Iguanas As Pets, and Basic Information
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Iguanas As Pets, and Basic Information

Pictures of our baby iguana and information regarding how to care for your pet iguana.

We recently went to Mexico and saw a big iguana in the trees and swimming around in the pool. This sparked my boyfriend's interest, so he wanted to learn a little more about iguanas and get one as a pet.

Basic Background Information about Green Iguanas

Iguanas are fascinating creatures. They're a fairly popular lizard that many keep as a pet, with the most popular type being the green iguana, or common iguana (the scientific name is iguana iguana). They are often bright green when juvenile and about 6-10 inches long (including tail). They turn to darker shades of blacks, browns, oranges, and other colors as adults and can grow to over 6 feet long! As they mature the male iguanas develop larger jowls (bumps on the side of their heads in the cheek area), larger dewlaps (flaps of skin underneath their chin), fatty deposits that cause bumps on their head, and larger femoral pores (tiny bumps on their hind legs). The females are slimmer and less colorful with no head lumps, less accentuated femoral pores, and smaller jowls and dewlaps. Both males and females usually develop pointed scales and a ridge of flexible spines on the back of their necks and bodies like some dinosaurs (nuchal crest, caudal spines, and dorsal spines); the male's ridge spines tend to be larger than the female's.

Green iguanas have great vision and can perceive colors. Iguanas can slightly change their skin color, although they are not chameleon. They can get darker in the sun to absorb more heat and more colorful or contrasting during breeding season or when they feel threatened, for a few examples. Iguanas molt their skin as they grow and shed patches of skin during a period of several months sometimes, rather than all at once like a snake. They have a transparent scale on the top of their head, called their parietal eye (sometimes referred to as their third-eye), which is an organ that detects light and dark and can alert them to predators overhead.

Typically, a captive iguana lives between 15 to 20 years; in the wild they don't tend to live as long due to predators and other factors. In the wild they can often be found sitting high up in a tree sunning themselves, but they are also excellent swimmers and can drop from a tree to a river or other body of water below to avoid predators.

Jack in his terrariumThey have long and strong tails that they can use to whip anything they perceive as a threat. They also have incredibly sharp teeth as adults and can inflict great harm on people and pets if they feel threatened. They have sharp claws as well, which help them climb trees. For pet iguanas, they should be provided with some bark or logs in their terrarium where they will naturally claw at and "trim" their nails on their own when they play with the rough bark. It's good to know iguanas rarely attack without being provoked, and often shows signs of distress before they initiate an attack of any sort.

Iguanas tend to be territorial, so it's recommended to only keep one pet iguana at a time, or per terrarium. They are not considered social creatures and usually get together only to mate.

Iguanas need lots of sunlight, so it's best to have them by a window and also to supplement with some artificial UV lights.

Our Experience with Our Iguana Iguana Jack falling asleep in my hand

Our baby iguana is named Jack (or Jackie). We don't know if it's a girl or a boy yet and won't know until it gets a little older.

Iguanas are vegetarians, just like my boyfriend and I, and that's one of the reasons he thought he'd make a great pet for us. Their diets consist mainly of fresh greens (some of the most popular favorites have been reported as kale, mustard and turnip greens, cilantro, bok choy, and collards), and fresh fruits and vegetables such as melons, strawberries, bananas, apples, carrots, and sometimes peppers, but not citrus fruits.

When you get a young iguana you must acclimate them to their new home and the new owners. We take him out of his terrarium almost daily and hold him for extended periods of time, talk to him, and pet him. After two or three months now he's starting to "warm up to us," but he still does run when we are initially retrieving him from his terrarium.

Jack in the bath, pet iguanaHe gets a bath almost every night in the tub where he soaks in a few inches of water for about 20 to 30 minutes, then we hold him and he falls asleep in our hands for a bit. Some have reported having an iguana that "was so friendly that he would crawl into people’s laps to be petted."

He gets his little pool of water changed daily, as well as a daily feeding of fresh fruits, vegetables, and supplemental vitamins. He seems content and hopefully he will get even happier still as he gets older and more used to us.


personal experience

Iguanas: Beyond Bones

Green Iguana Society: Iguana Anatomy

How to Care for Iguanas

Additional resources:

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Comments (12)

thank you for highlighting the iguana with your wisdom and great interest to let people know what is expected with these pets. Promoted.

Thanks, Roberta. It's greatly appreciated. : )

Iguanas give me chills. Despite your great information here, I still won't get iguana as a pet. LOL!

Thanks for sharing. This is really a great article.

michele starkey

15 - 20 years?!! That is encouraging for those of us who experience the heartbreak of losing a pet after just 12 years! Great article. cheers ;)

Used to have different types of lizards in this home. Nice article. Voted up.

Great article, and iguanas are really cute.

Still no pets in my household lol... but these are great tips nevertheless!

Good info, people need to be prepared because they get really big, and sadly often people get rid of them at that stage.

An interesting piece here. Voted

Cute little monster :) like iguana. Thanks

I am returning with a well deserved vote up.