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Care of Iguanas
Iguanas are large, folivorous (leaf eating), arboreal (tree-dwelling) lizards native to Central and South America. The color variations represent the part of their home range in which it originated. South American iguanas tend to be bluer, while those from Mexico and Guatemala tend to be more orange, but there is a wide range of colors. Adult iguanas can weigh as much as 25 pounds though more commonly in captivity they only reach about 10 pounds and be 5-6 feet long. The life span varies depending on diet, housing, and environmental factors, but is between 10-29 years. Most of today’s pet iguanas were raised on farms in Florida, Texas, and Central America. Both males and females can be aggressive especially during the breeding season, though females tend to be more tamed. In the wild they tend to be solitary creatures and therefore do NOT get along well with other iguanas.
The enclosure in which the iguana is kept should be large, but easily cleaned. A 30 gallon aquarium or larger is preferred. Plenty of branches of suitable diameter to climb should be provided. Avoid using mirrors or housing more than one iguana in a particular enclosure. If two or more iguanas are housed together they should be of equal size and should have separate access to food, water, and heat source. The optimal temperature is between 85-95° F with a relative humidity of 65-85%. A “hot spot” should be provided and should be around 95-105° F. At night decrease the temperature by 5-10° F. A heating pad beneath the cage may be used to maintain ambient temperature. To allow for basking, it is best to use a heat lamp or incandescent bulb during the day. Hot rocks should be avoided, if used they should be covered to prevent burns. Heat is essential for proper food digestion, immune system function, and reproduction.
Full spectrum light is essential to synthesize Vitamin D3. So in addition to the lighting used for heat, a sun lamp with ultraviolet light should be used. These lights should contain both UV-A and UV-B spectrums and should be changed every 3-4 months. These lights should 18-24 inches from the iguana. When possible unfiltered sunlight should be allowed.
Your iguanas diet should include dark, green leafy vegetables and calcium rich vegetables. Dark green vegetables that can be offered include: grape leaves, mulberry leaves, hibiscus leaves and flowers. The calcium rich vegetables include: turnip greens, mustard greens, kale, dandelion, parsley, spinach, cilantro, collards, bok choy, Swiss chard, and alfalfa pellets. All plant material should be washed, chopped, and mixed. The food should be offered 2-3 times daily. Remove all old food on a daily basis. Fresh vegetables such as beans, carrots, peas, and broccoli may also be offered. Fresh fruit can be offered 2-3 times per week to provide extra essential vitamins and minerals. Recommended fruits include: apples, kiwi, pineapple, oranges, melons, and berries. There are some commercial iguana diets now available that are specially formulated to provide proper nutrition for iguanas—though it is still recommended to offer fresh vegetables 2-3 times weekly. Dog foods, primate diets, trout chow and insects are NOT advised. Animal or insect protein can lead to gout/kidney disease in these reptiles. The water source should be large enough for the iguana to sit fully submerged and contain fresh water at all times.
Recommended Reading:The Iguana: An Owners Guide to a Happy Healthy Pet. Karen Rosenthal, DVM. Howell Book House. 1996.