|Okay, so you finally talked your mom and dad into getting you an iguana...so now what do you do? Do you know how to take care of it? Do you know what kind of food you should feed it? Do you know that they need a lot of special care? Well, if you didn't know that stuff already, we're going to show you how to start taking care of your iguana right here. This is just the basic stuff you really need to know, and there's a lot more to learn. So start by reading through some of this important information. Make sure you get Mom, Dad, or an older brother or sister to help you if anything seems confusing. Taking care of your iguana is a big responsibility...so learn as much as you can and you and your iguana will be together for a long, long time!|
||Throughout this page, you'll see Tubby pointing to links for adults. These links are so you and your parents or guardians can read more about certain topics. After you've begun to take care of your iguana better, you can then start learning more by visiting these links.
A few things you should know about your iguana - There's a lot of things you'll need to do to take care of your iguana properly. To get you started, here's some stuff you may not know about your iguana....
- Iguanas are arboreal, which means that in the wild, they live in trees. This means that your iguana will want some stuff to climb around on.
- Iguanas are herbivores, which means that in the wild, they eat plants. This also means that you should try to avoid feeding them stuff like meat, dog food, cat food, eggs, cheese, and other foods that are bad for your iguana. (You'll learn more about the right foods later.)
- Iguanas need special ultraviolet lighting, which is also called UV lighting. They can get this with special light bulbs and by sitting in direct sunlight.
- Pet iguanas and their cages should be properly cleaned on a regular basis.
- Pet iguanas that are kept in a cage, need to be in a cage that is VERY big. Your iguana will not be happy or healthy in a cage that is too small.
- Iguanas are cold blooded, which means they need to be in a warm environment. This means you'll need to provide heat for your iguana. (You'll learn more about providing heat later.)
- Iguanas need to have proper humidity to help them shed and help them stay healthy. You can give your iguana proper humidity several ways, which we'll talk about later.
- Iguanas should see a good veterinarian at least once a year. Just like people, iguanas should get a check up every once in a while, to make sure they're healthy.
Taking care of your iguana - Okay, so here we go! It's time to learn how to take care of your iguana. This is just the basic stuff you'll need to know, so it's important that you keep learning as much as you can about iguanas and iguana care.
|Feeding your iguana - You'll need to feed your iguana every single day. Choosing the right foods can be hard to do, so you may want to ask your parents to help you with choosing, buying, and preparing the food you're going to feed your iguana. The most important part of feeding your iguana is choosing a wide variety of good foods. Let's face it, you wouldn't want to eat the same thing everyday, so your iguana probably wouldn't either. Just like a kid, an iguana will probably want to eat stuff that isn't really good for him. You have become the parent of your iguana, so it's going to be your responsibility to make sure your iguana eats healthy food. Below is a list of a few foods that you may want to feed your iguana....
|- Greens such as collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens and dandelion greens. (If you're using dandelion greens from your yard, make sure they have never been sprayed with bad stuff like weed or bug spray...this will not be good for your iguana and may make it very sick!) Lettuce is not a green, doesn't have a lot of nutrition, and shouldn't be fed too often. The greens should be chopped up into small pieces.|
- Squash such as butternut squash, acorn squash, yellow squash, zucchini, and a few other kinds of squash. Squash should be cut up and shredded into very small pieces.
- Green beans, peas, parsnip, asparagus, okra, onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, sweet potato, and carrots. All of these foods should be cut up into very small pieces and/or shredded.
- Fruits such as figs, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, grapes, mango, melon (cantelope, honeydew, watermelon), papaya, bananas, and apples. Fruits should only be a small amount of your iguana's food, so don't feed it too many fruits. Most of these fruits can be peeled, cored and cut into very small pieces or shredded.
- Cooked rice or pasta. This can be a good treat or something you can give your iguana every once in a while.
Those foods are the good stuff. You can feed your iguana other foods, but it's important that you don't feed it too much. There are a lot of foods that can be very bad for your iguana if you feed these too much or too often. Don't worry if your iguana sneaks a piece of the dog's food, or snags something you're eating, but don't let it do it very often.
You'll need to feed your iguana every single day. Try to feed it an hour or so after you turn its lights on and it's had a chance to wake up, warm up and get ready to eat. Not only will you need to feed your iguana every day, it's important to give your iguana fresh, clean water every day too. This means you'll need to give it a water bowl of some kind, and make sure the water is changed every day.
||For more information on properly feeding an iguana, make sure you read our Food and Feeding section.
|Your iguana's habitat, enclosure or cage - Your iguana is going to need a very large cage, which is also called an enclosure or habitat. An aquarium will work for a small iguana, but if your iguana is more than a year old, it really needs a much larger habitat. You can buy a large habitat, but it will be very expensive. You may want to have your parents help you build a habitat. It will still cost a lot of money, but you will be able to make it exactly how you want it. For now, make sure you read and learn as much as you can about what you need to have in your iguana's habitat, and then start planning to get a bigger one.|
Light, heat & humidity - These three things are really important! You must give your iguana the right kind of lighting, supply heat at the proper temperatures, and supply water so your iguana will have a humid habitat.
Light - Ultraviolet lighting is very important! You'll need to have special UV lights in your iguana's habitat. These light bulbs are fluorescent lights, which are the long, white tube lights. There are three different bulbs you should choose from - ZooMed's Iguana Light, ZooMed's Reptisun 5.0, and Durotest's Vitalite. These bulbs are the only ones you should look for, because they are the only ones that have been proven to be good enough. You'll need to buy new ones every six months. Even if they still light up, they won't give your iguana enough UV light after six months. It's also very important that there is no glass or plastic between the UV bulb and your iguana. Glass will make it so the UV light doesn't get to your iguana.
You'll also want a basking light. This light can be a regular light bulb, so your iguana will have a nice, warm place to hang out. There are special basking bulbs you can also use, but a regular light bulb will work well, last a long time, and won't cost very much. The main purpose of the basking light is to provide heat.
Make sure that the lights in your iguana's habitat are only on for about 12 hours a day. Your iguana needs a day time and a night time, so 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark are recommended.
|Sunlight - It's also very important that you let your iguana have some direct sunlight. As long as the weather is warm where you are, you can take your iguana outside for a while to get some UV light from the sun. Be very careful when you take your iguana outside and make sure you keep a close eye on it at all times!
Heat - Once you get the lights for your iguana, you'll need to make sure the temperature is warm enough. First of all, you'll need to have about two or three thermometers in the habitat in a few different places. Put one in the place your iguana spends most of its time (its basking spot) and put other thermometers in different spots, so you'll know exactly how warm it is. During the day, the temperature in the iguana's basking spot should be about 90-95º F. The rest of the habitat should be about 80-90º F. At night, the temperatures should be at least 75º F. You should make sure there are different areas in the habitat with different temperatures so your iguana will be able to regulate how warm it wants to be. There are many ways to provide heat for your iguana, and many ways that can be dangerous...so it's very important that you have your parents help you set up your iguana's habitat. Whatever you do, don't use a heat rock! They can really burn your iguana and they are not safe to use. Other ways to provide heat are with human heating pads wrapped in a towel, a ceramic heating element, and other ways. Whatever choice you decide on, make sure you get help from your parents, because these heating devices can be very dangerous if they're not used properly.
Humidity - Along with the right lights and proper temperatures, you'll need to provide humidity for your iguana. You can do this by having a large bowl of fresh water in the habitat and spraying your iguana and the habitat a few times every day. You can do this with a spray bottle that you can buy at most stores. Make sure that you don't spray just before the lights go out every night. The water you spray will evaporate in the high temperatures, which will make a humid habitat.
||For more information on iguana habitats, heat, light, humidity, and even some information on building and planning a habitat, make sure you read our Habitats, Enclosures & Cages section.
|Bath time - An important part of caring for your iguana is to give it a bath. You should do this as often as possible, and every day if possible. You can do this in a bathtub or a very large container filled with water. Don't use soap, make sure the water is warm (but not really hot), and only fill the tub up with enough water so the iguana can still stand and not have its head under the water. Let your iguana soak in the tub for about a half an hour or so, and you may want to add more warm water a few times to make sure the water doesn't get too cold.
|Giving your iguana a bath will make your iguana cleaner, help it when it needs to shed, give it more humidity, and give your iguana some good exercise. Also, make sure you stay with your iguana while it's getting a bath!
Cleaning - Cleaning your iguana's cage is one of the most important things you'll need to do every single day. Your iguana is a very clean animal, but it still needs someone to take care of cleaning up the mess it makes. That someone is you! Every day you will need to clean up any mess your iguana has made, which includes cleaning up any feces (the poop) and any pieces of uneaten food. You should also clean and wash your iguana's food and water dishes every single day. If you don't clean up after your iguana every day, it can cause serious trouble for not only your iguana, but for you too. Salmonella is a bacteria that can be spread to people, but it can be avoided if you practice good cleaning habits. Along with cleaning up after your iguana every day, you'll need to clean the cage at least once a week with the right kinds of cleaners. Make sure you get help from an adult when cleaning your iguana's cage. Have them read more about cleaning on the page listed below....
Check ups with the vet - Just like you, your iguana should get a checkup at least once a year. You'll need to find a good veterinarian that knows a lot about iguanas. Many vets do not know very much about iguanas and other lizards, so it may be hard to find one in your area. Have an adult call several vets in your town. Finding a good vet that knows about iguanas can help you learn a lot more about how to take care of an iguana, it can help you improve the care you're giving it, and most importantly, it will make sure your iguana is healthy.
|Learning more - This is just the basic stuff you need to know about caring for your iguana. You'll need to learn more and keep learning. There is still a lot that people don't know about iguanas, and more is learned all the time. First of all, make sure you and your parents read more about iguana care on our website. You may also want to get a good book on iguanas to help you. The bad thing about getting a book is that there are a lot of books that are really old and have a lot of bad stuff in them. We recommend two different books, Green Iguana - The Ultimate Owner's Manual by James Hatfield and Iguanas for Dummies by Melissa Kaplan. Another bad thing is that both of these books are hard to find. So, you may want to get an adult to help you find one of these books at an online book store or have someone take you to a bookstore where they will be able to order one of these books for you.
Doing your chores - Now that you've learned the basic stuff you need to know about caring for your iguana, you'll need to make sure you do your iguana chores. Make sure you read our Doing Your Chores page for a list of stuff you need to do.