Iguanas provide exoticism and a touch of primeval times in your living room. Keeping these animals is fascinating and demanding at the same time.
They are popular beginner pets although many end up at rescue centers because people do not do their homework and learn how big they get and the species’ specific needs.
Beginners should therefore find out extensive information about the living habits and the setup of a terrarium and obtain comprehensive information about keeping and caring for these exotic animals before purchasing them.
I have seen various posts online that state that iguanas are okay for beginners – these posts have probably been written by people that have never owned their own or only handled iguanas under controlled conditions.
Read on to find out if iguanas are okay for beginners.
What do Iguanas Look Like?
Iguanas are reptiles and look like little dragons or tiny dinosaurs. They have long tails and rough scales on their skin.
Depending on the species, iguanas can reach a body length of 14cm to 2m. The hallmark of the iguanas is their powerful tail, which is usually much longer than the rest of the body. The tail is used for balance when climbing or as a weapon for defense.
In most cases, their heads are provided with crests of scales or dewlap, which are more pronounced in males than in females and they usually have small scales on their backs, while these are larger and more irregular on their stomachs.
The weight of iguanas varies depending on the subspecies. The blue iguana can reach a weight of up to 14 kg and have a body length of up to 76 cm, while the green iguana can reach a weight of 4-5 kg with a length of up to 2 m.
Iguanas also have a third eye called the apex eye. As the name suggests, it sits on the crown of the animal. Although it looks like a scale, the iguana can use it to distinguish between light and dark and it also prevents the animals from lying in the sun for too long.
Another distinctive feature is the throat pouch. It is used for temperature control on the one hand and for communication on the other.
Are Pet Iguanas Dangerous?
Don’t get me wrong, some iguanas are quite docile but in general, pet iguanas can be extremely dangerous, and they can be very temperamental. If you decide to get an iguana as a pet, you need to be prepared to deal with these potential dangers.
Iguanas can and do bite people, and their bites can do a lot of damage and be very painful as they have a strong mouths full of razor-sharp teeth.
They also have an extremely powerful tail which has been known to break bones and cause other serious injuries. Iguanas can also be very aggressive to people they do not know, and they have been known to attack people without warning.
Aside from being temperamental, female iguanas can also be dangerous, particularly when they are about to lay their eggs (which they can do even without a male present although they will remain unfertilized).
Important: Never grab an iguana quickly from above or behind like a prey animal – their natural defense mechanism may kick in and pose you a danger.
Are Iguanas Easy to Tame?
Iguanas are curious and sensitive animals. Approaches should therefore be made with gentle and cautious movements. Frantic movements only scare the animal away.
In the beginning, you should first try to feed the iguana from your hand. If this works, you can start touching the animal carefully. Patience is the be-all and end-all here. You also have to deal with the animal regularly.
With good care, an iguana will have the potential to become tame. You can even hold and carry it afterward although great care should be taken when handling the animals, as iguanas have very good memories and will remember bad behavior from their owner.
It usually takes 3 to 4 weeks for the lizard to get used to its new environment and you can start offering the animal small treats with your hands.
You should really get an iguana as a juvenile but if you decide to get a rescue, you should definitely wear thick gloves when handling your new pet – at least in the beginning.
Note: Handling your iguana from a young age is important as your iguana will need its nails trimmed regularly but be sure to be careful and not injure your animal.
How Much do Iguanas Cost?
Aside from the purchase of your reptile which can be anything from $50-$500, there is also a great deal of other running and maintenance costs to consider. A wide variety of technologies are used to regulate temperature and humidity.
Note: Lighting, humidifiers, heat sources, and measuring and control devices are particularly important.
In general, iguanas should be kept in a large terrarium at least 12x6x6 feet. Some experts even recommend setting up a separate room for the animal such as a heated basement or a conservatory.
Terrariums are reasonably inexpensive but if you are offering a whole room to your pet, you could see costs soar.
Artificial grass is best for the base of your terrarium, but iguanas are known to love to dig – particularly females when they are about to lay their eggs, but males occasionally dig too.
Therefore, they will need a sufficient layer of substrate or soil in their new home – preferably located in one small area which can be used as a nesting site and not across the whole terrarium.
Plants can also be used for decoration although the animals quite often regard them as a delicacy. Therefore, care must be taken to not select plants that are poisonous to the iguana.
Green iguanas are also avid climbers, so ideally the terrarium should be taller rather than wide. In addition, it should have enough climbing opportunities. Branches and trunks are a must. These must be thick and stable enough for the iguana to settle down comfortably.
All iguana species have one thing in common: they cannot maintain their own body temperature meaning that they have very specific requirements for their environment. The average temperature during the day should be around 30° and rise to up to 42 ° in local sunspots. At night, the temperature can be a little lower, but it should not go below 22 °.
The humidity should be around 70 – 80% during the day and rise to more than 90% at night.
To ensure the right environment, you will need heat, light, and other such devices like this auto-misting humidifier (amazon link – opens in a new tab) so this is where a great deal of your expense will come from – not to mention the energy that will be used to keep these working full-time.
Iguanas living in the terrarium are fed once or twice a day. They are herbivores and eat leaves, fruits, and vegetables. You should find out in detail which food is most suitable for the species you intend to purchase.
The main components of the iguana diet are leaves and lettuce. 5% of the feed may also consist of fruits. Since an underdose or overdose of vitamins and calcium is harmful to the animals, the addition of vitamins and calcium should always be adjusted to the weight of the iguanas.
A varied diet is important, and an iguana should have at least 6-8 different types of plants every day. They like to eat dandelions, for example, but also commercially available vegetables and various types of fruit.
In addition, the reptiles need fresh water to drink every day.
Recommended for You: How to Set Up a Green Iguana Terrarium
Can You Have More than One Iguana in the Same Tank?
Since iguanas live in large social groups in nature, they are best kept in pairs in captivity. It is best to keep one male and one female together although having a harem with one male and two females is preferred so that the male’s vigorous mating attempts can be divided between the two females.
Several males should never be kept together! They can be extremely territorial, and their attitude towards each other leads to mostly brutal turf wars.
Do Iguanas Shed their Skin?
Yes, iguanas do shed their skin, but the process and frequency vary depending on their age. Juvenile iguanas shed approximately every 4-6 weeks, while adults tend to shed around once a year.
In both cases, the shedding helps the iguana get rid of any parasites or other foreign bodies that may be clinging to its skin. It also allows them to renew their protective outer layer and keep growing. The shedding process usually takes from a few days to up to two weeks.
When an iguana is about to shed, you may notice that its color becomes duller, and it begins to scratch itself more frequently. Once the old skin starts peeling away, the new skin underneath will be brighter and smoother.
Once the majority of the old skin has been shed, the iguana may spend some time licking itself clean before heading off to bask in the sun for a bit (this helps to speed up the drying and hardening of the new skin).
Important: If you think your iguana isn’t shedding enough, or if it seems to be having trouble shedding its skin, it’s best to take him/her to the vet for a checkup.
Are Iguanas Easy to Care For?
No, iguanas are not particularly ‘easy’ to care for so if you’re looking for a low-maintenance pet, an iguana is probably not the right choice for you.
Their diet is complicated, and their feeding needs to be carefully managed to ensure they’re getting all the nutrients they need.
The water basin is particularly important as it is used for drinking and bathing but also helps control the humidity and since iguanas mostly do their business in the water, the tank needs to be cleaned regularly.
So, from regular cleaning of the substrate to daily water changes, not to mention keeping them regularly socialized to prevent aggression, they require a lot of time and attention.
Must Read: Are Leopard Geckos Good for Beginners?
So, are Iguanas Okay for Beginners? A bit of a loaded question really. Iguanas are popular beginner pets although many end up at rescue centers because people do not do their homework and learn how big they get and the species’ specific needs.
Iguanas are pure vegetarians. Fresh drinking water and varied feeds are the be-all and end-all. In this way, the animals are supplied with the minerals they need.
As long as you are well-researched and prepared for the commitment, Iguanas are fine for a beginner. That being said, if you are looking for an inexpensive, low-maintenance pet and intend to learn along the way, an iguana is not suitable.
Reptile Wrestler Tips!
“If you decide to keep 2 – make sure you get a male and a female!”
“Research, research, research – DO NOT get an iguana unless you are well-prepared!”
“Iguanas love water. Some animals also like to take a bath in the bathtub once a week!”
“Handle your iguana regularly from when they are very small as iguanas that have not been handled can become aggressive!”
How old do iguanas get?
The green iguana can live up to 20 years; However, scientists suspect that in the wild other iguana species can live to 80 years or even older, although this is unconfirmed.
How big do iguanas get?
Green iguanas can reach up to 2m in length. Another common, smaller species of iguana is the spiny-tailed iguana which only grows to about 60cm in length.
Do iguanas eat their shed skin?
Yes, one of the most amazing things about an iguana’s shedding process is that they actually eat their own skin! That’s right! after they peel it off in strips, they turn around and consume it. Why do they do this? Scientists believe that eating shed skin provides valuable nutrients and helps promote healthy growth.
Can iguanas eat cucumbers?
Yes, iguanas can eat cucumbers. Cucumbers are a good source of hydration, and they contain essential nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin B6, and vitamin K. They also have a high water content (about 95%) and are low in calories, making them a good choice for a healthy snack.
Can iguanas eat basil?
As for whether or not iguanas can eat basil specifically, the answer is yes! Iguanas love eating leafy greens, and basil is a perfect example of a suitable green for them to munch on. Just make sure that the basil leaves you’re feeding your iguana are fresh and free of any pesticides or other chemicals.
Can iguanas eat mint leaves?
Yes, iguanas can eat mint leaves. In fact, mint leaves are a great source of vitamins and minerals for iguanas, such as vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, and manganese. Mint leaves also have a high level of antioxidants which help to protect the cells in the body from damage.
Hi, I’m Stuart and I’ve had reptiles for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, I studied for a master’s in Herpetology. Over the years I have worked at several zoos before opening my very own reptile sanctuary. In my spare time, I run this website – which is a resource for people who want to learn more about their little beasties.