How to Take Care of a Green Iguana

When we talk about pet iguanas, we’re usually talking about the most common species, Iguana Iguana, or green iguana.

The green iguana is found in South and Central America, and also on some Pacific islands.  It is a very popular pet in Europe and in the United States.

Iguanas are a diurnal creature, meaning they’re most active in the day.  Young iguanas are a bright green in color which helps them hide in green vegetation where they live to avoid predators.  They’re also very quick and have sharp eyesight, all to help them avoid becoming someone’s snack. As the iguana matures, it’s skin color will become a more muted green, with brown or reddish highlights.  Wild iguanas spend most of there time watching out for predators, feeding and sun basking to maintain their body temperature.

These natural behaviors help us know how to best take care of an iguana in captivity.  Of course, while there may be no predators to escape from (unless you have a particularly hungry dog or cat!), your iguana will still need to fulfill it’s other natural needs of food and sun basking.   Yes, iguanas are popular pets, but many new owners have found out that the care of their new pet is much more difficult than they first assumed.

Let’s talk about some things to do when taking care of an iguana.

1.      Provide a large  space for your iguana that is safe and secured.

Iguanas can easily reach 6 feet in length, so your pet’s home should be your first concern.  While you might think your iguana is content in a small tank, the truth is that without enough space it will become stressed, leading to a vulnerability to illness and infection.

The minimum size for an enclosure will allow your iguana to lay out full length, and to turn around comfortably, with a height equal your 1-1/2 times your iguanas height.  But – that’s just the minimum – even better would be a length of double your iguana’s size, and plenty of room for climbing.

When your iguana is larger, it will definitely need time to roam around the house (or in a special room) freely – but it must be watched to make sure it can’t get out or eat anything it shouldn’t.

2.    Provide big branches or shelving for climbing and ‘sunbathing’.

Not only will it make the enclosure much more attractive, but it will also make it a healthier place for your iguana.  Iguanas need to climb for their psychological well-being – it’s a natural behavior and they instinctively look for places to climb in order to feel safe.  An iguana with no place to climb feels vulnerable and stressed.  You’ll also want long branches or shelves where the iguana can stretch out to sun itself, either actually in the sun or under heat lamps.  This allows it to maintain it’s body temperature correctly.

3.    Make sure to provide the enclosure with a good heating device.

The importance of proper heating for your iguana can not be overlooked.  If an iguana can’t maintain it’s body heat, it can’t digest food properly and can become quite ill.  The enclosure should not have any part with a temperature lower than 26°C while at least one part should have a temperature as high as 35°C.  A spotlight is good for this purpose.  And don’t forget that iguanas need to receive the proper UV rays for their health – special bulbs can be used for this when natural sunlight isn’t available.

4.    While heating and light are important, provide darkness, too.

For it’s health and well-being, iguanas need 6-10 hours of darkness at night. Give them as much complete darkness as  possible, shielding the cage from light from TVs, appliances or streetlights.

5.    Give your iguana attention and affection!

All pets deserve to be cared for and to get daily interaction from their owner.  An iguana is no different from a dog or cat in this regard – it needs love and attention, or it may grow listless, sick – even die from the neglect.

So, there you have it. These tips are just a few of the things that should be considered in caring for an iguana.  Healthy iguanas can live for as much as 20 years, so with proper care, you’ll have your companion around for a very long time.

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