Having a green iguana as a pet is not the same as keeping any other kind of animal. Green iguanas are unique pets that require very specific living conditions. If you can meet all of the requirements, taking care of an iguana is a bit more work than a cat, and a little less than a dog – but that’s only once you fully understand the pet and what it needs.
Green iguanas are nothing like cats or dogs or any other pet you’ve ever kept. Iguanas come from a much different climate and they can seem like a lot of work to a beginner who has a whole bunch of new information to digest – hopefully before getting the pet!
A lot of people come home with a new pet iguana and are overwhelmed when they find out all of its requirements. These things can’t wait til next month or even next week, you must ensure a healthy environment for your green iguana right from the get-go.
Most of the work surrounding pet iguanas comes down to knowledge. If you don’t know much about iguanas you shouldn’t have one. Not until you’ve done some more research. Most new iguana owners take their pet home thinking they can learn as they go, but if you try this with an iguana it will probably get sick or injured and it will be your fault for not understanding your pets needs before taking it into a dangerous new environment. Do your scaly friend a favor and have full knowledge of what it takes to provide a safe and healthy home for them before taking it into your care.
I had to learn that lesson the hard way with my little one. I brought her home with a fish tank, 2 blacklights that were too hot for the tank light fixture, a basking lamp that put out no UVB light at all, and dry pellets for food. I set her up in her fish tank and was lucky to have been keeping a good eye on her because within about an hour of setting up her enclosure the top of the fish tank started melting because the black lights that were recommended to me by the pet store were too hot for the fixture! This was extremely dangerous and would have injured my pet and started a fire!
After this incident I started researching what an iguana really needed to survive. I knew I wasn’t going to keep the iguana in the fish tank for very long when I bought it, but I didn’t expect to have to have a new enclosure within a month or two, and I didn’t realize that I had to feed her fresh leafy greens and vegetables every day in large amounts when I bought her either. I didn’t think that I had to get multiple high powered lights and adjust their distances and measure their outputs. I didn’t know that I had to watch the humidity levels and temperatures either. The guy at the pet store that I purchased her at didn’t offer me any good advice on how to take care of her — he didn’t know anything about proper iguana care! He just wanted my money!
I soon found out that my iguana had mites, little bugs that sucked her blood and would make her sick. They are so small they hide under the scales and creases and can be incredibly tough to get rid of. Shortly after dealing with the mites I discovered that she also had worms – little parasites in her intestines that made it look like her poop was crawling. They look like little worms about a quarter of an inch long and they are absolutely disgusting. The worms will cause your iguana to get sick really fast because they take all of the nutrients from your pet and they basically starve even though they are eating. Luckily, I found some help for both of those problems at a much better pet local pet store where the owner/operator actually knows what he’s talking about and is willing to help.
The moral of the story is that you have to be responsible for your pets health. Once you take them into your care it’s your responsibility to make sure that they get everything that they need in order to remain happy and healthy. Don’t just listen to the guy at the store, do your own research and ask questions!
If you’re not prepared to deal with all of the issues above and many more, then you aren’t ready to be an iguana keeper. Once you’ve got a full understanding of where your pet originally comes from and what that environment is like, then the care becomes much simpler.
You have to prepare (wash, chop, cut) fresh meals of a wide variety of leafy greens and veggies to an iguana every single day. A large iguana will eat a lot of food in a day. You will have to run to get fresh food every few days if you want to keep an iguana as a pet. It helps if you prepare a large bucket full of food at once to serve over 2 or 3 days to cut down on washing and prep time, but it can still be time consuming. You also have to provide fresh water each day for your iguana too, even if you never see it drink from the bowl.
If your iguana eats every day, guess what else it does every day… Yep, and a full sized iguana can lay some pretty mean ones. They don’t have a number 1 and a number 2 either, they do both at once just like birds. Sometimes it can be messy, but at least it doesn’t smell all that bad if you serve the right foods. You do have to clean these messes up frequently to keep things sanitary and odor free. There is a chance that your iguana may carry salmonella in its feces as well, so you want to clean it up to avoid any chance of contamination. This can be a very unpleasant part of iguana keeping.
You don’t have to walk an iguana or anything like that like you would if you had a dog, but you must build them a large habitat in which to live. This can be a lot of work, but it’s usually a one time thing with little maintenance aside from cleaning. There will be more posted about building habitats on this website soon.
Iguanas need to have temperature, humidity, and UVB lighting all under control. This is absolutely essential, setting it up can be a lot of work getting it right at first, but once you’ve got it set up you only need to monitor it and make slight adjustments now and then.
Overall, the amount of work involved in iguana keeping lies somewhere between having cats and dogs as pets, but cats and dogs can live in the same environment as humans, green iguanas can’t. Most of the work lies in researching and getting to know the animal, not in the care itself.