What To Know Before Buying An Iguana

live iguana lizard
live iguana lizard is wearing a cowboy hat (bearded dragon)

While iguanas are fascinating, caring for one requires a lot of work. So before you get an iguana as a pet ask yourself “what do I need to know before I buy an iguana?”.  Anyone considering an iguana as a pet should do their homework and make sure they know what they are getting into. An iguana for a child’s pet should be pondered at length because the amount of work involved in relation to the child’s age predicts how soon Mom and Dad will be taking over the reptile care.

Hard to Care For

Iguanas are one of the most popular reptiles kept as pets. (See – The Most Exotic Animals In The World) Millions are bred and imported from Central and South America for pets. They are sold in pet stores as mouse-sized “hatchlings” and are extremely cute, but an adult iguana can be to five or six feet long. They are one of the world’s largest tree-climbing lizards.

There are smaller reptiles that make very good pets like geckos, bearded dragons, and skinks. A fully grown iguana is much stronger than you might imagine and they have personalities to match. Iguanas need a diet rich in fresh and varied fruits and vegetables every day. Iguana food can be purchased at the local pet store, but is not the optimal choice. They will eat it, but it can make them ill.

Iguanas can be tamed and one grown from a hatchling and handled frequently will yield the best results. Adults that are not handled on a regular basis can return to their wild instincts and may bite and slash with their strong tail that can be up to 50 percent of the body’s length.


Iguanas require a source of UV light that protects from bone disease, as well as a certain humidity and temperature level. As large as the reptile itself, the enclosure must be bigger; ideally it should be 12 feet long, 6 feet wide and high. Some iguana parents turn a spare bedroom into an iguana bedroom. Iguanas can live up to 20 years in the wild and in captivity when properly cared for, so adopting one is a long-term commitment. There are huge numbers of iguanas turned in to rescue groups that rarely get adopted because the lure of the adult iguana cannot beat the allure of the tiny hatchlings. Regular upkeep such as cleaning the enclosure, changing the substrate and replacing the fluorescent UVB light will add to the cost and the effort involved to properly care for an iguana.

Iguanas are fascinating creatures with a dinosaur-like appearance, are smart enough to learn commands and their caregivers voice. They can swim under water for more than 20 minutes, can survive falls up to 40 feet, and are very quick on land.

Vet Care

Iguanas will need regular vet care just like cats and dogs and not every vet is trained to handle exotic animals, so the location in relation to where you live to a vet that is qualified to handle an iguana needs to be taken into consideration.  The acquisition of the iguana will be the least amount of money required to take on the job of iguana parents considering hundreds of dollars will likely be needed for a habitat and proper food. It is doable but be prepared for the work and expense involved.




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