Green Iguanas as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: November 29, 2016
Green Iguanas as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips

Pet iguanas are becoming more popular. However, before adopting an iguana you should be aware of their morphology, necessities and habits to see if they suit your lifestyle.

Some people buy or adopt green iguanas because of their striking colors as young individuals and their manageable size, at around 50 cm (20 in) long. But over time, green iguanas can grow to 1.80 m (6 feet) long, which is an unacceptable size for a small apartment.

Do you want to know more about this amazing animal? Get informed on everything related to iguanas as pets and find out if this is your ideal pet in this AnimalWised article with guidelines and general tips.

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Morphology of the green iguana

Iguanas are arboreal reptiles. There are actually two species of iguanas, the green iguana (Iguana iguana) and the Lesser Antillean iguana (Iguana delicatissima), which is smaller and an endangered species. In this article we will talk about the green iguana, as it is a much more common pet.

When green iguanas are young they have a very attractive and bright green color that eventually turns to a dull grey as they become adults. However, green iguanas of different regions turn to different shades, including red, orange or black.

The green iguana always lives near water and, when in danger, has no qualms about jumping in, as it is a very good swimmer. This species inhabits Central and South America, especially the regions around the Caribbean. both Mexican coasts all the way to the south of South America. In captivity, the green iguana lives for about 13 years.

Like lizards and other reptiles, iguanas have the ability to regenerate; they are able to shed their tail if they feels this appendage is being grasped. The tail then regenerates and grows back. However, it will never be as big and beautiful as the original. Furthermore, if it loses its tail again, it will not grow back.

Green Iguanas as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips - Morphology of the green iguana

Keeping a domestic iguana: Things to take into account

To acclimatize your iguana into your home, you must be able to recreate all the suitable conditions of temperature and humidity for the animal to survive. Bear in mind that the green iguana will be 50 cm long when you adopt it but will grow much faster than you think, perhaps even to a colossal 1.80 meters.

Before purchasing a precious young green iguana, make sure it will have sufficient space to live alongside your family. If you have any children, keep in mind that they will also grow up and so will require more space as they get bigger. Assess this before purchasing.

Green Iguanas as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips - Keeping a domestic iguana: Things to take into account

Terrariums for green iguanas

The minimum size of a terrarium for your adult iguana should be at least 150 x 160 x 75 cm (60 x 63 x 30 in). Take into account that the height of the terrarium is more important than the length, since you will have to place a tree trunk inside with branches for the animal to climb on.

The temperature inside the terrarium should range from 28 to 32º C (83 to 90º F). During the night when the animal is less active, you can lower the temperature to 25° C (77º F).

In the bottom of the terrarium there should be a layer of gravel about 11 to 15 cm (6 in) thick, under which you can run the cables for the heater and the UBV 0.5 fluorescent light so that the iguana can properly synthesize vitamin D.

The humidity should range between 70-85%. Aside from a water bowl where its water should be changed daily, it is also recommended to provide a wide and shallow container for bathing.

Apart from the aforementioned trunk, smooth, flat stones and non-toxic plants should decorate the terrarium.

Green Iguanas as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips - Terrariums for green iguanas

A domestic iguana's diet

The iguana eats more frequently when it is young than it does when it becomes an adult. Apart from insects, green iguanas also eat fruits, vegetables, leaves and plants.

You must feed a green iguana 3 times a week, preferably in the morning or the evening. When it reaches adulthood it will need to eat less often. Adult iguanas are herbivorous. Your vet will provide suitable diet guidelines.

Here you can learn more about the diet of the green iguana in detail.

Green Iguanas as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips - A domestic iguana's diet

Keeping a pet iguana healthy

  • Your pet green iguana's health should be regularly monitored by your vet. If you observe any change in color, the brightness of its skin fading or any other physical changes, you must consult your vet as soon as possible so they can assess it.
  • Keep an eye on any white spots on its skin as this can mean that mites are colonizing its dermis. Bathe your iguana in warm water and then clean the terrarium thoroughly.
  • Iguanas can also suffer from ticks, which should be removed with tweezers.
  • A professional should also cut its nails from time to time so it doesn't grow crooked claws.
  • You should avoid drafts and sudden drops in temperature, as green iguanas can suffer from respiratory infections caused by pathogens.
  • Occasionally, iguanas should be given vitamin supplements, always as prescribed by a vet.
Green Iguanas as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips - Keeping a pet iguana healthy

Training your pet iguana

To properly train and socialize your iguana, the first step is to learn how to correctly pick it up. Never grab your iguana by its tail, as it can come off very easily. You must pick it up it gently by the belly, near its front legs.

Watch your iguana's mood. If it tries to strike you using its tail as a whip or aggressively opens its mouth, this means that it does not want to be disturbed.

To train your iguana, which is actually quite difficult, let it loose for one hour outside its terrarium, always under your supervision of course. Then, try to interact with it. After three years, if you stick at it, you will begin to see results.

Green Iguanas as Pets: Guidelines and General Tips - Training your pet iguana

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