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New Iguana Owner Help!

Discussion in 'Green Iguanas' started by Kidwell530, Mar 4, 2018.

  1. Kidwell530

    Kidwell530 New Member

    Hello! My step son purchased a juvenile red iguana today at a Reptile Expo and was told that he is approximately 6 months old. He seemed very tolerant of handling and did well on the hour drive home. The breeder recommended a mesh cage as an enclosure, which we currently have a 48"×24"×24" repti breeze cage. However after researching more it seems like many people recommend enclosing 3 sides. We currently have a very large 150 watt basking light, iguana hammock, automatic misting system, live plants, drift wood, vines, and other climbing items in his cage. We have a repti rapids fountain coming from Amazon later this week also. We also purchased some commercial iguana food, and have been chopping up fresh romaine lettuce, kale, cabbage, carrots, bell peppers, blueberries, and strawberries as well. I'm curious what some experienced iguana owners prefer in terms of cage, diet, and set up. The breeder said that iguanas do not need a UVB bulb however we have owned chameleons and know that it is essential for them to have. I would be seriously surprised if iguanas did not.

    My last question is in regards to the iguanas recent behavior. He seemed relaxed and content up until about 30 minutes after putting him in the new cage, he was licking things and very very calm while being handled, drinking water from a spray bottle; completely fine . He randomly began running and jumping throughout the cage like crazy and it took a good 15 minutes for him to settle. We left this evening for a bit and came home to find him relaxed and basking on the hammock. I needed to put the fresh vegetables in his food bowl and as soon as I opened the cage, he freaked out and started running around again. I was just wondering if this was a typical reaction to being in a new environment and home? It just seemed to happen so quickly after how he acted before being placed inside. My biggest fear is that he will injure himself during one of his episodes or jump out of the cage and take off. Any advice given is greatly appreciated and will be taken seriously!

  2. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    Welcome to HC!
    How big is the iguana? And how old is your stepson?

    As a long time iguana keeper I can tell you that there are so many things that need addressed that its hard to know where to start.

    First the enclosure. Whoever would tell you to keep an iguana in a mesh cage is either ignorant or one of those who will tell you anything to make a sale. An iguana's claws will make short work of a mesh cage. It just isn't going to work.
    Add to that a mesh cage makes it incredibly difficult to regulate heat and humidity unless you live in a tropical the room! And iguanas are going to get big! 6ft plus! You are going to need an enclosure 6ft tall and 4ft wide and 3 to 4 ft deep. Think large wooden box with a glass front. Iguanas kept in too small of an enclosure tend to become aggressive.

    Live plants. Many of us have experimented with live our disappointment. What does not get eaten (so make sure that they are nontoxic) will be destroyed by the ig clambering around on them.

    The fountain. Iguanas like to poop in water so it will likely plug up and flood the cage.

    For food. You need to ditch the lettuces...virtually no nutrient content. You really only need 3 staples. Collard mustard and turnip greens, chopped. A little kale is fine but should not constitute a major part of the diet. add a bit of veggies and a touch of fruit and you are good to go.
    The only brand commercial diet I recommend is RepCal pellets. And only as a small addition to the salad. Think croutons. Most others are non essential and even harmful junk.
    Absolutely no animal protein. It screws up their liver and kidneys.

    "The breeder said that iguanas do not need a UVB bulb". Again, either ignorant or a liar. UVB is a must have.

    Now the behavior. The iguana was stressed and in shut down mode. It just wasn't sure what was going on. Once in the cage it began to come out of it. Iguanas are a prey animal and tend to react to new situations with either fight or flight. Give it a week or so without being bothered other than to do necessary maintenance. You can sit or stand outside the enclosure and talk to it but do not stare at it. That is a predator behavior. Something that will simplify things later on is make a small trap door in the bottom front of the cage you will need to build. This will enable you to feed and water the ig without opening the main door. This is highly beneficial if you have to be away and someone else has to service the cage. Also if it turns out to be male, breeding season they can become highly aggressive and want to eat your face. I'm not kidding! An adult iguana can put you in the hospital.

    We have a very thorough iguana care section available in our care sheets that will expand on a lot of what I have told you. Iguanas in the right hands can be very rewarding. But they do tend to take over your life!
    Good luck!
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2018
  3. Kidwell530

    Kidwell530 New Member

    Thank you very much for the informative reply, it is greatly appreciated. After posting my initial questions, I began doing lots and lots more research and figured out that the UVB bulb was a must in addition to the basking bulb. I also found where many people will use the infrared night time bulbs for heat as well, so we also got those to switch to at night time.

    As for his diet, I did end up getting some greens along with some bell peppers, which he really seems to like. He wasn’t interested much in the lettuce, so we will stay away from that all together. Do you recommend any vitamin supplements in addition to the fresh fruits and vegetables? If so, what brands. I know when we had our chameleon it was essential to make sure that they were getting the correct vitamins due to his insect diet, but with an iguanas diet consisting of mainly fruits and vegetables, I wasn’t sure if it were needed.

    He seems to have calmed down a little bit and doesn’t spaz as often when you approach the cage. He also allowed me to mist him for about 5 minutes yesterday, which the “breeder” recommended. We did this often with our chameleon but I wasn’t sure if it was recommended with the Iguana. Either way, he seemed to enjoy it. I have found that talking to him helps a bit, and as long as I don’t make any loud noises or sudden movements, he’s content. He even let me open the cage to swap out his water and food yesterday. I have found however that he does NOT like my husband, and especially is not fond of it when he talks to him. I’m hoping he eventually gets used to him so that I’m not the only one who can open his cage to care for him!

    I’ll read some of the care sheets you recommended and take them into great consideration for his well being. I greatly appreciate everything you told me and will be making the necessary changes to his life immediately. Our plan is to start building him a large cage this weekend with the proper size, materials, and items inside that he will need to thrive. I also appreciate you mentioning the drop down door so that his food and water can be changed out without opening up the entire door. This will be extremely helpful if he is feeling extra feisty or if a neighbor is house sitting for us.

    As of right now, he’s fairly small; but I would rather get him situated in a properly sized cage now so that he can acclimate to it and not have to stress of moving again. The breeder also claimed that he was a male, however I’m now beginning to doubt whether he actually knew what he was talking about at all, “sigh”. It’s unfortunate that someone at a reptile expo, who claims to be a “breeder” would be willing to sell an animal without insuring that the information he provided the buyer with was accurate. Especially considering that some of the things he told us weren’t needed are vital for his health. Luckily we have some experience with reptiles and are able to make those changes to ensure a happy and healthy animal at the end of the day.

    Thanks again!
  4. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    The red night lights are not recommended for iguanas. Contrary to claims the iguana can see them. They have a superficial 3rd eye on top of their heads that senses light and shadows. Its the little round scale on top of their heads.
    The red light disturbs their sleep. If you need night time heat a ceramic heat emitter will work. It's like a bulb that emits only heat, no light.
    My choice of supplements are Repcal vitamins and Repcal calcium WITHOUT Vitamin d3. They get all that they need from UVB radiation on their skin.
    Misting is fine. It's more relevant with chams that won't drink from a bowl and lap water drops. Igs will drink from standing water.
    I am a proponent of putting them in the adult sized enclosure asap.
    They are often more at ease with one person than another. With my 20 year old female i could do anything i wanted, but she would bow up at my wife. Have your husband speak softly and move slowly when around the ig. Hand feeding some of their favorite food is a good way to start them getting used to you. Just don't make it a constant thing. Iguanas are very good at training US to do what THEY want.
    Iguanas are pretty much impossible to visually sex till they are about 2 years old unless they have been DNA tested. Anything younger than that is strictly a guess.
    I strongly suspect that your "breeder" is just a reseller who gets animals from a wholesaler. And it's sad that these types set up the new keeper for failure.
    We have a video section which includes a couple of videos concerning taming for small lizards that may help you.

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