Keeping Iguanas as Pets: A Guide

Iguana on a tree branch

One of the most popular is the iguana. They are Central and South American natives. Iguanas, on the other hand, are a big investment and require a lot of attention. They have specific food and habitat requirements, may grow to be fairly enormous, live a long period, and are quite powerful. They may also be difficult to train and, if not handled regularly, can become hostile.

Species Overview

Common Names: Iguana, green iguana, American iguana

Scientific Name: Iguana iguana

Adult Size: Up to 20 pounds and up to 7 feet long

Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years in captivity, though up to 20 years is not uncommon

Iguana Behavior and Temperament

Pet iguanas will never be really domesticated creatures, and many of them will try to get out of their cages and even into your home. For taming reasons, captive iguanas must be picked up and held on a regular basis so they may learn to trust you and feel at ease in their surroundings. However, because they generally find human touch odd and may oppose it, this can be difficult. As a result, it's critical to treat your iguana with caution and patience.

Although baby iguanas are swift, adult iguanas are frequently slow and placid, at least when they are not threatened. Some iguanas love to climb on their owners while they are not in their cage. If your pet iguana enjoys this pastime, protect yourself with appropriate clothes. In addition, an iguana's tail may inflict serious injury. The tail of an adult iguana is powerful enough to break a human bone. Iguanas are very strong creatures, despite their rarity. When handling them, pay alert to any struggle or hostility, especially if youngsters or other pets are around.


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Housing the Iguana

Iguanas may reach 7 feet in length when their tail is included in, and they typically weigh approximately 20 pounds. People who start with a little baby iguana are frequently surprised by its growth. As a result, a juvenile iguana's home will be an aquarium or a tiny reptile cage.

The majority of commercially available cages are insufficient for an iguana's needs. Many iguana owners choose custom-built cages with several ramps, shelves, and branches for their tree-dwelling pets to climb. A 12 foot long, 6 foot wide, and 8 foot tall enclosure is sufficient for a single iguana. Many individuals opt to make their iguana's habitat a complete room or a huge closet.

Remove uneaten food, excrement, shed skin, and other visible waste from your iguana's enclosure on a daily basis to maintain it clean. Clean the food and water dishes on a daily basis. Move your iguana to a temporary cage once a week to clean its primary enclosure. Scrub all surfaces and decorations, such as pebbles, using a pet-safe cleanser and discard the substrate (the bedding that absorbs waste and aromas). Reassemble the enclosure when everything has dried completely.


Iguanas are tropical creatures. It prefers a temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and its environment should not be below 75 degrees Fahrenheit. The iguana, in fact, requires a temperature of roughly 85 degrees Fahrenheit to digest its meal effectively. This should be regularly watched, especially if you're changing the temperature of an entire space to suit its environment. To attain an ideal temperature, utilize heat lamps that are normally placed less than a foot away from basking ledges (follow the directions on your specific light).


A huge enclosure needs a great amount of illumination. To give your iguana with adequate light exposure, use UVB reptile lamps for 10 to 12 hours every day. This replicates the advantages of natural sunshine, such as increased vitamin D production. Large enclosures or rooms should employ mercury vapor bulbs, whereas tiny enclosures should use compact fluorescent lights or tubes. Your tree-dwelling iguana will be able to climb up and bask in the light thanks to the enclosure's large branches and shelves.


Iguanas require at least 70% humidity in their habitat. By adding a pool of water to the cage or using a mister, you may improve the humidity in your iguana's habitat. Misting your iguana two times a day is suggested to enhance humidity and preserve healthy skin.


A wood substrate, or bedding, is typically fine for iguanas. Because they're a tree-dwelling species, they spend most of their time climbing instead of burrowing in their bedding.

Food and Water

A healthy iguana need fresh food. Iguanas are strictly herbivores in the wild. Animal protein, especially insects, is avoided. In fact, high-protein diets can create health problems in iguanas, such as renal failure.

Provide your iguana with dark leafy greens, fruit, and a calcium supplement in addition to a high-quality pelleted commercial feed. Iguanas also require constant access to fresh water. To maintain a healthy weight for your pet's size, follow your veterinarian's feeding advice.

Because iguanas ingest their food whole without chewing, everything you serve must be diced or shredded into tiny bits. Any food that hasn't been eaten in the last 24 hours should be removed and discarded.

Common Health and Behavior Problems

Iguanas, like most pet reptiles, contain salmonella. This indicates that salmonella is present in the iguana's digestive tract without producing illness. Humans, on the other hand, can get it by touching the iguana or anything in its habitat.

When handling iguanas, use common sense hygiene standards. Before and after spending time with your pet, wash your hands well and avoid touching your face. In most situations, this should stop the illness from spreading. Take particular measures if you have small children, elders, pregnant women, or others who are immunocompromised in your household. Perhaps an iguana isn't the best pet for your household.

Kidney illness, which is commonly caused by dehydration, is a major health problem for iguanas. Get your iguana to the doctor right away if it is sluggish, has swelling on its body, or is drinking or urinating regularly. Furthermore, low calcium and vitamin D cause metabolic bone disease in iguanas, which is why a calcium supplement and UVB illumination are so crucial. In addition, overly chilly settings cause respiratory disorders in many iguanas.

With sufficient daily care, most iguanas may become tame in terms of behavior. They want a consistent routine because it gives them security. They do, however, have a strong sense for self-defense, and if they feel attacked, they will bite, scratch, and whip their tails.

Choosing Your Iguana

Iguanas may be purchased from pet retailers, breeders, and rescue organizations. Many wind up in rescues after their owners find they are unable to match the species' care requirements. They're usually available to buy or adopt for $20 to $50.

Don't be deceived by a pet retailer that sells you a little iguana and promises it will stay small. These creatures mature swiftly. Look for an active iguana with bright eyes, healthy skin, and regular excrement. Low body weight, mucous around the animal's nose or mouth, lumps or lesions on the skin, and lethargy are all red signals.

Finally, ensure that having a pet iguana is permissible in your location by checking local regulations or consulting an exotic animal doctor. You should also check to see if your local veterinarian accepts iguanas as patients.

Similar Species to the Iguana

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Otherwise, check out other types of reptiles and amphibians that can be your new pet.