Without a doubt, Iguanidae, specifically the iguanas and all of their different species varieties, are a beloved pet world-wide. They can be extremely friendly once used to their new home, have an awesome and distinctive look, and they are vegans (which make them a great choice if you live in Southern California)! But while they start out cute and small (as little as 6 inches), they can reach a massive 6 feet when fully matured! This makes housing them a bit....difficult - if you aren't prepared! This guide will teach you all about:
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Your pet's enclosure needs to be chosen or designed with the probability of them getting quite large in mind. Without providing the reptile with enough space to grow as big as it may, you run the risk of making their lives uncomfortable, and even shortening their lifespan. The problem is, there are not many iguana habitats in traditional stores that can accommodate a lizard when it gets to it’s full size. We outline a few good options here, but the alternative is constructing your own!
Think about how your pet would live if it was in the wild. The reptiles are found in rain forests, with lots of room to roam, play and enjoy their lives. If you’ve had the pleasure to visit the canopies of Brazil or other Central American location, you’ll have a little bit of a sense of the type of environment that these amazing lizards have evolved to thrive in.
Green iguanas, the most popular pets are arboreal, which means that they live inside of trees. Placing your iguana in a small glass terrarium where it doesn’t have the ability to get very high off the ground is not an appropriate way to keep the pet healthy or happy! For all of these reasons, the caging you choose for your pet is very important. The two main choices you have when deciding on an enclosure, is whether to build one yourself, or buy a custom designed iguanidae cage. If you choose the former, check out this guide on how to build an iguana cage. Otherwise, read on for everything you need to know when choosing a suitable enclosure.
Many iguana cages are poorly designed. While you can find some suitable options in stores and online, don't try to stuff an iguana in a chameleon cage! In fact, many animal conservatories do a poor job of keeping the reptiles housed in a good location also! Even though you might not notice it, the health of your pet is tied to how well it’s environment is suited to it. Arboreal lizards love getting to stretch themselves out all the way, and remember for iguanidae, that can be 6 feet! You need to make sure that whatever style of habitat you go with, your pet can expand to their full size in each of the different temperature gradients in their home.
So what does this mean in terms of enclosure design? Well if you want to keep your ig until adulthood, it needs to have a home that is ideally 12x6x6 (but 6x6x6 will also work) by the time that it is fully matured. This of course, is not feasible for all pet owners! Keep this in mind when choosing the species you want to make a part of your family. When young though, the reptiles need smaller cages. This will help them acclimate to you as the owner more quickly, and feel less threatened. There are also a number of heating, lighting and habitat feature requirements that are crucial to your pet having an amazing home.
Zoo Med Reptibreeze IguanArium
36 x 18 x 48
Zoo Med ReptiBreeze Open Air Screen Cage, Extra Large, 24 x 24 x 48
24 x 24 x 48
Exo Terra Med X-Tall Terrarium, 24 x 18 x 36
24 x 18 x 36
Exo Terra Large X-Tall Terrarium, 36 x 18 x 36
36 x 18 x 36
Pros and Cons at a Glance
The ZooMed ReptiBreeze Iguanarium is a sturdy plastic habitat that can comfortably fit a baby to young adult iguana (usually up to around 4 years old). It has PVC coated wiring which is great for your pet to climb on, because while strong enough to hold their full weight, it prevents them from hurting their claws or snouts when using it. There is a removable basking tray included which is a huge help, but the decorations pictured on the box do not come included. Fortunately, it is easy to customize the inside with decorations of your own and design the perfect home for your reptile.
The dimensions of 36 x 18 x 48 inches are good for the first few years of your iguana’s life. The wiring is small enough that you can start a baby in the cage, but there is enough space to continue using it for a lot longer than many of the smaller terrariums that you often see used as baby iguana homes.
Putting the cage together is a breeze, and shouldn’t take longer than 25-45 minutes, depending on how comfortable you are mechanically. While there have been some user complaints about pieces not fitting correctly on arrival, we haven’t experienced this problem.
This is an open air cage, which is a double edged sword. On the one hand, it makes penetration of UVB and UVA light possible, which is awesome if you live in an area with good sunlight as you can take advantage of the cage’s wheels, and roll the habitat outside periodically. On the other hand, humidity retention isn’t as high with open air cages. This isn’t a deal breaker for us, but it does mean you will need to have misters installed or take the time to mist your ig a couple times a day. We love spending a ton of time with our herps, especially when they’re young, so this wasn’t a big issue.
The cage is super easy to clean because of the removable bottom tray. Any reptile liner from your local pet store will do, or you can find them online. This is nice, because it takes out a lot of the messy aspects of cage cleaning by allowing the bottom part to just come out.
There are a couple inconvenient features though. First, the obvious - don’t expect to keep a full grown, 6 foot iguana inside of here! While this goes without saying (because you’re going to need a custom solution for ANY ig that big), it can be a bummer for new reptile owners who don’t realize how large iguanas get. Second, the front door doesn’t stay open on it’s own. This can be easily remedied with some twist ties or a homeade latch, but if you don’t do something it can be a pain when refilling your pet’s food and water. Another issue reported (but one that we haven’t experienced), is that the basking tray clips can wear out easily and need some extra support. It doesn’t hurt to add some zip ties, and doesn’t take more than a couple seconds to implement. Every reptile owner should own have a supply of zip ties for various habitat tasks as it is.
Overall, we recommend this cage as a first option that will last you a lot longer than a standard terrarium. The price is also relatively low for how long you can expect it to last - starting with an aquarium and constantly needing to add on and upgrade gets expensive quick! This cage will take your ig well into early adulthood comfortably.
Pros and Cons at a Glance
The ZooMed ReptiBreeze Open Air Screen Cage is a tall, open air anodized aluminum cage that has a large amount of airflow because of it’s open design. The anodized aluminum makes the cage durable without being overly heavy. All the hardware necessary to construct the cage is included in the purchase and the only tool that you need on your end to build the basic structure is a screwdriver. Don’t be mistaken though - to get the cage decorated to your liking and to make your young iguana comfortable, you’re going to need some other supplies. The cage has two front facing doors - one on the top for main access and one on the bottom for changing the substrate. While this bottom door may seem redundant, it can actually be extremely handy for a quick clean up! The cage is designed for arboreal reptiles exclusively because of it’s vertical design
This is a cheaper option that many of the premade cages available on the market. Like most other premade cages (unless you go for a custom solution), this one is only going to be suitable for a young iguana. One of the major drawbacks of this one over the Iguanarium is the width. While it leaves ample room for climbing, a young iguana will outgrow the enclosure relatively fast because of how quickly it’s snout to tail length will increase as it grows.
The screen enclosure is nice, but can be prone to ripping - especially if there are other animals in the house that might get interested in the cage! Because of this, this cage isn’t a good choice if you also have cats in the home. The top of the cage also gives you a lot of room to work with. This makes it easy to get the appropriate amount of UVB light for your ig.
The bottom tray is designed for ease of access, and there are no problems with cleaning and changing substrate as a result.
There is also no central support structure inside of the cage. This means that you are going to have to utilize a large plant that has enough capability for your pet to climb up and down and utilize the vertical room that it provides. The screen will work fine for young iguanas, but as they get larger it won’t be able to support them and eventually they will tear holes inside of it.
You also need to be careful of the aluminum edges. We recommend using some sort of teflon tape or other sturdy covering on the insides of the cage. Iguanas can hurt themselves trying to climb the metal over time - their claws are not designed to scale aluminum! While this is an easy fix, it’s worth noting.
Ultimately, this cage is a great choice for smaller reptiles like chameleons, but for iguanas it isn’t going to be effective after a few years of age. It can be a good budget option in the beginning as you work on a more permanent solution, but don’t expect to use it for more than a couple years. We still give it 3 and a half stars because for young igs, it does the trick.
Pros and Cons at a Glance
The Exo Terra line of cages were designed by European herpetologists and the quality of research and knowledge shines through in the products. These are a bit more polished than many of the other premade solutions on the market. The big differentiating factor with the Exo Terra cages is that they are glass terrariums, as opposed to the open air variety of ZooMed. The cages have a specially designed bottom that is waterproof, dual opening doors that help prevent escape and a screen top that allows UVB light to make it into the cage.
One of the drawbacks of glass cages is that they don’t allow UVB light to get into the reptile’s space. Exo Terra designed the cage to avoid this problem by utilizing a screen top.that won’t filter out the UVB the way that glass does. Even with this addition, you still need to be careful about leaving this enclosure in direct sunlight because of how hot it can get inside.
A really cool feature of the Exo Terra products is that they include wire and tube inlets for easy installation of features, monitors and sensors. This can make setting up your habitat a lot more convenient and hassle free.
One of the major downsides of the glass construction is that there have been numerous reports of breakage in shipping. While this is not a shortcoming of the product itself, it is worth noting that you should take the time to communicate with the seller if you are going to be ordering the product online.
Size-wise, this is the 24 x 18 x 36 inch version. While adequate for a young ig, like the other prefabricated cages, your reptile will outgrow this one quick. If you need to save some money and are planning on transitioning straight to a custom enclosure, this one can make a lot of sense. Otherwise, we recommend going with the 36 x 18 x 36 inch version of the same cage (which we review right after this one).
Pros and Cons at a Glance
The larger version of the Exo Terra cage has all of the same features as it's little brother. We highly recommend this iteration though, as a result of it's increased size. Because of this, we have awarded it a higher rating.
Dimension Breakdown for a Baby Iguana Enclosure
1 foot is a good starting point. This will accommodate the baby iguana until it grows to about 18 inches, which can happen in the first year. The cage at this point can have some smaller climbing ledges for the baby to play around on and start to feel like it is getting into the air. Remember – since the reptiles live in trees in nature, they will quickly want to be able to have an arboreal vantage point. Creating multiple levels of depth even when they are young can help with this a lot.
A habitat that is at least 2 feet long will work for a baby ig. Your pet is going to want plenty of room to move around and not feel stifled. Even though 2 feet may seem like a lot of space, it really isn’t all that much because again, the ig can reach 18 inches in their first year. Once they hit the 18 inch mark, it is absolutely time for a larger enclosure.
This is one of the most important factors for your pet. You can start off with a 16 inch height while they are still growing and under their first year of age. When iguanidae aren’t able to climb, they get stressed out! They like being able to perch and bask in an elevated position. For babies, you still have some time though and this height will suffice.
Any of the cages we have reviewed would be perfect for a baby iguana!
Dimension Breakdown for a Fully Matured Iguana Habitat
When your iguana grows, it is going to need a cage that is at least as wide as it is! For a fully grown adult green iguana, this means 6 feet. By keeping the home this wide, you can give your pet plenty of features to play around on, different elevations to climb over and a large enough temperature gradient for it to remain comfortable. It is important to have variety in the enclosure, and thin cages just won’t do the trick of mimicking a rain forest environment.
Don’t panic, but your pet’s home should be twice as long as it’s fully extended snout to tail measurement at this point. For a fully grown adult, this usually means about 12 feet. As you can see, this is no aquarium pet anymore! You also want to keep your ig in a solitary cage. Even a 12 foot long enclosure is not enough space for two to live together, especially if one gets aggressive. Make sure that along the length of the cage there are different temperature gradients for your pet.
6 feet will be a decent size for an adult but 12 is even better! While again, this is nowhere near as free as the rain forest canopies of Brazil, it gives the pet enough room to climb up on foliage and perch, bask and look down upon it’s surroundings. This is crucial to keeping the iguana comfortable. Not having vertical climbing space is a huge contributor to the lizard’s stress levels and is of the utmost importance to it living a long and happy life.
One of the major limiting factors of your placement choice is going to be how much space you actually have for your pet’s home. In a perfect world though, there are some basic features of an ideal location.
Natural External Light: You want your pet’s home to be located somewhere that is well lit (beyond just it’s basking lamps) during the regular daylight hours. This means that a room with open windows, free flowing sunlight, and exposure to the natural cycles of daylight is ideal. You want the ig’s home to get darker as the sun sets, so that the lighting mimics that of nature.
Visual Stimuli: Giving your iguana enough to look at is important. The lizards can get bored if they don’t have a variety of things to look at during the day, so placing them in an isolated, visually dull area is definitely not recommended. They love looking at birds, insects and other things that flitter by during the day. If you can, place the enclosure next to an open window that is facing the back of the house. Street traffic can be a little overwhelming so you want to have them facing nature if at all possible.
Human Contact: Your pet’s home should be somewhere that is not too loud, but that still gets attention from humans. They need to be used to and friendly with their owners, and enjoy a little bit of attention and contact. A basement that is never visited is exactly the place NOT to place your pet. Remember though, if you are hosting frequent parties or anything like that, the main congregation room is not an ideal place to keep their cage. Like the rest of us, a little alone time is good for your iguana too!
Your pet reptile has very specific lighting needs that their home should be built to accommodate. In the wild, iguanas have access to a wide spectrum of light that helps them stay healthy. For more information on the subject, check out our in-depth post on iguana cage lighting. Here’s a quick overview though:
UVA Light: This is a specific type of light that reptiles can see and humans can’t. This is important to provide because it helps your pet’s appetite, and carries other psychological benefits. It needs to be provided. This can usually be achieved through good sun exposure, but supplementary lighting is available as well.
UVB Light: This kind of light is crucial to keeping your pet healthy as well. Without UVB light, iguanas cannot digest and utilize the calcium that they get through their diet. It also regulates their immune system and usually needs to be provided artificially, because glass windows filter most of it out.
Remember, Iguanas are exothermic creatures and that means that it’s your job to provide a heat source to keep them alive. Seriously – if your pet doesn’t have enough outside heating, it won’t be able to survive. For an in-depth discussion on different choices for heating sources, check out our post on iguana cage heating. Here’s a quick overview of what they’ll need though:
Primary heat source: Incandescent lights are often used to regulate the temperature of the enclosure. Night time temperature also needs to be regulated – this can be done with nighttime bulbs and other non-light heat sources.
Secondary heat source: These are used to heat specific cage areas. Basking lights are often used as well as smaller incandescent lights. The secondary lighting is perfect for defining your enclosure’s temperature gradient and usually comes from outside of the habitat.
NO HEATING PADS: Iguanas are known to burn themselves when there are heating rocks or heating pads on the base of their enclosures. They can’t tell that the heat source is dangerous, and will decide to bask on top of it. This can lead to serious burns and death in some cases.
The features you include in your pet’s enclosure are also very important. This is where you get to start to have some fun though, and exercise your creative muscles! You want to design your iguana’s home so that it is visually appealing to you (and it’s easy to create iguana cage eye-candy, just check out Pinterest for some inspiration), but more importantly, so that it gives your reptile plenty of opportunity to be mobile. Vertical diversity is the word here. There are also some functional accessories that are very important. We have an entire post on the subject of iguana cage accessories, but here are the basics that you need to include.
Plants: These are included in your pet’s home for a few different reasons. The most obvious is that they make the enclosure feel more like home for the pet. The lizards are used to an endless sea of foliage in their natural habitat and seeing live plants in their home gives them a sense of security and belonging. Plants also help with the humidity inside of the cage. The plants will also give your pet shade when it gets tired of sitting in direct light. It is very important that the ones you choose are nontoxic, have never been treated with chemicals, and should use organic materials when being grown.
Branches: These fall into a category of their own because of how important they are. Iguanas need to be able to climb, and because of this, need sturdy, dedicated branches throughout their homes to do so. Giving them branches to climb on but then using a system of shelves for them to bask on is a perfect setup. You want to set the branches up so your pet can move through different temperature gradients easily and reach the basking shelves that you have set up.
Rocks: Another feature that will help your pet feel like it is at home in the wild. These should be placed lower in the enclosure, just like they would in a real rainforest.
Hideaways: Iguanas, like most reptiles (and us humans!), will occasionally need a place to escape to where they feel hidden. You are going to want to place this near the top of the cage. Some great choices for these are logs, hollowed out fake rocks or even an appropriately sized box. The hiding place should be large enough that the iguana can fit it’s whole body inside snugly. The tail doesn’t have to make it all the way in though.
Food and Water Containers: Make sure to provide dishes for your pet to get it’s food and water from. Having fresh water is very important for the reptiles. Keep a close eye though, since iguanas love pooping in water.
Monitoring Equipment: You are going to need to have a system in place to accurately monitor your cage temperature and humidity at all times. This needs to be set up to measure the different temperature gradients inside of the habitat.
Some great cage decoration ideas
A substrate is kind of like the flooring of your reptile’s enclosure. For igs, it’s important not to use anything like wood chips, vermiculite or anything else that is composed of lots of tiny pieces. This is because of how often the lizards examine their surroundings with their tongue. When the ground is made up of lots of tiny pieces, the reptile invariably swallows a lot of them!
One of the most popular choices for a substrate is vinyl because of how easy it is to clean. If you are going to go with something that you can more easily change out, use something that is easily digested and completely nontoxic. Some other common choices include paper towels, carpet that has had it’s edges taped down, and even astro-turf!
Ultimately, you want something that will not be difficult to clean, will not irritate the lizard’s feet or catch on it’s limbs and that can’t be accidentally eaten or harm your pet’s insides if it is.
Really quickly, let’s take a look at some of the commonly offered options that are actually terrible choices for any of the large species of iguanas. While many of these are advertised as suitable homes, none of them fit the criteria or dimensions that we outlined above. Remember, even if you follow all of our criteria, your reptile’s home is still going to infinitely smaller than it’s natural habitat in the wild! This doesn’t mean that it is impossible to responsibly and loving own the lizard, but it does mean that cage space and size are things that you can’t skimp on!
Telephone Booth Enclosures: These are commonly sold as iguana homes. They are 6 feet tall, 3 feet wide and 3 feet long. Their height makes them seem spacious, but this is very deceptive. A fully grown green iguana won’t have any space to move around at all in this kind of home, except for up. Even when they get to the top of their enclosure though, they won’t be able to stretch out. Keep this one off your list.
Aquariums: 20 gallon aquariums are great for baby iguanas in their first year. After that though, they don’t work at all. No matter how large your aquarium, it is not going to be high enough for the pet to climb vertically in a satisfying way. Remember how many times we’ve brought up the arboreal thing? Well, aquariums are the opposite of that and they should be avoided as a result. Get one when your ig is still a baby, but be prepared to upgrade pretty quickly.
Coffin Style Enclosures: Like the name suggests, these habitats are extremely stifling for igs. These are often 6 feet wide, 3 or less feet tall and can sometimes be around 6 feet long. Notice the inconsistency? Just like an aquarium, this kind of enclosure is nowhere near tall enough for the pet to climb comfortably.
Converted Dog Crates: Heavily ventilated, little habitat variety and limited climbing space make these another poor choice for your pet. The reptiles need adequate humidity to thrive, and having one kept inside of an enclosure where air is flowing freely is not at all conducive to their good health.