with varying black banding on the body and tail.
Most Iguanas can learn to become tame with regular handling and petting.
Males when adult can be territorial, and usually do better kept separate from other males.
Iguanas have been known to show some aggression and for this reason they are not recommended as an ideal reptile purchase for beginners or children.
Use full spectrum 5% "UVB" lighting around 12 hours per day,
which mimics natural sunlight, this is a special reptile tube light, (Reptisun, Zoomed, T-Rex etc)
and not the cheaper horticultural Gro-Lux type which are of no use for UVB output.
(for maximum effect change every 6 months).
Provide a spot-lit basking area with access to a cooler area, (Gradient).
Supply branches and logs for climbing and exploring,
making sure there is nothing the Iguana could trap or snag its claws on.
Heating pads can help maintain the required temperature from below, and are a useful supplement especially during cold weather.
experiments are continuing into UVB and which is the best
tube/lamp to use, until these investigations are written then the normal 5% UVB
tube is recommended.HANDLING:
Both sexes can benefit from frequent handling to help with taming, they will sometimes initially struggle to get free, but are also known to actually enjoy being stroked or rubbed on the body and will sometimes sit still for a while and accept this petting, care should be taken during breeding season when behaviour (in particular of males) can be erratic, and so common sense would be to avoid the facial area, avoid leaving Iguanas with unsupervised children
and generally keep your eyes on them at all times especially around fingers arms legs or feet.
Green Iguanas are arboreal lizards (tree dwelling) they inhabit the
Tropical rain forests of South and Central America at reasonably low altitudes of up to 1,000 metres,
(High altitudes being too cold).
In captivity full grown adult Iguanas require a habitat,
compound, den, vivarium, call it what you will, of at least
6' x 5' x 4'.
more space is always better whenever possible.
Daytime temperatures should be:
Basking area around 85-95 degrees F.
Cool area 75-85 degrees F.
Night temperatures can fall to around 70 degrees, even perhaps lower, as long as they are able to warm up in the morning.
Extra care should be taken during times of power cuts / failure, try to give this some thought so you are prepared if need be.
Basking area temp may be a little higher, as long as the Iguana is able to
move to a cooler spot to thermoregulate.
Iguana's require moderate to high levels of humidity.
You can help achieve this by misting the vivarium every other day,
spray misting the Iguana himself and frequent bathing.
A large dish of water in his habitat will also help with this process through evaporation.
Humidity also helps considerably with the shedding process of Iguanas.
Supply a large fairly deep water dish for drinking, with fresh water provided daily.
Note: If the Iguana also uses this for bathing,
then be aware that they have a strong tendency to defecate in water, it seems to have a laxative effect on them,
therefore it will need replacing on a more regular basis.
Two very important anatomical features.
An Iguana (as with all cold blooded species) cannot generate its own body heat, and so must thermoregulate, by moving
in and out of hot and cooler spots (gradients) to maintain the correct body temperature.
Hence the different temperature zones indicated in TEMPERATURE above.
Iguanas need UVB light (in the absence of natural sunlight) to convert Vitamin D into its active form,
in this active form it can then assist in the absorption of calcium into the body.
So sunlight is by far the best source or in the absence of it, at least 12 hours of full spectrum light
(UVB) is required daily to ensure your Iguana remains healthy.
This together with a good calcium intake and the required warmth will prevent
the occurrence of MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease).
A good varied diet should ensure the required calcium levels are taken up, but
if in any doubt then a commercial calcium / vitamin supplement (sprinkled on food) may be given
occasionally as a top up, or at times such as, when females are gravid, if you have a picky eater,
or if the Iguana has a loss of appetite due to breeding condition, change of surroundings etc.
Further more detailed anatomy information is available on the Ignatomy page.
Most Iguanas can become tame to some degree, with regular handling and petting.
Males can be territorial, and usually do better kept separate
from other males.
Behaviour is sometimes erratic during breeding season
when extra care should be taken in handling, due to some having the tendency to become more aggressive at this time.
Iguanas are normally lethargic creatures, and can become even
more so by a number of happenings, such as, a change of habitat or owner,
being handled by a different person, breeding season, a change in diet, or
indeed anything out of the norm.
They are creatures of habit and tend to
sulk if this is disturbed in anyway, but usually the appetite and normality
returns after a short break.
This section is intended to help with initial identification of these problems, if problems persist or if they appear serious then veterinarian advice should be sought. The only person able to diagnose disease and prescribe medication is a veterinarian. (see
vet's page for help in locating one)
Sadly the one most commonly associated with Iguanas MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease)
need not exist, if owners took all the necessary steps in the care, diet,
and housing of their iguanas.
Calcium, warmth and UVB lighting prevent MBD from occurring, but sometimes when
an Iguana has been rescued or received from an unwanted situation, where care has not
been a priority, then the signs of this disease can be apparent.
The good news is it can mostly be reversible depending on severity, especially in early cases, with the
Iguana going on to lead a near normal life.
Signs are....swollen limbs, receding jaws that look out of line from the side,
dragging of legs, spongy areas around the mouth and in severe cases, deformed
bones and a twisted lumpy spine.
Consider prevention of this disease your duty (makes it easy to remember)...
Diet, UVB, Temperature, You to ensure they receive it, Therefore resulting in no problems with MBD.
Mites...Little creatures usually no bigger than a full stop "....."
they can hide under your Iguanas
scales, in the neck creases, dewlap folds and around the eyes and feed on their blood.
Mites can be hard to get rid of due to the
number of hiding places available in the habitat.
There are many mite eradication preparations now
available, but they must be used in combination with cleanliness to be effective.
Get a veterinarians diagnosis if you suspect mites but are unsure.
Worms...Intestinal parasites, Can sometimes be seen like a tiny light coloured thread "~~~~"
moving in the faeces.
A faecal examination from a vet can confirm the infection.
Fairly easy to treat, a first dose to kill off the parasites present, with a follow
up dose around 2 weeks later to catch any hatched eggs should do the trick, again
while being treated cleanliness is a must to prevent re-infection.
Veterinarians diagnosis should be required to confirm.
Tail (loss of)...Although not an illness as such, it does happen and can be a
worrying sight for an Iguana's owner, so for a brief explanation.
The Iguanas tail is designed to come away easily, but unfortunately cannot be
It is generally thought to be an escape mechanism in the wild,
where a predator can be left with the tail while the Iguana makes its escape.
Because of this, never try to catch or hold your Iguana by its tail.
Loss of tail
is mostly something that happens to juvenile Iguanas and is normally re-grown, but to a
lesser size and colour than before, it usually heals ok but monitor for signs of infection and keep clean while healing.
(Mouthrot)...An illness which can if left untreated eventually be fatal! It
usually presents by bleeding gums, a greeny/grey cheesy substance noticeable
when yawning or eating, and a lack of appetite.
Treatment consists of Antibiotics (sometimes 2 types combined) and removal of
the caseous plaque from the injured mouth, needless to say a Veterinarian is
needed to oversee this treatment.
Causes can be an injury to the mouth allowing the bacteria to enter the wound,
soft gums due to lack of UVB or a generally run down unhealthy Iguana.LIFE EXPECTANCY:
The normal life expectancy of a healthy Iguana is around 15 years, some have indeed lived longer than this (oldest recorded being 29 years
Hatfield), and many have died younger, many Iguanas fed on a previously bad diet of dog or cat food for example, seem to die around 6 years of age due to kidney / liver problems.
Exact sexing especially in juveniles is very difficult and can only be done in certainty by someone with veterinarian experience in a procedure called probing the cloacal vent.
However the characteristics that develop as they get older, can give a good idea of gender, and these are, In males...usually larger - heads, dewlaps and subtympanic scales, the femoral pores which are a row of glands along the underside of the thighs
are much larger and more pronounced in males, and also exude a waxy substance
that is used to distribute scent, also erratic behaviour during breeding season which may consist of biting , nipping and sometimes aggression but note this behaviour is not shown in all
males and can indeed be shown in a few females.
Headbobbing, a series of movements of the head both up and down and less often side to side, are usually much more pronounced in males.
For females, generally the opposite of the above ...smaller dewlaps, heads and subtympanic scales, the rows of femoral pores are just small dots, and in breeding season they sometimes start digging or scratching as if looking for somewhere to lay eggs.
They may become gravid and actually lay eggs but these would obviously be sterile if no male has been in attendance.
Iguanas are herbivores and so require a good varied vegetarian diet, some outdated information crops up now and again mainly in old books, that says they can eat crickets, mice or cat & dog food, thankfully this information now tends to be disappearing fast, all experts are now in agreement on the herbivore status.
The diet below gives a good example of foods that can be offered and doesn't need to be adhered to 100% but is supplied for guidance purposes, I find in winter time when fresh food can be
scarce, a good substitute is the pre-packed mixed bags of salad greens available in all supermarkets, try to avoid the ones containing lettuce which is practically water and nil nutrition, these can be further supplemented with dandelion leaves.
Feed up to 50% of,
Leafy greens, Collards, Mustard greens, Turnip greens,
Nasturtiums (leaves & flowers),
Dandelions (leaves & flowers), Escarole, Rocket,
Hibiscus leaves and flowers, Watercress, Land cress, fresh Alfalfa and Carrot tops.
Up to 35% of,
Green beans, Zucchini, Squash, Bean sprouts, Okra, Parsley, Grated carrot
Red Yellow or Green bell peppers (Sweet peppers), Leeks, Peas, Cucurbits, Parsnips alfalfa pellets, Vine leaves, Chinese greens and Celery.
Around 10% of,
Fruits such as Papayas, Blackberries, Kiwi, Peach, Banana, Grapes, Plums, Apricots, Oranges, Clementines,
Satsuma's, Mango's, Apples, Figs,
Strawberries, Pear, Cherry, Melons, Fuchsia fruits and Rose hips.
Up to 5% from the occasional foods below,
The following contain "Oxalates" which binds with calcium and hampers absorption, and should not be fed in large quantities,
Chard, Spinach, Rhubarb stems only (beware rhubarb leaves are very toxic), Dock, Sorrel, Beets and Beet greens.
These contain "Goitrogens", so same as above feed in small quantities only,
Cabbage, Broccoli, Kale, Cauliflower, Brussel sprouts and Bok choy.
Finally, Bread, Pasta, and Rice are grain foods and may be offered once or twice a week
The ownership of a Green Iguana is not to be taken lightly and certainly not to be just purchased on a whim, they are not too difficult to look after but do need some care and attention and can run to some expense with special lights for UVB, basking and heating
A large habitat is also required for all but the very young Iguana....So to summarize
I would say The Green Iguana is not a beginners or young Childs pet, but for someone with the time care and funds available, it can be the making of a good few years of enjoyment.
FURTHER READING AND WEB REFERENCES:
Two excellent books on the market today for reference are "Green Iguana The ultimate owners manual" by James W Hatfield 111, Dunthorpe press ISBN ref 1-883463-48-3,
and "Iguanas for Dummies" by Melissa Kaplan, IDG books ISBN ref 0-7645-5260-0,
Also Melissa Kaplan has what is probably the most extensive site on the web, with probably every Iguana subject covered
Note: A care sheet is intended for basic guidance only, and we would advise that if you are in any doubt whatsoever as to any injury , illness or health in general, of your Iguana, then the appropriate person to seek advice from, would be a veterinarian, preferably experienced in reptilian care.
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We can accept no responsibility whatsoever, all information is given in good intent and is correct to the best of our knowledge.