Green Iguana – A Beginners Guide

Exotic pets are becoming more and more popular at home, side by side with cats, dogs, rabbits and aquarium fish. Lizards, including iguanas, have in recent years become very popular to have as pets in the home.

You can eventually find iguanas in several different pet stores, along with their selection of other pets, and they can be quite easy to take care of if you do it right from the start. They do not require long walks or upbringing. For most people, however, the size of the iguana can cause concern – they grow fast and grow up to two meters from head to tail tip, and an adult iguana weighs up to 6 kg! 

Therefore, they are incredibly space-consuming, and at the same time need an environment reminiscent of the rainforest – high humidity, space and lots of heat.

What does an iguana look like?

Let’s start with the look. Lizards share the waters in Denmark – either you like them or you are scared to death of them. However, iguanas, with their beautiful colours and peaceful minds, are not one of the scariest lizards we can keep as pets at home.

Iguanas are cold-blooded animals, which means that they do not produce heat themselves, just as we humans do. The type of iguana that is most prevalent as a pet at home is the green iguana, also called ‘Iguana iguana’. It originally lives in South America, and is predominantly grey-green, with stripes down the tail. 

However, the colours can vary, and especially when they go from kids to adults, the colour can change to a multitude of combinations, which, however, are kept in shades of green. A young iguana is from head to tail no more than half a meter approximately, but they grow up to 2 meters long and gain weight of 5-6 kg.

A healthy, green iguana is a large, muscular and herbivorous lizard, some of which have “thorns” or tusks on the snout and over the back.

The funny thing is that when they are in the breeding season, the females will get a pronounced red colour on the side of the head, on the forelegs and on the forelegs, where some males can be reddish all the time.

Behavior of the iguana

An iguana is diurnal and very calm. It is not an animal that is actually suitable as a pet on a par with a dog or a cat, as not all iguanas can get used to it at all. And the iguanas that are handcuffed are certainly not cuddly. On the other hand, they are nice, good-natured lizards that are nice to surround themselves with. 

Typically, those who keep iguanas have arranged a large, good terrarium for them, at the same time as they have arranged some places for them in e.g. the living room where they can lie down and enjoy life. When you need to get to know the behaviour of your iguana, there are some special features you can start studying:

  • Iguanas are not very active animals, but they still require some good, solid branches and hiding places in their terrarium so that they can keep their body moving and get some exercise. Otherwise you risk the iguana becoming ill or unhappy due to lack of employment and / or exercise.
  • Iguanas can react strongly if frightened, which is why wild children, dogs and cats in its vicinity are a no-go. They can bite, and its sharp teeth, which are usually used to tear plants and other greens, can give a very unpleasant bite. And even though an iguana seems calm and accustomed to humans, sudden changes in the environment can cause it to react violently.
  • The iguana warns of dangers of head nods and / or blows to the tail, so you should pay special attention to this, as it may mean that it is afraid of something.
  • During the mating season, it is normal for iguanas to become aggressive, both towards each other and humans – therefore do not be surprised if your iguana suddenly changes behavior – this is completely normal when it is breeding season.
  • Iguanas enjoy sunbathing and staying in warm places, and it is not uncommon for them to lie for hours and laze in the heat.

One or more iguanas?

Although an iguana is not a group animal, it could be calmer if you acquire two or more young iguanas from the beginning, which you have to walk together in a terrarium. They can learn from each other, and eat more and thus grow faster. These are all signs that they are thriving, and it also makes them feel more secure, and typically you will be able to see them lying close to each other when they sleep at night. 

As an added bonus, they also become more sociable with humans when there are a few iguanas in the same terrarium.

However, it is important to keep in mind that iguanas can be very difficult to sex and that two or more males can not be kept in the same terrarium at all when they reach sexual maturity, both due to territorial behaviour – they simply become aggressive towards each other, and will fight to the weakest succumb – it is part of their natural behaviour to fight for territory and “power”.

Feeding the iguana

The iguana is a herbivore and eats almost all kinds of plants, fruits and vegetables that are served to it. It typically needs a very basic feed, which consists of different kinds of lettuce and other leafy greens, including kale and Chinese cabbage, and really like dandelion leaves and squatter cabbage. In addition, varied types of vegetables can be served, including carrot raw food, green beans, peppers and peas. 

Only give iceberg lettuce in small amounts as it does not contain enough calcium and too much phosphorus, do not banana as it contains too many carbohydrates, avocado as it is too fat.

It is actually quite important that your iguana gets a varied diet consisting of as many green and fresh things as possible as it is important to ensure normal growth. Vitamin deficiency can lead to the bones not growing properly, becoming too soft or, in the worst case, brittle, so they break too easily. 

Under no circumstances should you feed your iguana any meat or other food derived from other animals, as iguanas are not predators.

Remember vitamin D3!

Especially in relation to vitamins, it is crucial that iguanas are given vitamin D3, which otherwise usually comes from sunlight. Remember that the ultraviolet rays from the sun can not penetrate glass, so it is important to provide artificial ultraviolet light directly in its terrarium, along with vitamin and mineral powder where the content of both vitamin D3 and mineral can meet its needs. 

It is sprinkled over the feed once a week, and can possibly. advantageously mixed with oatmeal, which adds extra carbohydrates, calcium and proteins.

Decor of the terrarium

It is important for the iguana’s well-being that it has a terrarium in a good, large size. Most people will probably choose to build it themselves and make it a cosy project in the home, where a good terrarium is built that fits into a room in the house or apartment.

As a starting point, a terrarium for young animals should be about 2 x 2 x 1 meter, (hxwxd), but preferably up to 4 x 4 x 2 meters. Here there can also be room for more adult iguanas, and they will be able to thrive optimally. Few, however, have a room that is 4 meters high. 

However, it is recommended to make a terrarium as high as possible so that the iguanas get as natural an environment as possible, and can feel comfortable in good, large branches.

Some choose to set up an outdoor aviary or terrarium where iguanas can enjoy the summer months with a minimum temperature of 20 degrees constant.

At the bottom of the terrarium, wood shavings or bark chips can be sprinkled, and preferably in a good layer, as the iguana’s faeces can be violent and smelly.

If you want to have a beautiful, lush and green terrarium, you must be aware that iguanas are herbivores, and therefore may well find themselves mashing in the expensively purchased plants! 

With the advantage, however, you can buy a lot of living room birch, and place them around the terrarium to provide shelter and green surroundings.

The temperature should never fall below 20 degrees in the terrarium, and it is recommended to have special heating zones where the temperature is kept up to 50 degrees so that your iguana can feel as comfortable and warm as it needs. It is recommended to have at least one heating spot per iguana in the terrarium.

Humidity is also important, as iguanas naturally live in the rainforest, where it is very humid. Therefore, spray the terrarium daily with a flower sprayer and lukewarm water, and feel free to provide bathwater in a low tub so that the iguana can enjoy a bath whenever it wants.

Cleaning the terrarium

Cleaning the terrarium is not necessarily a particularly demanding affair, but for the sake of hygiene it is recommended to clean bars, glass plates etc. once a week, and the base material as needed – at least once every two weeks, and depending on how many iguanas you keep.

Handling an iguana

You should not expect to be able to sit with the iguana in your lap and cuddle with it as you can with cats, dogs, rabbits and guinea pigs, as iguanas will never be able to be tamed. However, they can become handy so you can approach them without them becoming intimidated or aggressive. 

However, it is important to know that iguanas are never toys for children, and should never be near dogs or cats – both for the sake of the other animals, but also for the sake of the iguana, as it can lose its tail if it feels threatened and/or maintained while allowing it to give a very unpleasant bite.

The age, life course and reproduction of the iguana

An iguana will have a typical lifespan in captivity of 10-15 years. The green iguanas will usually reach sexual maturity at the age of 2-3 years. At that age, they measure about a meter. The mating season is usually in the period September-February, and if you are lucky you can get green iguanas to breed in a terrarium. 

A female iguana typically lays between 20 and 35 eggs a few months after they have mated.

If you want to breed iguanas, make sure the female has a place to lay her eggs. It will be in a heated sandbox where the temperature should be just over 30 degrees. It should be a mixture of sand and soil and the area of ​​this should be 1 x 0.8 x 0.8 meters (hxwxd).

A female iguana will typically be pregnant if it shows signs of decreased appetite and only wants to drink water, while you can see it getting a bit “bloated”. These are the first visible signs, and here you should think about making a place where the female can lay her eggs.

In fact, it is vital when the female becomes pregnant that she is given the opportunity to lay her eggs, as the shell on them will otherwise become too thick and will likely need to be removed by surgery.

Once the eggs have been laid, they are moved with great care to a box where they can be incubated and where there is a fixed temperature of between 30 and 31 degrees, as well as a humidity of just around 100.

Important knowledge

  • Iguanas are known to carry the salmonella virus in their digestive system without being affected by it. This means that iguanas may not be obvious in homes with young children and / or pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems.
  • If the iguanas are not fed properly, they will have problems with the internal organs, especially the kidney will be affected.
  • Many people buy an iguana in the belief that it is an easy pet that does not require any care, but when they make a mistake after some time, they feel compelled to give up and resell the iguana. It is therefore important to familiarize yourself well with what kind of animal you are acquiring.