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Iguana Care Tips

      In this article you will find information and links about some of the most commonly asked or most frequently encountered problems that iguana keepers run into. I will be adding to this tips page as needed. If you have an interesting tip or piece of information please feel free to send me an email.


Sick Iguana

      If your iguana is sick- PLEASE TAKE IT TO A REPTILE VET, no answer from me or anyone else whom you might email, is going to cure it. It is too hard to tell what might be wrong with an animal when someone writes ... and most often what the person describes sounds serious and sounds like it needs medication to cure it. Save time- If your animal is sick, don't wait for a reply- because anyone answering your letter is probably only going to tell you to take your iguana to a vet.

      It's also ALWAYS a good idea to know of a reptile vet in your area - BEFORE- you really need a reptile vet, but then, it's also a good idea to take your animal to a vet shortly after purchase for a general check up too:

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Iguana Discussion Lists

      "Is there a forum or chat area where I can talk to other iguana owners?"

      Yes there is:

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Iguana Rescue/Adoption

      Thinking about getting an iguana, or an additional iguana? Have you thought about adopting one in need of a good home? There are thousands of given up, and rescued iguana's out there just waiting for someone like you to come and get them. You can join the IguanaMail mailing list and see if anyone in your area has igs up for adoption, and you can check out:

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Useful Iguana Information Links:

      There are hundreds of Iguana care pages on the Internet, these are just some of the best places to start out, please follow links from the above listed pages to reach other useful sites.

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Taming, and aggressiveness in Iguana's

      If you are reading this page because your iguana is aggressive- You let your ig train you! :) Well I guess you have to be retrained then. :) And if you are reading this because you have a new iguana and want to learn more about taming and handling BEFORE your iguana becomes aggressive:

      I have a page about iguana's and their aggressive tenancies ...

      Perhaps you can start there and then move on to one of the best iguana care (and taming/ re-taming) pages that is out there- Melissa Kaplan's Iguana care pages.

      You will basically have to start over with your iguana- handling him daily, not putting him down when he wants to, only when YOU want to. You will have to show him that you are the boss and that he doesn't get what he wants by bobbing,lunging, whipping or even snapping at you. Iguana's can be extremely aggressive but if you want to be successful and have a somewhat to fully tame iguana you have to stand up to him and show him that you mean business. Not by being cruel or yelling at him of course... mainly by standing your ground, not letting him see that some of his actions are working, and by perhaps bribing him with a food treat when he is doing what you want him to do or has been good for you (i.e. dampened bread or large collard leaves are favorites of my Napoleon!).

      Even if he's attempting to whip his tail at you- do try to get out of the way of a good tail whip, and of course of an open mouth! But you still have to try to attempt to pick him up, even when he's doing his best to try to scare you off. If you back off all you'll be telling him is that this kind of behaviour works, and that is the last kind of message that you want to be giving your iguana.

      If an ig is being especially aggressive some people will attempt to pick up their iguana using heavy rubber gloves or oven mitts. Unfortunately this makes it difficult to feel how much pressure you are holding your ig with and might make it easier to actually hurt your iguana.

      Some people also try throwing a towel over their iguana's head. This might make him think that it has suddenly become night and he might start to become sleepy. Bundle him in the towel so that he can't escape easily and then handle him- possibly with head still covered - depending upon what your goal is. For example you might simply be trying to get your ig to the tub to poop him but he's been being to aggressive to be handled ... cover him with a towel and then get him to the tub. This won't do anything to help create a bond between the two of you, but sometimes you have to do this just to be able to do what is best for, or to work with, the animal. This also works well if you must give your iguana injections of medication in the future- it's far easier if the ig can't see what is going on.

      It is also a good idea to dress in protective clothing when attempting to handle an aggressive iguana- full sleeves, pants, socks or shoes. Yes igs can have foot fetishes, so bare feet might be a no-no. You should also be aware that certain colours can make an iguana act more aggressively- especially if they are in breeding season. I've heard mentioned, and or experienced with my own Napoleon, that the colours purple, blue (especially light blues or faded denim) some greens, orange, yellow and occasionally even the colour white can make an iguana act aggressively or lunge at their keeper.

      I should also mention here that some iguana's, particularly male iguanas, especially when in their breeding season, can pick up on hormonal activity coming from their female keepers and or any females that might be present in the household. So if you are female and you are ovulating or menstruating please be aware that your male iguana might suddenly become more aggressive or aware of you during these times.

      Firm tone of voice when saying NO or Bad Ig are important as well, iguana's are not only visual but auditory orientated animals as well. And again, re-enforce good behaviour with an appropriate tone of voice as well and use simple terms- Nice, Good Iguana, Good [igs name] cause believe it or not, if you always use your voice when training your ig it will really help and your iguana will start to understand some of those simple words over time .... Well I'm pretty sure Napoleon does. :)

      It may actually take months to see good results, but if you do get your iguana to tame down, all the time and effort will be worth it. :)

      Oh and if you want to handle your iguana and not get hurt or ripped up nail trimming might be necessary. I have a page about nail trimming and Adam Britton also has a page about Green Iguana Claw Trimming.

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Food and Feeding

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Caging and enclosure questions

      My iguana, Napoleon, free roams in our bedroom. He loves this, and yes the room is set up so that it is warm enough for him, too warm for us really, and he has several basking spots, and a ficus tree to climb. Please see free Roaming and Napoleon Now for more info on how I have him set up. :)

Building or setting up an enclosure

      Ig enclosures can be made of plywood, melamine or even hardware cloth (with wood supports of course!). If you live in a cool climate I would go more for a wood or melamine enclosure because it will be easier to keep warm in the cooler months.

      I also keep water dragons. You may be interested in reading about how I made our large water dragon enclosure. It's very detailed and this description might give you some ideas for your own ig enclosure. Ig's don't need the same kind of water area that we made for our water dragons ... I would have a large rubber maid container of water at the bottom of the viv for an ig, and perhaps use tile or linoleum at the bottom as an easy to clean surface/substrate.

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Poop training, and bathtub pooping

      Typical Question: "Should I teach my ig to defecate in the bathtub or what?????? She has chosen a spot on the sofa and that's not fine with me ... LOLOL"

      If you want to try to tub train your iguana, put the ig in the tub with lukewarm water up to its chest level every day after it has eaten. Most animals will defecate shortly after eating so this is a good time to try it. The iguana will not like the bath at first and will likely try to get out ASAP ... but supervise the iguana and leave the ig in until it defecates. Ig's have been known to drown in the bathtub- so please take care not to fill the tub to any more than the ig's chest level and DO supervise your iguana. You might want to put some thing in the water - a rock, a log or branch, a floating scrub brush- something the ig can hang onto in the water, so that he doesn't feel as threatened by suddenly being thrust in this huge area of water. Eventually your iguana will get used to pooping in the tub and you can alter the time of pooping to something that suites both of you better perhaps.

     I use some bleach in my tub after Napoleons bath to disinfect the tub. To disinfect the tub I use a capful of bleach solution in a water filled spray bottle and then I mist the tub thoroughly. I leave this solution on the tub for no less than 10 minutes, then I rinse the tub liberally with clean water.

      If you don't like the idea of tub training your iguana and would prefer that it goes in a certain spot in a room or in it's enclosure I have heard of people water, newspaper and even litter training their iguanas. Luckily Napoleon took to water defecation right away and it was easy to train him for the tub.

      If your iguana is in an enclosure and generally goes in the same spot, you can try putting newspaper or a large container of chest deep water in the enclosure in the place that the ig goes most often. Once the ig starts going on the material of choice (water, newspaper, litter box etc) you can slowly move the substrate of choice over to the place that YOU want the ig to defecate. This method should also work for free roaming iguana's as well.

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Lost lizard!!!!

In house:

      Well, I hope you have found your lizard by now, but if not, here are some ideas for you:

  • 1. Do you have any idea where you lost the lizard?
  • 2. Is there any chance that it is in the same room that you last saw it in?

      If you are unsure of where you lizard might be, you will have to search the whole house ... If you are fairly certain that the lizard is still in the room that it was last seen in- CLOSE THE DOOR NOW! If there are gaps under the door- block them off with a towel or blanket. If the lizard is in that one room, you want to be sure it stays in that room until you find it.

      Were any windows or doors to the outside open at the time? Hopefully there are no areas that have holes that could lead to the outside of the house. If there are- search them first, and carefully.

      If the house has radiators against the walls look in and under the rads ... I've had a couple of water dragons crawl under and up into my rads! I had to take the whole rad cover off the wall to get my water dragon out! Not fun!

      A complete search while armed with a flashlight should be done. If the room that is being checked has a door it should be shut during the search of that room and then remain closed while you go on to another room. If the lizard is moving around you want to isolate him in one area if possible.

      If the lizard has been missing for a while it will probably be cold and maybe scared. It could be quite a different colour than what you might be looking for. It might be darker, or greyer ... Don't necessarily be looking for the lizard as a whole. By this I mean don't look for the lizard shape or even it's normal colour. Look mainly for it's tail! This is probably the first part of the lizard that will your eye - so that is what you should be looking for! :)

      If your lizard is arboreal- tree climbing (iguana, water dragon ...) all high places, even things that you don't think the lizard could possibly have climbed up to should be checked. However, many lizards when they are scared or panicky run and hid in the first thing that looks good to them. Meaning the lizard might well be hiding at ground level under furniture.

      Look way back behind and under things. The lizard might be stuck way back in a corner spread out on the ground behind some piece of furniture lying in the dark. The lizard will probably be sort of spread out if this is the case .. so searching for a normal sitting position lizard wont work either ... just look for shapes that don't seem to belong! :) This is where the flash light comes in handy.

      Look in places that seem too small for the lizard to fit. Believe me they can squeeze themselves into some tight spots when they want to! Well actually I've never had to look for my ig - so I'm not 100% sure of their hiding behaviour, I'm only telling you a combo of what I have learned from reading other peoples stories on the iguana mailing list, water dragon mailing list and other lists, and my own experiences looking for my water dragons- whom I have lost many times!

      Water dragons turn very dark when they are hiding somewhere dark. The only dark igs I've seen have been very very sick, stressed or cold ones so that's why I'm not telling you to look for a dark ig ... just a slightly darker coloured or greyish ig rather than green. Cause I know ig's get a bit brown or gray when stressed or cold.

      Were any closets open when the lizard was lost? Check the closets carefully! The lizard could have gotten in there and climbed up the clothes and it might be clinging to some clothes ... so don't slam the closet contents back and forth while searching. Someone wrote to me about a lost dragon a while ago and one of the things I suggested was looking in the closet. Well they did find the dragon in the closet between some clothes but the owner felt very guilty because on the first search he had pushed the hangers roughly aside looking at the back or bottom of the closet ... so he probably squished the dragon a bit when he did it. The dragon was fine though!

      Don't forget to look at the front and back of curtains and even the top curtain rods ... Iguana's especially love to climb curtains and then lie on top of the curtain rod at the top! But any lizard might be capable of achieving this feat.

      If there are any loose baseboards or openings under cupboards (bathroom and kitchen counter cupboards often seem to have small openings under them, under dishwashers ... ) search those carefully too! Lots of people on the ig mailing list have lost their igs in those areas and some have had to pry boards off to get their igs out again! What a pain!

      If you do find the lizard in a difficult to retrieve area ...after rescuing the lizard that area should be lizard proofed as best as possible ..and any other areas that were noted as potential problem hiding areas should be lizard proofed as well. lizard proofing basically means sealing off those areas in some way or another. (towels, blankets, sheets, cardboard ... anything that will block a trouble some area off)

      If you think the lizard is in a certain room ... either because that room is close to where the lizard was last seen or because a few things were out of place or knocked over leading you to think the lizard might have done it ... that room should be sealed off. Close the door if possible.

      If you can't find your lizard or for some reason have to halt the search for a while you can leave a bowl of water, a bowl of fresh food, out for the lizard in the hopes that it might come out and eat something. Maybe a human heating pad set on low near the water and food .. Keep the room a bit warmer if possible too!

      I've even heard of people putting some flour down on the floor when they have lost a snake or lizard .. in the hopes that if the animal moves around when people are sleeping or not home it might leave a trail. Of course this isn't that practical in a carpeted room but perhaps in a hallway or something if the lizard remains lost. I have a feeling the lizard will stay put in one place until found though. So keep searching.

      Is there any possibility that the lizard got out of the house? :( Hopefully there are no broken screens on the windows or anything ... just do a very through- inch by inch search ... it takes a lot of time and often there is a lot of swearing involved ... but you can usually find the animal if you really search hard. And remember the flash light- it's very handy!

      Oh and when you do find the lizard you might want to keep it at day time temps 24 hours a day for a few days just to make sure it's ok. The extra heat in the night will help boost its immune system and hopefully ward off any infection or illness that it might have started from being a bit cool while lost. If the lizard is very cool when found don't warm him too too fast as that could shock the system ... just do it gradually. Of course, if your lizard is acting ill or you think that it might be ill- by all means DO take it to a reptile vet ASAP.

Lost Outside

      If your lizard found a way out of the house, or was lost while in your yard - there is hope. I've been reading peoples lost lizard letters for a long long time and when the lost lizards are found they usually haven't gone too far. Often they are still in the yard or a neighbours yard ... less frequently they are no more than about a block away.

      Don't lose hope- just get out there and start searching!

      Apply some of the same rules that you would when searching for a lost lizard in your home.

  • 1. Search one area at a time- thoroughly, completely

  • 2. Don't look for the lizard as a whole or even it's normal colour, look for vague shapes that don't seem to fit in the trees or branches or under bushes, look for the tail- that is often the first thing you will see.

  • 3. Look High

  • 4. Look low

  • 5. Let your eyes relax as you scan an area .. sometimes when you lessen your concentration a bit things just stand out.

  • 6. While searching- be patient. Reptiles are not animals that are constantly on the go ... watch, listen, look ... maybe after a while you will see a small movement that you would have missed if you hadn't have been as patient.

      Go door to door to your neighbours if possible. Bring a pic of your lizard with you. Ask your neighbours to keep an eye out for your lizard and give them a number where they can contact you if they spot your lizard and you are not home. Talk to neighbourhood children too- they are outside more often than adults and may have a better chance of spotting your lost lizard than their parents might.

      Go to local stores, corner stores, businesses, pet shops and local vets- even if they aren't reptile vets ... Make sure you talk to everyone that you can in your immediate neighbourhood ... but do also talk with pet shops and vets within a short car drive from your home too. Someone may find your lizard and not know what to do with it and they might bring it in to one of these places. If that were the case it would be very helpful for these businesses to know that you are looking for this lizard.

      Call your humane society and or local SPCA ... ask them to be on the lookout for a lost lizard in your area and give them contact numbers.

      Put your lizards favorite food items out in the area the lizard was last seen ... perhaps that will get it's interest.

      I've also heard of people putting lights outside in the hopes of drawing their lizard towards their home during the night ... this may or may not work ... worth a try though.

      Well! I hope some of this information has been of help to you! Best of Luck in your search!

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Iguana Books

Iguanas for Dummies Iguanas for Dummies

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     By Melissa Kaplan!!!! 384 pages of in depth iguana care information. So, you wanna iguana. Or you already have one. Now what? This fun and friendly guide gives you expert advice on selecting an iguana and taking care of your fascinating pet throughout its life. It provides valuable tips on diet, habitat, health, and other important iguana issues.

Hatfield's Ultimate Iguana Owners manual Green Iguana; The Ultimate Owner's Manual by James W., III Hatfield

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     The best book on green iguanas to come along in years. Information on diet, housing, and health, wonderful insights into iguana psychology and iguana-human interaction. The definitive work on management, care and personality traits of green iguanas in captivity. If you own a green iguana or if you are thinking of getting one, you should buy this book.

Green Iguana Manual The Green Iguana Manual by Philippe De Vosjoli

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     Basic information about the care of the Green Iguana. Outdated nutritional information.

Iguana- Owners Guide The Iguana : An Owner's Guide to a Happy Healthy Pet by Karen Rosenthal

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     Up-to-date reptile information and ownership instruction. The Iguana covers everything from selecting an ectotherm and understanding its environmental needs to discussions on behaviour and a glossary of relevant terminology.

Iguana Iguana : Guide for Successful Captive Care by Fredric L. Frye

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     A new and expanded edition, devoted exclusively to the green iguana, based on the author's previous publication, Iguanas: A Guide to their Biology and Captive Care. Includes b&w; illustrations and 24 pages of colour plates. Annotation copyright Book News, Inc. Portland, Or.

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April, 10, 2012

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