Habitats for Iguanas

Iguana enclosure built in 2003
Image by Andrew in Raleigh via Flickr

Tips on Getting the Right Iguana Cage Setup

Most of us are familiar with seeing smaller iguanas in pet stores.  Juvenile iguanas that are offered for sale are usually between 6 and 12 inches long, including their tail.  You may have even seen someone with a larger iguana – maybe up to 2 or 3 feet long.  And you may have thought, what a cute little pet, considered getting one for yourself, and thought you could comfortably keep it in a large fish tank.

Did you know that iguanas can grow as long as 6 feet in length?  They can become so large, they need a whole room in order to be comfortable and healthy.   Size – in the case of iguana habitats, anyway – DOES MATTER!  All iguanas, no matter their size, need to have a cage that is sufficiently long enough for them to lay stretched out flat, and wide enough for them to turn around comfortably.  And it needs to be high enough to allow the iguana to do one of it’s favorite activities – climb.

There’s a myth that says if you keep an iguana in a small cage, it won’t grow big.  Sadly, this is not true – and many iguanas have suffered for it at the hands of well meaning owners.  So before you run to the pet store and buy an iguana, be sure that you have enough space and resources to take care of it as it grows larger.

A juvenile iguana (under 6 months) doesn’t need a large habitat, and will do very well in a large aquarium that’s been fitted with a snug, escape proof top. However, iguanas grow rapidly the first year, and a baby can  outgrow a 60 gallon aquarium in that time.  You should be prepared to move your iguana into a larger cage by the time it hits 8 months of age.

Besides size, it’s important you take temperature into account when providing a home for your iguana.  Iguanas are reptiles, which means they are cold blooded creatures whose body temperature changes according to the temperature around them.  Because of this, they need an environment that’s kept warm enough to maintain their health.  They also need to be able to move from warm areas – close to a heat source – to cooler areas of the cage so that they can keep themselves at a comfortable temperature.

The overall cage temperature should be around 80 degrees.  The best way to provide heat is through special heat lamps.  Some pet shops sell and recommend ‘heating rocks’, but they really aren’t the best idea – they can get too hot and burn your iguana, leading to infection and illness – even death.

Humidity is another important factor in your iguanas home.  The proper humidity level is between 65-70%, and for smaller iguanas that can be maintained by misting the cage 2-3 times a day with a spray bottle.  Larger cages will need to have some sort of humidifying system, or at least a small pool of water to help add to the humidity.

Finally, lighting is an essential need for your iguana. All iguanas need to receive UVA and UVB light.  UVA rays help kindle natural behavior in iguanas, and UVB rays are essential to the iguana producing vitamin D3, needed for proper digestion of food.

The easiest way to get the necessary UV rays for your iguana is to expose them to the sun regularly.  Be careful though, with iguanas in glass tanks – the heat can be trapped inside and can overheat your iguana.  Any iguana exposed to direct sunlight needs to have an area where it can go to cool off.  Also, some glass filters the necessary UV rays.  Because of this,  it may be better for you to buy special lights which provide the needed UV rays.

This may seem like a lot of effort and cost, but it’s all necessary for your iguana’s survival.  It really is a matter of life and death for your pet, so if you don’t feel you can provide this type of habitat for an iguana, it may be better to reconsider your decision to buy one.

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2 thoughts on “Habitats for Iguanas

  • by Diondre Williams

    This is a very helpful website. I’ve been trying to to train my iguana for some time now,I have made a little progress, but he still seems a little timid and agressive.Thanks to your website I think i have the roght knowledge to fully train him. Thank you.

  • by Kelly This is post author

    Thanks so much for your comment – I hope you have great success with your iggy. 🙂

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