Brief Iguana Care & Cost Sheet
This is a very brief care sheet for Green Iguanas that I have come up with myself after much reading and research. Please do not stop reading here and read, read, read! You cannot collect too much information before obtaining an Iguana.

1) First of all do not depend solely on the pet store to give you proper care instructions. Most (not all) are sadly uninformed when it comes to reptiles, iguanas in particular. Don't let them sell you a 10 gallon tank and a heat rock!

2) Obtain the proper set-up BEFORE the iguana comes home. This is not a mammal that you can bring home and put up temporarily in a box overnight! This includes AT LEAST:

  • a 30-50 gallon aquarium or equivalently sized vivarium/terrarium (at least $50) which your iguana WILL grow out of rapidly. Think about how big this little lizard will get (4-6 feet in length). Plan ahead and maybe start building a custom cage right away. Better yet, plan ahead and reserve that spare bedroom for him!
  • UVB producing fluorescent tube light (i.e. ZooMed Reptisun or Iguana light etc. ($20) Aquarium lights, bird lights etc are NOT sufficient. I use ZooMed's Reptisun 10.0 and the newer Mercury Vapor bulbs such as Megaray or Powersun.
  • fixture for tube light ($15-30) 
  • basking lamp ($10 at hardware store) 
  • basking bulb or ceramic heat element (CHE) (ranges from less than $1 for a reg. 60-100 watt bulb to $20 for the ceramic heating element (CHE) that can be left on all night and which also lasts for years.) CHE's emit heat with no light but screw into a fixture like a light bulb.
  • undertank heating pad (not a heat rock) ($15-70 depending on size etc.) 
  • cage furniture including basking limb, hide box, water (yes, iguanas need fresh water at all times) and food dishes (cost varies, some can be obtained for free such as the basking limb or you already might have dishes around that you can use.) 
  • proper food items including mainly collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, dandelion greens as a base a salad of green beans, peas or pea pods, orange or yellow squash, sweet potato etc. on the side (all chopped very fine either by hand or with a food processor). Some kale, chard or spinach is acceptable in small amounts only. (Greens are about $1 per bunch depending on the season) 
  • calcium supplement without D3 added. Read the labels and find a supplement that contains no D3. One of the biggest problems aside from a calcium deficiency is D3 toxicity. Don't overdo the supplementation. With the proper diet there is only a small amount of calcium supplementation needed and you shouldn't need a multi-vitamin supplement. One container should last a very long time. ($5.) Rep-Cal used to make one but appears to have stopped. Look for Bone Aid in the pet store. It is the only one I could find. 
  • timer - Use a timer to regulate how long the lights stay on. 12 hours on and 12 hours off is a good rule of thumb. Iguanas can't have the lights on all night just like we can't. (However, CHE's can stay on all night as they don't emit any light) ($6) 
  • thermometers - yes, at least 2 thermometers. One on the cool side; another as close to the hot spot as possible. Don't try and guess at the temperature. This is crucial! You can use any old one as long as it is accurate. Most pet stores sell stick on ones that are reasonably priced around $5
  • For ease of use and to ensure the iguana's comfort and safety I highly recommend some sort of thermostat device. There are several thermostats on the market made especially for herps including those by Helix Controls, T-Rex, and Zoo-Med. You can hook both the basking lamp (with ceramic non light emitting bulb) and the heating pad up to this and control the environmental temperature year-round). ($50-150 depending on wattage etc.)
As you can see from the above list, the set-up will cost far more than the iguana itself. You should easily spend over $180 right off the bat on supplies for a $19.99 lizard. Don't cut corners. If you do you will be risking the iguana's life. If you don't want to or can't afford the above set-up then an iguana is NOT for you!

3) Do make sure the iguana is warm enough. To digest their food and metabolize calcium they need to be at 85 degrees. Make a temperature gradient from 80-90 degrees. This means that one end of the cage is 80 degrees while there is a hot spot of 90 degrees at the other end. Use the thermometers!

4) Do make sure that the UV light is about a foot away from your iguana when he is under the 90 degree hot spot. Any further away and it becomes useless.

5) Do feed a proper diet. You can't slack off here! I did once and wound up with an iguana with a calcium deficiency and two broken ribs. he is fine now, but he shouldn't have gotten to that point because of my laziness. Please click here for a detailed diet plan. Read it and print it out; take it to the grocery store; whatever it takes! Chop the food up small enough for the iguana to eat. Iguana's don't chew their food. They swallow it whole so keep this in mind.

6) Do Find a qualified reptile veterinarian in your area. Click here to go to herpvetconnection or here to go to Melissa Kaplan's list of reptile veterinarians. Collect the first bit of poop that your ig delivers and take it to the vet for a fecal examination. This will save money in the long run, since at this point you don't need to bring in the whole iguana. If a parasitic condition is present you will be faced with a vet visit down the road.

7) Do not rely on any one source for information. Read this and many other publications. Ask more than one iguana owner for advice. Check out local herp societies in your area, and go to a meeting or 2. There is a lot to be learned there.

8) Do not feed any animal protein! This includes insects such as crickets an mealworms. I can't believe it but there are still pet stores out there that are convinced that baby inguanas need animal protein. This is just not true. Iguanas are true vegans. NO ANIMAL PROTEIN!

9) Do not feed your iguana iceberg lettuce or any lettuce either! There is absolutely no nutrition in iceberg lettuce for iguanas or humans for that matter.

BE RESPONSIBLE! It is your responsibility to find out the facts before you buy a new pet, no matter what it is. Don't do something just because the pet store tells you to! In the same way that you don't trust just anyone who has a 'health care attorney, Los Angeles' sign out front, you should not trust someone just because they work somewhere with a 'pet store' sign. They are not authorities on iguanas. Check out different pet stores. Buy a book or two. Ask them questions that you already know the answers to to see if they are taking proper care of the iguanas in their care. If they say "oh yeah, iguanas are so easy to care for" take your business elsewhere. The fact of the matter is that they are NOT easy to care for. They can become easy to care for if the proper research is conducted, the proper environment is set up and the time is set aside for the proper care.

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