The Common Green Iguana has become a popular pet. Iguanas are very engaging animals but they do require a lot of special care. Iguanas are vegetarians and they need a very specific mix of vegetables in order to get the proper balance of nutrients in their diet. The number one reason we see Iguanas is improper nutrition.
You can make a balanced diet for your Iguana by following this guideline:
50-60% dark leafy greens: collard greens, turnip greens, bok choy, Swiss chard, dandelions (not sprayed), parsley and alfalfa pellets.
Avoid beet greens, spinach, and rhubarb.
Kale, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower should be offered only occasionally, as these plants contain enzymes that bind iodine and may cause a nutritional deficiency.
30-40% mixed vegetables such as a mixture of squash, sprouts, carrots, cooked sweet potato, green and red peppers, peas, beans, corn and green beans. You may buy frozen vegetables to put in this mix but at least 50% should be fresh.
This diet can be mixed in a blender or food processor and frozen in meal-sized feedings by spooning the mixture into ice cube trays. Food can then be thawed as needed.
You should also add a vitamin and mineral supplement to this diet according to label directions. (Never over supplement.)
Iguanas require access to UV light
UV light is necessary in order for their bodies to convert the vitamin D they consume in their diet to its active form. Vitamin D is vital to maintaining bones and calcium balance in the body.
Most pet stores will sell Vita Lamps, these are full spectrum lights you place in the aquarium or cage where the Iguana is kept and will provide the full UV spectrum of light. Iguanas need to be under a light like this at least 6 hours a day.
Many owners do not have a full spectrum light in the enclosure, feeling the Iguana gets direct sunlight from the windows. This may be true but many of the windows in modern homes as well as the aquarium glass will block UV rays, meaning the Iguana is not getting enough of the light they need!
Iguanas need to have a heat gradient in their enclosure
They need to have a warm area and an area to cool off. In general the warm area should be no warmer than 35C and the cool area no cooler than 25C. We advise using overhead lights as heat sources.
"Hot Rocks" sold in pet stores will often develop an electrical short circuit in them causing many reptiles to end up with very severe burns as a result of laying on these suddenly VERY hot rocks.
Iguanas require bathing on a regular basis
Bathing should occur at least 2-3 times a week. The water must be clean. You can leave a pan of water for the Iguana to soak in, inside the cage but you MUST clean it every day. Iguanas are very susceptible to developing bacterial infections from dirty cages. DO NOT allow your Iguana to bathe in your bathtub. Many reptiles shed salmonella in their feces as well as other bacteria, which may make you ill. Give the iguana its own infant bathtub or kiddie swimming pool as its tub.
Iguanas require VERY clean cages in order to stay healthy
Remove feces from the cage DAILY. You can use blank newsprint (available by the roll at The LeaderPost) or cut several pieces of Astroturf to fit the aquarium and then change them every day. Astroturf can then be cleaned with a dilute bleach solution once a week and dried. (Use 1 capful of household bleach to 1 standard sink full of warm water). Once weekly the entire cage and cage furniture (branches, rocks, dishes etc) should be wiped clean with a dilute bleach solution. Allow to dry completely before putting back in with the iguana in it's cage.
Iguanas shed salmonella in their feces
This means you need to be careful about your general hygiene around your pet so that you do not get sick. WASH YOUR HANDS after handling any reptile ? ALWAYS!
Use an antibacterial soap such as Hibitane scrub for this.
Iguanas or any other reptile should not share a home with children under 2 years of age. In the year 2000 the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta traced seven infant deaths due to salmonella to exposure to the household reptile. No pet is worth this risk. If you have small children it is best to find another home for the iguana. If you must have both the reptile and the children in the same home always wash your hands very well between touching the reptile and the child. They should never share the same room, toys, bath areas or dishes.
People who are immunosuppressed (HIV positive, cancer or hepatitis patients, people taking immunosuppressant drugs) should be especially careful around reptiles.