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Iguanas are popular pets, but housing of these animals requires careful planning, as inadequate housing can lead to an unhappy, unhealthy iguana. Adult iguanas can grow to be up to six feet (1.8 meters) long. Any iguana enclosure should include room to exercise, climbing materials, a place to bask, and necessary heating and lighting fixtures. It is also helpful to plan for the placement of food and water dishes for maximum accessibility.
A full-grown iguana requires a cage at least six feet (1.8 meters) wide, six feet (1.8 meters) long, and six feet (1.8 meters) high. This provides ample room for the lizard to move around, exercise, and bask. There are very few commercial enclosures on the market that offer adequate room, so many people build their own iguana enclosure using plans found online. Materials are an important consideration, since the climate must be carefully controlled. Melamine and shower board simplify cleaning, and glass and plexiglass allow the iguana to be visible without letting heat escape.
It is also important to equip any iguana enclosure with a variety of climbing materials. Many cages include wide basking shelves with a system of plants and branches that provide access to these shelves. Because adult iguanas grow quite large and can be heavy, all climbing materials should be sturdy and well-secured, yet easily removable for periodic cleaning. Real plants and branches are best, as long as they are chemical-free, but there are acrylic and resin-cast replicas on the market that closely mimic an iguana’s natural habitat.
Basking shelves should be wide enough to accommodate the lizard comfortably, and allow sufficient clearance for him to stand up and stretch. Plywood is a typical material used for basking shelves, but non-porous surfaces like melamine make for easier sanitation. Shelves should be tightly secured to the wall and braced from underneath, and all sharp edges should be rounded out to prevent injury. An iguana enclosure should also include an enclosed den-like area where the iguana can hide.
Proper lighting is also important, as iguanas need UVB light to digest their food. UVB lights are available in bulb or tube form, and depending upon the type, should be within 6 to 8 inches (15.2 to 20.3 centimeters) of the basking area for proper absorption. Iguanas also require heat lamps, which use a variety of incandescent bulb that keeps their environment between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit (24 to 29 degrees Celsius). Iguanas can only absorb heat from above, so the use of heat rocks is not recommended.
A good iguana enclosure should also be planned with maintenance as a consideration. As many cage elements as possible should be removable for easier cleaning and more effective sterilization. There should be a clear spot near the access door for food and water bowls, and everything in the cage should be waterproof. The bottom of the cage is best covered with tile or durable, artificial grass-like carpeting; sand and carpet are not only impossible to sanitize, but pose hazards including danger of ingestion or tangled limbs.
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