Cheat Sheet

Iguanas For Dummies

From Iguanas For Dummies by Melissa Kaplan, William K. Hayes (Foreword by)

Before you bring home your new pet iguana, purchase all the necessary supplies and equipment, and make sure the enclosure is roomy enough for your iguana’s size. Daily baths are part of iguana care, so be sure you know how to bathe your iguana correctly, and be on the lookout for certain conditions that require a trip to the veterinarian for your iguana.

Essential Supplies for Your Iguana

Being completely ready before you bring home your iguana is essential, and a lot goes into creating the proper iguana home. To make things as stress-free as possible for you and the iguana make sure the new enclosure and furnishings are set up early. Here's a list of necessary equipment and supplies (which is the same no matter how old the iguana is):

  • The enclosure

    • 1 55–100-gallon enclosure

    • 1 reptile under-tank heat pad or human heating pad

    • 1–2 daytime overhead heat sources (white basking lights, a basking light and ceramic heating element [CHE], or an incandescent household light bulb)

    • 1–2 nighttime overhead heat sources (nocturnal heat light and/or CHE)

    • 1 light fixture for each overhead heat source (porcelain sockets are required for CHEs)

    • 1 UVB-producing fluorescent tube long enough to stretch across the width of the enclosure

    • 1 fluorescent light fixture

    • 2–5 appliance timers to automate the heat and fluorescent lights

    • 1–2 table lamp dimmer switches (or rheostats) or a hard-wired thermostat to regulate the heat source output

    • 1–2 power strips (6–8 outlets each)

    • 3 thermometers to be placed in the enclosure to monitor temperatures

    • 2–3 units of suitable substrate, including extras to rotate in and out as they become soiled

    • 1 hide box (a box your iguana can hide in)

    • 1 branch or shelf for basking

  • Food, vitamins, and supplements

    • Fresh supply of iguana-friendly food

    • Multivitamin

    • Calcium supplement

  • First-aid supplies

    • 1 container of blood-stop powder or a box of cornstarch

    • 1 bottle of Betadine (povidone-iodine)

    • 1 tube of triple antibiotic ointment

    • 1 reptile veterinarian

  • Other stuff

    • 1 water bowl

    • 1 food plate

    • 1–2 food storage containers for salads and greens

    • 1 set of cleaning and disinfecting supplies (sponges, paper towels, gloves, cleaner, disinfectant, etc.)

    • 1 pair of claw trimmers

    • 1 room humidifier

    • 1 cloth sack, cardboard box, or animal carrier to transport your iguana home and to the vet

It's quite a list, huh? And this is just the minimum start-up equipment and supplies you need. Now you understand why getting all the supplies and equipment home and assembled before you bring the iguana home is so important.

Minimum Iguana Enclosure Dimensions

Don't make the mistake of starting with an iguana enclosure that's too small - iguanas grow quickly. The following table shows you the minimum enclosure dimensions needed based on the average size in snout-vent length (SVL) and snout-tail length (STL) for the first seven years. So, unless your iguana is full grown, when its STL is more than two-thirds the enclosure width, it's time for a new enclosure.

SVL (in inches)) STL (in inches) Minimum Dimensions (in feet)
2.5–7 9–18 3 x 1 x 1.5
8–10 20–28 3.5 x 1 x 2.3
11–12 28–36 4.5 x 1.5 x 3
12–14 30–42 5.25 x 1.75 x 3.5
14–16 35–54 6.75 x 2.25 x 4.5
18–20 45–60 7.5 x 2.5 x 5
20–22 50–66 8.25 x 2.75 x 5.5
20–24 50–72 9 x 3 x 6

How to Give Your Iguana a Bath

Iguanas don't clean or groom themselves. Iguanas in the wild brush against rough bark and plunge into water to remove dirt and parasites. Because a captive iguana probably doesn't have bark to rub against or a body of water to dive into, it's up to you to keep him clean but "bathing" your iguana doesn't mean using soap on him or in the water. Keep your iguana clean by following these steps:

  1. Run the water until it's chest deep (the iguana's, not yours!) at the deep end where the drain is.

    This depth makes the water about iguana-hip deep at the shallow end. If your iguana isn't used to bathing, put less water in the tub.

  2. Let him soak to his heart's content.

    If you leave your iguana in the tub long enough for the water to start cooling off (a good bath temperature for iguanas is 85–90 degrees Fahrenheit [29–32 degrees Celsius]), run more warm water into the tub, draining off a little of the cool water.

    The noise of running water can be quite loud in a tub/shower enclosure. If your iguana gets stressed by this noise, fill a pitcher with warm water at the sink and pour it gently into the tub.

  3. When he's done soaking, blot him off to remove the drips and send him on his way.

  4. Thoroughly clean and disinfect the tub.

    If any individuals in your household are at high risk for contracting bacterial infections, have your iguana use a different bathroom than the at-risk family members use. Even if you take precautions to thoroughly clean and disinfect the tub, walls, and floor, accidents and distractions can and do happen.

Daily baths are good for iguanas because they soak, which is good for their skin and because of the higher humidity, they're inhaling air that has more moisture in it. Another benefit is that many iguanas drink deeply when their bodies are in water. But perhaps the most popular reason iguana keepers bathe their iguanas daily is that most iguanas poop when they're in water. Keeping the enclosure clean is very easy because it's a lot easier to drain the bathtub, thoroughly rinse off the iguana, wash the bathtub out, and then disinfect it before the next use by human or iguana.

When to Take Your Iguana to a Veterinarian

Iguana owners will need to visit a reptile veterinarian for medical diagnosis and intervention in certain situations. Take your iguana to a see a veterinarian — no matter how experienced you are with iguanas — if your pet has any of these conditions:

  • Lethargic

  • Hurt or bleeding

  • Paralysis

  • Limbs and spine are swollen

  • Problems with the tail or toes

  • Feces are smelly or runny

  • Neck and/or dewlap is swollen

  • Bloated and not pooping

  • Rapid weight loss

  • Seizures

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