Iguana Care

Species Overview

Scientific Name: Iguana iguana (Linnaeus, 1758)

Iguana is a genus of herbivorous lizards native to tropical areas of Mexico, Central America, South America, and the Caribbean. The genus was first described in 1768 by Austrian naturalist Josephus Nicolaus Laurenti in his book Specimen Medicum, Exhibens Synopsin Reptilium Emendatam cum Experimentis circa Venena. Three species are placed in the genus: the green iguana, which is widespread throughout its range and a popular pet, the marine iguana, and the Lesser Antillean iguana, which is native to the Lesser Antilles (Wikipedia).

Iguanas, the tree-dwelling species, are large lizards hailing from the hot and humid climates of Central and South America. They are one of the most popular reptile pets due to their peace-loving nature and striking appearance. With proper care, iguanas can live up to 20 years in captivity.

We are sure you want to know more. And so, we’ve put together this iguana care guide that’ll talk about their habitat, diet, health concerns, and more. Stay with us if you want to become your beautiful pet iguana’s best guardian.

caring for iguanas

Colors & Appearance

Iguanas are like miniature dragons. They boast whip-like tails, sharp claws, and scaly bodies in hues of brown, blue, orange, green, and yellow. Hatchlings and young green iguanas mostly boast a bright green hue. Male iguanas have large, prominent dorsal crests along their backs, which they display during territorial or mating displays. They may also have larger jowls or dewlaps under their chin, which they use to communicate or establish dominance. Females, on the other hand, are comparatively smaller and lack these visible physical characteristics.

Average Size & Weight

Iguanas are the speediest growing lizards in the world. A baby iguana starts at 2-4 inches in length and weighs just about 0.3 pounds. However, when they enter their juvenile stage, baby iguanas go through a growth spurt and triple in both size and weight. An average adult iguana can stretch up to 6 feet in length and tip the scales at 30 pounds. Of course, the type plays a role here. Male green iguanas, for instance, can get as long as five feet and weigh about 15 pounds. Females miss the mark by 1-2 feet.


A healthy iguana kept in captivity can live up to 15-20 years. They require proper diet, temperature, humidity, and light conditions to thrive. As for iguanas living in the wild – their lifespan is much shorter due to predators, accidents, and diseases. All of these factors contribute to an average of 5-8 years for most iguana species. Luckily, iguanas are the masters of survival. They can dodge their predators by diving from trees into water and swimming away with their strong tails. They can also hold their breath underwater for about thirty minutes.

More About Iguanas

Iguanas, the dragon-like hardy creatures, are challenging pets. They can grow up to 6 feet, weigh about 15 pounds, and get invasive if not handled well. Therefore, before you bring one home, you must know all there is to know about iguanas.

Luckily, we have the inside scoop on their natural habitat, growth stages, average size, and more.

iguana pet care

Iguana's Habitat

Iguanas are spread across Mexico, Central America, and South America to the Caribbean. They are typically found in tropical forests, savannas, and dry forests.

Adult iguanas prefer living at the top of trees to avoid predators and get as much sun as possible. Their sharp claws and long tails help them climb high up the trunk and branches. As for the juveniles, they typically live on the lower branches and underbrush.

Meet the Types

There are a few different types of iguanas, including:

Green Iguana

They are the ones you must have seen in your closest pet store. Green iguanas are docile, eat a green diet, and can grow up to 6 feet. A green iguana requires a hot and humid environment to thrive. In the wild, they love hanging out near water bodies.

Marine Iguana

Not for us mere mortals! Marine iguanas are only found on the Galapágos Islands; they are entirely aquatic and feed on algae. They have thick bodies, short legs, and spines running from their neck to the tail.

Lesser Antillean Iguana

As the name suggests, they are found in the Lesser Antilles islands. They are smaller than green iguanas but equally invasive.

Life Stages

Iguanas go through three distinct stages, including:

  • Hatchling: A female iguana can lay between 20 and 70 eggs a year. The hatchlings that emerge from these eggs are independent and can start eating within 24 hours. They are born with teeth.

  • Juvenile: This is the stage when iguanas grow the most. Juvenile iguanas eat a lot and go through several shedding cycles. They start to show their adult colors around this time, too.

  • Adult: An iguana is considered an adult when it’s ready to mate. This happens around 18-24 months of age. Females might take an extra year to breed successfully.


Snakes and birds of prey are the main predators of iguanas. Birds often dig up iguana eggs and dine on them. Other animals that can make a meal out of iguanas include crocodiles, dogs, cats, and raccoons. It’s one reason why iguanas max at eight years in their natural habitat.

Almost all iguanas freeze when they feel threatened. If there’s no other way to escape, they’ll shed their tails to confuse the attacker. Their tails regrow within a year, but they never reach their original size again. Did you know iguanas could jump from 50 feet high without getting hurt?

As for your pet iguana, if you’re keeping it safe in its enclosure, there’s nothing to worry about. These guys can survive for 15-20 years in favorable conditions.

iguana predators

What Makes Iguanas Great Pets

  • Long Lives: One of the most fascinating things about iguanas is their impressive long lifespans. If you shower your iguana with love and care, your scaly friend will stick around for 15-20 years. However, their diet, genetics, and types strongly affect their lifespan.

  • Easy to Feed: Unlike most pet reptiles, iguanas won’t have you hunting for pinky mice and crickets every now and then. Their diet comprises leafy greens, veggies, fruits, and occasional calcium supplements.

  • Not Very Demanding: Iguanas enjoy being on their own. They don’t want you to pet them or hold them for long periods of time. Watch them chill in their enclosures from afar, and they’ll be happy.

  • Diurnal Animals: Iguanas love sun time. Basking helps them digest their food better, so they maintain a wake-sleep cycle like humans. It’s great news for reptile parents who have full-time jobs.

iguana care guide

Iguana Care Guide

Are you interested in taking on the responsibility of caring for an iguana? If so, you’ll need our iguana care guide to help you get started on providing the best possible care for these amazing creatures.

Environment and Housing

Iguanas are arboreal lizards. In their natural habitat, they spend most of their time climbing or resting on the canopy of trees. So, when setting up an iguana enclosure, add tall trees, rocks, and other accessories to climb on. Cyprus mulch, newspaper, and paper towels are suitable substrate options.

Pet iguanas should also have a hiding spot in their enclosure. This will be their safe place when they’re feeling threatened or stressed.

The size of your pet iguana’s enclosure will depend on how big they are. Young green iguanas will be comfortable in a 20-gallon tank, whereas an adult iguana will need a tank that’s at least 12 feet long and 8 feet high.

how to care for an iguana

Temperature and Humidity

As cold-blooded reptiles, iguanas need a warm environment to maintain their body temperature.

The ambient air temperature in your iguana’s enclosure should be between 85 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas the basking spot should reach 95-120 degrees Fahrenheit. The cool area of the tank should never fall below 80-85 °F during the day and 70-75 °F during the night.

WebMD recommends using incandescent lamps and under-tank heating to maintain an iguana’s body temperature.

The high ambient temperature will help you maintain the humidity at 70-80%, which is perfect for these tropical lizards.

Proper Diet​

Iguanas are strictly herbivorous and folivores. In the wild, they munch on leaves of vines and trees, fruits, and flowers.

According to VCA Animal Hospitals, leafy greens should make up 80-90% of your pet’s diet. Calcium-rich vegetables like collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, bok choy, kale, Swiss chard, and dandelion should make 40-50% of iguana food. The remaining 40-50% can be carrots, peas, asparagus, broccoli, bell peppers, and sprouts. Fruits like apples, pears, bananas, peaches, kiwis, and melons should only make up less than 20% of an iguana’s diet.

Ideally, adult iguanas should be fed once a day or once every other day. Young iguanas, however, need to eat daily.

iguana diet


Iguanas should have access to water at all times. They’ll sip from the bowl and soak in it for comfort. Taking a dip helps iguanas stay hydrated – they absorb water through their scaly skin.

Misting iguanas with a spray bottle a few times a week, especially in chilly, dry weather, is also a great iguana parent move.

Behavior and Temperament

Pet iguanas aren’t really fond of human interaction. They live solitary lives unless it’s breeding season. Males have a reputation for being territorial and aggressive. They can bite, scratch, or whip their tails at anyone who upsets them. In the wild, it’s usually another iguana trying to steal their best basking spot.

Female iguanas are docile but may become more temperamental during their breeding season. Juvenile iguanas are skittish and need time to adjust to human contact.

If you’re adopting two pet iguanas, get them both their own enclosure. Housing two males together can lead to a dominant-submissive relationship and constant fighting. Housing a male with a female can lead to stress for the female, which can affect egg-laying.

iguanas fighting


Like all other reptiles, iguanas shed their skin as they grow. Shedding helps them get rid of old, damaged skin and make room for new growth.

Baby iguanas shed every 4-6 weeks. Adults, on the other hand, shed only once a year. They might eat less during the shedding season.

Although shedding is a natural process, and iguanas tend to figure it out on their own, it wouldn’t hurt to soak your pet in warm water a few times.

Courtship And Egg-Laying​​

Iguanas mate during the dry season. Males fight for females and might turn bright orange during the mating season. They exhibit signs like head bobbing, dewlap extension, and biting a female’s neck.

Since courtship happens in a restricted area where more than two females may be present, fighting over a good nesting spot isn’t uncommon among females.

Females lay eggs after 65 days of mating. They are cream-colored eggs that take 90-120 days to hatch. The number of eggs a female lays depends on her diet, sexual maturity, and size.

iguana laying eggs

Health Complications in an Iguana

Iguanas are prone to several health complications due to their imbalanced diet. Some diseases are more common than others and require immediate attention.

Here are a few iguana diseases you should be wary about:

  • Metabolic Bone Disease
  • Bladder Stones
  • Intestinal Impaction
  • Dystocia
  • Dysecdysis

Parasites, respiratory problems, hind limb paralysis, and fungal infections are a few other causes of concern.

Iguana’s digestive tract carries salmonella that can get passed to humans and cause diarrhea, fever, and stomach pains. Always wash your hands after handling your pet iguana or cleaning their enclosure.

Interaction and Enrichment

Iguanas have a great sense of sight and sound. They can see their owners clearly and recognize their voices, too. So, you get some level of bonding with your pet lizard.

As for handling, you’ll have to remain calm and consistent. Show your iguana who’s in charge, and they’ll gradually get used to your touch. Don’t push it, though. As we mentioned, iguanas don’t like being handled. Here are more tips on taming an iguana.

You can hand-feed your pet, take them on supervised walks, pick edible flowers together, and let them bask in the open to nourish their souls.

handling an iguana

Provide the Best Life for Your Scaly Friend

Iguanas are the trickiest of all pet reptiles. They require large tanks, a specific green diet, and high temperature and humidity levels to stay healthy. Keep their enclosures clean and provide enough out-of-tank activities to keep them happy. Experts also recommend taking an iguana to a vet twice a year.

We hope you found all the relevant details in our iguana care guide. If you’re looking for more information on iguana housing, food, and breeding, we have you covered there, too. Browse our iguana section and learn more about these giant lizards. Happy iguana parenting.

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