Green iguanas

Welcome to our section about iguanas. This section contains information about both the genus Iguana and the entire family Iguanidae. The family Iguanidae is the largest of all lizard families and contains over 700 species divided into 60 genera. One of those genera is the genus Iguana which contains two species: the Green iguana (Iguana iguana), the species commonly referred to when saying iguana, and the Lesser Antillean iguana (Iguana delicatissima). The green iguana is a very popular pet due to being hardy and very sociable. It can even be house trained and it is possible to train your iguana to stroll beside you when you talk a walk outside and even to swim beside you when you go the beach.

The English word iguana is derived (via Spanish) from a language called Taino. In Taino, the iguana is called “iwana”.

The information below will pertain to the Green iguana as they are the most commonly kept iguanas, although there are other popular species to be found in the pet trade as well, such as the Green anole.

Iguana information

The Green iguana originates from South and Central America.They can be found from southern Mexico down to Central Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. They can also be found in large parts of the Caribbean on island such as Grenada, Curaçao, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, and Útila. In addition to this, the Green iguana has been introduced to several areas in continental United States such as Texas and Florida where they are becoming a problem. Other areas with introduced Iguana populations include Puerto Rico, Grand Cayman, Hawaii and the Virgin Islands.

The name Green iguana is poorly chosen as they come in a variety of different colorations depending on origin. Most Green iguanas in the pet trade are indeed green, but Green iguanas from western Costa Rica are red, animals from Mexico are orange, Nicaraguan iguanas are usually grey and red, and juvenile iguanas from El Salvador are bright blue. Different island strains in the Caribbean have different colors as well, ranging from green to lavender, black, and even pink.

I have already mentioned that there are several reasons behind the popularity of Green iguanas as pets. It should however be stressed that although iguanas can be trained they will never become affectionate in the way of a dog or a parrot. If you want your pet to love you in the traditional sense of the word an iguana might not be the right choice for you. However if you want a long lived hypoallergenic animal that requires little attention compared to many other pets, then the Green iguana is an ideal pet.

The Green iguana is an arboreal species typically found near water. During cold or wet weather you can often see them on the ground. They are good swimmers and often retreat to water to avoid predators. If they are corned they try to look as big as possible.

The popularity of this lizards as a food source and in the pet trade has taken its toll on populations and it is now listed in CITES Appendix II.

Iguana taxonomy

Kingdom:      Animalia
Phylum:         Chordata
Class:            Sauropsida
Order:           Squamata
Family:          Iguanidae
Genus:           Iguana
Species:         Iguana iguana

Iguana care

Iguanas can grow quite large and as such they will require large terrariums. A small iguana can be housed in a 30 gallon /120 L terrarium until it is about 5 years of age. After that it will require a larger terrarium and an adult specimens needs a terrarium of at least 5' x 5' x 3' / 120x 150 x 90 cm but we strongly recommend a large container. They will stop eating if kept in too small containers.

Green iguanas are best kept alone but it is possible to keep several together if there is enough room. If you keep several iguanas together you will need to watch for aggressive behaviour and make sure that everyone gets enough food. This is due to the fact that larger iguanas can take domain of the food and not let smaller ones eat.

The terrarium should be decorated to allow for climbing and should ideally have the basking light located on a high branch. The terrarium also needs to contain a place for them to hide and somewhere they can take a bath. Plants can not be used in the decoration as they will be eaten. Silk plants do however make the terrarium look better and creates a more natural habitat. There should be a feeding bowl to make sure they don’t ingest any substrate.

Iguanas are found in tropical areas and require a temperature of 29°- 32°C / 85°- 90°F during day time and 21°-26°C / 70°-75°F during the nights. They do tolerate higher temperatures and can be found in much higher temperatures in the wild. The terrarium should be lit by a full spectrum reptile light as this is important for the health of the animal. Remember that glass filters out some types of important light so the reptile light should be placed inside the terrarium. The same reason makes it impossible to substitute a reptile light by putting the iguana in the window during sunny days.

You can save a lot of work by training you iguana to use a piece of news paper or a box filled with kitty litter as a toilet as this will make cleaning the terrarium much easier.

Iguana feeding

Iguanas are mainly herbivores and are specialized to be able to digest and survive on though plant leaves. Juvenile iguanas include some meaty food in their diet and young iguanas should be given a diet that includes some, but not too much, meaty foods. They should never be fed meaty food only since this causes them to grow rapidly and although that might seem healthy they often develop health problems later in life after being kept on such a diet. In the wild, juvenile iguanas eat the droppings of older iguanas to get the correct bacterial flora. This is not essential for their survival and not required when kept in captivity.

Juvenile iguanas can be fed a diet consisting mainly of fruit and vegetables supplemented with regular servings of meaty foods such as crickets, grasshoppers, earthworms, and other feeder insects. They can also be given pinkies and canned cat food. Avoid feeding them meal worms as they have a low nutritional value; other food insects are better options. Their diet should be supplemented with vitamin/mineral supplements, including calcium/phosphorus supplement. It is important to give calcium and phosphorus supplement in a two-to-one ratio.

Adult iguanas should be given a varied diet of fruit and vegetables. They can be given meaty food occasionally but not too often. Supplement their diet like you would for a juvenile green iguana only slightly less.

Iguanas prefer to be fed in the same place every feeding.

Green iguanas need access to fresh water which should be changed daily. The water container should be large enough to allow the iguana to bathe in it as well as drink from it.

Green iguanas require a temperature of at least 31°C / 88°F to be able to digest food.

Iguana breeding

Green iguanas have been successfully bred captivity. Sexing adult green iguanas are not hard, since males have large femoral pores on the underside of their thighs. The femoral pores in females are much smaller. A more easily spotted sexual dimorphism is the fact that the males have longer and thicker dorsal spines than females. This is usually easy to see when comparing two animals side by side but can be hard to see in a single animal until you get a feel for it.

If you want to breed Green iguanas you will need a terrarium large enough to support their breeding behaviour and a suitable substrate where the female can dig a pit for the eggs. Green iguanas only breed once a year, in February. The number of eggs can vary between 20 and 70 eggs but more than 30 eggs are unusual in captivity. Green iguanas offer no parental care for their eggs but it has been discovered that they often lay their eggs near the nest of crocodilians which give the eggs a secondary protection as the crocodilian female protects the nest site to protect her young. The eggs will hatch into 20 cm / 8 inch long iguanas after 10-17 weeks.

Iguana Facts

Iguana fact #1 Green iguanas can fall for 15 m / 50 ft from trees and land unhurt. They use their claws to break the fall against branches on the way down.

Iguana fact #2  Iguanas are an appreciated food source in Latin America and iguana farming is a growing market. They are traditionally eaten around Easter since the Catholic Church allows iguana meat during lent when many other types of meat are banned. Iguana meat tastes like turkey with a touch of venison. They are referred to as "the chicken of the tree”.

Iguana fact #3 The iguana is a controlled species in Hawaii and there are strict regulations for their import and possession. The punishment for breaking these rules can be as high as 30 years in jail and fines up to $200,000.

Iguana fact #4 The iguana is often depicted in art created by the animal worshipping Moche people in Peru.

Iguana fact #5 It is believed that some or all iguana populations on islands in the Caribbean might have been introduced by early indigenous settlers as a food source.

Iguana fact #6 Green iguanas are preyed upon by hawks and their fear of hawks is exploited as a ploy to catch them in the wild. The sound of a hawk's whistle or scream makes the iguana freeze making it easier to capture by humans.

Iguana lifespan

Iguanas can live to become 25 years of age but a life span of 15-20 years is more normal. Many iguanas die after a few years in captivity but this is due to care related issues.


Privacy policy
Search AC

AC Tropical Fish
Popular species
Comming soon