Green Iguana Care
Dr. Jenni Bass
Substrate and Cleaning
The substrate or floor covering used in the enclosure should be safe, non-ingestible and easy to clean. Do not use corn cob, cat litter, bark, sand or gravel as these are easily swallowed and can cause an impaction or intestinal blockage. Organic substances such as corn cob and shavings are excellent growth media for bacteria and fungi. These substrates may appear clean but they can hide fecal material and leftover food. Dusty substrates, such as some cat litters and shavings, should be avoided, as they can contribute to respiratory disease. Artificial turf, indoor/outdoor carpet or newspaper usually make the best substrates. Paper toweling is best for very small, delicate skinned lizards. Be sure to clean and change the carpet or turf regularly, as it will eventually grow mold. Trim or flame the edges of turf to seal them, as small toes can become trapped in loops of material, and frayed edges can look remarkably like plant material and may be consumed.
A functional, easy-to-clean cage that meets the needs of the lizard should be the goal of the iguana keeper. The more decorative the cage, the more difficult it will be to clean and, as a result, it will be cleaned less often. Questionable or poor hygiene contributes significantly to the burden on a reptile's immune system. A high environmental bacterial load will increase the chances of any animal's developing disease. Fecal material should be removed daily and food and water dishes should be cleaned daily. Several times weekly, disinfect the dishes after washing them. Depending on the size of the cage, daily spot cleaning, weekly cleaning, and monthly thorough disinfection is a minimal recommendation.
Use hot soapy water or water and vinegar for cleaning. Only a clean surface can be disinfected. Once a surface is clean, it can be disinfected with a non-toxic product. Avoid phenol products. A three percent bleach solution is safe and effective for most purposes. Your veterinarian likely stocks other products. No single product is ideal for every situation, and organisms can develop resistance to cleaners and disinfectants, so a rotating schedule of use is recommended. Always rinse well after cleaning and disinfecting. Be sure there is good ventilation, as even low levels of safe products can produce fumes harmful to delicate reptile lungs.
All animals need privacy and so an enclosure should include a house or hide. Be sure that the house is also adequately heated. A sick animal will hide and a sick reptile not kept within his POTZ will only get sicker. In the wild iguanas spend a great deal of time in the trees, so provide branches of at least the diameter of the iguana's body. Fixed platforms are also useful, and "hammocks" can be fashioned for some lizards. If the iguana is to be kept in a tank, it is important that the glass not be uncovered on all four sides. As a prey species, iguanas need to feel safe, not exposed, as one would living in a fish bowl. Use plastic vines, safe plants, branches, aquarium backing and cage furniture to provide visual barriers. Do not use mirrors in the cage, as the appearance of "another iguana" will be stressful to your pet.