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green iguana

Reptile Rapture,
6308 Monona dr, Monona WI 53716
608-221-0094, www.reptilerapture.net

(caresheet also applies to red, blue and other color morphs of the green iguana)

Common Name: Green iguana
Scientific Name:
Iguana iguana
Origin: tropical North and South America
Size: 6' head to tail (females smaller)
Lifespan: 15 - 20 years

You will find many ways on the internet, on "how to" take care of this animal. This care sheet is showing the way we found works best for us from our many years of experience of caring for this species.

In the wild, green iguana are tree dwellers, spending most of their time above ground. They are very well adapted to living in trees and can climb "like monkeys." They are an intermediate care reptile and will need a very large and tall custom enclosure when they are adults. Young green iguanas can be kept in something like a Exo terra screen enclosure 18" x 18" x 36" for about the first 6 months of it's life.

You can not keep them from growing by housing them in a small cage. That's a myth and it won't make for a happy well adjusted iguana.

After your iguana out grows out of the starter enclosure, or if you begin with one 6 months or older, you need to have a larger space, such as the Zoo Med iguanarium (36" x 18" x 48") or Exo Terra large xtall (36" x 18" x 36"). These will last you until your iggy is 2.5' to 3' long. (All body measurements include the tail.) Adult iguanas need an enclosure of no less than 6' long 3' wide and 6' high. There are many suggestions online for making an DIY enclosure. If you have the space, go bigger. Or if you can give your iguana a "home tree" and let it free roam a room or the rest of the house, that's even better. A home tree is a place for him to call home. It should include a safe place to sleep, a basking light, and food station. It can be made out of a sturdy plant stand, cat tree, or something of your own design. Creating a place for your iguana can be fun. Give your it branches or structures to climb on. Your lizard will appreciate horizontal shelves or wide logs. They don't always want to cling on to something vertical. Many iguanas also have a soft spot for a soft bed. Something as simple as a rolled up towel on a shelf under some foliage can become a favorite resting/sleeping spot.

For substrate you want something that holds humidity well like Zilla jungle mix or Zoo med eco earth. Iguanas tend to use the same bathroom spot everyday. If you have a free roaming iguana, you can usually put a litter box or newspaper down where he likes to go for easy clean up.

Iguanas do best alone. If you want two, make sure they are male and female or two females. Dimensions for the above enclosures are based on one iguana; if you have two, double the size.


Green iguanas come from a tropical climate. You want a basking area for them and a cooler part of the enclosure where they can regulate their body temperature. All the lighting and heat elements should be on one side and the other will be the cool side. This way your iguana can move back and forth between the different temperatures depending on its needs.

A basking area of 100-115 degrees should be provided. The rest of the enclosure can be in the 80-85 range. At night, temps can drop to as low as 75 degrees. Use a good quality temperature gauge, like Zoo Meds digital temp gauge or Exo Terras Thermometer. One basking bulb is fine for babies, but for an adult iguana, we suggest at least two bulbs next to each other to provide a larger area for your iggy to heat up. It takes a lot of heat to warm a large bodied iguana. It's best if it is a little spread out and not super hot in a small area.

In addition to heat, iguanas need UVB lighting to help them absorb calcium and to synthesize vitamin D3. Since they are not getting  natural sunlight in our homes, we must provide UVB light in the form of a special fluorescent bulb designed to produce UVB rays. Do not use heat rocks. Green iguanas are especially adapted to basking, getting heat from above. They can be burned badly on a heat rock because they do not realize it's too hot until too late.

The best bulbs are the mercury vapors such as Exo Terra's Solar Glo bulbs, ZooMed's Powersun, or Solar bright bulbs. These provide heat and UVB all in one bulb. You can also use separate basking (heat) bulb and UVB bulbs. If you use these you will want the Zoo Med 5.0 or Exo Terra UVB 100 variety.

Always provide a nice sized water dish with fresh water. Iguanas get a lot of moisture from their food, but they still do drink. Scrub the bowl at least once a week to keep bacteria slime from building up. Maintain humidity around 60%. Misting the enclosure a couple times a day will usually provide enough moisture, but a nice humidity gauge can help you in this area. Hand misters are usually sufficient, but if you don't care to remember to mist, an automatic mister like the Exo Terra monsoon is a nice option. Exo terras reptile fountain provides bubbling water that will also help raise humidity levels. Exo Terra bowls or Flukers rock dish are nice naturalistic non-porous water bowls. Green iguanas are excellent swimmers in the wild. You can put your iguana in the bathtub or kid pool for a soak or swim if you acclimate them when they are babies. Most really like the water.

Iguanas are vegetarians and eat everyday. Variety is important. Don't always feed them the same things. When you feed, you can give as much as they want in one sitting. Remove any uneaten food after a few hours.

Make sure to supplement your iguanas food at least every other feeding with calcium and vitamins such as Repashy Superveggie (this can be used everyday) and mix in a little extra calcium with D3.


greens (turnip, collard, mustard, beet)
green beans
grated root crops (carrots, beets, etc)
grated squashes
leaf lettuces (dark types, no spinach)
broccoli stems and leaves

In moderation:

bok choy
hibiscus blooms and flowers
rose petals


Green iguanas are intelligent and can make great pets. However, they are not for everyone. Baby green iguanas usually do not bite, but excessive handling should be avoided until the iguana gets used to you. Your first impulse will be to hold your new iguana and pet it. We strongly suggest you do not do this. The best way we have found to tame an iguana whether young or old is with patience. Read on.

Place your new iguana enclosure in an area where it can see you moving about. Let it see you prepare its food. Talk to your iguana, let it hear your voice. You can change the water, spot clean the enclosure, do busy work near it, read, work on computer, etc. But do not pick your new pet up or try to touch it at this time. Why? You are letting your iguana get used to you, your movements and your voice in a nonthreatening manner. Iguanas are curious animals and once they get accustomed to you, they will start staying out in the open when you're around instead of hiding. That's the first step.

Green iguanas are very food oriented and if they see you as the food giver, they will start to trust you sooner. Once they get over their innate nervousness, they will be bolder and soon will start to come to you when you bring food. Eventually, your iggy will eat greens from your hand or jump on your arm when you are reaching in the enclosure to do something. Success! Now is the time to start interacting more. Let your lizard stay on your arm, talk to it, gently try to pet the back...just don't grab it. Remember, let your igana come to you. Eventually, it will trust you and run to you when you come to the enclosure. This is the time when you can really start holding it.

Have patience. In some cases, this taming process can take months. Remember, your iguana can live 15-20 years so this part is truly worth the effort. You will be so happy when you are walking around the house with a happy and trusting baby iguana riding your shoulder or on top of your head. Think of your adult iguana following you around the house for some petting time. It's up to you to help make this happen. They take some work and are not immediately tamed like a bearded dragon, but they are worth the extra effort.