You are here:

Iguanas/My iguana is missing some scales


I have a young male green iguana, hes been estimated to be somewhere around a year or so.
when i first got him i thought maybe he was having trouble seeing or something. He was running into the sides of his tank pretty hard.
Hes in a big glass tank, im not sure of the gallons but its about 3 feet long 2 feet high and 2 feet deep. (thats much bigger than what he was in before he was mine)
Then i realized he was reacting to movement really well, he looks for me when he hears my voice, and he just loves to watch my boyfriend. so obviously he can see.
ive had him for a month now and hes still hitting the walls pretty hard.
at first he had little blood speckles around his nose and i was worried to i called my vet and talked to him, he said it was nothing to worry about, the speckles would heal in time.
Well i went to feed him this morning and i noticed the larger scale thats right dead center on his nose is gone.
i dont really know what to do and the vet says it will heal, it will just take a long time.
im not sure if i should be worried about his behavior,
hes really hurting himself and im worried about more scales falling off.
he licks it and holds it in the water sometimes so i think hes cleaning it on his own. ive been watching him all day to see how hes doing and he occasionally is still just running into the side of the cage,
(mind you there is nothing provoking this, he just does it)

i guess my question here is what should i do?
he is still young and not very social yet, im scared to try and put anything on it cause i dont want to take the chance of him biting me. he already whips the hell out of me every day when i pick him up, it really hurt when he got me in the face, i swear hes not just swinging hes aiming.

if i could get some advice here, that would be great.

ANSWER: Hi Sylvia,
I'm glad you have him in a larger cage than what he had, but,your iguana needs a bigger cage. I'm going to include a basic care sheet that I wrote to help you out.  Lots of links in it so that you can find  ideas on larger cages and of course care info and Also info on taming them..the good news is that as they age, many do settle down..(I have one that is 9 yrs old and is STILL very aggressive) Your igs behavior is normal for a juvenile iguana.
The speckles basically was bruising.  Your vet is takes a VERY long time to heal.
Regardless of what you put on it(even if you are able to get something on it(Neosporin ointment, Bacitracin) he is only going to lick it off. If you have a baby spoon(they are coated with a rubber substance) you can put a small amount of the medication on the back of the spoon and try to get it on the area.  Be careful you don't have too much on the spoon and that you  don't get it in his nostrils.  Even a tiny amount of the injury will help.  If you see it getting infected, of course a vet will be needed.

In addition to needing a larger cage, with tanks, the glass is reflective.  This means that he is seeing his reflection in the glass.  Being an iguana, he doesn't know that it is HIS reflection and to him, it is another iguana that is trying to take is space!!!!!!!!!!
Since he is a male, this makes it even worse because they are normally even MORE territorial!!
I have a female ig that is very aggressive and when she was a baby, she rubbed that scale off of her nose in an outdoor wire cage. She did it over and over, and finally the scale never grew back.  It made her top jaw appear a bit shorter than the bottom.
For the glass problem.... you can put contact paper on the inside of the glass..they make one that will make the glass look frosted.  This will stop the reflection.  Do work on getting him a larger cage though.  


Iguanas have many, many special care needs..when those needs are not met, iguanas will suffer in many ways...which can include metabolic bone disease, no growth,kidney and liver disease....and death...its important to give an iguana all the recommended care to help them thrive in captivity....below is the basic care an iguana needs...anything less and they will not do well in captivity.. If their care is not right...they will not be active or eat..PLEASE read the entire care sheet...and print it out if needed...also be sure to read the enclosed links I listed at the bottom.....

Don't let the pet store tell you that an ig will only grow as big as the cage it is in!!! That's NOT true!!! Don't waste your money on a 10 gallon tank...that's big enough to bring them home in, but that's about it. To give you an idea how fast they grow, an iguana will outgrow a 75 gallon tank within the first year. Start with nothing smaller than a 55 gallon tank,but, since iguanas are arboreal, a tank does not offer the height an iguana needs.That's a very good reason to start with a cage that is bigger.The size that is required for an adult iguana is 6-7 feet high, at least 6-7 feet wide and no less than 3 feet deep.Its important to remember air circulation and also that you have to keep the humidity up. Also, that you have to be able to provide the lighting and heating from the top, so a screen or mesh top is needed, or a solid top with holes cut out and covered with screen for the lights to shine through.(the screen covering the opening prevents the ig from being able to touch the heat source) If not, you will harm your ig health wise.


Supplying uvb can be done in a few ways. By special lights that come in fluorescent tubes or special screw in bulbs (mercury vapor)that are designed to produce uvb and heat. The tubes do not produce heat. UVB is needed by the Iguanas to be able to absorb the calcium in the foods they eat. With out the uvb, they will develop metabolic bone disease. There are tubes that say ''full spectrum'' but they do not produce any uvb.
With the correct tubes, they must say that they produce BOTH uvb and uva. The uvb needs to be 5% or higher. Repti Sun 10.0 and the Repti Glo 8.0's are a great source for uvb. The old "favorites" are the repti sun 5.0 or the Iguana light..which are the same tube, just different package. These need to be positioned 6-8 inches over the iguana for the 5% and 8% and 8-10 inches for the 10% so that they get the uvb that is needed.  The tubes need to be replaced every 6-9 months as that they stop producing UVB long before they stop producing light.Using a fixture that holds two uvb tubes of at least 3 feet in length will provide adequate uvb for your iguana. On the mercury vapor , they also produce heat. They also produce the uvb and uva. The best on the market now are the Mega Rays.( The distance from these are greater than the uvb tubes and the directions must be followed that are listed for the light. When using the mercury vapor lights, you don't need to have one light for uvb and one for heat. The Mercury vapor lights provide both.

For daytime heat, if using the tube uvb, regular household incandescent light bulbs produce heat. I like the halogen bulbs as they produce a nice bright light for your ig. The wattage will depend on the size of your iguanas enclosure. and the room temperature.Of course, the best uvb is from the sun and if you are in an area that you are able to take your iguana outside in a proper enclosure, (Never a tank or enclosed, solid cage)


Igs MUST HAVE a basking light...they digest their food by the heat.

This light/heat can be provided by a regular halogen bulb or lights that are sold as basking lights. Depending on the size of the cage, you may need anywhere from a 60 watt to a 100 watt bulb. If you use a mercury vapor bulb for the uvb, that also provides heat, but it still may be necessary to use another light/heat source to maintain proper temperatures throughout the cage.

The basking area temps must be maintained at about 92 to 96 gradient higher...they NEED the heat to digest their food!! If the temperatures are too low, digestion is slowed, too high and the food digests too fast and nutrition is not utilized as it should be.

This, again, is for 12 hours of daylight (the same time your UVB lights are on).You can place this bulb in a silver dome fixture(be sure it has the ceramic socket) and it MUST be placed so that your ig cannot climb on it..or touch it. On top of your screen cage is safe but..if your ig likes to hang from the top of the will have to raise it up some how to prevent burns. Remember..if you must move it, monitor the temps again!!!!!!

This cannot be stressed enough. In order to maintain those temps,it is VERY important to use thermometers. Using a GOOD digital is a necessity!!

A THERMOMETER IS A MUST!! It needs to be at the igs level....where he lays in the basking area to see what the temp is there...if your thermometer is NOT where he lays,you will get an improper reading for his basking area and you will burn your ig (watch for panting or mouth gaping open - signs of overheating)or the temperatures in the basking area will not be in the correct range. The best are the digital ones that have the probe. Some also give the humidity reading along with the temperature in two different areas.

You will need a basking shelf or branch. The placement of this depends on what height you need to maintain the temps mentioned above and keep your iguana within the recommended distance of the uvb source. Be sure to make it at least twice the width of the ig. Keep in mind the distance the UVB light needs to be from the ig also. This is almost the hardest area of the cage to get requires a lot of monitoring of the temps until YOU ARE SURE they are correct.

Keep a shallow dish of fresh water for your ig at all times.

Some igs will 'poo' in their water dishes, so you may have to change it more than once/day. Providing a 2nd water source, such as some type of low pan for a small ig, or a cat litter box(filled with water) for an adult ig is a good idea.Keep water shallow enough that your ig can touch the bottom freely, as too many younger igs have been known to actually drown!

Igs do need to have humidity. They are mostly of the Tropical Rain Forest.
This means you need a humidity gage.   50% is the minimum... I wouldn't go above 70-75%, although most of us can't get that high...that's why misting your ig several times a day helps. You can use humidifiers or vaporizers can be necessary to get a humidity level that is needed. Also, what I have found that works best for me at least is to have my igs humidifiers(warm mist) on timers.  The timers are about $6-7 each and you can set them in 1/2 hour incruments.  I have mine set to run for 1/2 hour every few hours during the day. This seems to work well.

Basically, temperatures in the entire cage need to be varied, sort of like in "zones". The basking area (branch or shelf nearest the heat source) has already been covered.

You need to have a gradient temp in the area of 75-96. Sound confusing? Basically, you need the "basking" area, a middle temp area and a cool area. Basking area..92-96.....mid range gradient temp..88-92 (Ambient)and cool side 75-84.Igs cannot regulate their body temps. They rely on the sun (natural or by way of light bulb) and the shade (cooler area of the cage) to do that.
NIGHT..... LIGHTS OUT!!!!!! At night, if the temperatures drop below 75-80 degrees(depending on the iguana age)you need to provide a heat source in the form of a ceramic heat emitter(which can also be used during the day) or a special nighttime bulb(red or deep purple) that does not produce any bright white light.Some iguanas do not like the colored lights and do try to hide from them. Its up to you to see this and switch to a ceramic heat emitter to prevent your iguana stressing.
Iguana Iguanas are herbivores.... They DO NOT need animal protein, they cannot digest it... it will KILL them!! (Kidney disease)
Basically, the diet needs to consist of Collard Greens, mustard greens, turnip greens,dandelion greens,escarole, endive, chicory, arugula,(torn in pieces smaller than their head) winter squash (butternut or acorn squash), parsnips (grated or shredded) all placed in a shallow dish. (This is not a complete foods list, but is a good start.)
There are 'good' foods and foods for treats (those used only once in awhile). Fruits are be given a few times a week. (This doesn't mean that you cannot give your ig a piece of fruit every small piece a day is fine.) Again,I cannot stress enough the importance of diet. NO COMMERCIAL prepared ig bugs, worms, tuna, chicken, monkey biscuits,dog or cat foods, eggs, cottage cheese... NO animal protein!!!!!


This is what you use on the floor of your igs enclosure.

DO NOT USE anything that is bark, litter, loose substrates!!...Many are toxic and more so, your ig will ingest these items and it will KILL them. You can use paper bags, newspaper, paper towels, no pile carpeting or towels(wash first,and be sure there are no loose strings )

HEAT ROCKS KILL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!they can overheat, they cause burns (igs cannot feel the heat) they will KILL... if you have one and you ig loves it.cut off the cord and place it on his basking shelf and it will absorb the heat of the basking light. Never use heat rocks or heated caves!!!!

This list is by no means complete!!!! Below are listed some very good informational sites.They will be with us for 15-20 plus years with proper care and a little luck. Providing them with the proper needs will help them live a long, healthy, and happy life. Remember, we are the ones that pulled them out of the natural's our job to give them as close to a natural habitat as possible. (contains some outdated information on uvb) a yahoo group dedicated to raising baby iguanas

Find a Vet before you need one!!! Reptiles need Vets trained to treat find one in your area:

The information contained in the care sheet was originally written by me for use at the iguanaden website(2003) and also in the book"The Iguana Den's Care and Keeping of Giant Green Iguanas"(2005)

If you have any  questions, or don't understand something please let me know

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I planned on getting him a bigger cage when we no longer live with my boyfriends mom.
Just out of curiosity, is there a reason he likes my boyfriend more then me?
ive had him for a month and hes only been at my boyfriends for a couple days and he is already reacting better to him then me.
He lets my bf pick him up without a problem but when i try he thrashes about and whips me quite hard.
We bathed him today and he we was perfectly fine with just him and my bf untill i walked in and he started running around as if to try and get away from me.

he reacts terribly to my bfs mom as well.
i know cats and birds and some breeds of dogs will pick one person in the house to bond with... is it possible that he is doing the same thing?

and with feeding, id it okay that he eats more than 2ce a day?
my bf feeds him in the morning, then again later in the day then puts just a little bit in about an hour before we get his night lights on.

i did allot of research before i got him but there are some things that arent answered on the web.

Hi Sylvia,
Good on the larger cage!! It isn't uncommon at all for igs to prefer one person to another..even one sex over another.  Hopefully he does learn to at least tolerate you.
Igs can eat as much as they want..its actually recommended to let them eat as much as they want.
There is a lot of bad info out there also.  In  a lot of things, experience is the best place to get answers!!


All Answers

Ask Experts




I am well versed in all aspects of the care and keeping of green iguanas. This includes all husbandry issues pertaining to the Green Iguana. I am not a vet so I cannot answer medical questions, other than ideas for normal supplementation, removing stuck shed, dropped tail and mites and other general health questions


I own 3 green iguanas, two of which are rescues. I've had my Iguanas for 11 years. I own a yahoo group dedicated to raising healthy iguanas. I've rescued and rehabbed several young iguanas and have placed them in wonderful forever homes. I prefer taking in the "hard cases" that need critical care.

Scales and Tails Exotic Pet Rescue (one of the founding members)

One of the Co Authors of the Book "The Iguana Dens Care and Keeping of Giant Green Iguanas"

I was a vet tech for a small animal practice for 6 years.

Past/Present Clients
I own a yahoo group dedicated to raising healthy iguanas.(babyiguana) I have answered several Iguana questions on the "reptile" forum on here.

©2017 All rights reserved.