Common lizards pets
By Tom Crutchfield
Iguanas are long-lived reptiles that need specialized care.
Green Iguana (Iguana iguana)
Green iguanas are found throughout tropical and subtropical North and South America. Green iguanas are common in Mexico and south throughout Central America and down through South America to Paraguay and Argentina. Green iguanas also occur throughout the Lesser Antilles and, in the past 20 years or so, the Greater Antilles and Southern Florida. In the Greater Antilles and southern Florida, green iguanas are an introduced species.
There is a definitive difference in the physical appearance of green iguanas depending on their locale. First, the South American green iguana population used to have the taxonomic name of Iguana iguana iguana. South American green iguanas are much less cold tolerant than the Central American green iguanas once referred to as Iguana iguana rhinolopha. All these subspecies are now synonymous, and there is only one recognized species: Iguana iguana. Green iguanas from some parts of Central America have horns on their noses ranging in size from small bumps to quite large flexible horns over a ½ inch long.
Green Iguana Availability
The green iguana is arguably the most common reptile in the pet trade today. Green iguanas are readily available and almost one million are imported into the United States annually as babies. It is true that these wonderful lizards make personable pets, but very few people who purchase them can meet the requirements of an adult green iguana.
If you are considering keeping a pet green iguana, I urge you to consider adopting one from a reptile rescue. Unless you can provide adequate facilities for an adult green iguana, you should not consider purchasing a green iguana as a pet.
Currently, there are several beautiful designer morph green iguanas available on the market. The hobbyist may now purchase erythrystic iguanas, blue iguanas (axanthic) and albino iguanas. Contrary to popular belief, albino green iguanas do well in full sun and with inside ultraviolet light. The sun has no adverse effect whatsoever on the albino iguanas. Many of these morphs, such as the albinos, are still quite expensive, but over time they will likely become more affordable.
Green Iguana Size
Green iguanas may reach lengths of 6 to 7 feet and weigh around 20 pounds. Male green iguanas reach a greater length than female green iguanas, which rarely exceed 5 feet in length. Additionally, mature male green iguanas have larger spikes going down their back and large femoral pores on the underside of their back legs.
Green Iguana Life Span
If kept properly, green iguanas live to be 15 to 20 years old.
Green Iguana Caging
A 20-gallon-long aquarium will suffice as caging for baby and young green iguanas up to about 18 inches long. We acclimate our baby albino green iguanas in this kind of enclosure. If you put a newly acquired small lizard in a HUGE enclosure, they sometimes have difficulty finding their food and water. Additionally, these smaller tanks allow green iguanas to understand that you are not a predator that intends to eat them. All in all, a small tank is much better than a large cage for a baby green iguana.
An adult green iguana needs LOTS of space. That cute little baby green iguana will grow at a very rapid rate to a 6-foot-long dinosaur with special needs that the average owner cannot provide.
An adult green iguana requires an enclosure at least 12 feet long by 6 feet wide by 6 feet high. The height of 6 feet is very important as, these lizards are primarily arboreal in nature. A good rule of thumb is to provide a cage that is at least twice as long as the iguana, with a width at least the same length as the lizard. You cannot house adult males in the same cage, or they will fight.
The cage parameters and temperature gradients are easier met for adult iguanas in some type of wire enclosure. How you construct or purchase the enclosure is not as important as providing the proper size and temperatures needed to house an adult iguana.
Green Iguana Substrate
The substrates we use for our green iguanas are plain rabbit pellets or alfalfa pellets. This is done because substrate is often eaten by neonate green iguanas by accident, and eating these pellets will not cause as much harm as other substrates. However, if I ever saw baby green iguanas eating the rabbit pellets or alfalfa pellets deliberately I would remove them. If I were keeping larger green iguanas inside I would use cypress mulch.
Green Iguana Lighting and Temperature
Green iguanas need lots of heat. With a baby green iguana, one heat bulb is sufficient, but with an adult green iguana, you need a bank of at least six lights in order for the green iguana to adequately heat up its entire body.
I suggest using incandescent heat bulbs and a double row of fluorescent UV bulbs so that vitamin D synthesis is possible. UVA and UVB should both be provided for optimum results. Strong UV fluorescent lights are needed to prevent metabolic bone disease.