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Iguanas 101

Martha Stewart Living Television

Iguanas are extraordinary creatures. Their prehistoric appearance and slow movements are mesmerizing, and watching them grow from small, curious creatures into adulthood is a fascinating lesson in reptile development. Iguanas can grow up to 6 feet long, a fact that sometimes goes ignored by prospective owners. 

Pet expert Marc Morrone recommends that you keep the following in mind if you are considering adopting an iguana. Because iguanas are so large, can live as long as 10 years, and require much care, it is virtually impossible to find someone willing to take an adult iguana off your hands. Owning an iguana is a serious commitment.

Housing
You will need a large glass aquarium with a screen cover that will need to be cleaned regularly. Iguanas are cold-blooded, so they dependent on outside heat sources to raise their body temperature. You will need a heat lamp and a full-spectrum incandescent bulb to provide a temperature of 85 degrees. Driftwood branches are necessary so the iguana will have something to climb on. Your iguana is going to grow, so you will need to buy several fish tanks over the course of your iguana's lifetime.

Line the bottom of the aquarium with cheap, clean disposable bedding. Iguanas in nature are never in the same place twice. They never come into contact with their own droppings. A dirty iguana cage can present a major health risk, because it can quickly become a breeding ground for potentially dangerous bacteria such as salmonella. The tank must be emptied out and washed weekly, and new bedding must be put in. The two best types of bedding to use are butcher paper or a sheet of newspaper.

Diet
Iguanas grow very quickly. They need a diet that is high in calcium and vitamin D3. Years ago, they were fed fresh greens and fruits dusted with calcium powder. Today, dry iguana alfalfa-based pellet food is normally used instead. This food is clean, easy to use, and has all the vitamins required to keep the iguana healthy.

Iguanas need constant access to clean fresh water. They foul their water all the time, and a dirty water dish can be a breeding ground for salmonella. Marc says they can be trained to use a bird drinking bottle hung from their cage. These bottles are green and have a bright red tip that attracts the reptile's interest.

Nail Trimming
Iguanas need to have their nails cut regularly. If their nails are too long, they get caught in objects in their cages and break off. The best way to trim your iguana's nails is to wrap the iguana up in a towel and pull out one foot at a time. If they bleed, you can use a coagulant powder to clot the nail.

Resources
Learn more about the Giant Green Iguana Information Collection.