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Green Iguana, Iguana iguana

IntroductionThe Green Iguana has a fairly large native distribution. It can be found from Mexico to southern Brazil and Paraguay, as well as on the Caribbean Islands. The Green iguana has even established itself fairly well in the southern most parts of Florida. They are a fairly large animal, attaining lengths up to 6 ft from head to tail and have a fairly heavy body build as well. They are diurnal and can be encountered in tropical rainforest areas, near water sources, such as rivers or streams. They spend most of their time basking high in the forest canopy on branch over hanging bodies of water, allowing them to dive to safety when they feel threatened.

Acclimation and Quarantine Quarantine or acclimation enclosures need not be elaborate, instead they should be sterile and easy to clean. Appropriately sized glass tanks or plastic storage bins are often used for such enclosures as they are easy to clean, come in a variety of sizes, and most provide the security needed for a freshly acquired Iguana. Paper towels, newspapers, or other easily cleaned materials may be used as the substrate. A hide box should be provided for additional security. A shallow ceramic water dish should be used as the water bowl as they ted to tip over anything plastic. Excessive spilt water in a plastic enclosure can lead to many ailments. This setup should be used until the iguana is feeding regularly and appears to be in good health.

Housing Once the iguana is acclimated and feeding well, you may put it into a permanent cage. For their large adult size, Green Iguanas require very large enclosures. Ample vertical space is a necessity as they are very arboreal and require room to climb. A cage that is about 36” by 24” by 24” (L x W x H) is a minimum size for a hatchling or juvenile, but larger enclosures are needed for an adult. Glass enclosures can be used, but are not the best choice for this species. Wooden cages are a better choice than glass cages because they can be custom built, but the high humidity needed for these lizards can wear on wooden cages after a while. The best cages for this species are those made of polyethylene or controlled density PVC. These cages usually have only one transparent side and can also withstand the high humidity needed within the habitat. Such cages are available in a wide variety of sizes and are also usually inexpensive and attractive. Branches are very important in furnishing the enclosure, and there should be a lot of them in the cage. Manzanita, liana vines, and cork are my favorite types of branches to use because they are natural, attractive, and will not mold in the high humidity of the environment. Large amounts of foliage should be added to the cage to provide the iguana with more places to hide. Live plants, such as pothos, may also be used. If you choose to use live plants, beware. The iguana will eat them. Use only ones that are not poisonous. Pothos is safe. For substrate, soil, mulch, ground coconut, and sphagnum moss are all acceptable. I prefer to use a mixture of sphagnum peat moss, and cypress mulch.

Lighting and Heating Iguanas should have a basking spot that is between 95-105 degrees F, as they need to get their bodies around 95 degrees to digest their food. You also want to provide an area for them to cool down when they get too warm. The opposite end of the tank should be 75-85 degrees. Night time temps should not be allowed to drop below 65 degrees. Incandescent lights may be used as a heat source. They are available in a wide selection of wattages, so the right level of heat for the basking spot can usually be found and then controlled with a thermostat as required. One may also choose to utilize ceramic heat emitters for larger enclosures. They can be used at night without emitting light that would otherwise disrupt the iguana's photoperiod. Green Iguanas need UVB exposure from a quality light! Iguanas synthesize vitamin D3 when exposed to UVB, Vitamin D3 is necessary for calcium to be metabolized. Animals that are not exposed to UVB can develop Metabolic Bone Disease. If MBD isn't treated in a timely fashion, skeletal deformities, kidney failure, seizures, and eventually death will occur.

Humidity Green Iguanas thrive in high humidity environments, and if the appropriate humidity is not created the iguana could experience health problems. To achieve the necessary humidity, I simply spray the cage once a day with fresh water and provide a fresh water bowl of the appropriate size. When spraying the cage it is important to make sure that the substrate remains damp but not soggy. If too much moisture is present, the iguana could develop problems with its scales or a respiratory infection. The ideal humidity range would be between 60-90%, but moments above and below this range are acceptable for short periods of time. The water bowl should be kept clean and full of water at times.

Feeding Iguanas are herbivorous (plant-eating) not require any type of animal protein in their diet. Iguanas should receive a diet of calcium rich greens, fruits, and vegetables. Provide your iguana with a calcium to phosphorus ratio of 2:1 in their diet. The diet should be made up of 70-80% Dark, leafy, calcium rich greens such as: collard greens, mustard greens, endive, watercress, and dandelion greens. If they can be obtained, mulberry and hibiscus leaves should be included as often as possible. Avoid iceberg lettuce entirely, it has no nutritional value. Spinach should be either fed in small amounts or avoided entirely because it contains oxalic acid, which binds calcium in the intestinal tract, making it unavailable. 20-30% Grated vegetables such as: carrots, winter squash, pumpkin, zucchini, thawed frozen mixed vegetables, and spineless prickly pear cactus pads. Avoid or feed sparingly: broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, escarole, cauliflower. These vegetables contain iodine binders that can cause thyroid problems. 10-20% Fruits and flowers such as: strawberries, raspberries, mango, papaya, kiwi, melon, apple (no seeds), prickly pear cactus fruits and flowers, hibiscus, nasturtium, and dandelion flowers. Iguanas love bananas, but they should only be offered as a treat because they have the incorrect calcium to phosphorus ratio. Make sure to cut and grate all food into bite size pieces for babies. Be sure to provide any iguana with the proper calcium supplementation. You may sprinkle calcium over the iguana's veggies three times a week for juveniles (be sure to feed them daily) and one or twice a week for adults (you can feed them every other day, or offer smaller quantities daily).

Water Green Iguanas frequently soak in the water and this should be taken into consideration in your pet's enclosure design. A small specimen can be kept with a ceramic water dish, as can a juvenal up to several feet. However a large adult needs a large dish and this can be a some what dirty task as they will often defecate in their water dish... trying to empty a water crock of several gallons of water and feces is not enjoyable. I would recommend for larger iguanas to incorporate a drainable water basin that is easy to drain and sterilize. Another approach is to offer a water dish that is only large enough for the iguana to drink from. If you decide to take this approach you should soak your iguana in the bath tub atleast once a week to ensure proper hydration, to aid in shedding and to keep the iguana's skin clean of substrate and any waste they may have crawled thru.