iguana care guide cover transparent 3d

Get Your Owner's Guide For Iguanas And Help Your Special Friend Live its Best Life.

How Long Can An Iguana Stay Underwater

Have you ever wondered what kind of habitats iguanas live in when they are in the wild?

Do you think iguanas are only found living in the trees?

Did you know iguanas are great swimmers?

If you didn’t, your next question might be:

How long can an iguana stay underwater?

Many iguana species live close to the water in their natural habitat, often escaping to the water when threatened and staying underwater for as long as 30 or 45 minutes and even up to one hour.

Keep reading this article to learn even more about this interesting ability.

how long can an iguana stay underwater

How Long Can An Iguana Stay Underwater?

Some species of iguanas are quite adept swimmers, using the water often as a tool to evade predators.

Additionally, they have been observed by researchers entering the water to swim and float.

This might come as a surprise given many species are arboreal, meaning they spend most of their lives in the trees.

Some species, like the marine iguana found in the Galapagos Islands, can stay underwater for as long 45 minutes or more.

Male marina iguanas will even go underwater to feast on algae.

Green iguanas can stay underwater for great lengths of time.

Research has found, they can remain underwater for approximately 30 minutes.

How Do They Breathe Underwater?

These iguanas don’t breathe when they are underwater for those great lengths of time.

It like humans, not being able to breathe in when we are underwater.

Iguanas don’t have gills as you find on fish, so they are unable to breathe while they are underwater.

Instead of breathing, they are holding their breath underwater for up to 45 minutes.

To put the length of time in perspective, most healthy humans can only hold their breath underwater, uninterrupted, for approximately two minutes.

Iguanas have humans beat, but they cannot even come close to the sea turtle’s record.

They have been known to hold their breath underwater for 10 hours, making them the record holder for any animal on the planet holding their breath underwater.

How Do Iguanas Swim Underwater?

When iguanas are swimming underwater, they do so in an interesting fashion.

Unlike you or me, who use our arms and legs kind of like paddles to help us move along in the water, iguanas primarily use their tails.

Iguanas will tuck their front legs under their belly while swimming, helping to streamline their bodies.

Their back legs are pointed straight back, not used to steer or paddle in any way.

Their strong tail is used as the primary way of steering while they are swimming.

An iguana will maneuver through the water, twisting their bodies back and forth along with their tails, similar to how other reptiles will move through the water.

During this process, a dorsal fin is formed by slightly raising the back of their head down to the end of the tail.

While iguanas might be speedy and agile on land, with some species running at speeds up to 21 miles per hour, they are much slower swimmers.

The marine iguana has been measured swimming slow speeds of 1.5′ feet per second, with the highest speeds recorded at 3′ feet per second.

They are also not able to maintain any speed for a great amount of time.

Their speed instead comes in bursts, usually lasting less than one minute.

How Deep Can An Iguana Dive?

The marine iguana, who spends a great deal of time around water, can dive to depths as deep as 98′ feet down, but most dives are shorter distances.

Typically, the dives of a marine iguana only measure approximately 16′ feet.

They spend this time looking for algae to eat and feast upon.

If they are foraging for this food near the water’s edge, the depths will only reach about 3′ feet.

Not many iguanas will do deep dives for food, even if they are hungry, instead of foraging at low tides or very shallow areas.

The larger males are, the members of the species will have been seen making treks out to the deeper areas.

Iguana Habitat

Iguanas are found in a variety of habitats, depending on the species.

You might locate them in deserts, rocky regions, the rainforest, and even swamps and lowland forests.

They are native to Mexico, South America, Central America, and the Caribbean.

Iguanas, who are strong swimmers, have adapted to their habitat to develop this characteristic.

These species of iguanas aren’t just swimming in the sea like the marine iguana.

Instead, you will find them taking cover or floating in lakes, streams, and rivers when they are in the wild.

Green iguanas are just one of the species who spend time in those types of bodies of water because they are part of the animal’s natural habitat.

Giving Your Iguana Tub Time

Because some species of iguanas do enjoy swimming, it is not uncommon for pet owners to give their iguanas time in the tub.

At first, iguanas might be frightened of the experience, so spend a little time easing them into the process.

Start with a short bath of about five minutes and gradually increase to 20 to 30 minutes at a time.

Having a bath is a great way to keep your pet hydrated and help during shedding periods to keep the loosening skin soft.

Make sure the water is warm enough.

Remember, these animals are cold-blooded, and you don’t want to run the risk of allowing your iguana’s body temperature to drop rapidly.

Your iguana can come to enjoy and even demand a bath, so definitely give it a try.


Not all iguanas will spend their time swimming and diving, but it’s fascinating to learn more about the ones who do.

These animals enter the water for all sorts of reasons, including foraging for food, hiding from predators, or just floating for enjoyment.

If they need to, some species will hold their breath up to an hour if necessary.

The amount of time they can hold their breath and remain underwater is just one of the interesting facts out there about iguanas.

Check out our other posts on what iguanas eat in the wild and how to sex an iguana.

Leave a Comment