The Best Pet Iguanas for beginners are the Green Iguana and the Desert Iguana. That being said, iguana’s are not the easiest reptiles to keep as a pet.
If you didn’t already know, there are about 35 recognized species of iguanas. You should do your research, check them out, and figure out which pet iguana species is the best for you. If possible, maybe even go to a pet store to interact with them and see how you will feel.
Before you adopt or buy one (please only buy captive bred) make sure you know what is required space wise and what is expected from a good iguana owner.
Top 5 Best Pet Iguanas For Beginner & Intermediate Keepers
1. Green Iguana
- Experience Level: Beginner
- Family: Iguanidae
- Scientific Name: Iguana iguana
- Other Names: Common Iguana, American Iguana
- Adult Size: 11 to 16 inches
- Lifespan: 15 to 20 years
- Average Price Range: $20 to $200 (depending on age, sex, and size)
The Green Iguana is the most popular species in the pet trade with about a million imported to the United States yearly. They are attractive to people because of their unique look and relaxed demeanor.
These lizards are larger and will usually have a tail that can grow up to triple their body length. It is detachable and they will drop it as a defense mechanism against prey.
They also have a dewlap, which is the extra hanging piece of skin you’ll see under their chin. On their head, they have immovable eyes and sharp teeth in their mouths.
They have beautifully bright green skin with hues of greys and browns sometimes too, depending on the lizard. They can also turn orange when mating season comes around.
Green Iguanas are intelligent and have been seen acting “affectionately” toward their owners, remembering who they are as well. They are docile creatures, making them excellent pets for beginner iguana keepers.
However, you will want to make sure you are caring for them in all the ways they need completely.
They come from tropical and subtropical rainforests of North and South America. You can find them in Central America, northern Mexico, the Caribbean, and South Brazil. They spend their lives in the trees, only coming down to change trees, mate, or lay their eggs.
Besides being arboreal, they are actually quite fast in water and land as well, so don’t underestimate them.
Green Iguanas are herbivores that enjoy eating leaves, flowers, fruit, and growing shoots of hundreds of different species of plant. While they are herbivorous, some wild Greens have been seen eating birds’ eggs.
2. Desert Iguana
- Experience Level: Beginner
- Family: Iguanidae
- Scientific Name: Dipsosaurus dorsalis
- Adult Size: 14 to 20 inches
- Lifespan: 7 to 14 years
- Average Price Range: $35 to $60 (depending on age, sex, and size)
- Where to buy: www.backwaterreptiles.com
Desert Iguanas come from the Sonoran and Mojave deserts in the southwestern parts of the United States as well as northwestern Mexico. They are a very common breed of lizards in these areas and you can find them roaming around freely.
Their colors might range from a light grey to sometimes tan or white, and some might even be a green-brown hue. They have light spots or net-like patterns on their bodies that come together to form almost a gradient to dark-colored bands throughout their long tails.
Their colors work as a perfect camouflage against the desert sands of golds and browns. They also change their colors in order to regulate body temperatures from a darker shade for cooler times and lighter shades for warm weather.
They may also turn a slight pink in hue when mating season comes around.
These docile creatures are good for beginners since they can become accustomed to handling. They are docile, easy to care for, and laid-back, making them safe around children as well.
It is important to warn you, though, that they can get a little aggressive during mating season and their bites can break the skin.
The Desert Iguana is herbivorous and likes to eat creosote bush flowers, alfalfa leaves, dandelion flowers, and prickly pear cacti. While they will mostly eat a vegetarian diet, they might occasionally eat a small number of insects in the wild.
You can feed your pet small diced vegetables and fruits like berries, tomatoes, oranges, pumpkin, sunflower seeds, corn, sesame seeds, and small nuts.
3. Rhino Iguana
- Experience Level: Intermediate
- Family: Iguanidae
- Scientific Name: Cyclura cornuta
- Other names: Rhinocerus Iguana
- Adult Size: 2 to 4 feet
- Lifespan: 20 to 40 years
- Average Price Range: $100 to $600 (depending on age, sex, and size)
The Rhinoceros Iguana is native to the dry tropical forests of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
While they are mainly herbivores, eating mainly fruits, seeds, and a variety of flowers and leaves, you may also see them eating some animals such as invertebrates, birds, and small mammals.
They get their name from their bony, horn-like bulge on their snouts, making them resemble a rhino. They have thick legs and large jowls that are a prominent, signature look of the Rhino Iguana.
Their colors can range from various shades of grey, browns, and greens.
They have been dubbed the most charming species of iguanas. It is one of the most popular choices for a pet iguana among enthusiasts and collectors alike due to its shy, but friendly, nature.
They are docile and usually won’t bite unless provoked, but excessive handling would annoy any iguana. Handling should be avoided until your iguana is used to your presence, even though you might want to pet and hold your new lizard right away.
Don’t forget those huge, strong jaws we just mentioned; their bites can be very bad to deal with. You may never have to experience it though since they are calm creatures by nature.
While they can be good pets, they are not recommended for first-timers only since they have a variety of specific needs when it comes to feeding as well as their environment. Also, don’t forget they can weigh up to 20 pounds when fully grown.
They also live for 20 years for longer if cared for well, so it’s going to be just like the commitment of getting a dog, but with more special requirements.
But overall, they are friendly and are known to become attached to their owners. They might even start following you around like a puppy.
4. Black Spiny Tailed Iguana
- Experience Level: Intermediate
- Family: Iguanidae
- Scientific Name: Ctenosaura similis
- Other Names: Black Iguana, Black Ctenosaur
- Adult Size: 3 to 5 feet
- Lifespan: 60 years
- Average Price Range: $30 to $200 (depending on age, sex, and size)
- Where to buy: www.lllreptile.com, www.backwaterreptiles.com
The Black Spiny-tailed Iguana gets its name from its chunky, black or grey body with either black or white stripes along with its tail. Adults may be a greyer color with dark bands and male Black Spiny-tails may develop orange colorings along their head and throat.
They are true to their name with small ridges along the length of their neck, body, and down their tail.
While they do enjoy hanging out in burrows or hides, they are actually great climbers.
They also really enjoy basking in the sunlight to get a little bit of that Vitamin D. They love the sunshine, so give them some time to bask.
While they are more skittish in the wild, captive-bred Spiny Tails might be more accustomed to being around humans. However, this does not mean that they will trust you easily.
You must earn the trust of this lizard before they will ever become accustomed to you. With a little bit of time, hand-feeding, and patience, you might be able to become friends.
These iguanas are native to Central America, Colombia, and Mexico. They like hot, dry areas or moist forests.
They eat a wide range of things but mostly enjoy feeding on insects, smaller lizards, leaves, fruits, flowers, rodents, bats, fish, sea turtle or lizard eggs, and even their very own eggs and hatchlings! Yikes.
5. Blue Iguana
- Experience Level: Beginner to Intermediate
- Family: Iguanidae
- Scientific Name: Cyclura lewisi
- Other Names: Grand Cayman Ground Iguana, Cayman Island Rock Iguana, Grand Cayman Blue Iguana
- Adult Size: 5 feet
- Lifespan: 24 to 40 years
- Average Price Range: $800 to $2,000 per iguana
As you might have already seen from the prices listed, the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana is a pricey iguana to get your hands on. This is because they are endangered in the wild and are very hard to find.
They were nearly extinct when there were only about 10 to 20 left of their species. Today, there are about 750 roaming the wild.
The price of these lizards is due to them being an endangered species, meaning they cannot be illegally exported by law as well. The Department of Agriculture is currently trying to stop any attempts to do so.
They roam the Grand Cayman Islands, hence their name, which is located in the western Caribbean, Sea south of Cuba. Here, the weather is dry to subtropical with moist forests where these lizards like to hide in the shrubbery and woodlands.
They thrive in the sunshine on warm mornings.
They love to make homes out of tree hollows and caves or rock formations near the water. These Blue Iguanas like dry, rocky forests with thorny cacti and forests where all the food is, of course.
Speaking of food, these guys are primarily herbivores, eating stems, leaves, flowers, and fruits but will be seen very occasionally eating some fungi, soil, insects, slugs, larvae, dead birds, and feces. You can feed your pet sweet potatoes, carrots, and leafy green vegetables.
The main things that you can’t give them are hard-to-digest plants like bok-choy, cauliflower, broccoli, turnips, brussel sprouts, and cabbage.
They are called Blue Iguanas because of their distinct, beautiful, turquoise coloration. Their bodies are chunky, and spiny from their neck to their tails, and their jowls are tremendous.
Some may have dark markings or stripes across their backs as well. Others may have some gray spots or duller blue coloration in some spots.
When they are relaxed and unbothered, they are their distinct turquoise blue but if they are stressed out, threatened, or cold, they may start to exhibit a greener hue.
A good way to tell if they are comfortable with you is if they lick you. They are showing submissiveness and it is a sign that they are in a good mood.
While they can be docile creatures, it’s hard to say for sure whether or not they are made for domestication. They are known for trying to escape their homes if they feel threatened.
Adult iguanas may grow accustomed to the domesticated life or they might just be lazy, causing them to become too comfortable and even more docile, making them a good pet when not skittish.
Becoming an Iguana Owner
It’s very important that you first know about what goes into keeping an iguana.
Yeah, sure, you might want to look cool with a cool lizard sitting on your shoulder, but it’s not only about them being cute. They are a living being that has specific needs and it is up to you as their owner to provide them with that comfort.
Some things you should consider when it comes to getting an iguana are the size of the enclosure they will need, the environment within that enclosure, their safety, and whether or not they’re the right pet for you.
They can weigh up to twenty pounds or more and will require a large, sturdy enclosure that will provide enough space for their bodies, which can grow up to over 6 feet, depending on the breed.
Within that habitat, it will need to be close to their natural habitat in the wild; so lots of desert floor and life-like trees for them to climb.
Iguanas come from tropical as well as desert regions, so depending on your iguana species, you will need to watch their daytime temperatures and humidity levels closely to keep the numbers as accurate as possible so that they stay healthy.
Many beginners will take in iguanas that will die within two years of captivity due to improper husbandry and unchecked temperatures. It is seriously important that you are prepared for an iguana as a pet.
Do you have the space and are you prepared to pay for the costs of their enclosure?
You also need to keep in mind that they are not that interactive and will most likely not want to be on your arm all day. You need to consider their needs as a species rather than what you want.
Generally, we do not recommend iguanas for complete beginners who might have never had a reptile as a pet before. This is not a starter lizard so when we say “Beginner Experience Level”, we mean they are more friendly or easier to take care of.
If you understand all this and still just want to care for one because you love them, carry on reading while we list out our top iguana species to have as pets:
Are iguanas good pets?
Since iguanas can grow to be quite large and have specific requirements, they can sometimes not make the best house pets.
Not only will they need a lot of space, but the conditions in that room have to be just right for their species or they could become very unhealthy and even die.
If you have a room dedicated to your iguana with enough space for them to roam around, you will have to keep a good eye on the temperatures.
They need warm, humid environments basically all year round and love to bask in the sunlight. This is why people who live in areas with this kind of weather can keep their iguanas outside.
As long as their shelter doesn’t get cooler than 50 degrees Fahrenheit and they have access to water, they should do great.
So do they make good house pets? It depends on where you live and what the weather is like there. If you can control temperatures in the room you house them in, then it can totally work.
Is an iguana a good pet for a child?
Iguanas are not considered a good beginner reptile due to their specific feeding and environmental needs. It takes skill, knowledge, and patience to really learn to care for them in the best way you possibly can.
Most lizards do not typically like being handled in general, so they definitely will not enjoy children. Also, keep in mind that all reptiles carry the Salmonella bacteria, which is harmless to them but can infect us badly, causing serious disease.
An adult should not allow their child to completely care for this pet by themselves since it takes a lot more work than a child can handle but if they want to carry it or pet it, that should be fine as long as you take proper precautions.
Teach them how to properly handle your pet so that no one gets hurt and your lizard does not act out in defense, possibly hurting the child or losing its tail.
You might also want to trim their claws before allowing a child to handle it in order to prevent scratches.
Do iguanas like to be petted?
Iguanas don’t genuinely enjoy being touched. However, you can train your lizard to tolerate it.
When they close their eyes into a petting session, it’s not a cute way to show you that they are enjoying it, as most people might think.
With patience and proper daily handling, you can tame your iguana into tolerating touch. If you keep their routine predictable, they will feel a lot more comfortable and less defensive.
However, do not forget that they have strong self-defense instincts, which might cause them to scratch, drop their tails, and even bite if they think there is a threat.
When handling, wear some protective gloves to prevent scratches from their claws. At some point, you will want to regularly trim their nails for them as well but get them accustomed to you first.
Handling them for about 20 minutes about twice a day should help them feel more comfortable.
However, give them a few weeks to acclimatize to their new surroundings first. Do not just try to pick them up right after you introduce them to their new home, as they will most likely already be overwhelmed.
Give them a few weeks to get used to everything before you even try to touch them. It takes patience and time but after the wait, you may have a well-tamed, friendly lizard.
How long do pet iguanas live?
Iguanas can live anywhere from 15 to 20 years in captivity if they are cared for properly.
Some first-time owners might get one that will die in under a year because they did not do their research about the specific requirements of their species of iguana.
Depending on the sex and type of iguana it is, some can live well past 20 years, so don’t think that this is a short-term pet that requires no commitment.
Do iguanas like to cuddle?
As mentioned before, iguanas do not enjoy being touched but can get used to handling with some training and taming.
They are not instinctively social or affectionate by nature, although some can enjoy human company.
They are generally not cuddly creatures by nature but they may feel comfortable with your body warmth or might just know that you are their primary source of food.
Are male or female iguanas better pets?
Like most reptiles or other animals in general, some females may be more approachable than males. Both sexes will bite if defensive.
Sexually mature iguanas may become more aggressive when breeding season comes around, especially the males. This will happen even more if he is feeling territorial or dominant.
Can you put your iguana in the bathtub?
Yes, you can bathe or soak your iguana.
Some owners have trained their iguana to poop in the water, allowing them to bathe and release their waste in a small plastic tub. It is also important that you separate their drinking water and bathing water into two different containers.
Iguanas are great swimmers and like to seek homes near water.
They need water to survive and a shallow dish should always be available to them in their enclosure.
However, it is important that you change their soaking water often and do not put too much water, keeping it shallow at about their chest is good. You also cannot let the water get cold as they are sensitive to temperature changes and will not be able to move.
Do not use any soaps or products on them. Just plain water should be fine.
Occasional soaks can be enjoyable for your pet lizard and will also help them shed if any stubborn pieces aren’t coming off as easily.
The most important part is to keep track of temperatures, keeping the levels just enough for them to soak, and not using any soaps on them.
Making sure you’re ready for the responsibilities that come with owning an iguana is the most important step.
Once you decide to take the plunge and have chosen your favorite type of iguana, you should do your research on how to care for that specific species.
We hope that this list helped you figure out which one might best suit your home, your personality, and what you can afford to care for.
Leave any comments or questions you might have down below!
More Iguana Stuff