Green Iguana by the River

Contrary to its name, the green iguana is not completely green. Adult animals show a play of colors from greyish green to brown to dark gray or black in old age, and male animals in the courtship display even turn orange. This 2m long lizard from the South and Central American lowland forest places high demands on its owner to get as close as possible to the natural habitat of the green iguana, with its dense and tall vegetation and access to a body of water, takes a lot of time, work, and money. So, if you are looking for some tips on how to set up a terrarium for a green iguana – keep reading!

Best Type of Terrarium for a Green Iguana

Now there are 2 options for a green iguana terrarium – buy ready-made or build one yourself. Just be aware that whichever you choose, having the necessary space is extremely important because if the animals do not have this space, diseases and psychological problems can quickly arise. Basically, an iguana terrarium should be taller than it is wide because iguanas really like to climb. Even as young animals, iguanas need a lot of space because they have a very pronounced urge to move and climb. This is essential for a healthy and happy life.

Home-Made Terrarium

Of course, building it yourself saves money and gives you the opportunity to adapt the terrarium to your living space. However, unless you are particularly skilled and have extensive knowledge of what you are doing and the animal’s needs, we do not recommend building your own. An iguana terrarium must be temperate with climate control, it must be escape-proof, and, above all, it has to be safe for the iguana itself. With bad luck, a splinter of wood can mean the difference between life and death.

Ready-Made Terrarium

In most cases, this will be the better and easier choice because you can choose the size and shape required to suit your home that has been made by professionals. Some ready-made terrariums have cool features such as good and safe lighting that is already built-in and you will often get all the information you need beforehand to make sure that the terrarium is suitable for your iguana species.

What Size Terrarium Do Green Iguanas Need?

Green iguanas need a large terrarium of at least 12x6x6 feet (length x width x height) and for each additional animal, 15% space is added. A reptile room converted into a terrarium is ideal. Free running in the apartment is unsuitable. Only a few have the opportunity and often it is simply not feasible, but the most ideal of all solutions would be to convert an entire room into a terrarium. Here they would have their own space and more than enough space to live.

Where do I put my Green Iguana Terrarium?

Although you cannot just put such a large terrarium just anywhere, the positioning of the terrarium can be vital. It is extremely important that the following points are considered when positioning:

  • Is there a draft in the intended location or are the windows often opened?
  • Does the sunshine often and/or for a long time at the intended location?
  • Does the room get very cold at night?
  • Is there a television or similar nearby that might be too loud on a regular basis?

The temperature in and around the terrarium remains as neutral as possible; this makes the location very important so that you can control the temperature as you need it. In this case, neutral means: free from external influences in relation to temperature.

How to Set the Green Iguana Terrarium Temperature

Wooden terrariums are great for simulating the iguana’s native warm zones because wood retains heat better than other materials such as metal. The ambient temperature throughout the terrarium should be set with a thermostat to 77-86°f during the day, and at least 68°f at night. It is important to note that iguanas like to have different temperature zones in the terrarium, meaning that you will need to provide a small area as a basking spot during the day of around 95-100°f. The water temperature in the pool should be 77-80°f, an extra heater may be necessary.

Note: It is best to provide the basking area near the top of the enclosure and then have a hide somewhere in the bottom for cooling off.

How to Set Up Green Iguana Lighting

The terrarium should be illuminated for between 12 and 14 hours a day with a timer that automates the day-night cycle. Iguanas require both UVA & UVB rays to ensure good health, and we use Lucky Herp 100 Watt Mercury Vapor (amazon link – opens in a new tab) at 12-inches from the basking spot to provide heat and light for our iguanas.

Note: It is a good idea to fill in the warranty card and have spares handy in case of your lights burning out which does happen from time to time. Lucky Herp is great to deal with and will send you replacements if this happens.

What Humidity Level does a Green Iguana Need?

A hydrometer is an essential piece of kit that you will need, and it should read over 70% in summer and between 50-70% in winter. If you don’t have a sprinkler system (amazon link – opens in a new tab) or an ultrasonic nebulizer, you can use the spray bottle to provide moisture several times a day.

Recommended for You: Are Iguanas Okay for Beginners?

The Best Substrate for an Iguana Terrarium

There are a lot of substrates that you can use for your iguana, but we use ZGR artificial grass (amazon link – opens in a new tab). This artificial grass isn’t specifically designed for iguanas, but it is extremely durable and works well for the large space needed to cover. Although it is a synthetic material, it is lead-free and non-toxic even when wet making it perfectly safe for iguanas.The material is UV resistant, so the color won’t bleed when exposed to sunlight or the UVB lights your iguana needs, and its design and feel are natural-looking, full, and soft to the touch. There are also drainage holes included in the grass, making them resistant to mold from gathering water and making them easy to clean off. Simply pick up the patches once per week and hose them off and scrub with a cleaner.

Note: These modular grass patches are extremely easy to install, just line them up where you want them to sit and plop them down.

What do Green Iguanas Need in their Terrarium?

In captivity, these lizards require a terrarium that replicates their natural habitat as closely as possible. This means providing plenty of places to hide, climb, and bask. By creating a naturalistic terrarium, you can provide your green iguana with the necessary physical and mental stimulation to stay healthy and happy in captivity.

Climbing Aids

One of the most essential elements of an iguana’s habitat is plenty of branches and perches for them to climb and explore. This allows them to stretch out their long limbs and maintain their natural arboreal posture and movements. Branches should be from non-toxic trees and should be of a suitable diameter for the iguana to grip. Ladders can be made from wood or plastic and should be placed at various angles to provide a challenge. Vines can be real or artificial and offer an additional level of stimulation for your iguana. By providing plenty of climbing opportunities, you can help your iguana stay active and healthy.

Note: Shelves and other flat surfaces will provide the iguana with a good area to bask.

Hiding Places

A green iguana needs a large terrarium with plenty of hiding places. Hiding places are important for iguanas because they help reduce stress levels and also a place to cool off occasionally. Green iguanas are naturally shy and reclusive, so it’s important to provide them with plenty of places to hide. Common hideouts include hollow logs, caves, and dense foliage. It’s also a good idea to include more than one hiding place in the terrarium to give the iguana plenty of options. By providing a green iguana with a proper hiding place, you can help reduce stress and make the animal feel more at home.


Due to their arboreal lifestyle, green iguanas require a lot of vegetation in their terrariums. This not only provides them with a place to hide and climb, but it also helps to regulate humidity levels. Some good plants to include in a green iguana terrarium are pothos, philodendron, and hibiscus. These plants are all easy to care for and provide the iguana with the necessary leafy cover. With a few strategically placed plants, you can create a terrarium that is both aesthetically pleasing and conducive to your iguana’s well-being.


Deciding what kind of pool to include in a green iguana’s terrarium can be a difficult task. There are many factors to consider, such as size, depth, and material. In general, green iguanas need a shallow pool that is large enough for them to fully submerge themselves. The pool should also be made out of a durable material that can withstand the iguana’s claws. Finally, the most important thing is to choose a pool that meets the iguana’s needs and is one that can be easily maintained.

How to Keep an Iguana Terrarium Safe?

When it comes to keeping an iguana in a terrarium, there are several key considerations that must be taken into account in order to maintain a safe and healthy environment for your pet. By following these simple guidelines for keeping your iguana’s terrarium safe and healthy, you can rest assured that your pet will be comfortable and happy in his or her habitat.


For starters, the lighting is crucial to maintaining proper temperatures within the terrarium. It is also important to ensure that the lighting is the required distance from your reptile and cannot be mounted or sat on, as this could potentially injure your iguana.


You will need to choose the right kind of substrate that will not cause any medical issues for your pet. As a rule of thumb, it is usually best to avoid bark chip substrates and opt for something like artificial grass instead.


Please make sure that the branches you choose are thick enough, otherwise, they could break under the weight of larger animals. A branch that has broken and become splintered poses a real danger to your pet.

Legal Protection and Insurance

Even if that sounds a bit strange. Before purchasing, find out in detail what you are allowed by law to do with which animal species and what you are not allowed to do. Iguanas and chameleons, for example, are exotic creatures so you should know what the current animal protection laws are for your species. If you don’t obey the law, you can be accused of animal cruelty or worse. And something like this often happens without intention, but simply through ignorance. We also recommend pet insurance as veterinary trips for exotic animals can be mightily expensive.


If you’re looking for a cheap and easy to care for pet that is fun and interesting, a green iguana is probably not for you! When setting up your terrarium, make sure to provide plenty of places for your iguana to climb and hide, as well as a basking area where it can warm up. Be sure to keep a close eye on the temperature and humidity levels in your terrarium, and always have fresh water available for your iguana. With a little bit of time and effort, you can create a safe and comfortable home for your new pet green iguana.

How to Set Up a Green Iguana Terrarium Infographic

Reptile Wrestler Tips!

“Iguanas love to swim, if you do not have a pool for them to swim in, they love to have a bath!”

“Ensure that your UVB lighting is not behind glass, the wavelengths that the iguana needs do not pass through glass!”

“Fully grown iguanas are quite big so make sure that the vines and branches are strong enough to support your iguana!”

“If you are lucky enough to have the space, converting a whole room for your iguana is the best option to provide a more realistic environment!”

Reptile Wrestler


Can iguanas swim in chlorine pools?

Iguanas can swim in chlorine pools, but it’s not the best thing for them and they should wait for a day or two after a pool has been chlorinated before swimming in it. Chlorine can be harsh on their skin and eyes, so it’s best to err on the side of caution. Saltwater is much better for their skin and scales.

What is the difference between a male and a female iguana?

Male and female iguanas are very similar but there are a few small differences. Males have a larger head, a dewlap that is up to 30% larger, larger cheeks, and a dorsal crest that is about 5 cm higher than females. The differences are only clearly recognizable from 1 year.

Do iguanas need heat?

Yes. Iguanas are unable to regulate their own body temperature and rely on absorbing heat from external sources. An iguana’s digestion and other bodily processes only work properly at the right temperature, so iguanas have to strive to maintain an ideal body temperature throughout the day.

About Me

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.

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