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Iguanas/Red Iguana having problems


QUESTION: Alright I've had my iguana about 10 months now, and she gradually getting worse. I had her in a aquarium tank then moved to an open cage (wired). She was doing fine before the switch she would paw/scratch a lot at both tanks. Once I moved her to the open tank she has been scratching a lot more and her front claws are gone now. But she's stopped since this has happened, but she can't climb up now which is bad for her because she likes to go up. I put a UVB light bulb in last week (broke yesterday) so I just have her basking light on her.(ordered new UVB light bulb) but she hasn't been having her regular greens recently, but I've been giving her calcium juvenile iguana pellets but she doesn't seem to want to eat (past week besides a few bites here and there.) she has clean water and regular mistings and regular baths but today she seems tired, not wanting to move much, and like she's depressed/down/sad ect. (Gave her bath and she just kind of eat in watch without moving and same when I took her out. Then she would just close her eyes until I moved her) also she hasnt been shedding well at all. Right cheek, base of back legs and tail are horrible they are so thick and I can't touch them without distressing her. We moved a certain way you can see like a deep crack I. Her skin) please help I need help and information. (I've owned iguana s before and never nothing like this.)

ANSWER: Hi Jamie,
She does need to see a vet to find ot if there are some serious health problems going on.
With the claws... many times when claws break like that it is a case of lack of humidity. With using an open wire cage it is impossible to keep the humidity level at a needed %.  Try covering the sides with plastic shower sure that none touches any of the heat/light sources. If your water is treated(salt, chlorine, etc) you might want to try using bottled water for misting her as the tap water may be drying out her skin.
For climbing, use boards that are covered in a flat carpet.
Diet is very important to an iguana.  You do need to get her back on a proper diet of collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, etc.. (see some of my past answers for care sheet).
Good you ordered a new uvb, this is vital to their health and cannot go very long without problems developing from lack of uvb.  
If the pellets you are feeding are dry, they are only dehydrating her as they act like a sponge and suck the moisture out of her.  Soak them in water so they are soft at least 1/2 way through.  With most igs, if they are not given the pellets on a regular basis, they won't touch them.  Also, her not eating..she could be constipated from the pellets and not having a proper diet.   You can try giving her some baby food prunes. Also be sure to get her greens and mist them well.  Bathing with help with the shedding problem as will misting her and keeping her hydrated internally.  You can apply bacitracin to her sores but again,  a vet is needed to properly diagnose and treat any health issues she is having.
Double check your temperatures also... if she is too cold, she won't be able to do much.  A basking area with a gradient temp of 92-96 is needed.  Don't forget to provide a mid range temp area of 88-92 and a cool area during the day.  Night time... 70-80 is fine.
Again... she needs to see a vet!!!

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

QUESTION: There is not vets within a 350-400 mile radius of us. We are a super small town and our local beta k is nothing about reptiles. (Very sad for a vet. They only do large ranch mammals, and domestic pets. Dogs, cats, stuff like that.) that's why I have been trying to find it out she acting more normal this morning. (Last night when asked) I will defiantly do the shower curtins on sides to help with the humidity.

ANSWER: ok..I know that sometimes finding a vet can be a real problem. I'm sending along my caresheet that has links to finding a vet..maybe you can get lucky and find one closer to you...
Glad she is acting more normal for you but do be sure to check everything out...


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 t
o 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. The spiral ones do not put enough uvb in the direction the iguana needs so I do not recommend them for proper uvb needs.
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 increments.  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 caresheet 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: Ok thank you but the cage she is in is really tall and I will put light on top it will not reach her too well. Because I am building her new one right  that's pretty big. Here's a picture of cage
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Here's her size should be like 6x6x3 right?(cage/tank wise)
She's roughly row feet long

Cage size for her should be 5-6 ft high, 3-4 ft deep and no less than 5 ft long...  For her size how... you should have at least 3-4 ft in length and 3 ft in depth for her to have enough room, but its always easier to just build one cage that will last her forever. With a tall, narrow cage, she doesn't have room to get completely in the warm area.  Part of her will always be hanging down which causes them to not be able to heat up properly. Basking area shelf should be level(or nearly level) so they can stretch out on it.
As to her skin..yes, that is nasty looking.  Do try to find a vet but again, applying antibiotic ointment in the meantime.  Misting and bathing also.  For bathing, I would put some betadine in the water(after she drinks).  You want to make the water the color of a weak tea.
BTW..her cage now is very nice!!  Just not long and wide enough for her.  Whoever built that did a super job.


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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.

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