Introduction: Basic Care Instructions for the Green Iguana

Reptiles are rapidly growing more popular as pets, and iguanas are no exception.  However, how to care for iguanas is not common knowledge.  Many iguanas are improperly cared for, and end up dying early.  Many people just do not realize how difficult and time consuming it can be to take care of these lizards.  These instructions will go over some of the basic care owners must give their iguana. The three main topics that will be covered are: habitat, feeding/ diet, and general care.  Included in the diet section is a basic iguana salad recipe.  Caring for these creatures can be a daunting task.  Taking the time to do some research on them, and setting aside time in your daily life is a good place to start. 

Step 1: Materials Needed

You need to make sure you have these materials available before you start getting ready for your iguana.

- Cage which is preferably 4x3x5 ft. (length x width x height) or larger.
- Reptile heat lamps (day light, and a blue night light)
- UV light which provides at least 7 watts per cubic foot of UV radiation
- Newspaper
- shelving or branches
- Spray bottle or humidifier
- Nail clippers
- Tub or a bath
- Plants (real or fake) to decorate habitat
- Water bowl
- wash rag

Materials needed for iguana salad:

- Food processor
- 1 quart freezer bags (20 should do)
- B1 vitamin
- food plate or bowl
- The following fruits and vegetables: 1 mango, 1 cantelope, 1 sweet potato, 4 yellow squash, 1.5 cups of green beans, 2 parsnips, 2 carrots, 1 cup dry alfalfa pellets, 1 bunch of collard greens

Step 2: Setting Up the Habitat

Having the proper habitat for your iguana is very important.  Iguanas living in improper setups are likely to get sick or die early.  Besides keeping the temps and humidity at the right levels in the cage you should also think about decorating the cage.  Iguanas do not simply stop growing when they're habitat (cage) becomes too small.  It is okay to start with a baby iguana in a 40 or 50 gallon aquarium, but eventually a larger enclosure will need to be built for it.  Here are some steps for setting up your iguana habitat.

1. Make sure cage holds heat and moisture well (you should maintain a relative humidity above 40% in the cage). If sides or top of cage consist of wire or other open material, covering them with a plastic shower curtain will help.  Using Plastic sides (such as plexiglass) for your habitat is recommended in order to keep heat and humidity at correct levels.  

2. Pick out a basking area in the cage where you will build a shelf or place a branch

3. repeat step 2 except for a sleep area this time

4 Place day heat lamp above basking area. Turn lamp on and check to see that area is between 90-95 degrees Farenheit
CAUTION: Be sure the iguana will not be able to reach his lamps, they will burn themselves

5. Place blue night heat lamp above the sleep area. Turn on lamp and check to see that the temperature is between 74-78 degrees Farenheit

6. Set up you UV light making sure the basking spot receives direct rays, your iguana will spend most of its time on its basking spot

7. Use newspaper in the bottom of the cage (This is where your iguana will do his business)

8. Use decorations like fake plants and vines around the cage to make your iguana feel more at home (real plants can also be used, but make sure they won't harm your iguana if eaten)

Step 3: Feeding/Diet

Iguanas are strictly herbivores and have a very unique diet. Feeding your iguana the right diet will help him live a long and healthy life. Here are the main components of an iguanas diet, as well as the basics for feeding your iguana.

1. Your iguana diet should include: 45% greens, 40% other vegetables, 10% fruit, and 5% supplemental protein. You can check this Green Iguana Society website ( for a detailed list of acceptable greens, fruits, vegetables, and proteins.

2. Wash greens thoroughly. Wash and peel fruits and vegetables.

2. Vegetables and fruits should be cut up into pieces no wider than the iguanas head

3. Then vegetables, fruits, and proteins should be mixed in with the greens on a plate or bowl.

4. Offer the salad to your iguana. Some iguanas may take a while to get used to their new salad, usually within a week they will be chowing down your salad

Step 4: Basic Iguana Salad Recipe

This basic salad recipe includes all of the main components of the iguanas diet. Many iguana owners prepare fresh salads every day which can be time consuming. This recipe will save you lots of time because it can be frozen, and kept for a month and a half.

1. Have the following greens, fruits, vegetables, and protein supplement: 2 parsnips, 2 carrots, 1 sweet potato, 2 cups of green beans, 3-4 small yellow squash, 1 mango, 1 cantelope, 1/2 cup of dry alfalfa pellets, and 1 bunch of collard greens.

2. Wash and peel fruits and vegetables, wash collard greens.

3 Cut up fruits and vegetables into pieces that will fit into the food processor.

4. Run fruits and vegetables through the food processor. Afterward pieces of the fruits and vegetables should be the size of grated cheese.

5. Mix alfalfa pellets in with shredded fruits and vegetables. Make sure to mix salad thoroughly.

6. Put salad mix into freezer bags, around 3/4 cup of salad mix for each freezer bag

7. Set aside one bag of salad mix to be used within the next few days. The rest of the mix can go in the freezer.

8. Cut up 1-2 collard green leaves. Leaves should be cut into 1.5x1.5 inch cubes, discard the stem.

9. Place leaves onto a plate or bowl.

10. Put 1/4 cup of salad mix on top of your leaves. Then mix the salad and leaves together. If the salad has been frozen add a pinch of vitamin B1 powder (mix the powder into the salad)

11. Offer the salad to your iguana

Step 5: Basic Care

There are several ways you should care for your iguana on a day to day basis. You are completely responsible for your iguana, your iguana is not in the wild and cannot take care of itself.  Failing to keep your iguana and his cage clean can result in infections, parasites, and a lethargic iguana.

1. Use your spray bottle to spray water inside iguanas cage (keep relative humidity above 40%), you may need to use the spray bottle several times each day.  Could also use humidifier to keep humidity up.

2. Clip iguanas nails with nail clipper, usually every week.

3. Bathe iguana at least once a week in a large tote or bath tub depending on the size of the iguana (baths should last from 15-30 minutes)

5. Keeping a clean cage is essential. Make sure to wipe down shelves and floor daily

4. Fecal matter should be cleaned up within a few hours time.  

Step 6: Conclusion

 Yes, caring for an iguana can be quite a task, but it can also be worth your time.  These are truly intriguing creatures.  Following these basic steps will help keep your "iguana experience" a positive one.   You should now have the basic information to prepare for and take care of your iguana.  Good Luck