Proper heating, lighting and humidifying, is vital for well-being of your iguana. Unfortunately, these conditions are too often overlooked, which leads to serious diseases and painful deaths for these poor reptiles. For example, a lot of people keep their iguanas with no UV light, they don’t think they need it, as long as they’re warm. That can cause a lot of different problems, and one of the biggest is metabolic bone disease, which is sad, but common, with iguanas and other reptiles. Irony is, that it can be completely avoided with a simple light.
1. Heating for iguana
To start, we’re first going to say few things about temperatures that iguanas need to be kept at, heat sources and different ways you can get heat to them.
First, note that iguanas require different temperatures at day and night. Second: you need to provide a good night rest for your reptile, which means that visible light should be switched off, for 10-12 hours per day.
Word of warning: a lot of people use heat rocks, which are a big no-no. You should never use heat rocks with iguanas. There’s been so many cases of iguanas actually getting burns on their stomachs, vent areas, pads of their feet. Reptiles don’t have the same nervous system as we do, they don’t have alarms to tell them “hey that’s really hot, I should move from here”, so they end up getting burnt. For the same reason, heat pads are also not recommended, even though they tend not to get as hot as rocks.
The best heat sources, for a daytime heating, are simple light bulbs. This way, you’ll solve both the need for the light and heating. The power of bulbs depends on the size of your enclosure, what your enclosure is made out of, ventilation, room temperature, distance between the bulb and the actual basking place, etc. You might need different sizes of the bulb, so you need to test that out and see what you need for your enclosure. For example, bulb of 150 watts could do fine, but you need to check if.
You should not guess the temperature of the enclosure, therefore, a reliable thermometer is a must have.
Regarding the bulbs, have in mind – safety first: place the bulb so that iguana can’t touch it. It’s the best to use clamp lights, so you can experiment with various positioning.
Regarding the temperature during the day, iguanas need to be kept at 90-97°F (32-37°C) for their basking areas. Temperature of the rest of the enclosure should go a little bit lower, but not below 80°F (27°C). That way, iguanas will have a cooling area and will be able to adjust their body temperature by moving around between warmer and cooler parts of the enclosure.
It’s a good idea to obtain a lamp with dimmer switch, so that you can adjust the temperature.
At nighttime, enclosure temperatures can go as low as 75°F (24°C), but don’t go any lower. As said, the night is also a time to let your reptile rest, so, no visible light should be turned on.
But then, if we use the light bulb during the day, to warm up the enclosure, and we need to switch it of during the night, how do we produce warmth during the night?
The appropriate solution for night warming of the enclosure is usage of Ceramic Heat Emitters (CHE), like this one. They do not produce light, but keep emitting the warmth. Beware with CHEs! Use them only with a porcelain sockets.
Technically advanced iguana owners can even set up a system, where light emitting heat sources get turned on in the morning, and off in the evening, while ceramic heat emitters get turned on during the night.
If you need to take your iguana out, for example, going to the vets, and its chilly outside, you can do a couple of different things to keep it warm. You can use warm water bottle or a thermal blanket (plug it in before going out and warm it up).
It’s really important for reptiles to have proper heat. If you have an enclosure that’s a too cold and the iguana is not at proper temperature, it may not even eat depending on how cold it is. Even if it eats, if the temperatures aren’t high enough, it won’t be able to digest that food so it’s not getting any nutrients.
If you live in a colder climate, make a back-up plan how to heat your reptile if the power suddenly goes out (due to the storm, for example) in there and enclosures are going to be a little cold for a while. That’s something to always be prepared for, when you own any type of reptile.
2. UV lights
UV lighting is one of the most missed pieces of equipment, that people don’t put in their reptiles’ enclosures. People often assume that, because reptiles are cold-blooded, they just need to be warm. But, UV lighting provides them with a supplement for natural sunlight in the wild. If you live in a warmer climate, where your iguana can go outside daily, your UV light doesn’t need to be ‘on’ all the time. For the colder climates, if your iguana is always housed inside, you need UV lighting on.
The UV lighting supplements the sunlight that they naturally get, which provides them with vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 allows the body to absorb the calcium. You can put calcium supplement on their food, but they will not receive it if they don’t have enough D3. Their body won’t absorb it, so you’re actually wasting that calcium. If you do not get your reptile optimal amount of calcium, they will develop metabolic bone disease, which causes the bones to get weaken and deformed. Unfortunately, those deformities are not reversible so, if they for example, get a pushed in lower jaw from MVD, it will be like that for the rest of life, no matter how good the care is that you give them later on. If the disease is not treated, and living conditions are not improved, MVD leads the animal to slow, painful death.
Important side note, with UV lighting, is that it gradually loses its strength. People often buy UV lighting and leave it on for a 1-1.5 years, or until their heat light blows. Unfortunately, after around six months, bulbs already get too weak to produce rays strong enough for your lizard, so, they should be replaced. The bulb will still produce light, but your lizard won’t be getting adequate portion of UV rays.
There’s nothing that can replace the Sun completely, so, if you can take your iguana out, in natural sunlight, go for it, but be careful. If you have to, put a leash on your iguana, or put it in a fenced backyard if it’s bigger one. Don’t forget about the temperature outside – it should be in ranges that we’ve already mentioned.
The last thing, we’re going to mention here, is humidity. Humidity is often overlooked, as well. Iguanas come from an environment that is naturally quite humid, so you need to accommodate that in their enclosures and keep humidity in range 65-75%. There are several different ways you can get humidity. If you have your iguana in a completely screen enclosure, it’s going to be really hard to keep the proper humidity in, as well as heat throughout the night, so a completely screen enclosure for iguanas is not recommended. Much better solution is enclosure of wood with plexiglass on the doors. They keep the heat throughout the night very well, and also the humidity will stay in as well. But, have in mind that, in that case, proper ventilation should be made as well. Too high humidity will cause growth of fungus and mildew, both inside the enclosure, and on your iguana.
There are several automated solutions for keeping the humidity, that you can use. Generally, you can pick from foggers (produce smaller water particles, thus making foggy atmosphere) or misters (give bigger water ‘particles’ and create rainy-looking environment)
Evergreen Pet Supplies Reptile Humidifier/Reptile Fogger with 2 liter tank, is good solution for keeping up the humidity. It has adjustable fog output control (up to 300 ml per hour).
Evergreen Pet Supplies Reptile Humidifier/ Fogger
- Adjustable fog output.
- Very quiet.
- No cleaning needed, but use only distilled water.
- Automatically turns off when water is out.
- Doesn’t have a timer, but you you can use the normal timers from Walmart
If you do not have any of those or options, there’s bathing to keep your humidity up and to keep your lizards hydrated as well. If you do not have a fogger or mister machine, you can mist your iguana and the enclosure manually, daily or several times a day, depending on the enclosure and the size of it. You can just take a water ball, buy them at the dollar store, fill it with water, and just spray them down a couple times a day. You can also go for more ‘specialized’ spray bottles for pets, like Exo Terra Spray Bottle, 2 quarts
You’ll notice when you’re iguana get dehydrated by its brown poop or dark urine. Also, when dehydrated, iguana’s skin will get really loose. Iguana’s back legs should be really firm, without loose skin there. If you pinch its skin, on back legs, a little bit, and it stays in upright position, the way you pinched it, that means your iguanas dehydrated.
You should always have a clean water dish in their enclosure, so they can lay right in it. Don’t put a tiny water dish, you want something that they can actually fit in. This way, if they feel like they’re a little dry, they can jump in the water and just lay in it for a little bit and then come back out. That gives them the opportunity to do it themselves, instead of waiting on you to give them a bath.