• Green Iguanas

    Green Iguanas

    Everything you need to know to raise Green Iguanas

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Raising Iguanas
"Why are iguanas green?" my little nephew once asked my niece, his sister. Not one to admit that she didn't know, Little-Miss-Can't-Be-Wrong paused to think and then quickly replied, "Because they're not the prettiest members of the animal kingdom - they're green with envy!"

I couldn't help laughing, but I look at these creatures very differently. In fact, I think they're quite handsome, and make great pets if you're willing to put in some effort. You might have seen one of them when you last visited the pet shop with mum or dad. The perfect show-and-tell pet, iguanas can be toilet trained, learn tricks, and even find their way home when lost!

Iguanas need routine care, and if you honestly consider yourself to be responsible, you could think about getting one after discussing it with your folks. Also be aware of the fact that most, if not all, iguanas carry Salmonella bacteria in their intestines, which can cause flu-like symptoms in people. If you decide on getting an iguana as a pet, you will have to remember to wash your hands thoroughly after handling him.

A name for your hamster

While Iggy is the name that most people are likely to name their pet lizard, you shouldn't stop at the obvious. Imagine the identity crisis your reptile would face if he or she were introduced to other iguanas with the same name! Here are some of my favourite names:

Here are some names for boy iguanas:

  • Whiplash (for its long tail)
  • Spike (for the spikes along its back)
  • Green Goblin
  • Ignatius the Iguana
  • Klaus (claws!)
  • Draco (dragon)

Some interesting names for girl iguanas:

  • Emerald Emma
  • Elizabeth
  • Spiny Sherry
  • Long-nailed Lola

Before you buy

Get a book! I know, I know, I do always recommend reading up on the pet you want to buy, but that's probably the best advice I've given anyone wanting to own one. It's not possible to give you all of the information you need about keeping a pet in one little article, and that's especially true when it comes to caring for an animal like an iguana.

Eventually, Iggy will grow to between five and six feet, and you have to consider this as well: would you want to share your room with him after a few years, and stand by him until he reaches the ripe old age of 20 or thereabouts?

First off, remember that he will want to spread his legs, so to speak, so getting a large-enough aquarium is a good start. A 60 gallon one is apt, and you should take care not to place sharp or jagged objects in the aquarium. Shoo away the urge to use artificial plants and flowers, bark, stones and gravel in Iggy's enclosure. Trust me, he won't miss them, and besides, they often increase the risk of him swallowing small pieces of such items.

Get the humidity and temperature specifications right, according to what the book recommends, well before you bring him home. No one likes a frigid reception, not even a cold-blooded reptile!

More about the homecoming later; let's move on to choosing an iguana first.

Choosing your pet

By now you will have read enough about this emerald reptilian to make a smart choice at the pet store. A baby 'ig' is a good choice, but no matter what the pet store owner tells you, remember that it's not possible to tell the difference between male and female at that tender age.

You iguana should be alert, and if it is a baby, it won't stay still for a second, especially when you pick it up. A baby ig that sits in your palm contemplating Einstein's theory of relativity is probably sick (and obviously very smart!).

The vent area and the base of the tail should be clean, and should not have any crusty deposits or protrusions. Little moving dots on the scales are actually mites, and you'd best steer clear from an infested ig.

Iggy's mouth should be clean and free from mucous, but don't be alarmed if you see white salt crystals around his nostrils, as this is normal. If he has a runny nose, or wheezes when he breathes, he probably has a respiratory infection. Also, blackened toes or tail tips could be signs of gangrene, but don't confuse these with the black scales and patterns that many iguanas show naturally.

Care and feeding


Like I mentioned earlier, igs need cages or aquariums that do not contain sharp or jagged objects which can injure the reptile's nose. A 5-7 inch diameter sloping log with the bark removed is great for the lizard to bask on.

When it's time to clean up, the best cleaning and sanitizing agent is a 1:20 solution of common household bleach and water. Ensuring that you do not clutter your iguana's aquarium or cage also lets you clean it effectively on a regular basis.

Short napped outdoor carpet is good for flooring, and you can flame the edges so it doesn't unravel or come loose. A cool idea is to paint a jungle scene on acrylic on the rear board, but it won't fool the lizard!

Lighting and Temperature

Don't forget that green iguanas need ultraviolet light, which is found in natural sunlight, and a lack of this light can inhibit the production of vitamin D-3 in its body. This can cause rickets and metabolic bone disease.

Supplement natural sunlight with the light from ordinary incandescent bulbs that are housed in standard aluminium clip-on shields. You can find these at a store like IKEA. Place the light source about 8 inches above the cage or aquarium. Its need for UV light does not mean you should go buy the black-lights you see at nightclubs. While these are undeniably funky, they're more suited to Iggy Pop than to Iggy the Iguana.

Temperature wise, iguanas move in an out of sunlight to regulate their body temperature in the wild, but this might be difficult to duplicate in the aquarium. Refer to the book for advice, and you're likely to find that it suggests the use of incandescent light bulbs and heavy duty heating pads.


No one has yet figured out the 'optimal' diet for an iguana, so a varied diet is important. At least five varieties of fruits and vegetables are important, and you can use the following list for reference: Collard greens, carrots and carrot tops, peas and pea pods, mustard greens, cabbage, sweet potato, spinach, bell peppers, shredded and soaked alfalfa cubes, mango, plantain, hibiscus flowers, cherries, green beans, strawberries, squash, romaine lettuce, blueberries, apples, broccoli, papaya, pears and rehydrated alfalfa cubes.

Dice and mix the ingredients well so the lizard eats a good variety of ingredients each meal. Make friends with your greengrocer, and ask him or her to save the outer portions of fruits and vegetables for your lizard. Don't give your iguana any animal or insect protein, as they do not consume these in the wild.

Keep a shallow dish of water in the reptile's cage, for instance a large salad dish with a rock in the centre to weigh it down. This also raises the humidity in the cage. Change the water daily.

Medical Care

If you follow the book and the suggestions provided here closely, your scaly green pet should stay healthy for a long time to come. Be warned that iguana illnesses can be difficult to cure, and you should look for a good veterinarian in your vicinity, preferably one who has experience with reptiles.

You will need to clip Iggy's toenails occasionally with a regular toenail clipper, and if they bleed, press the toes into a soft bar of ivory soap. Not up to the task? Take him to a vet who will be more adept at the job.

Lobster Trivia

  • Lobsters can 'amputate' their own legs, claws, and antennae when in danger, and then grow them right back!
  • A nervous system of a lobster is like that of a grasshopper
  • Pregnant female lobsters carry thousands of eggs of which only about one percent survive
  • Lobster blood is a clear fluid
  • A lobster cannot feel pain
© 2004 - 2020 Leonard Rego