Before you actually bring your Iguana home, it is best to get the things you will need together and set up. What you really need, what is safe, what is dangerous and where is the best place or places to shop are the questions you may have now. Occasionally the worst places to get those answers are in the pet store. They are in business to make money. So sometimes they will sell dangerous or more expensive products. The best place to find out where to shop and what to buy is from those who have been there before you. Many times things made “Especially for Iguanas/Reptiles” are overpriced and can be found in normal stores for less. Some things marketed for reptiles can be dangerous either to all reptiles or just specific species. Some items are so new that there has not been proper research to back their claims. A few things you want to do when shopping around is remember that pet supplies are not regulated in the same way as things for us humans. Some things work, but there may be a better and safer way. If it seems dangerous to you then it probably is dangerous. Some of the better stores may still carry the product, but like a few that are in our area, they also carry photos that show you what these items can do. Shop carefully. If you have already shopped and purchased some of the bad items with out being told the possible dangers involved there is a chance that you can return them, even if it is for a store credit.
The most basic are reference tools for you. Having this or other like booklets as your main reference will not do. Suggested books to read and own are Melissa Kaplan’s “Iguana for Dummies” and James W. Hatfield’s “Green Iguana: The Ultimate Owners Manual”. Look carefully through the magazine style- books. You will notice that they are often endorsed or manufactured by companies that make reptile products. These are basically glorified advertisements. Be wary of books like that. Those are your personal needs. For the Iguana, you do need fluorescent lighting. You will need a basking light or ceramic heat emitter (CHE) to provide a warm spot. You do need some form of water dish. You will need things for the Iguana to climb. You need an enclosure. You will need food. These are the BASIC needs of an Iguana. These are the only things you really need. Problems with various types of items are outlined in future chapters. Cheaper alternatives are at the end of this chapter. With some products, how good or bad it is depends on who manufactured it.
The bad items are much easier to pinpoint. Many of these items produce ill effects to prove that they are actually bad. Items you want to avoid at all costs are the following: Hot rocks, thermal caves, hammocks, gravel, woodchip bedding, corncob bedding, and canned or processed foods. Remember that whenever you place something in your Iguana’s enclosure it has the possibility to become food. They lick everything as part of their sense of smell. And anything they lick, they can and will eat. I have heard of Iguanas eating things as little as pennies to things as large as a lady's stocking. This is why the beddings that are listed are bad. Canned or processed foods often contain filler or possibly even meat fillers to bulk up the food. Unlike human foods, pet foods are not required to list all items contained in them. As explained later on, reptiles sense heat from above rather than below. This is why things such as under tank heaters hot rocks and thermal caves are bad. They can actually lie on these things until they burn a hole literally through themselves. If you must supply ground level heat in your enclosure, use a heating pad that is MADE FOR HUMANS. These are actually regulated and must meet certain safety standards. “Fun” items such as hammocks provide a whole different problem that in while using the Iguana’s toes can get caught in the mesh and actually tangle around the Iguana. Toes can get caught and circulation can be cut off with loss of digits a possibility. Leashes are another item that you want to be really careful with. Iguanas are still pretty much wild animals. They do not on the general whole understand and sit well on leashes. If you feel the need to use a leash, never leave the Iguana unattended. They can easily panic and get wrapped up in the leash, or just as easily get off the leash.
The Savvy Shopper
When shopping for supplies, you may notice a few things. Those ten-dollar ceramic light domes look an awful lot like the ceramic dome shop lights at the hardware store. Also the fifty-dollar fluorescent fixtures look awfully fancy, but the hardware store has ones that are about ten dollars. The pre-cut Astroturf that the pet store sells looks just like the stuff you saw at Menards in the carpet department. And after looking at your friend’s cat nail clipper, it looks just like the reptile one you saw but is several dollars cheaper. Well you know what? You are right. Both of the light fixtures can be bought at Farm and Fleet. The domes go for about three dollars and the fluorescent fixtures are about ten dollars. The Astroturf is also basically the same. The only real difference is the stuff in the pet store is pre-cut with the edges melted to reduce fray. Both things you can easily do in your own home. The nail clippers are the same as well. Save a few dollars and go with the cat ones. Look at the supply listing that is provided. It makes a great checklist for inexpensive supplies and where to shop. When in doubt with substitutions, feel free to contact me.
Ok so you have the supplies, now you need a home. How you start will determine what you need in the future. Young Iguanas can do ok for their first year in a 40-gallon breeder, but beyond that they would need much larger. Adult Iguanas need at a bare minimum 6 feet tall by 4 feet wide by 4 feet deep. This is the bare minimum and an Iguana in this enclosure would need daily roaming time. Iguanas are climbers and you must supply ample climbing for them. I suggest using the 40-gallon for the first year and in that time make or purchase a pre-fabricated cage. Making the enclosure will often be more inexpensive and you will be able to make it exactly how you want it. Some basics you will need to consider when purchasing or making an adult enclosure. When living in northern climates, like here in Wisconsin, you will need all the sides and bottom to be enclosed. You will want to use plexi-glass as opposed to window glass. Iguanas will occasionally dive from their perches ‘at the Iguana in the window’ or any other thing that catches their eye. Plexi-glass is less likely to break. A regular windowpane can shatter and cause severe injury to the Iguana in mid-dive. Look for plastic coated mesh or hardware cloth. These items are safer on the toes than chicken wire. Chicken wire is very sharp and can actually cut off toes if too much pressure is applied. When making the enclosure use screws instead of nails. Screws are less permanent and make moving the enclosure a snap. Offer perches and branches for them to climb and bask. Lastly offer a hiding spot for them to go to feel safe. Beyond that, the sky is the limit.
When you set up the cage make sure the water and food dishes are easily accessible. Place the lights (and CHE if you need one) over the highest point that the Iguana can reach. This should be less than 18” from the top of the enclosure. This will provide a warmer basking area and a place that they can get the benefits of the UV lighting. Mount a minimum of 2 thermometers inside the enclosure. One in the basking area and one at the farthest most point from there. This will let you monitor the thermal gradient and be sure that it is properly met. Be sure that you have not exposed glass areas against windows. Windowpanes and glass magnify the heat, and can cause over heating. Cooler temperatures in the winter can cause drafts. Be sure that the room you select has a quiet period of time at night so that your Iguana gets proper day and night times.