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Keeping Reptiles Newsletter
 Issue 16  
August, 2005
Should I Get an Iguana? Or: The Top 5 Contributors to Early Iguana Death
- Part 1
In this Issue

This is no joke - an estimated 1,000,000 iguanas are imported into the United States each year and most of them die. Yes, I mean it, hundreds of thousands die. Almost none live more than ten years, and many don't live more than 2. (Their lifespan is 20+ years!!) The culprits are few and well known. Despite their amazing popularity, green iguanas are simply one of the reptiles least suited for captivity.

What does this have to do with you? Well, I would like you, the potential iguana owner, to take a few things into consideration before you buy an iguana. Hopefully, after reading this, you will either decide not to buy an iguana (and thus help reduce the demand for imporation) or you will strive to learn all there is to know about them before you get one, and end up treating yours to a long and healthy life.

This is not a complete caresheet! For loads of more information please visit The Complete Guide to Keeping Giant Green Iguanas in Captivity. I just hope this short page will help people make a difficult decision.

"If you don't want a 7 foot sofa, don't get one. If you don't want a 6 foot iguana, don't get one. Seems pretty simple to me..."
--Melissa Kaplan

The Top 5 Contributors to Early Iguana Death:

#5 - Stress - The reason why we need to worry about things like internal parasites with captive reptiles is that captive reptiles are generally under a great deal of stress. Just as humans are more susceptible to illness when stressed, iguanas can become very ill when they are not housed under the proper conditions. You must be able to provide a very large cage for your potential iguana (taller and much wider than the iguana's total length) along with appropriately sized climbing branches and/or shelves. You must not subject the iguana to loud radios or bright televisions when it is trying to sleep. You must interact with the iguana so that it does not become bored out of its mind. Treat the iguana as you would like to be treated: give it plenty of food, exercise, attention, room to live and breathe, and treat it with respect. These are not little lizards that you can throw into a cage and watch them when you feel like it; an iguana is much more like a dog. You wouldn't throw your dog into a cage for the rest of its life and neglect it, would you?

#4 - Poor Diet - An iguana's nutritional demands are so far greater than most other reptiles (very few reptiles are strict herbivores) that many iguanas wind up with nutritional deficiencies despite a seemingly varied diet. It is important to understand that in the wild, iguanas eat 40-50 different varieties of leaves and flowers. In captivity, an iguana offered 5 different kinds of vegetables is lucky. You must learn to offer many different kinds of vegetables, you must learn which vegetables are the best ones to offer and which vegetables to stay away from. And, despite what you may have heard, dog food, cat food, and monkey food are not suitable foods for iguanas. Iguanas fed these foods regularly die of kidney failure by age 10. And these are not 10 happy, thriving years. It has been shown multiple times that iguanas in the wild are purely herbivores. Any insect matter they may take in is purely incidental. Do not expect to be able to open a can once or twice a week for your iguana's food. It will not survive long. Please see The Complete Guide for more important diet information!


Jen Swofford operates a number of successful websites, such as Jen has written extensively on Iguana care and her website is recognised as one of the leading Iguana
informational sites on the internet.

Snake Nutrition - Part 1


It seems that most, if not all, snakes get the nutrients
they need from a diet of whole food animals. There are some
types of reptiles, other than snakes, that do need vitamin
supplements added to their diet. This may be because in the
wild they eat a wide variety of different food items, some
of which are not practical to offer to animals in captivity.
To prevent nutritional deficiencies in these reptiles,
vitamin supplements are often used. Some reptiles also
require the use of special, ultraviolet lights that simulate
natural sunlight. Lizards, for example, require UV rays to
synthesize vitamin D, which is needed for them to properly
use calcium.

However, vitamins and ultraviolet lights are not used by the
vast majority of snake keepers. In fact, too much vitamin
supplement can be toxic. Also, snakes can be badly burned by
a level of UV radiation that wouldn't harm other reptiles
that do require lots of sunlight. Even though these "added
measures" may be good for some reptiles, they are not
without risk, and they have not been proven to be necessary,
or even useful, when keeping snakes.

None of us knows everything there is to know about the
nutritional requirements of snakes. There may be some
species with special requirements, or possibly exceptional
circumstances where metabolic needs exist of which we are
not currently aware.

Certainly, extensive scientific study of snake nutrition
would be helpful, but in the meantime we have anecdotal
evidence. Over the years, many thousands of apparently
healthy snakes have been maintained in captivity, and many
have successfully reproduced, on a diet of exclusively fresh
and frozen rodents -- no vitamin supplements, no special
lights. In fact, many have been kept in windowless rooms
with no sunlight, therefore no UV radiation, at all.

It is known, however, that when food is frozen certain
vitamins within the food can be damaged. Since all my snakes
eat frozen/thawed food, there is theoretically a chance that
they could develop a slight nutritional deficiency over a
long period of time. To make sure that this doesn't happen,
I like to occasionally give my snakes a freshly killed food
animal that hasn't been frozen. I also take them outside
from time to time to give them a little exposure to natural
sunlight, just in case.

If the need to routinely provide vitamin supplements to
certain snakes becomes known, specialized methods of
fortifying prey items would need to be used. Some snakes
won't eat a rodent that's been coated with vitamin powder.
Even for the ones that will, because of the way a snake
swallows by stretching its mouth tightly over the rodent,
this action tends to rub off the powder and much of it may
not be ingested. Adding vitamins to drinking water is not
advised because the dose cannot be accurately calculated.
You would never know how much a snake drank, and some snakes
will avoid the "vitamin" water entirely and may become
dehydrated. Liquid supplements can be injected into a dead
rodent with a hypodermic needle, but with no circulation of
blood in the rodent to take up the fluid,

it tends to leak back out of the puncture hole. If
necessary, the better method probably would be to put
powdered vitamins down a prekilled rodent's throat by a
means suitable for the size of the animal being used,
possibly with an eyedropper or in a gelatin capsule.

Extract from "Snake Keeping - Proven Techniques Everyone Can
Use" by Barry Neilsen

In the News...

A while ago I wrote about losing my snake. Now I don't feel
so bad....

There's this

And this

And also this

But don't let this man find them....

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Not for the Squeamish......

This surprise contributed by one of our readers.

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