Yoshi's Iguana Care Tips
These are some tips and tricks we've used to raise Yoshi from a
sickly, pokey, starving juvenile iguana to a strapping, alert,
healthy adult iguana. This is not a comprehensive care guide,
check out Jennifer Swofford's Iguana Care Guide for that kind of coverage.
Also look in the newsgroup rec.pets.herp
- Iguanas have somewhat specialized dietary requirements. Feed your Ig the right
stuff and it will be happier, more alert, and will probably grow bigger.
- Don't provide an excess of one kind of fruit or flower just because your Ig likes it;
most iguanas will happily gorge on relatively un-nutritious items while ignoring the vitamin- and
calcium-packed stuff nearby.
- Feed a mixture of leafy greens, veggies, and fruit, with emphasis on the leafy stuff.
- Avoid spinach, broccoli, and other vegetables high in oxalic acid, because it can
serious interfere with calcium metabolism. (Honest - years ago we switched Yoshi from
spinach to collards and the change in her level of activity and alertness was marked)
- For small iguanas, make up a proper mixture of veggies and pulverize it in a
food processor - this will make the pieces more digestible and also encourage the
little igs to eat a good proportion of each kind.
- Commercial iguana diets are NOT balanced and nutritious enough
to constitute the major fraction of your iguana's diet. [We use a variety of commercial
iguana foods as treats, because Yoshi seems to like them.]
- Iguanas don't often drink water, but they do need it available to them at all times.
(Make sure they have a dish that they don't have to lean down into too much, because
they cannot peristalsize as well as you can.)
- Heat & Light
- Proper temperature is vital for iguana, they need their body cavity and the food in it
to be at 90 degrees (F) or higher for proper digestion. It can be a little challenging to provide
facilities that will allow
your Ig to thermoregulate as its instincts tell it to, while minimizing the risk of burns.
- When in doubt, put a stronger bulb further away.
- Don't let the iguana climb the light fixtures!
- Florescent lights, like full-spectrum aquarium tubes, can provide helpful UV. They do not
provide useful amounts of heat.
- Even the best artificial light is not as beneficial to your reptile as natural sun.
Try to let your Ig bask in natural sun as often as practical -- but make sure he can
get into shade if he wants!
- For cool winter nights, here is a trick that has helped Yoshi: we put a wooden shelf in
her cage, and attached one of those reptile under-tank heating pads to the underside of
the wood. The heat diffuses gently and evenly through the wood, helping keep her
from catching a chill when the temperature in the house falls to the 60-65 degree range.
Note that this is a viable approach only for adolescent-adult Igs, babies and juveniles
should never be allowed to cool down quite that far.
Putting your iguana's lights on a timer is a very good idea if you occasionally
work late or stay out late partying. That will help the reptile maintain a natural
wake/sleep cycle, improving his mood.
- Your iguana needs a place to call home. As the Ig becomes comfortable, it will
want to explore, but it still needs a place to go back to that it can be sure will have
food and warmth.
- Your iguana's cage needs will depend partly on how much time is spent
in the cage. If you can let the Ig free-roam and only put it in the cage at night
to sleep, then a modest-size cage will suffice (say, about as high and wide
as the iguana is long). If you have to keep the iguana in a cage all the time,
it needs to be 1.5-2 times the iguana's length high and wide.
- Make the floor of the cage waterproof by using marine varnish or epoxy resin.
This will prevent smells from soaking into the wood if the iguaua goes in the cage.
- Supply the iguana with a comfy cloth, towel, or something to lay on. We use an old
flannel shirt for Yoshi; remember to cut the sleeves open so the iguana cannot
- Keep a bowl of fresh water nearby but try to keep it away from the shirt - if it gets into
the water, it will act like a wick and the iguana will soon be laying on a wet shirt.
- Iguana's instincts tell them to be high up - when you build your iguana a cage
(you are going to replace that 29-gallon fish tank, aren't you?) be sure to make the cage
top strong enough to support the reptile. Yoshi basically lives on top of her cage
all day, and if placed in the cage during the daytime, she will go to great effort to
get back onto the top.
Training an iguana is possible, as long as your patience is great and your
- You can train your iguana to use a bathtub, shower, or even a litter pan
for her "business." To train, place the iguana in the place you have
chosen when you think she needs to go. Encourage it by pouring warm water
around the vent area. Keep her in the area until she goes, then let
her walk around and explore for a while as a reward. Do this over and
over and over again until the reptile gets the idea.
- Training an iguana to eat from a particular dish is easy, but then they
get upset if they see that disk being used for anything else.
- We have not been able to train the iguana not to climb the furniture,
curtains, hanging cloths, etc.
- Several people in the rec.pets.herp newsgroup claim that they have
been able to teach their iguanas to sneeze on command, but we have not
been successful at this.
Iguanas are tough animals, but they do get sick sometimes,
and when they do they can go downhill and die very suddenly.
Find a good veternarian who is comfortable with treating reptiles.
- When you first obtain an iguana, it is a good idea of get it in for a check-up.
For example, we took Yoshi to the vet for a checkup, and found out that she was
anemic, undernourished, and full of parasites. (It is not at all uncommon for
iguanas and other pets to be sold in the U.S. pre-infected with intestinal parasites.)
- If you have a female iguana, be aware that they can generate eggs with or
without the help of a male! Of course, without a male the eggs will be infertile, but
that only increases the chance of the iguana having some trouble with them.
Also, one of Yoshi's vets told us that late in the egg development cycle, the
eggs take up essentially all the room in the reptile's body cavity, preventing
them from eating. Yoshi almost starved to death before we had her eggs
surgically removed. Note that spaying a female iguana is an expensive business,
but may be worth the money if you don't want to deal with the quirks of the annual
- Iguana's can get their tails caught in things. In many cases, the iguana will
panic and detach their tail when this happens - a messy and tragic business with
the technical name of autotomy. Contrary to popular belief, iguanas cannot
truely regenerate their tails. They can generate something on the end of the
stump, but it will not be as attractive nor as functional as the original.
Never grab any iguana by the tail.
If your iguana gets their tail cut or sliced but it does not fall off, it may be
possible to save it by having it stitched promptly. Left unattended, the
normal movement and flexing to which the tail is subjected will prevent it
When you take your iguana to the vet, be very careful with them in the car.
Some iguanas (like Yoshi) get panicky in a moving vehicle if they can see
what is happening to them. Get a well-covered carrier or
put the Ig in a cardboard box and tape it loosely shut before going for a drive.
Well, that's it for tips for now. Good luck and say hi to your iguana from us.
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This page written by Neal Ziring, last modified 6/1/96.