How To Keep Green Iguanas

Portrait of iguanas

Green iguanas can be wonderful pets, given that the proper care is provided. Not only are they beautiful animals, but they are also very easy to maintain if you know what their basic necessities are. The average lifespan for a green iguana is approximately 25 years, with some known to live longer with proper care. They require a minimal amount of daily attention and don’t generally irritate people with allergies like animals with fur or hair can. They are a good alternative companion for those who are not allowed to keep typical pets such as dogs and cats in their homes because of fussy landlords. Many people love them just because they are quiet and are not nocturnal animals. Whatever the reason you have chosen to keep a green iguana as a pet, there are a few things that you can to do to insure your beloved pet has a long, happy and healthy life.

Step 1

Get the proper cage. While you may have bought what appears to be a little lizard, he is going to grow and by the end of the first year will be three feet in length. A 10 gallon aquarium is NOT a suitable cage, even for a small iguana. If you insist on keeping him or her in a glass aquarium, nothing less than a long 30 gallon tank will do for a single small iguana. A large wooden or metal framed cage with mesh sides that can be climbed by the iguana is best. Be sure that the mesh is welded at the connection points to prevent injury to your pet. The cage should be at least four feet tall and three feet wide. There should be ample space for the iguana to climb and turn around with ease. It should also be easy to clean and have enough space for a large enough water dish to bath in. Buy the largest cage that you have space for, as you will only end up buying a bigger one if you do not.

Step 2

Provide a good basking light. This is not something that is negotiable. Your iguana cannot survive without adequate sunlight. If you are fortunate enough to live in a warm, sunny climate, keeping your iguana’s cage outdoors for part of the day is an ideal solution. (Just be sure that your pet has somewhere to get out of the sun.) If you do not live in a warm weather climate, you will need to purchase a proper UV light. Go to your local pet store and see what they have available. Tell them that you have an iguana and buy the largest lamp and bulb that you can fit on the cage. The light should be OUTSIDE of the cage to prevent the iguana from burning itself, and the basking log should be positioned no closer than six inches from the light. Since iguanas are arboreal animals, the best place for the basking logs is high up in the cage. This will often allow you to set the light directly on top of the cage, provided the mesh is non flammable. Give your Iguana three to five hours of light at a minimum daily, especially before and after feeding time. The more light the better. The cage should be kept in a room that is 68-80 degrees consistently and has regular day and night cycles. Try to keep the cage in a place that is free of drafts and is sitting securely on the floor or table. You may wish to cover the cage at night to provide a sense of normal nocturnal patterns.

Step 3

Use a variety of food. Iguanas are vegetarian. They should not be fed meat! Giving them an occasional meal worm is ok, but it is not a staple food for them. What they should be eating is a diet that offers a wide variety of leafy green vegetables, brightly colored fruits and some softer vegetables. Never ever give your iguana iceberg lettuce! Not only is it not good for them, they will no longer wish to eat the healthy green leaves. If you do feed them iceberg lettuce for a long period of time THEY WILL DIE from lack of nutrition! Spinach is also not a good choice, but not nearly as bad as iceberg lettuce. Some good foods to feed them on a regular basis are romaine and leaf lettuce, collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, kale, cabbage, avocado, tomatoes, grated zucchini or summer squash, hibiscus flowers (when available) bananas, mango’s , oranges and grapefruit (peeled), kiwi and strawberries. Not all iguanas are the same and they won’t all like to eat the same things. Try different things and see what works for your iguana.

Step 4

Provide an interesting environment. They should have lots of different surfaces to climb, a large “pool” for bathing and a dark place to hide when they want to be alone. Iguanas need their privacy too! Their cage should simulate their natural environment which is a warm, lush tropical place. If you can give them a natural environment, they will live very happy lives.

These are the basic things that your iguana will need to keep him or her happy and healthy. Keep in mind that iguanas are solitary animals in nature, and should be kept so in your home. They are not lonely! You may be able to keep more than one juvenile iguana together, like in your local pet store, but older iguanas–especially males–do not want another iguana in their territory. Forcing them together may result in injury or death for one or more iguanas and should not be attempted. Some people like to provide vitamins on the iguana’s food, others do not. You should be able to find a good book on iguana care at your local library or pet store, which will give you lots of detailed information on the nature of the iguana and its natural environment. There are a lot of good resources out there to help you enjoy your new pet. 


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