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CONSIDERING AN IGUANA AS A PET

Looking to make an iguana a part of your family? You're probably not alone. Green Iguanas can make interesting pets for the responsible person. However, they're demanding and require a set routine and a varied fresh diet.

Should you decide to take on the challenge of iguana care, you'll have the opportunity to be close to a beautiful animal that will bring you closer to the natural world. Your local herpetological society can be of great assistance in offering you basic care information. PETCO has compiled this list of new iguana necessities to help you make a comfortable new home for your new friend.

Housing

Cage: While a hatchling requires a 55- to 60-gallon aquarium, your iguana will outgrow a 100-gallon tank in 18 months. An adult iguana can reach a length of 5 to 6 feet and will require a habitat the size of an average bedroom. Glass enclosures for young iguanas are available with a screen across half the top for ventilation and a glass lid securing the other half. Your new friend will also appreciate a terrarium with height for climbing.

Hiding Place: A half-log or an empty cardboard box big enough for your iguana to hide its whole body will provide a private place for this naturally shy reptile.

Furnishings: Iguanas love to climb and hide. Provide your new friend with a variety of surfaces to climb on, such as driftwood branches (sterilized), plants or large cave-like rocks. Be sure to give your pet a branch angled at 10 to 30 degrees for basking near the UV light and/or heat source.

Substrate: Butcher paper, paper towels, aspen shavings or brown paper bags are also suitable substrate. Avoid bark, sawdust, kitty litter/gravel, rocks, sand, cob, non-digestible lizard litters or substances that may be accidentally ingested or inhaled by your iguana.

Heat: A heat pad under part of the cage, a ceramic heat lamp, sun lamp or an incandescent lightbulb is recommended to provide your iguana with heat. Avoid hot rocks and heated branches since these products can be dangerous and are ineffective in heating the entire cage.

Lighting: Iguanas need a full-spectrum UVB light to maintain a healthy vitamin D level. The light source should be no farther than 18 inches, preferably 12 to 15 inches, from the basking area. (NOTE: These light sources cannot be relied on as effective heating elements.)

Humidity: Purchase a humidity indicator to be sure your iguana's environment is maintained at 70 to 90% humidity. Your iguana will appreciate having the habitat sprayed regularly with a plant mister during the day. Also, provide a water pan large enough to soak in.

Water: Like most animals, iguanas need access to fresh, clean water.

Food

Fruits & Veggies: A nutritionally balanced diet is an "iguana salad" shredded into spaghetti-like pieces. Roughly speaking, your iguana's vegetarian diet should consist of 30 to 40% greens - collard greens, spinach and mustard greens, 30 to 40% vegetables - cabbage, carrots, green beans, peas, broccoli and zucchini, and 20 to 30% fruit - mango, papaya, banana, melon and strawberries. Avoid iceberg lettuce as it offers no nutritional value.

Vitamins & Supplements: Your iguana will also need vitamin and mineral supplementation. Sprinkle a pure calcium supplement over the iguana's salad on a daily basis and provide a combination vitamin/mineral supplement weekly. Avoid exclusive diets, alcohol, chocolate and most decorative houseplants.

While there's more to learn about caring for your new iguana, this brief introduction will get you started on your way to responsible and happy iguana ownership. These cold-blooded creatures can really warm your heart.