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Caring For Iguanas
Submitted by: Fantasia
Contrary to popular belief, iguanas are far from the easy pet they are
said to be. When considering iguanas as pets there are many things you
should think about.
First of all, iguanas require much more than an aquarium in the corner.
They are natural climbers and need space to do just that. Aquariums are
usually the first choice of any reptile owner (probably because they
allow for more visibility of your friend). Should you choose an aquarium, be sure to purchase a screen top rather than the traditional closed top.
A better choice would be a "basking cage". You can either purchase or build this house.
Any enclosure should be at least 3 feet tall with plenty of branches and rocks for climbing and basking. Any branch or rock you decorate his home with should be free of sharp edges and splinters.
You don't want him getting anything stuck in his scales. Although carpet looks nice on your floor, your green friend will be much happier with folded newspaper on his. Carpet holds bacteria and germs and requires frequent cleaning. By saving your old newspapers you will have an endless supply of floor coverings for him, and he will have a much more sanitary home. Using corn cob, pebbles, sand or mulch are also no-no's when it comes to his floors. You may think they are more "natural" coverings for him when in reality they are dangerous materials.
Should any of these things become lodged in his mouth or under his
tongue you would have a very sick creature to contend with.
He will greatly appreciate it if you place aquarium plants on his walls so that he may climb on them. He also likes his privacy and will hide in the
greens you hang. If using real plants, make sure they are iguana
compatible. He will eat anything green and alive that you place in his
Your new addition needs a soaking place also. You can purchase
any shallow pan for this purpose. Iguanas do their necessary functions
in water so you will find that you have to clean this pan frequently.
HEATING & LIGHTING
Iguanas are cold-blooded individuals who need to absorb their heat. In
their natural habitat they would do this by lying in the sun.
Unfortunately, they can't do this in your home. In order to provide an
iguana with his much needed heat you will need to purchase at least 1
heat lamp. Not just any heat lamp will make him happy either. You need
a "vitalight" or grow light. Iguanas need vitamin D to process their calcium just like you. Vitalights provide an adequate amount of heat
and also vitamin D. You may think he looks cute in the glow of the blue
bulb from Walmart, but in reality you are causing him severe physical
His heat lamp should be at least 6 inches above his basking spot. You don't want him to get too close and burn himself (iguanas are heat greedy and will suffer severe burns if their heat source is too close). The best bet is to place his lamp on top of the outside of his home. He can absorb his heat through the screened top.
Iguanas also appreciate "under heating" as it helps them to digest their food. You can purchase an under tank heater at any pet store for about $25. You don't want to supply him with a "hot rock". Trust me on this, he will lay on it and end up with a bad belly burn and you will end up with a large veterinarian bill.
Iguanas do not require 24 hours of light (remember you sleep better in
the dark also). You can either cover his home to help keep heat in, or
purchase a night light for him.
Iguanas will eat most any fruit or vegetable you give them. However,
that doesn't mean it is good for them. A good diet consists of variety
and nutrition. Contrary to popular belief, iceberg lettuce is the worst
thing you can feed him. Romaine lettuce is a better choice, but still
not the best. Iguanas love squash of any kind. They also enjoy greens
(collard, mustard, beet and dandelion are good choices). Spinach is
high in iron, but should be kept at a minimal level as it can deplete
other vitamin and mineral levels of your green buddy. Hibiscus flowers
are a summertime favorite of iguanas. They love oranges and cantaloupe
as well as honeydew and watermelon. Tiny dinosaurs also enjoy berries
of all sorts, just be careful about the seeds. Grapes cut in quarters
without seeds provide needed moisture.
The best way to prepare his food is with a food processor. Simply place all items in and chop it depending upon his size (the smaller the iguana the smaller his food should be). The reason a food processor works best is because iguanas are smart creatures. They will pick out their favorite foods and leave the other stuff in the dish. He is not getting the balance he needs if he is only eating his favorite foods. Before offering him any food you should sprinkle the top with a reptile vitamin (I recommend Vitalife, available at any pet store).
Iguanas require a small amount of protein in their diets. You can provide this in one of two ways. Either crumble boiled egg whites onto his food once a week, or purchase crickets and let him catch them. "Hunting" and eating crickets will make him slightly more aggressive.
The most important aspect of an iguana's diet is balance. Be absolutely sure to give him vitamins and a variety of healthy foods. If he becomes lethargic or develops bumps or even begins to limp, take him to the vet immediately!! These are all signs of Metabolic Bone Disease. This is a fatal disease if not taken care of by his doctor. My iguanas enjoyed macaroni and cheese occasionally and pizza whenever they could get it. Treats don't hurt as long as he has a balanced diet otherwise. Your best bet is to experiment with the healthy foods and find out what he likes best. You can always mix in the things he is not so fond of.
BASIC CARE & HYGIENE
Iguanas like to bathe. Simply fill your tub about half full of room
temperature water and let him loose. He will swim and play for hours.
This helps to moisten his skin and aids in his peeling process. Also,
he walks in his food and "duties" a bath will help keep bacteria out from under his nails and scales. Iguanas carry salmonella in their gut. This is a naturally occurring germ in all reptiles. Because of this you have to be sure to use antibacterial soap after handling your iguana.
When cleaning his home, never use soap, bleach or any other
chemical. The scent alone can kill him. Simply use hot water and a
scrub brush. Soak all plants, sticks, rocks and other climbing things
in hot water also. Use a brush to clean off anything that sticks.
His home needs to be cleaned at least every other day. You will find that
he has burrowed under his floor covering and hidden various objects
(pieces of his shed, bits of food, even a toenail now and again). His
floor covering should be changed daily. It is not necessary to
continually remove his shed (scales he loses). Young iguanas will eat
this (yes I know that sounds gross); it provides them with extra protein
Always be careful when picking him up; his little nails are sharp and he
clings to things. A wrong tug and you can potentially pull his tiny
toes right off. If his tail becomes caught, or he breaks the tip off, have no fear it will grow back. Be careful of his open boo boo though. Let him soak a little longer than usual to help him regrow the scales he needs to cover it.
If you notice your iguana has mites you can soak him to aid in ridding
him of the pests. You can also coat him in olive oil. There is nothing
funnier than a slick lizard running rampant in your home. I prefer the
olive oil method as it is longer lasting than a soak and you will rid
him of more pests. Use a soft brush (a child's paint brush works
great!) and simply "paint" him with the oil.
Using a small piece of pest strip on the top, outside of his home cover is a good idea. This prevents mites and other flying critters from bothering him.
He needs to see his doctor at least twice a year for a check up. He
should have his shots (yes iguanas get shots) as his doctor orders.
Iguanas in their natural environment will eat the poop (pretty sick
huh?) of an adult iguana and receive their immunizations this way.
Unless you have a wild iguana who is willing to share his poop with your
new pet, he will need to see his vet. Most pet stores do not carry
iguanas caught in the wild; they are usually born in captivity. Captive
iguanas do not carry the same micro organisms that prevent disease.
As you can tell, there is so much to consider when contemplating iguanas
as pets. Remember, if you decide to become the family of an iguana, you
chose him, he didn't chose you. He deserves to be maintained as mother
nature intended. His life and happiness depends on how committed you
are to him.
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