Once you've got a basic enclosure or free roaming area designed and put together, you will need several additional items to make your iguana's habitat complete.
Substrates: People often wonder about what type of substrate they should use in their iguana's enclosure. There are many options, but it is important that you not use any particulate substrates such as wood chips, dirt or sand. Iguanas constantly tongue-flick their environment. This behavior allows them to gather and analyze information about their surroundings. Anything that sticks to the tongue will most likely be ingested, including indigestible substances that can cause impaction of the digestive tract. Acceptable substrate materials include newspaper with non-toxic ink, plain butcher paper, paper towels and pieces of indoor/outdoor carpet. If you use carpet, be sure to fold and tape the edges under to prevent them from unraveling. Loose threads can get caught around your iguana's toes and can cut off circulation. Also, be sure to have a few extra pieces handy so you can replace soiled pieces during routine cage cleaning. Be wary of particulate substrate products that claim to be "reptile-safe" and digestible if ingested. If your iguana ingests enough of something, or a large enough piece, impaction can result. It's safer to simply avoid particulate substrates altogether.
One additional thing to consider is protecting the wood floors in large enclosures from spills and other accidents that may soak through carpet or other substrates. One easy way to protect wood floors from moisture and provide a surface that is easy to clean and disinfect is to cover the enclosure floor with vinyl. Vinyl sheets the size of small rooms can be purchased fairly cheaply at many home improvement stores. These can be cut to fit, and either tacked down or glued in place. Non-toxic silicon sealant, such as would be used to seal aquaria, can be used to seal around the edge of the floor, to prevent moisture from getting underneath the vinyl. An even easier way to seal the edges is with rolls of caulkstrip, which is made to go along tubs. Using vinyl on the floor of the enclosure is an easy way to protect wood and provide an easy- to-clean surface. The photos below show an enclosure floor that is covered with vinyl and sealed with caulkstrip. This particular enclosure floor is 6'LX3'W, and the vinyl was cut from a 6'X6' remnant which was purchased at a hardware store for $21.00 (US). As you can see, the floor looks nice, is easy to keep clean, and was covered at very little cost.
Climbing and Basking Materials: It is imperative that you provide adequate climbing structures in your iguana's habitat. Large iguanas require fairly wide, sturdy "branches" on which to climb and bask. Shelves made of various sized boards are recommended over branches because they are better able to comfortably and safely support the weight of an adult iguana. Iguanas prefer to throw their arms back along their sides when they are really comfortable and relaxed. Wider shelves that allow them to do that are best. The photos below show Jake (L) and Donnie (R) hanging out on their favorite basking shelf, which is made of a 2"x10" board. Notice how Jake has his arms thrown back in perfect relaxation.
You'll notice that the shelves are covered with carpet. Covering the shelves and climbing materials in your iguana's enclosure with indoor/outdoor carpet provides a material for the iguana to get a grip on. Carpets tend to unravel and produce dangerous hanging threads, so it is recommended that you fold the edges under and duct tape them to prevent shredding. Another option is to wrap thick, strong rope around the branches or shelves and glue it in place. This will provide your iguana with a gripping surface to aid in climbing. Keep in mind that you must be able to easily clean the shelves, so materials that can be removed and washed work best.
Gauges: You will need to carefully monitor the conditions in your iguana's habitat. It is important that you have several well-placed and accurate thermometers to measure temperatures in basking areas and in other areas, as well as gauges to measure humidity.
Food and Water Dishes: You will also need sturdy, easily cleaned food and water dishes that are shallow and easy for your iguana to use. Even though iguanas do not drink often, it is important to always provide them with fresh drinking water.
In addition, you may want to provide your iguana with a shallow tub of water in which it can soak. Many iguanas enjoy soaking, and it not only encourages them to drink, but also aids in shedding. There are a few things to keep in mind if you plan to provide a water tub. First of all, you want something that is large enough for your iguana to climb into and out of without tipping over, but at the same time you do not want something that is so big that your iguana cannot get in and out easily. The tub should be large enough for your iguana to sit comfortably in. Secondly, be sure not to fill the tub too full. Iguanas can drown, even in shallow water. It is recommended that small iguanas not be left unsupervised in a large tub of water. Thirdly, iguanas are predisposed to defecating in water, and, after soaking, will often use their water tub as a toilet. Be prepared for this, and have the means to properly clean and disinfect the tub (see our Cleaning and Cleanliness page). You must also be prepared to clean the tub as soon as possible after you see that it is soiled.
Hiding Places: Iguanas, especially young ones, need to be able to get away to a place where they feel safe, secure and undisturbed. For small iguanas, a hide log or some other type of hiding place should be provided. There are many different styles of hiding structures available, so you need to choose something that will work well for your iguana in its habitat. Adult iguanas not only have less of a need to hide, but they obviously won't fit in your average hide box. However, they too occasionally need to "get away" – particularly if their habitat is in a busy spot of the house where activity and noise are frequent. It is sometimes helpful to design a habitat that includes a hiding spot or two, and allows the iguana to relax unobserved.
Click on the links listed below to find information on ways to provide heat, light and humidity, why building an enclosure may be better than buying one, what materials you can use to build an enclosure, plans and suggestions for building, how and if to house two or more iguanas together, and tips on outdoor sunning cages.