In my last post in this series, Adopting a Reptile? How to Make #ReptileCare Easy, I shared my plans to adopt an Iguana as a pet. Well, it’s official! I am now the proud owner to not one, but two, juvenile iguanas. I opted to bring home a red iguana and a blue iguana*. Did you know that iguanas can come in a variety of colors including green, gray, red, brown, tan, blue, and many more? They can also change colors based upon heat requirements, mood, or stress!
Before bringing home my new iguanas, I spent time researching proper reptile care for iguanas including habitat, diet, taming, and more. The internet is a wealth of information, just be careful to use reputable sources such as the Reptile Care Center on petMD®. All the information found on petMD® is written and/or approved by veterinarians, so you can be sure the information is accurate, current, and relevant to your reptile.
In case you are thinking of bringing home a new reptile this summer too be sure to check out the Reptile Care Center on petMD®. They even have an awesome info-graphic on choosing the right reptile for your family!
Here is what I found pertaining to iguanas:
Green iguanas can found naturally from Mexico to South America. They are reptiles that spend most of their lives in trees. They also excel at doing nothing and conserving energy. Iguanas will spend a great deal of time basking, resting, and observing their environment. The green iguana is arguably the most common reptile in the pet trade today. Green iguanas are readily available and almost one million are imported into the United States annually as babies. These wonderful lizards make incredible pets, and can be quite affectionate. However, many end up with veterinary issues or in rescue due to impulse purchases and inadequate research prior to bringing them home. So, again, take the time to visit available resources such as the Reptile Care Center on petMD® before deciding to bring home an iguana.
Iguanas are herbivores, eating mostly leaves, flowers, and fruit. Iguana dietary needs are easily met both with raw natural foods that can be purchased in a supermarket (such as leafy greens and fruit) and commercially prepared “Iguana Food.” The Reptile Purchase Center at PetSmart has a huge selection of iguana foods. I chose the ZooMed Juvenile Iguana diet. You should also add a calcium supplement. While at the Reptile Purchase Center at PetSmart I came across the Zilla Vitamin Supplement Food Spray…I am using this in conjunction with a calcium supplement as it is intended to aid in calcium metabolism and can be sprayed directly onto any food. Since iguanas are strict herbivores, they should never be given a diet that is high in protein. If you do, over time this will lead to renal failure and death.
If you put a newly acquired small iguana in a HUGE enclosure, they sometimes have difficulty finding their food and water. Therefore it is better to start in smaller cages (no smaller than twice the length of the lizard from nose to tail), and increase the size of the cage as the iguana grows. I started my iguanas in a cage that was approximately 18″ by 24″ by 24″. This temporary cage allowed them to settle in their new home while I waited for my larger cage (that I ordered from the Reptile Purchase Center on PetSmart.com – see the cage in the image below) to arrive.
An adult iguana needs LOTS of space. Cute little baby iguanas will grow at a very rapid rate to a 6-foot-long dinosaur (seriously…they cock their heads at you when you talk to them like a Jurassic Park Velociraptor…I love it!).
Strong UV fluorescent lights are needed to prevent metabolic bone disease (one of the most common diseases seen by veterinarians for iguanas and easily preventable). Iguanas also need lots of heat in the form of basking bulbs. This is important: the heat should come from above the iguana, so the parietal eye is engaged, thus enabling the iguana to thermoregulate as required. DO NOT USE HOT ROCKS, HEAT PADS OR ANY OTHER HEAT SOURCE COMING FROM THE FLOOR. Iguanas often burn themselves when substrate heaters such as “hot rocks” are used as a heat source, because the parietal eye is not engaged, and iguanas do not recognize these as heat and attempt to bask.
Temperatures in the cage should range from a high end of around 95 degrees and a cooler end in the low to mid 80s. The ideal habitat allows the iguana to choose its own body temperature by giving the iguana the ability to move closer to the heat source or further from the heat source in order to warm or cool itself accordingly.
Remember that smaller iguanas, especially babies, may not be able to locate their water bowl. Because of this, it is very important to mist them daily and soak them at least twice weekly in order to ensure that they are well hydrated. I found this new awesome Tropical Mist Humidifying Spray at the Reptile Purchase Center on PetSmart near me. The spray is fortified with rich emollients and Aloe Vera conditioners to help moisturize the skin and eliminate shedding problems. I also added a large tray to the bottom of their cage that has a small amount of water for them to soak in. The bonus to this tray, is iguanas can be potty trained to an area with a small amount of water in it, so we are already starting potty training!
Iguana Handling, Temperament, & Taming:
Baby iguanas generally do not bite, but excessive handling is not recommended until your iguana gets used to its new home. Iguanas make intelligent, friendly pets. In fact, iguanas have the capability of identifying their owners, and have unique personalities. Over time they may become quite affectionate and are among the most rewarding of all reptiles to keep.
Since my iguanas are new to my home, other than general care where they see me cleaning their cage, giving them their food, and refreshing their water, I have spent time sitting next to their cage talking softly to them. I know they are getting more comfortable with my presence as they are starting to respond to my voice with little head tilts. As their responses to me become more curious and less startled, I am gradually increasing my interaction to petting. Always pet a reptile the same direction as his scales otherwise it may be an unpleasant experience for him and you. As they become more accustomed to my touch, I will then begin holding them (making sure to give them time to release their claws from wherever they are perched in order to avoid accidental injury from a claw being ripped).
Hand feeding is also a good way for your iguana get accustomed and feel safe around you. I attempt to hand feed my iguanas every time I refresh their food dish. Even if they won’t eat it, I know they will be slowly getting used to me being around and start associating my presence with food. This is the part that is the most challenging. While I would like to hand-feed my iguanas as much as possible, I am still keeping a food dish with fresh leafy greens full for them twice a day. A stressed animal will starve itself rather than eat from your hands, so don’t push too hard. As they become more acclimated to their new home they will be more likely to eat what you offer them from your hands.
Petting and hand feeding will help your iguana feel comfortable while still in the safety of his cage.
Don’t forget, everything you need for your new reptile can easily be found online at the Reptile Purchase Center on PetSmart.com! Many reptile supplies are currently on sale and qualified for free shipping as a part of the Reptile Mega Month at PetSmart®!
If you have missed any part in this series, I will be posting all the links on my Iguanas as Pets Page.
Will you be adopting a reptile this summer?
*When I first wrote this post, I had adopted a red iguana and a green iguana. Unfortunately, the company I selected my original iguanas from sent me an ill green iguana, and being a new iguana owner, I did not recognize the signs. I will be doing another post on this experience to help all other new iguana owners avoid such a sad experience.