The Beginners Guide To Green Iguana

Reptiles can always be an excellent pet for your home. However, not all reptiles are created equal. If you are looking for a reptile pet that can get very big, you should look into green iguanas. They are perfect for pet owners who look to level up their reptile-keeping game.

Nowadays, green iguanas are becoming more popular among pet owners. However, there are a lot of factors you should consider before getting one for your home. They can take more commitment and effort compared to other reptile pets, but with proper knowledge and preparation, owing them can be manageable.

To keep green iguanas, you can begin by learning all the necessary information. For your convenience, we have gathered the essential details one would need to start owning an excellent green iguana pet.


Green iguanas are giant green lizards that thrive on land. These animals do most of their activities during the day. They are commonly called green iguanas, but their scientific name is Iguana iguana.

Although they are called green iguanas, many appear to be of varied colors. These red variants are still classified as Iguana iguana. Usually, the ones sold in pet shops are genetically selected to be primarily green.

They have a parietal eye on the top portion of their heads. People refer to this as their third eye. It helps them sense movement and light but cannot identify shapes and colors. They use this eye to be ready for birds about to prey on them.

These iguanas have massive jaws which hold their sharp teeth. They can also grow to enormous sizes. They have dewlaps which are large flaps of skin below their chin. They use it to communicate and to help regulate heat. Males have larger dewlaps than females. They can grow to 6.6 ft and be as heavy as 11 lbs. Despite being bulky beings, they can move very quickly on land.

Habitat (where from in the wild, temperatures, conditions, etc.)

Green iguanas live in places with a tropical climate. These iguanas prefer to live in trees near water. This living condition allows them to leap from branch to branch or hide in the water if needed. They thrive in rainforests. There, the warmth is optimal for their daily lives. That is why in the wild, these awesome lizards reside in places like Caribbean islands, Central America, and even some tropical parts of South America.

These reptiles also live in places like Mexico but are now considered endangered. These vast lizards can also be found in the landscapes of Paraguay and Brazil. Due to human intervention, green iguanas have been introduced to many new places. A lot of iguanas now live in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. They are even considered invasive in Texas, Hawaii, and Florida. They are also introduced to countries such as Fiji and Japan.

Although these vast lizards thrive in rainforests, they can also live well in other types of forests. Some green iguana groups stay in gallery forests and dry forests. They also do well on mangroves since these trees grow in groups near bodies of water.

What Do They Eat?

If you’re thinking of getting green iguanas for pets but worried about what food to feed them, then worry no more. These massive lizards are herbivores. As mentioned before, they live in trees. While living in the trees, they move from branch to branch, munching on leaves. They also eat fruits now and then. At times, they depend on eating insects to supplement their plant-based diet. Younger green iguanas do this more often to help them grow strong and healthy.

There are a lot of things you can feed your pet iguana. You can replicate their diet in the wild by giving them a lot of vegetables with a few fruits. It would be best if you mostly gave your pet dark green leafy meals. These plants usually have the nutrients suited to your pet’s needs.

These lizards need a considerable amount of calcium to be healthy. You can give them a lot of kale and parsley to provide this. Sometimes, you can also feed them spinach and beet greens. You can also contact your local vet to consult for supplements.

You can prepare collards and turnip greens for your iguana. They would also be okay with broccoli and bell peppers. They also like eating okras and peas. If you want to include minimal fruits in their diet, unpeeled apples and pears can work well.

How Long Do They Live?

Like other reptile pets, green iguanas take a lot of commitment. They can live for a very long time. Even in the wild, these massive lizards have no problem living for two decades. They are predated by birds, snakes, and at times even humans. But still, wild green iguanas average 20 years.

Their lifespan in captivity can tell you that they are challenging pets. Pet green iguanas sometimes die early due to mishandling and malnutrition. But if you dedicate time and effort to learn and prepare what they need, you can have these excellent pets for a long time. The average lifespan for pet green iguanas is about ten years. Of course, there are many cases where these pets live as long as their wild counterparts. Similar to other reptile pets, green iguanas grow with you. So, even though they take time and commitment, they are worth it.

Type of Enclosure

To ensure that your pets are healthy and they get to live as long as their wild counterparts, you should see that their enclosure is as close to their natural habitat as possible. With that being said, it is crucial to plan your enclosure carefully. You can buy and install pre-made enclosures, but you can also choose to create one yourself.

One of the first things you should consider is the size of your pet. While young and small, your pet green iguana might fit into a 20-gallon aquarium. However, as they reach their full size, they will need a 12 feet long and 6 feet wide enclosure.

It is recommended to use cypress mulch as a substrate or you can also use topsoil. Another challenge of owning green iguanas is that they need UVB lighting. It is vital to install UVB lighting for your pet’s enclosure.

You can also dedicate a particular spot in the enclosure where your pet can relax during the day. They like to rest on high platforms near the light source.


Green Iguanas usually reach sexual maturity when they reach 18 months. You can talk to your veterinarian so they can accurately identify the sex of your pet. Green iguanas are notoriously tricky to sex in their early stages, and only professionals can accurately tell males and females apart. As they grow older, their difference becomes more apparent. Males will have bumps on top of their heads, and their spikes are longer than that of females.

Once your pet begins breeding, this cycle will occur around the same time every year unless you move to a different place. When it is time for mating, males act aggressively. They also become more territorial and can even slightly change in color. On the other hand, females will begin eating less frequently. They will also start digging or creating nests.

After mating, the female will be gravid for 65-85 days. They will gestate better in humid climates because cold temperatures can make the overall process longer. It usually takes 2-5 weeks. After which, it will lay about 40 eggs. This number can increase or decrease according to your pet’s health. After laying, provide the female iguana with enough water. You should bring your pet to your vet within the week of the egg laying. Do this to ensure no eggs are stuck in their oviduct.

You should then incubate the eggs for about 60-90 days. You can buy an incubator or choose to build one yourself. It will work fine if the temperature ranges between 85-91 °F. 

Final Thoughts

Green iguanas are not introductory pets and might not work well for newbies. If you are looking for your first reptile, you will be better off with a bearded dragon. However, if you have been keeping reptiles for a long time and want an excellent addition to your collection, you can go with green iguanas.

Much preparation and effort is required to enjoy owning a green iguana. It would be best if you have plenty of space as these lizards can grow very large as they reach adulthood. They also need a lot of foods that are appropriate for their specific needs.

However, if you are willing to go through all the needed learning and preparations, you can go for it. Just get in touch with veteran reptile keepers who can guide you through the entire process. It is also hard to transport adult green iguanas, so you should find a veterinarian who can attend to your pet’s needs near your area

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