How to Take Care of a Green Iguana

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Green Iguana smiling
Photo by: Ty Fiero on Unsplash

Green iguanas are found throughout North America and as far as South America. As a result, the baby iguana trade between North America, Mexico and South America is vast.

Basics for Green Iguana Care

Green iguana climbing

Daniela Turcanu on Unsplash

One concern is that few people who purchase them can provide for them adequately. As a result, they are not recommended for beginners.

It’s recommended to purchase your iguana from a reptile rescue. Since they’re usually in contact with humans the longest, they are better at adapting to various situations. That is, as long as they’re correctly maintained.

How Big Do Green Iguanas Get?

The full-grown green iguana often gets very large. The males can reach up to seven feet and weigh up to 20 pounds; however, the females rarely get any bigger than five feet.

The answer to the question, how fast do green iguanas grow, is very fast. They reach sexual maturity at ages three or four. The males fight over females and females can lay up to 70 eggs. After she lays her eggs, she burrows and then abandons them. Their incubation period is between 10 and 15 weeks to ensure that they’ll hatch during the rainy season.

How Long Do Green Iguanas Live?

If properly cared for during their whole lives, the lifespan of a green iguana is up to 20 or 25 years, depending on your source.

How Big Should a Green Iguana Enclosure Be?

For a baby, a 20-gallon cage should do it. They often have trouble finding their food and water otherwise. For an adult, it needs to be about 12x6x6. At least twice as long as your iguana but with lizard height. Your iguana will need enough space to turn and move around freely.

Whatever you do, don’t put two or more males in the same enclosure or they will get into many territorial fights.

In nature, the green iguana habitat is trees, usually near a small body of water, such as a swamp. So, it’s good to provide plenty of arboreal support in your iguana’s cage if possible.

What Do Green Iguanas Eat?

About 70 percent of the iguana’s diet is dark, leafy greens, such as spinach, collards, turnips and dandelion stems. Twenty percent is vegetables such as cabbage, squash and carrots. The remaining 10 percent is fruits, such as mangoes and strawberries. Some may benefit from pellets, but it’s better to consult with a local veterinarian first. If yours won’t take to pellets alone, you can try mixing them in with the natural food or diluting them with water.

Iguanas swallow their food whole, so always chop, grate or shred all of their food. Anything that they don’t eat after about 10 hours, go ahead and throw away.

Iguanas are not built to take anything high in protein. This can ruin their digestion and cause kidney failure.

To maximize your iguana’s vitamin intake, lightly spray the food with powdered calcium, both with and without Vitamin D. Be sure to mix a multivitamin weekly.

Offer your iguana its food from a tank or a dish. Don’t do so on the floor as it could accidentally ingest the substrate or part of their cage floor’s layers.

Other Tips for Green Iguana Pet Care

Be sure to clean your iguana’s habitat at least weekly. Scrub the enclosure, including furnishings, with a three percent bleach solution. Rinse all traces of bleach with water and be sure that everything’s completely dry before putting your iguana back in. Also, be sure to replace the floor substrate. The substrate should be paper towels, newspapers or old bedding. You can also use rabbit or alfalfa pellets for an accessible snack.

Their basking area should be kept at a temperature of up to 100 degrees. You can provide that with ceramic heaters, basking lights or UVB lights. Whatever you do, don’t provide heat rocks or undercover heaters; they can cause burns. Keep a container of water for soaking.

Signs of Sickness

  • Spending most of their time on the ground
  • Discolored skin
  • Constipation and lack of appetite

Ultimate Signs of Health

  • Climbing and basking regularly
  • Eating daily
  • Defecating regularly

Iguanas are not the easiest to own as pets. As demonstrated above, they are incredibly high maintenance and they’re much more complicated than most people think. Unfortunately, a good majority of them end up being taken away. So again, as a result, they’re not recommended for beginners.

It will help if you learn everything you can about iguanas and then have the right equipment and environment, along with the time to take care of an iguana.

With a conscientious maintenance mindset, you might make it as an iguana owner.

About the Author
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Brett Gee

Brett Gee is a marketing and advertising professional who has been working in advertising messaging, copy writing and content development for the better part of his 30+ year career. His experience spans across a variety of industries, markets and channels. Among his personal and professional interests is, of course, pets and animals. Aside from his wife and three grown children, his family members have included dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, gerbils, hamsters, rats, fish, turtles—and yes, even a horse.... Learn More
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