Since you are, in fact, building a custom habitat, try to let your imagination run wild and make it just that...a custom habitat. Every iguana is unique, so why not have a habitat that is just as unique? Some of the following ideas may seem a bit extreme, and several of them may be quite expensive. These are just a few ideas that may help you create a totally unique and more functional habitat for your iguana.
Permanent additions to your home - Many people who own their own home and plan on living there for a long time, choose to build a custom habitat permanently into the house. If you really want to build a top-of-the-line habitat, you may even want to add on a whole new addition to the house.
Indoor/Outdoor habitats - If you live in an area that has warm weather, you may even want to build an addition to the habitat that allows the iguana to go out into an area with direct sunlight. This may include a door that goes into an outdoor sunning cage. This can be a very effective way to ensure that your iguana gets regular sunning, as well as fresh air. If outside temperatures fall below a normal, healthy range for your iguana, it's important to make sure the outside area is not accessible during those times. An indoor/outdoor habitat can be good in some areas, but in areas that are not warm enough year round, this may not be a safe option. If you live in an area where the summer temperatures are safe, but the winter temperatures are not, make sure the area between the indoor and outdoor areas are properly insulated. For issues regarding outdoor enclosures, be sure to visit our Outdoor Sunning Cages page.
Sliding glass doors and windows - Many habitats contain some sort of glass or plexiglass for better viewing. Most habitats that contain plexiglass are built with a single sheet. Another option, although it can be expensive, would be to install a sliding glass door or a high quality sliding window into the habitat. It will be expensive, but the habitat will be extremely attractive, well insulated, and access to the habitat will be a snap. Most sliding glass doors are built with regular glass, but the glass is much thicker and may be found in tempered forms. If a sliding glass window is used, it's very important to purchase one with tempered glass. Regular window glass can easily be broken by an adult iguana and can cause serious injuries. If a large sliding glass door or window is used, it's very important that the habitat is still properly ventilated with fresh air. One way to accomplish this is to install a screened door that has had the regular screen replaced with hardware cloth or internet mesh.
Advanced woodworking - Most of the construction advice we're giving is aimed towards people that are building a somewhat simple, but effective habitat. For those who want to spend a little more money and put more work into the quality of the habitat, there are many other ways to construct a habitat with advanced woodworking techniques. This includes many different things including using high quality wood, using better forms of joinery, and high quality trim and molding. Using a better framing method than the ones we suggest on the construction page is definitely recommended if you have the experience and knowledge. The methods you can use are practically limitless and the quality and durability of the habitat will definitely be improved.
Better humidity solutions - There are many ways to improve the humidity levels in the habitat. Daily spritzing and supplying fresh water is important, but you may want to choose an easier way. Although these ideas may also be expensive, they can make providing humidity one less chore you'll have to worry about.
One way to improve humidity and the overall environment in the habitat is to construct or install a water basin in the floor of the habitat. If a custom water basin is built into the habitat, you may want to install a drain and draining system to make cleaning the habitat and changing the water in the basin easier and cleaner.
Another very useful and attractive way to increase the humidity levels is to purchase or build a waterfall in the habitat. Many people have custom waterfalls built into the habitat. A custom built waterfall can be constructed with rocks and a simple, inexpensive water pump. If rocks are used in building a custom waterfall, first of all, make sure they are thoroughly cleaned (in the same way you would disinfect a habitat) and secondly, the rocks should be properly secured with a non-toxic adhesive so the waterfall will not collapse. There are many different types of waterfalls that you can purchase, but very few are large enough and they can be a real chore to properly clean. If a waterfall is used in the habitat, it's also very important to change the water on a very regular basis.
Another very effective way to improve humidity is by installing a misting system or ultrasonic fogger. There are many different types available, and they may be expensive, but if installed properly with timers, they can practically create a rainforest habitat. If you install a misting system, it's important to have the mist as fine as possible, and timers are recommended. A very fine mist sprayed for a few seconds several times a day can create perfect humidity levels throughout the day. Once again, it's important to not mist the habitat just before the lights go out at night. Pro Products offers a high quality misting system as well as several other products, including radiant heat panels. Bush Herpetological Supplies also sells several different types of misting systems. Note: Although a misting system or ultrasonic fogger can create perfect humidity in your iguana's habitat, it can also create too much humidity which can lead to various problems. Such problems may include health risks for your iguana, an increase in bacteria, as well as quickly deteriorating an untreated habitat. Always monitor the humidity levels and always use these products according to the manufacturer's directions.
A word of caution about water: A humid environment for an iguana is recommended, but too much humidity can also lead to many problems, including health problems for the iguana. Water and high humidity can literally destroy the habitat, as well as parts of your home. Make sure the wood surfaces of the habitat and areas in your home around the habitat are properly sealed. As always, make sure you monitor the humidity levels.
Other substrate and material use - There are many other materials you can use as substrate, flooring or building materials. Another very effective way to seal the interior (or exterior) of the habitat is by building it with a material that will not absorb water. Wood must be properly sealed because of the way it will soak up water and hold such things as bacteria, fungus, and parasites. Other materials can be used, that do not absorb water as much as wood. This can include many different materials such as melamine (which still needs to be properly used), formica (used with kitchen or bathroom countertops), and ceramic tiling. Ceramic tile has a tendency to be cool, but it will retain heat if properly used. Ceramic tile and the grout used with it should be properly sealed and additional tools will probably be needed. These are just a few examples of other materials that can be used in your habitat.
Fresh air quality, ventilation & circulation - Iguanas need fresh air to remain healthy, as do most living things. Most people are extremely concerned about what foods go into their iguana, but most do not think that the air they breathe can be just as important. There are many different ways to provide fresh air and many ways to make sure the air gets to your iguana. An air purifier is an excellent way to ensure that the air your iguana breathes is clean and pure. They can be expensive and most require regular filter replacement. Another very good way of keeping fresh air in your iguana's habitat or free roaming area is to install an exhaust fan. These fans are the same type of fans that are found in bathrooms, are relatively inexpensive, and can be hooked up to timers for worry-free operation. Another way of keeping fresh air circulating throughout the iguana's habitat is to install small circulation fans in various locations throughout the habitat. A small fan that is designed for cooling light fixtures, computers, and other electronics, if wired properly, can be very effective. These type of fans are also an excellent choice for making sure the light and heating fixtures in the habitat do not overheat. When using any type of fan, it's very important to have some sort of safety shield around it. The shield should ensure that even if the iguana gets near the fan, there will be no chance of an accident. Installing a sturdy, extremely fine screen around the fan or better yet, installing the fan completely outside the habitat with ventilation pipes or tubes running into the iguana's living area, will provide safe ventilation. Although ventilation and fresh air is good for your iguana, too much can be harmful. Using fans and ventilation devices sparingly is definitely recommended.
Breeding season ideas - If you own a female that experiences normal breeding season behavior or you are breeding iguanas, and you want to accommodate that behavior, then you may choose to have a nesting box or other area that she can go into. This box or area can be removable or blocked off during "normal" times of the year, and the nesting box or area can be opened up during breeding season. The box should contain suitable digging and nesting material, and special care will be needed to make it safe and suitable for your iguana. For more information on setting up a nesting box, please visit our Breeding Iguanas in Captivity page.
Advanced use of timers - Along with using timers for a misting system, you may also choose to use timers to simulate a typical day in the rainforest. Once again, this may be a bit extreme, but if set up properly, you can create different amounts of light and heat throughout the day. One option is to have an additional heat source that comes on during the middle of the day, increasing the temperature to a normal noon time temperature. Another option is to use timers to create more UV light during the middle of the day or in a certain area of the habitat. These are very optional, but yet another way to create an advanced habitat.
Another very good idea you may want to try is using motion sensors hooked up to various heating or lighting devices. Green Iguana - The Ultimate Owner's Manual by James W. Hatfield, has an excellent plan for the Iguanamometer. The Iguanamometer is a device that allows the iguana to trigger a heat or light source to turn on when the iguana enters a certain area of the habitat. This device will allow an iguana to self-regulate the temperature it desires. Note: Hatfield states that the Iguanamometer is still experimental due to the fact that it has not been thoroughly tested enough. It is also stated that no problems have occurred to date with this device, but since it has not been tested long enough, he still wants people to realize that it should still be considered experimental in nature.
Conclusion - These are only a few ideas for making a better habitat for your iguana. Use your imagination, and always consider the health and safety of the iguana when trying new ideas or methods when constructing the habitat. Some people may not agree with some of the ideas here, but our goal, as always, is to provide you with as much information and ideas about how to care for your iguana as we possibly can.