Iguana Cage Setup & Maintenance (+ Indoor & Outdoor Ideas)

Putting together an iguana cage isn’t difficult. Whether you have a baby iguana or adult iguanas, you can easily build your iguana enclosure.

In warm areas, many owners have an outdoor iguana cage. In cold areas, you might have to keep your iguana indoors all year-round.

Let’s take a closer look.

green iguana in outdoor iguana cage
Choosing the right cage for your iguana is essential to its well-being.

Iguana Cage Size

Different iguana species require different enclosure sizes, which we’ll take a closer look at below.

Iguana Type

Baby Iguana

Adult Iguana (LxWxH)

Rhino Iguana

24″ x 18″ x 36″

8’ X 4’ X 3’

Green Iguana

20-gallon aquarium

12’ X 6’ X6’

Desert Iguana

10-gallon aquarium

36” X 12” X 12”

Spiny-Tailed Iguana

10-gallon aquarium

8’ X 4’ X 4’

Blue Iguana

20-gallon aquarium

12’ X 6’ X 6’

Of course, these are the most basic iguana cage sizes.

And except in the case of young iguanas, which easily stray too far from the food in a large cage, more space is usually a good thing.

Iguana cages vary in size from 20-gallon aquariums for baby iguanas to enclosures the size of small rooms for adult iguanas.

Orange iguana resting in an outdoor enclosure
Desert iguanas are much smaller than other species, and require smaller enclosures than iguanas like this one.

Iguana Cage Setup

Iguana cage setup is simple as long as you know the needs of the species you have.

Iguana cage setup with mesh
Iguanas don’t need a complex cage system, but they’ll benefit from an appropriate setup.
Image credit: u/DaddySenpai690 (via Reddit.com)

Green iguanas come from the rainforests of South America and have different needs than desert iguanas. An iguana cage must reflect the needs of its inhabitant.

What to Put in the Bottom of an Iguana Cage

There are many possible substrates that you can use in the bottom of an iguana cage.

Substrate at the bottom of an Iguana Cage
Substrate options are diverse, and the best choice varies greatly among species.
Image credit: u/Kraz-e1 (via Reddit.com)

The determining factor is which species you have and whether the enclosure is indoors or outdoors.

There are many different views about which substrates to use. We’ll discuss each type briefly, telling you which species it’s good for and what to avoid.

Some of the options include:

  • Sand – Most hobbyists don’t recommend using sand for iguanas, since it can be an impaction risk. However, sand is the best substrate overall for desert iguanas.

You can also use it on the floor of large iguana cages, as long as you ensure that the area around the food bowl is clear of sand.

For desert iguanas, keep the substrate moist enough so they can burrow without the sand collapsing on top of them.

  • Orchid Bark – Orchid bark is a coarse substrate that cuts back on the possibility of impaction.

It helps to maintain humidity levels and can make your iguana’s cage look more natural.

It’s a good addition to substrate blends, and you won’t need to replace it often.

  • Reptile Grass – Reptile grass is a type of artificial grass mat that works well for any type of outdoor iguana cage.

This substrate is easy to clean as you can simply wash it when soiled. The only disadvantage to reptile grass is that it doesn’t help to raise the humidity level.

  • Alfalfa Pellets – Alfalfa pellets and rabbit pellets are a preferred substrate for young green, blue, and spiny-tailed iguanas.

Young iguanas of these species tend to eat their substrate. Since alfalfa is a harmless plant, using pelleted alfalfa is an ideal solution.

The young animals can eat the substrate without getting impacted or ill. Alfalfa pellets are also affordable and highly absorbent.

You can mist them as you would peat or cypress mulch and it will maintain humidity.

  • Cypress Mulch – The consistency of cypress mulch is somewhere between coco husk and orchid bark.

It consists of cypress chips and shavings that have broken down over time. It’s excellent for maintaining humidity and easy to spot clean.

  • Coco Husk/Peat – Coco husk is one of the better substrates for maintaining humidity levels.

It’s a byproduct of the coconut food industry, so gives use to what would be wasted otherwise.

Using it as substrate in a large iguana cage can be costly, but it adds humidity to blends too.

  • Recycled Paper Pellets – Recycled paper pellets are a good choice for most adult iguanas kept indoors.

They’re made entirely from recycled paper products, and are affordable. This substrate is also highly absorbent and can help to raise humidity slightly.

But this isn’t a good substrate choice for desert iguanas.

  • Newspaper/Butcher Paper – Newspaper and butcher paper are similar to recycled paper pellets, except that they’re not in pelleted form.

Paper products are absorbent and affordable. The main disadvantage of most paper substrates is that they don’t maintain moisture for long periods.

You can use this substrate for both adult and baby iguanas.

Iguana Type

Baby Iguana

Adult Iguana

Rhino Iguana

Substrate Blend, Alfalfa Pellets,Newspaper/Butcher Paper

Cypress mulch or substrate blend, Reptile Grass, Recycled Paper Pellets,

Green Iguana

Alfalfa Pellets, Newspaper/Butcher Paper

Alfalfa pellets, Reptile Grass,

Desert Iguana

Moist sand, Newspaper/Butcher Paper

Moist Sand, Recycled Paper Pellets,

Spiny-Tailed Iguana

Alfalfa Pellets, Newspaper/Butcher Paper

Cypress Mulch, Reptile Grass, Recycled Paper Pellets,

Blue Iguana

Alfalfa Pellets, Newspaper/Butcher Paper, Recycled Paper Pellets

Coconut Husk or Cypress Mulch, Reptile Grass, Recycled Paper Pellets,

How to Keep an Iguana Cage Warm

Most iguana species come from tropical areas or deserts, so iguana cages need to have sufficient heating.

Like most reptiles, your pet iguana can’t control its temperature internally.

It requires a warm area in its enclosure where it can warm up. It also needs a cooler area where it can cool down.

In a small enclosure, this is known as a temperature gradient. You’d warm up one side of the enclosure, and leave the other at room temperature.

However, in the large enclosures that most iguanas need, that setup isn’t possible.

The alternative for outdoor enclosures is setting up a basking shelf where your iguana can warm itself when it needs to.

An indoor cage and an outdoor cage can utilize different heating sources. Let’s take a closer look at the best heating options for your iguana terrarium.

  • Heating Tape/Cables – Heating tape or cable is a good heating source for a large indoor iguana cage.

You can connect it to a thermostat, and stick it to one end of an enclosure.

  • Ceramic Heat Emitters – Ceramic heat emitters are a good night-time alternative to heat lamps. They produce heat without creating light at the same time.

Whether indoors or outdoors, the best iguana cages often incorporate both types of lamps.

  • Heating Mats/Heating Pads – Heating mats are wonderful tools for a baby iguana cage.

By placing the mat under one side of the iguana cage, you can create a temperature gradient.

Heating mats are also useful for an outdoor iguana terrarium in cool areas.

You can place it in the iguana’s hide to help them stay warm, in conjunction with the basking spot.

  • Heat Lamps/Basking Lamps – Heat lamps are the best choice for a large iguana cage or outdoor cage.

If you ensure that the spacing between the lamp and the basking shelf is right, you can keep your iguana in the right temperature range.

In most cases, you want to have the light around 12 inches from the basking shelf.

For most iguanas, heat lamps and ceramic heat emitters are the best heat sources.

Pro Tip: Always use a wire mesh cage around your lamps to protect the iguanas from burns.

Humidity in an Iguana Cage

As with all reptiles, maintaining the humidity in an iguana cage is vital if you want to keep the animal healthy.

Not all iguanas have the same humidity requirements, so their cages will also vary somewhat. Let’s take a look at the humidity levels for some common iguana species:

  • Blue Iguana – 70%
  • Green Iguana – 70%
  • Rhino Iguana – 60-70%
  • Desert Iguana – 15-30%
  • Spiny-Tailed Iguana – 50-60%

Maintaining the humidity for a desert iguana is simple if you mist the enclosure regularly.

Certain species may require more effort, especially if the cage is outdoors in a dry area.

In drier areas, you probably want to avoid reptile grass in an outdoor enclosure. While this substrate is easy to clean, it doesn’t contribute to humidity levels in any way.

Choosing a substrate like coco coir, landscaping bark chips, or cypress mulch will help increase the humidity.

Most of the iguana species also do well on alfalfa pellets, with desert iguanas being the exception.

Other hacks for raising the humidity in a dry area include:

  • Adding a reptile humidifier to the enclosure.
  • Incorporating a large water bowl in the cage design.
  • Using wood for most of the sides of the enclosure. Mesh sides make it difficult to maintain consistent humidity levels.

If you’re struggling with too much humidity, try:

  • Misting less often
  • Using a smaller water dish
  • Adding more ventilation to the cage

DIY Iguana Cage

Do-It-Yourself enclosures are some of the best iguana cages. A pre-made adult iguana habitat can be ludicrously expensive thanks to the space these lizards need.

A DIY iguana cage is the most cost-effective way to build an adult iguana’s cage. Some of the best materials for building the iguana’s enclosure outdoors include:

  • Metal
  • Wood
  • Fiberglass
  • Wire Mesh
  • PVC Piping

When building your iguana cage outdoors, you want to avoid the kinds of glass, plastic, and plexiglass sheets that you would use indoors.

The reasoning for this is simple. These kinds of see-through materials can act as a lens and multiply the power of the sun. That can quickly cause your iguana’s cage to overheat.

Indoors, You can use the above options, but also add:

  • Glass
  • Plexiglass
  • Fiberglass

When you’re building your enclosures, you can make custom cages for much less than you can buy them.

Building Your Iguana Cage

Many iguana species reach lengths of five or six feet and require large cages to match. One of the best and cheapest ways to accomplish this is to build the cage yourself.

You’ll need:

  • A ladder
  • Wood glue
  • A barrel bolt
  • 1/2″ screws for putting everything together.
  • Two hinges for attaching the door to the frame.
  • Corrugated plastic or metal sheets to use as roofing.
  • A staple gun and staples or wire staples and a hammer.
  • Welded wire mesh with a hole size of no more than 1/3″.
  • A screwdriver or drill driver for screwing all the parts in place.
  • 1/4″ plywood for covering the sides you’d like to keep covered.
  • Roofing screws and washers for attaching the roofing to the upper frame.
  • Metal angles or corner braces for supporting the corners and support bars.
  • Enough wooden supports to frame out the dimensions you want (pine or hardwood is best), a door, and additional supports.

We’ll tell you how to build an iguana cage, step by step:

  1. Use solid wood, with a diameter of at least one inch, to build an upper and lower frame of the appropriate dimensions.
    You can glue the segments of wood together at this point. Use at least two vertical supports to give the frame strength.
  2. If you’re good at working with wood, consider using a joint, such as a rabbet joint, to attach the pieces of wood.
    diagram illustrating how rabbet joints work
    Rabbet joints give your corners enough surface area so glue can work to its full potential.

    These joints increase the surface area where the two boards come together, increasing the glue’s ability to give structural integrity.
  3. After building the upper and lower frames, use metal angles to lend support to the corners. Place each brace inside a corner to solidify it and keep it from bending.
    closeup of metal brace being drilled to wood
    Metal corner braces help to lend stability to the cage structure.
  4. Use more of the metal angles to attach the four main uprights to the bottom frame.
  5. Install some horizontal cross-beams on the short ends to give stability to the sides.
    Again, if you’re good at working with wood, you can improve the structure. Consider using a middle lap joint to install horizontal beams.
    middle lap joint to install horizontal beams
    Middle lap joints overlap horizontal beams with vertical ones, recessing the wood into the frame.
  6. Decide where you’d like to place the door, and how big you want it to be.
    Add about a 1/2″ of extra space to the door’s dimensions. Use the adjusted dimension to install an upright on each side of the door’s intended location.
  7. Install an upper beam on top of the two door supports.
  8. Add an upright support in the center of the second long side of the enclosure. Remember to use metal angles to secure all the supports to the frame.
  9. Add the upper frame and secure it with metal angles and/or corner braces.
  10. Decide which sides you’re going to cover with wire and which, if any, you’ll cover with wood.
  11. Using 3/4″ screws, attach your 1/4″ plywood to the sides that you’re covering with wood.
  12. Use a staple gun or size 15 1/2″ staples to cover the remaining sides with wire mesh. Don’t wire the area between the two door supports.
  13. Frame out a door that’s slightly smaller than the frame you’ve installed to take the door. Use glue, (and joints if you’re using them) to stick the main frame together.
  14. Solidify and support the door’s frame using screws and metal angles. Install at least two horizontal supports, since the door is a moving structure.
  15. Install the hinges on the door.
    Consider using strap hinges, since you don’t need to recess them into the wood. You may also want to use three hinges, instead of two, for extra security.
  16. Place your door inside the frame, spacing it so the gap on both sides is the same.
  17. Move two pieces of wood, or another kind of spacer, beneath the door.
    The spacers should be around 1/4″ thick and ensure that you have space to move your door above the floor.
  18. Once you have your spacers in, and the door is lifted off the ground, mark the spots where the hinge screws need to go on the frame.
  19. Remove the door, and drill the pilot holes for the hinge screws.
  20. Lay the door down flat and install the wire mesh or plywood you’re using for the door.
  21. Place the door on the spacers, and screw the hinges into the frame.
  22. Install the barrel bolt on the other side of the door, so you can lock your pet into the cage.
  23. Finally, use your ladder to place the corrugated plastic or metal on the upper frame.
    You want a 2” overhang on each side to prevent rainwater from getting to your pet.
  24. Overlap each section of corrugated sheet with the next one (by one or two segments).
  25. Drill a series of holes that you can use to attach the screws to the support beams.
  26. Add one washer to each roofing screw, and screw them into the holes you’ve drilled.
  27. Congratulations, you’ve built an iguana cage!

Indoor Iguana Cages

Despite the potentially overwhelming sizes of the average adult iguana, there are several options for pet owners to pursue.

Custom Cages

Custom-built commercial cages are probably one of the easiest enclosures that you can buy for your adult iguana.

Professional cage builders can create an enclosure that’s as small, or large, as you need it to be.

Whether you want wood, metal, glass, plexiglass, or wire mesh there’s a company that can do it.

However, when you buy a custom-made cage you can bet on a sizable price tag. Custom cage companies often hire qualified carpenters and builders.

As a result, you get a solid enclosure and the price tag that comes with professional work.

Trusted companies like Custom Reptile Habitats combine their reptile knowledge with construction expertise to create safe, high-quality enclosures.

DIY Cages

DIY cages are the most affordable option and are the ideal choice if you’re handy with tools and equipment.

Your options are nearly limitless, and you can choose a wooden or metal frame with either glass or mesh panels so you can see your pet.

Unless you’re a big earner, this is the only viable solution if you’re planning on keeping multiple types of iguana.

DIY cages are the best choice for larger species like the green iguana or blue iguana.

Flatpack Cages

Several cage supply companies provide flat-packed cages for pet owners. For the most part, these cages are much too small for an adult animal.

However, some companies create flatpack systems which you can expand by buying an extra set.

The cage panels slip into the panels from the previous system to increase the cage size.

These systems are worth considering if you’re keeping smaller species like the desert iguana or spiny-tailed iguana.

Outdoor Iguana Cages

In warm areas, many pet owners built outdoor cages for their iguanas. It gives the adult iguana room to move around and makes it easier to care for the animal.

The cage size can also be much larger outdoors indoors. Most homes don’t have space for a 12-foot indoor cage.

There are only two options for building an outdoor enclosure for your adult iguana. You can build it yourself, or you can pay someone to build one for you.

Most companies specialize in building indoor cages, though you can probably track down somebody who would be willing to build the cage outdoors for you.

With an outdoor enclosure, ensure that the iguana has shelter from rain, snow, wind.

The lizard needs sufficient heat to keep its digestive system active at all times. Male iguanas also have large crests and spines which are susceptible to frostbite.

If you’re keeping your iguana outdoors year-round, you might want to buy a temperature gun.

It will allow you to gauge heat at specific locations in the enclosure, and adjust accordingly.

How Much Does an Iguana Cage Cost?

How much does an iguana cage cost?

A cage for a small iguana can cost as little as $100. Custom-built cages for adult iguanas can easily cost up to $10,000.

Iguana cages vary significantly in price, depending on the type of cage you buy.

A DIY cage for an adult iguana costs several hundred dollars to build. The exact price varies depending on the materials you use, and the current prices.

The price of wood can also vary significantly from one week to the next.

If you use durable softwood like pine it will cost significantly less than hardwoods (which have a longer lifespan).

Custom iguana cages are the most expensive option, with basic options for an adult iguana starting at $1,000.

How to Clean Iguana Enclosures

Cleaning an iguana cage is straightforward. They’re not particularly messy animals, which makes it easy to care for them. We’ll tell you how to clean an iguana cage.

You should do the following cleanup every day:

  • Wash the food bowl before giving the iguana new food.
  • Spot clean any piles of poop left since the previous day.
  • Rinse the water bowl out to ensure that the iguana has clean water.

You can do other cleaning activities once a week. These include:

  • Wash the water bowl with soap and water.
  • Brush down the wire mesh or glass panels.
  • Remove the substrate from the bathroom corner and replacing it. Iguanas tend to choose one corner as a bathroom and use it over and over again.

About once a month you can perform an intense cleaning session where you:

  • Brush down branches and decor
  • Ensure that the hides and basking shelf are clean
  • Check if the iguana has soiled anything else in the enclosure
  • Examine the substrate to see if any areas other than the bathroom corner need replacing.

For the most part, cleaning an iguana enclosure is easy.

Weekly clean-ups should take around an hour, while monthly cleaning sessions may take longer.

Cages for Baby Iguanas Vs. Adult Iguanas

There are few differences between the cages of baby and adult iguanas. The main differences are as follows:

  • Heating – While a heat lamp works well for both adults and young animals, it’s often easier to use a heating pad for hatchlings.
  • Substrate – In some iguana species, like the green iguana, it’s not possible to keep adults and hatchlings on the same substrate.

The young of these lizards often attempt to eat their substrate. It’s best to keep hatchlings on edible substrates, like alfalfa pellets.

Other options include sheets of paper which the lizard can’t eat.

  • Cage Size – A young iguana can easily stray too far from its food bowl. By necessity, their cages must be much smaller than those of adult iguanas.

Once the iguana reaches a year of age, you can easily house it in an adult-sized enclosure.

Apart from these basic differences, young iguanas and adults have similar housing needs.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this article about iguana cages. Don’t forget to check out our related content!

We have a comparison of bearded dragons and iguanas that can help you pick the perfect pet.

You might also want to check out the article about iguana diets.

Do you have a pet iguana? If so, which cage type did you choose? Let us know in the comments below.

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