The Best Iguana Cages and Where to Buy Them
Iguanas are some of the most popular pet lizards in America, commonly residing in the reptile section of many chain pet stores such as Petco and Petsmart. This is unfortunate because these tiny 6 inch lizard can grow up to 6 feet in length with the proper care (most die prematurely), and those adults will require an enclosure that is sized to accommodate an animal that large. While in general it is true that reptiles do not need as much room as mammals, make no mistake of it, iguanas need space. There are no suitably-sized enclosures for the adult iguana in pet stores, period.
I’ve seen iguanas in all forms of inappropriate enclosures, including a dog crate at a nature center, and another housed with a legless lizard and skink in another nature center.
It may be pretty typical to see iguanas in caging where they have inches of horizontal room to roam. Cages like these are even sold by dealers claiming to be specifically for iguanas, but they are completely inadequate for the iguana's welfare.
Nearly all commercial cages are nowhere near the size that they should be for adult iguanas.
There probably isn't a lot of money in the business of selling enormous caging for cheap lizards, so dealers sell small, affordable, but completely unsuitable cages for iguanas to the masses. I will list the exceptions in this article.
Iguanas originate from the high jungle trees of South America, so no one should be fooled into thinking any iguana cage in the world will simulate this existence. But just as the same for most captive animals, there are caging standards that can provide what an iguana needs to meet a sufficient well-being.
The IDEAL Iguana Enclosure
First off, to get a better understanding of what I'm talking about, let's review what the ideal iguana enclosure looks like. It should be noted again that a huge majority of iguana cages are not ideal, and this might be surprising to many who may have seen iguanas housed poorly in zoos, nature centers, and pet stores (by far the worst offender). Previous misconceptions about how iguana cages look should be flushed in order to gain an understanding of the correct way to house large reptiles.
Bad enclosures might keep iguanas alive, but their discomfort and stress persists, and rarely has obvious signs to humans not attuned to reptilian behavior.
*It is recommended to house iguanas alone. While it might be tempting to utilize such expansive cages to house more than one lizard, even 8'x8' caging is not large enough for an iguana to escape an aggressive encounter with another iguana.
Why this works
- Height: Iguanas require a high enclosure, or at the very least, it should be high off the ground. Iguanas are arboreal animals that become stressed when confined to lower elevations. Obviously, a room-sized height is nowhere near what they would have in the jungle, but it is important that iguanas can climb above the average human's height and look down upon the room.
- Width: An often overlooked element to cage building, mainly because a thin cage is more convenient to fit in most homes. This cage is wide enough to allow for extra climbing ledges, allowing a more furnished environment and opportunities for enriching locomotion. It is also wide enough for a human to climb in and do cage maintenance.
- Long basking ledge: This allows for more body temperature regulation, as multiple basking lights of varying intensities can be placed along it.
What DOESN'T work.
No aquariums. It doesn't matter if you use a 400 gallon aquarium, it is too small and not high enough to support the iguana's arboreal psychology.
Aquariums are only useful for neonate iguanas and buying large, bulky aquariums that will only be used for around a year and a half just isn't practical. For baby iguanas, aquariums do hold humidity very well with a glass lid, and are somewhat easy to clean.
No dog crates. I have seen iguanas housed in dog crates in nature centers before, and while this enclosure physically fits an iguana's size, it should be obvious that this space provides little or no room for thermoregulation, exploring, and other enrichment, leading to a poor quality of life for iguanas. Dog crates are also heavily ventilated and do not hold humidity without modifications.
There is definitely a use for dog crates. Crates make excellent transportation devices and are useful for temporary housing for iguanas (although a multi-level cat cage will work better), such as for vacations (whether you are taking them with you or leaving them with a caretaker for boarding) or iguana rescues that cannot accommodate multiple giant cages for several animals. They can also be used as sunning cages, just be sure one side is shady.
So-called 'iguana cages' sold in pet stores
Retailers have answered the call to the widespread keeping of iguanas being bought as pets from conventional chain pet stores with affordable but inappropriate enclosures supposedly designed for large lizards. They are all too small, and most do not hold humidity, here is an example of one. A Google search for 'iguana cages' shows many cages that are only suitable for chameleons (those with mesh) or for smaller lizards, such as the Zoo Med Reptibreeze IguanArium (this would again, only make a good temp cage. Poor humidity should also be considered). It is perhaps a 'reasonable' size for young iguanas or those which have reached adult size but are small (for various reasons).
Many commercial cages often use a confining 'phone booth' design.
This is a flawed design that many people who make their cage use for iguana cages. Unless the cage is so large that the width is appropriate, cages in an upright rectangle shape or 'phone booth' alignment are not good for iguanas.
More often than not, such a shape does not even accommodate the size of the iguana, providing inches of room for the animal's body, and this can cause trauma to the tail over time when the iguana tries to turn.
A short width also means there is less room for basking spots, of which ideally there should be at least two. This forces the iguana to bask in one area, even if it is too hot or cold. The 'phone booth' design is confining, and should be avoided if possible.
Correct Enclosures: *The most affordable choice*
Before I discuss the few adequate commercially sold cages for adult iguanas, it cannot be emphasized enough how beneficial it is for iguana owners to make their own cages. Not only do you get to customize the cage to best fit your designated area and get the best use out of it, but the cage can also be designed according to your iguana's known attributes.
If you have some idea of what your iguana might enjoy and what dimensions are suitable for its length, you can create the enclosure that is optimal for you, and you can also add features such as a pool, litter box, and other additions to make caring for your iguana easier and thus more fulfilling.
In my iguana's cage, I have added a 'suspended litter box' that makes cleaning up her droppings a snap, and enables her to stay much cleaner. This is just one example of a simple innovation one can come up with when constructing the cage.
Also when building a cage, don't be afraid to keep it simple. The main thing that needs to be focused on is utilizing the space to the best of your ability, adding multiple ramps and climbing opportunities along with accommodating the iguanas biological needs for heat, humidity, and ventilation. Your cage doesn't need to look like the beautiful enclosure on the right, but if you are capable of making this, I would suggest going for it, as to make your cage both enriching for the animal and as eye candy for the human. Just be sure that it is able to be easily sanitized (remember, iguanas love to poop in water).
- Making realistic rock wall backroungs for reptiles is easy!
All you need is Styrofoam, liquid nails, grout, paint, sealant (Shields All #50) and cutting tools (no need for the hot wire used in the video) and you can make creations customized to your needs.
Converting a room
A few tidbits on using walk in closets or small rooms to house iguanas. This might seem to be a cheap, easy option, but in order to pull this off successfully, the room must be at the proper humidity (most homes average about 35-40% when an iguana should have 65-100%) and this room must be 'iguana-proofed' (no objects that can be swallowed, and wires should be out of reach). If you do not convert the room to a hard floor, this 'cage' can be hard to sanitize. Iguana droppings are of particular concern because they can carry Salmonella.
With these guidelines in mind, iguanas can be housed this way.
Buy a cage
Most of the appropriately-sized cages available for purchase are very expensive custom-made cages that may very well be worth the money if you can afford it. The advantage to buying a cage is mostly aesthetic, but a professional cage might also be easier to sanitize (my home-made cage doesn't have sealant on the sides to prevent leaks). A professionally built cage may blend in well with surrounding furniture at your request, and have a more beautifying effect. Cost will generally be in the high hundreds to thousands.
Cages By Design
This company has an aggressive ad campaign and it is likely that you've stumbled upon their website before. They also can send free catalogs and offer additional accessories for their standards enclosures. Their Majestic Reptile Cages are properly sized for iguanas, but offer limited basking options (unlike the example pictured in this article, where ramps surround the perimeter, creating more space for the iguana). These cages are $4000+, without the cage furniture, of which each suspended rock shelf is $50 each (larger sizes are more). I'd recommend customizing your own furnishing with these models (the rocks can probably be created with Styrofoam, please see the above link about making rock walls).
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JWorld's cages are customized, beautiful, and have many exciting features that can be added to your pleasure such as waterfalls and ponds, misters, and splendid décor. Some models can be flushed out (with a drain on the bottom) or even hooked up to the plumbing.
As should be obvious, these types of cages are pricey (expect $4,000+), especially when properly sized for an iguana.
Iguana cages do not need to be this fancy, but are wonderful options for people who care about their reptile's enclosure blending in with furniture or being eye candy in the room to the effect of an aquarium. Note that iguanas like to eliminate in water, so if adding a water feature, it must be able to be thoroughly cleaned each time this occurs. Be sure that special caging like this meets the needs of the iguana, and not just for the visual appeal of the owner (JWorld's site does contain some gorgeous cages that do not appear species appropriate).
Exotic Custom Designs
These designs are similar to JWorlds, with pricing around the $2500 range. Remember that they must be customized to have basking spots suitable for iguanas.
Many homemade and professional cages can be found on Ebay for those who are not comfortable making their own. Just be sure these cages meet the requirements for the size of the iguana, and avoid the common 'phone booth' cages if possible.
I can't afford/don't have the room for a large iguana cage, what should I do?
Welcome to the nightmare. Even though iguanas are one of the most popular pet lizards in America, most people do not have to room, time, or finances to give them the proper care. Yet giving your iguana away might make things even worse, because it is very difficult for them to find the proper home. Most iguana rescues are at capacity, and cannot meet the demand for the constant flow of animals that need homes.
If you feel you can provide a reasonable existence for your acquired pet, I would recommend keeping it, and trying out these options if your cage is not suitable:
- Use an affordable crate or cat cage to give your iguana some time outdoors during the warmer months.
- Allow your iguana some time outside of his cage to roam. Be aware that they can carry Salmonella, so bathe the iguana prior and keep away from small children, immunocompromised and elderly individuals.
- Provide enrichment, such as live plants (edible, for feeding on), clip vegetables in high places, place cage by the window if possible or allow iguana to bask there (the iguana will only get the benefit on natural sun if the window is open or if the glass is special greenhouse glass).
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