Although notoriously difficult to tame, iguanas are a popular type of reptile that can be kept as pets. All iguanas generally require the same intensive level of care, but different types of iguanas in the world still have their own quirks and unique colorings. Perhaps the most popular pet iguana types include the beautiful green, desert, rhinoceros, spiny tailed and blue subspecies.
When asked the color of a lizard, most people will probably answer, green. And we all think that for a reason—the most common pet iguana, a type of lizard itself, is, in fact, the green subspecies.
These iguanas originate from South America, natively found in the regions of Brazil and Paraguay. They are herbivores that only eat leafy greens, vegetables, fruits and flowers, and they’re known to grow up to seven feet long from tip to tail! They can also weigh upwards of 20 pounds, so it’s vital that they have a cage full of ample space that accommodates their ever-growing size. Along with their prominent green coloring, they can have unique markings of blue, white, black, pink and purple, among virtually every other color.
This type of iguana may also be a great starter pet since it has been said by some green iguana owners that these reptiles are a little more affectionate than other breeds. If you’d like to keep this iguana as a pet though, keep in mind that they can grow up to seven feet long with a tail that is almost always three times their body length.
Unlike the green subtype that originates from tropical areas, the desert iguana comes right from the deserts of North America—think Southwest United States and Mexico. These iguanas support sandy-colored skin and only grow up to two feet in length, though that doesn’t mean they can be placed in small areas. They have meaty arms fit for desert-style rock climbing and they’re used to hiding in hot climates, so their cages must accommodate their native lifestyle in order to keep them happy.
Similar to the green iguana, the desert iguana is known for being docile in nature. Desert iguanas can be easily handled by pet owners with even a little bit of reptile handling experience although you should never handle baby desert iguanas, as they have very fragile skin.
Named after the rhinoceros-like horns that grow on the faces of the males, these iguanas are native to parts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. They are often very muscular, growing up to five feet in length and weighing up to 20 pounds or more. This type of iguana is also known for their feisty temperament, so owners must handle them with lots of care.
These iguanas may also live a very long time if kept in the right conditions with some living upwards of 20 years. In the wild, they are endangered, but in captivity, they are somewhat easier to care for than the green iguana because they do not require high levels of humidity in their enclosures.
Spiny Tailed Iguana
Native to parts of Central America, this iguana loves a hot and dry climate. They are great climbers that will become aggressive, frequently raising the spiny scales on their back in defense—hence, the name, spiny tailed.
There are many different breeds of spiny tailed iguanas which all vary greatly in size. For example, the Yucatan spiny tailed iguana may only grow up to 10 inches long while the black spiny tailed iguana can be up to five feet in length. A lot of the sub-species love basking in the sun though, so outdoor enclosures work best for these lizards.
An extremely unique iguana that comes from the Cayman Islands, this iguana is known for their bright blue coloring and large size, as they can grow to weigh over 30 pounds. Although this type is not as aggressive as some others, they are protected by the islands because they are an endangered species, making them unlikely to find as a pet.
The Blue Iguana is also one of the largest of the iguana species, weighing up to 30 pounds with a body length of five feet on average. They love to climb and dig, so their enclosures need to provide lots of trees and substrate to accommodate this. While they are less commonly kept, the blue iguana can make a great pet for well-experienced owners who do not have an interest in handling them since they have a strong bite when aggravated.
Do Iguanas Make Good Pets?
Iguanas are often difficult for beginner lizard keepers to tame, as they are very aggressive and not naturally accustomed to human touch. However, some intermediate owners can take on the green types of iguanas as pets. As they are most commonly found, they are the easiest type to handle, so long as owners are committed to understanding their unique nature.
Iguanas also require very specific habitats, often depending on the species of iguana, so owners need to take this into account before acquiring one. Often, iguanas require five-by-five foot or larger pens with multiple heating lights covering two-thirds of the enclosure. These lizards may also be kept outdoors in areas with warm desert climates; however, owners that live in cooler climates must find an indoor space that is consistently above 75 degrees Fahrenheit for these pets.
All iguanas love fresh food, too, so be ready to feed them mixed greens and fresh edible plants daily. Some owners like to grow a small garden, either indoors or outdoors, to provide edible flowers, carrots, clover and fruits to their lizards. Iguanas also need a lot of protein which can be found in dried or fresh insects like crickets and mealworms, both of which you may purchase through a pet store.
While iguanas do require a lot of special care, they can make a great pet for semi-experienced lizard keepers. And, since may are endangered in the wild, taking care of domesticated iguanas may help keep their species alive for years to come.