Iguana: Species Profile


Behavior and temperament of iguanas

Iguanas as pets will never be truly domestic animals, and many of them will try to escape from their enclosures and even their home. Iguanas in captivity will need to be picked up and held regularly to tame them so that they learn to trust you and feel comfortable in their environment. However, this can be a challenge, as they often find human contact unnatural and resist it. That’s why you must treat your iguana with care and patience.

Baby iguanas can move quickly, but adults are often quite lazy and docile, at least when they don’t feel threatened. Outside their cage, some iguanas prefer to climb on top of their owners. Since they have sharp claws, you should wear protective clothing if your iguana likes to do this. Also, an iguana can do real damage with its tail. Although this is relatively rare, iguanas are strong creatures. Therefore, when handling iguanas, be wary of fighting or aggression, especially if children or 

Iguana housing

Iguanas can grow up to one meter long if the tail is counted, and usually weigh about 9 kilograms. This size often comes as a surprise to people starting with a baby iguana.

Most commercially available cages do not meet the space needs of an iguana. Many iguana owners opt for custom-built enclosures with plenty of ramps, shelves, and branches for this arboreal species to climb. A suitable enclosure for a single iguana is approximately 4 feet long, 4 feet wide, and 4 feet high. Many people even choose to set up an entire room or a large closet as a habitat for their iguana.

To keep your iguana’s enclosure clean, remove uneaten food, droppings, torn skin, and other visible debris daily. Clean food and water dishes daily as well. Move your iguana to a temporary cage once a week to clean its main enclosure. Remove the substrate (the bedding that absorbs droppings and odors) and scrub all surfaces and decorations, such as rocks, with a pet-safe cleaner. Wait until everything is thoroughly dry before reassembling the box.


The iguana is a tropical animal. It likes to bask in the sun at 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and its habitat should not drop below 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The iguana needs a temperature of about 85 degrees Celsius to digest its food well. You need to keep a close eye on it, especially if you adjust the climate of an entire room for its habitat. To achieve an optimal temperature, you can use heat lamps, usually placed within a meter of the sun beds (follow the instructions for each lamp).


A large enclosure means lots of light. Use reptile UVB lamps so that your iguana is adequately illuminated for 10 to 12 hours a day. This mimics the benefits of natural sunlight, i.e., it promotes vitamin D production. Mercury vapor lamps can be used for large enclosures or rooms, while compact fluorescent lamps or tubes are suitable for small enclosures. The large branches and shelves of the enclosure allow the tree iguana to climb and bask in these lamps.


Iguanas need at least 70% humidity in their environment. You can increase the humidity in your iguana’s habitat by placing a water basin in the enclosure or using a misting device. It is generally recommended to spray your iguana twice a day to increase humidity and keep the skin healthy.


A wooden substrate or bedding is generally suitable for iguanas. Since they are an arboreal species, they spend most of their time climbing rather than digging in their litter.

Food and water

Fresh food is key to a healthy iguana. In the wild, iguanas are strictly herbivores. They avoid eating animal proteins, including insects. A high protein diet can lead to health problems such as kidney failure in iguanas.

Feed your iguana dark leafy vegetables, some fruit, and a calcium supplement in addition to a high-quality commercial pelleted food. Iguanas also need to have fresh water available at all times. Follow your veterinarian’s instructions on how much to feed to maintain a healthy weight for your pet’s size.

It is important to remember that iguanas swallow their food whole without chewing it, so anything you offer them should be chopped or shredded into small pieces. Remove and discard any food that has not been consumed within 24 hours.

General health and behavior problems

Like most reptiles kept as pets, iguanas are carriers of Salmonella. This means that Salmonella can be present in the iguana’s digestive tract without causing the animal to become ill. However, humans can become infected by touching the iguana or objects around it.

Follow common sense when handling iguanas. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling your pet, and avoid touching your face. This should prevent the spread of disease in most cases. However, if young children, the elderly, pregnant women, or immunocompromised individuals live in your household, special precautions should be taken. An iguana may not be the right pet for your family.

A common health problem in iguanas is kidney disease, often due to dehydration. If your iguana is lethargic, has bloat, and drinks or urinates frequently, take it to the vet immediately. In addition, iguanas often suffer from metabolic bone disease due to calcium and vitamin D deficiencies. This is why calcium supplementation and UVB lighting are so important. In addition, many iguanas contract respiratory diseases when their habitat is too cold.

Most iguanas can become tame with proper daily care. They prefer a predictable routine that gives them a sense of security. However, they have a strong self-defense instinct and will bite, scratch, and lash their tails when they feel threatened.

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