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Are Iguanas Good Pets? A Complete Guide to Caring for Pet Iguanas




A woman holding her pet iguana, showing a close bond between them. Are iguanas good pets?

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Iguanas are unique and intriguing creatures that can become fascinating pets for those willing to learn about them and provide the necessary care. But are iguanas good pets? This comprehensive guide will explore the world of pet iguanas, covering everything from their basic characteristics to creating a suitable living environment, diet, health issues, and more. Get ready to embark on a journey into the captivating world of pet iguanas.

Short Summary

  • Research and understand the commitment required to care for pet iguanas.
  • Create a suitable living environment with the correct size, temperature, humidity, substrate & accessories.
  • Provide fresh greens & vegetables supplemented with calcium for diet. Regular vet checkups & UVB lighting prevent health issues.

Iguana Basics: Understanding Your Potential Pet

Person holding a juvenile green iguana

Iguanas, specifically the green iguana, are among the most popular pet lizards due to their striking appearance and intriguing behavior. However, it is important to understand that iguanas, including male green iguanas, are not truly domesticated animals and can sometimes exhibit challenging behavior and temperament. Green iguanas can grow considerably, reaching 5-7 feet long and weighing 15-20 pounds.

Adult iguanas are tree-dwelling species in the wild, mainly consuming leaves, fruits, flowers, and vegetables using their iguana swallow technique. They have a long lifespan; some pet iguanas live over 20 years. These factors make it crucial for potential iguana owners to understand the commitment and resources required to care for these captivating iguana iguanas.

When considering an iguana as a pet, it is essential to research and finds a reputable breeder, as this will likely result in a healthier and more easily domesticated pet. Purchasing captive iguanas from a reliable breeder rather than a pet store can significantly affect your new pet’s long-term health and happiness.

The Temperament of Pet Iguanas

Person gently petting a large iguana on a wooden table

Iguanas can be difficult to domesticate and may become aggressive if not handled regularly. Taming an iguana can take years if it is particularly resistant. Frequent handling is essential for pet iguanas to develop trust with their owners and feel comfortable in their environment.

It is important to be cautious when allowing young children to interact with iguanas, as these large lizards possess the capacity to bite, and their powerful tails can inflict considerable injury. Understanding the temperament of pet iguanas and providing consistent handling can help create a more positive relationship between you and your scaly friend.

Creating a Suitable Living Environment for Your Iguana

Large orange iguana perched on a wooden log

Creating a suitable living environment for your iguana is crucial for their health and happiness. An ideal enclosure should measure 12 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 8 feet tall. This spacious habitat is necessary as iguanas need ample room to explore and climb. The enclosure should be equipped with heat lamps and UVB bulbs for reptiles, providing appropriate light exposure for 10 to 12 hours daily. The optimal temperature for an iguana to digest its meal is approximately 85 degrees Fahrenheit, while the basking area should be around 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

Humidity is another critical aspect of your iguana’s habitat. The recommended humidity level for iguanas should be at least 70%. To increase humidity, add a pool of water to the enclosure or use a mister. Misting your iguana twice daily also helps maintain healthy skin.

Choosing the right substrate for your iguana’s enclosure is important. A wood substrate or bedding is recommended as the preferred option. Ensure the enclosure is cleaned regularly, removing uneaten food, feces, shedded skin, and other visible waste daily. Thoroughly clean and disinfect the enclosure at least once a week.

Incorporate large branches and shelves within the enclosure to enable your iguana to climb and bask in the lights. A suitable living environment for your iguana ensures their well-being and allows them to exhibit their natural behaviors, making them more enjoyable and fascinating pets.

The Ideal Diet for a Healthy Iguana

A balanced and nutritious diet is vital for a healthy iguana. In the wild, iguanas are strict herbivores, consuming leaves, fruits, flowers, and vegetables suitable for an iguana’s digestive tract. They should avoid eating animal protein, which can lead to health issues. In captivity, their diet should consist mainly of fresh greens, vegetables, fruits, and calcium supplements to prevent metabolic bone disease.

When preparing food for your iguana, chop or shred the food into small pieces to make it easier for them to swallow without chewing. Offering a varied diet helps ensure that your iguana gets all the essential nutrients, keeping them healthy and thriving.

Common Health Issues and How to Prevent Them

Green-orange iguana resting on a wooden table.

Iguanas, like all pets, can face health issues. Some common problems include salmonella, kidney disease, and metabolic bone disease. To prevent salmonella, wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling your iguana and avoid touching your face. Regular veterinary checkups can help detect kidney disease early, as symptoms may include lethargy, swelling on the body, and frequent drinking or urinating.

Metabolic bone disease is a prevalent issue among iguanas, often resulting from insufficient calcium or UVB lighting. Providing a proper diet, including calcium supplements and appropriate lighting, can help prevent this debilitating condition.

Proactively addressing these common health issues can ensure your pet iguana’s long and healthy life. Regular checkups with a reptile veterinarian can also help identify and address potential health problems before they become severe.

The Pros and Cons of Owning an Iguana as a Pet

Owning an iguana as a pet can be a rewarding experience, as they are intriguing and enjoyable creatures that can be domesticated and handled, and they can be a beneficial addition to a family. However, there are some disadvantages to consider. Iguanas require high care, including strict feeding and housing requirements. They can grow to a considerable size, have a long lifespan, and can be quite strong. Additionally, they can be challenging to domesticate and may become aggressive if not handled regularly.

Accommodating iguanas can be costly, including the expense of a sizable terrarium and consultations with a vet specializing in exotic animals. As an iguana owner, you have daily responsibilities, such as providing salads, maintaining appropriate temperatures and humidity levels, and observing potential aggression or other behaviors.

While iguanas can make fascinating pets, they may not be the best fit for everyone’s lifestyle. It is essential to weigh the pros and cons before owning an iguana, ensuring you can provide the time, resources, and care they require to thrive.

Choosing the Right Iguana for You

When selecting the right iguana, finding a captive-bred iguana from a reputable breeder rather than a pet store is crucial. This can significantly impact the long-term health and happiness of your new pet. A healthy iguana will display a suitable demeanor and temperament, so evaluate this when choosing an iguana.

Before purchasing an iguana, research your region’s legal and medical requirements. Some areas may have specific regulations or permits needed for owning an iguana, and it is essential to be aware of these requirements to avoid any potential legal issues.

By carefully selecting the right iguana, understanding its needs, and providing proper care, you can enjoy a rewarding and exciting pet ownership experience.

Caring for Baby Iguanas

Person feeding herb food to a young green iguana.

Caring for baby iguanas requires some special considerations. They need a diet of roughly 95% vegetables and 5% fruit and iguana feed, focusing on calcium-rich vegetables such as collard greens, beet greens, and mustard greens. Feed baby iguanas at least twice daily, and decrease feedings to once daily once they exceed 2 feet long.

When handling baby iguanas, be gentle and support their body weight. Be cautious of their sharp claws and teeth, and take them to minimize the risk of injury. Proper handling and care will help your baby iguana grow into a strong and healthy adult iguana.

Alternatives to Pet Iguanas

If you find that an iguana may not fit your lifestyle, there are other reptile and amphibian pets to consider. Argentine black and white tegus, uromastyx, anoles, and Chinese water dragons are alternative options to pet iguanas. These pets can be simpler to maintain, require less space, and be more economical than iguanas.

When selecting an alternative reptile or amphibian pet, consider factors such as the size of the pet, the amount of space you have, and the cost of the pet. Research the specific requirements of the pet you are considering to ensure you can provide the necessary care for their well-being.

Exploring alternative reptile and amphibian pets at pet stores, including most pet reptiles, can help you find the perfect companion that suits your lifestyle and living conditions, allowing you to enjoy the fascinating world of exotic pets without the potential challenges associated with iguana ownership.


In conclusion, iguanas can make captivating and intriguing pets with the proper care and attention. Understanding their basic characteristics, temperament, housing requirements, diet, and health issues is essential for ensuring their well-being and happiness. It is crucial to weigh the pros and cons of owning an iguana, and if you decide they are not the right fit for your lifestyle, there are alternative reptile and amphibian pets to consider.

Researching and planning for your pet iguana or alternative pet will help ensure a rewarding and fulfilling pet ownership experience, allowing you to enjoy a unique and fascinating addition to your family.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do iguanas get attached to their owners?

Although iguanas can have unpredictable personalities, those who are more tranquil may bond with their owners and even tolerate being handled by them.

This suggests that iguanas can become attached to their owners in the right environment.

Do pet iguanas bite?

Iguanas can bite people only out of fear or as a warning. Their sharp teeth are not designed to puncture human skin but can still be very painful if they do.

With proper handling and respect, however, these bites are highly avoidable.

Is it OK to touch iguanas?

For the safety of yourself and the animal, it is not advised to touch iguanas. The potential for disease transmission and injury makes it unwise to interact with these reptiles.

What is the recommended size for an iguana enclosure?

An iguana’s enclosure should be 12 feet long, 6 feet wide, and 8 feet tall for optimal health. This gives the iguana plenty of space to move around, allowing it to live a happy and healthy life.

What is the optimal temperature for an iguana to digest its meal?

For optimal digestion, it is best to maintain an iguana’s body temperature at around 85 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the ideal temperature for an iguana to digest its meal properly.

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