Blue Iguana

By Snaketracks / October 1, 2021

The blue iguana is a lizard endemic to the Grand Cayman island. The lizard is called the blue iguana because of its blue coloration. The blue iguana used to be considered a subspecies of the Cuban iguana (C. nubila) but has since been reclassified as a separate species.

They are also known as the Grand Cayman blue iguana because they are native to Grand Cayman – this is one of the three Cayman Islands.

Blue iguana care is specific and you need to make provisions for the lizard if you want it to live a full life. High on the list of needs are a large spacious enclosure and a lot of heat (they require a basking spot with temperatures of at least 120 degrees).

Blue Iguana Facts

  • Experience Level: Advanced
  • Family: Iguanidae
  • Scientific Name: Cyclura lewisi
  • Other Common Names: Cayman Island rock iguana, Grand Cayman blue iguana, and the Grand Cayman ground iguana
  • Adult Size: 5 ft (150 cm)
  • Lifespan: 69 years
  • Diet: Vegetables, commercial iguana food, and commercial tortoise food
  • Average Price Range: $100-$300
  • Recommended Books: Iguanas for Dummies by Melissa Kaplan

Physical Appearance

Blue Iguana (Cyclura lewisi) basking on rock in desert
Blue Iguana (Cyclura lewisi) basking on rock in desert

A fully grown blue iguana is a large lizard. It is, in fact, the largest land animal within its geographic region. The lizard gets its name from the color of its skin which is blue-gray. However, hatchlings aren’t blue in color. Hatchling’s color is gray with alternating cream and dark chevrons. As they age, they lose the dark chevrons, and the gray base color changes to blue.

These lizards are huge as we have already established. On average, they can grow up to 5 ft, from nose to the tip of their tail. Don’t be surprised to see a blue iguana that has reached lengths of 6 ft. in terms of weight, they measure 14 kg or 30 kg.

Natural Habitat & Geographic Range

The Blue iguana is strictly a Cayman lizard and is endemic to only Grand Cayman. This species covers most of its geographic range. They can be found all over the island of Grand Cayman except the urban parts of West Bay, Seven Mile Beach, Gun Bay, Bodden Town.

One of the common names of the species tells us most of what we need to know about this iguana and that is the name – Grand Cayman ground iguanas. This is because they are ground dwellers. They spend their nights in caves, and other crevices found on rocks such as limestone.

They are also found to occupy coastal zones, grasslands, and forests. However, they are most common in shrublands, grasslands, and the interface between dry forests and farming clearings.

Lifespan

These iguanas are long-lived and are believed to be able to reach ages of 69 years and possibly higher. The longest living specimen went by the name “Godzilla”. This specimen lived to 69 years old.

The lifespan of the lizard is lower in the wild, with wild specimens obtaining ages between 24 and 41 years. They grow much older when well cared for in captivity.

Diet

These lizards are primarily herbivores just like other iguanas. Members may eat insects, moth larvae slugs, and other small invertebrates but this is uncommon.

They generally feed on plants consuming an estimated 45 plant species. They have been seen to eat flowers, leaves, bark, stems, grains, seeds, and nuts. They have also been known to ingest soil, shedding, fungus, and even feces.

Predators

The species has a number of predators. Many of these predators such as dogs and feral cats aren’t native to the region and as such, the species haven’t developed the needed anti-predator adaptations to avoid these predators. This is regarded as one of the main causes of their decline in numbers.

The species are hunted by Cuban racers (snake species), feral cats, rats, dogs, mongooses, and pigs – all animals that aren’t native to the island of grand cayman.

While large predators such as dogs can hunt adult blue iguana, the juveniles and hatchlings are hunted by rats and the snake – Cuban racer.

Humans are also known to collect blue iguanas for the pet trade.

Reproduction/Blue Iguana Eggs

These lizards reach reproductive maturity at ages 2 to 9 for both males and females with an average of 4 years. Breeding starts in late May and ends in mid-June. The mating season is usually about 3 weeks long.

After breeding the gravid females normally lay eggs about 40 days after mating. This should be in June or July. The species lay about 1 to 22 eggs each breeding season. Incubation normally takes 65 to 90 days and incubation temperatures are 86 degrees Fahrenheit to 91 degrees Fahrenheit (30 to 33 degrees Celsius).

Blue Iguana Care Guide

Grand Cayman Island Blue Iguana (Cyclura lewisi)
Grand Cayman Island Blue Iguana (Cyclura lewisi)

Recommended Products

Some excellent products for the enclosure include the following. Of course, you will need more than these to keep the iguana healthy, but these products should be high on your list.

Caring for these reptiles can be challenging as they need a lot of space to remain healthy. They are also long-lived and can reach ages well above 60 years. Keep that in mind if you choose to adopt one.

Housing

A wire enclosure is best. You will need to construct this enclosure yourself using untreated wood as the chemicals can be bad for reptiles. The enclosure needs to be fully enclosed to help protect from predators and to prevent the lizard from escaping since they are relatively good climbers.

The enclosure should be 6 feet high, 6 feet wide, and 12 feet long. Shelving can be constructed to be used as basking platforms. These shelves should be accessible.

Temperatures

The temperatures of the basking site should be at least 120 degrees Fahrenheit for both adults and juveniles. You may need up to 6 heating lamps to achieve these temperatures. 

The heat bulbs should be well above the iguana to prevent any injuries. About 12 inches should be adequate. 

Only overhead heat lamps should be used. This engages the parietal eye directly atop the lizard’s head. This scaly eye is used to detect heat. 

A temperature gradient must be maintained. This is achievable by installing heat lamps at one end of the enclosure. The cool end of the enclosure should have a temperature in the low 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Heat lamps that can be used include incandescent heat bulbs such as GE Heat Lamp or heat emitters such as BOEESPAT Ceramic Heat Emitter.

Lighting

In the absence of sunlight, UVA/UVB is necessary. These ensure that the lizard synthesizes vitamin D. Two rows of UVA/UVB tubes above the basking site should provide the lizard with the needed UV radiation.

Humidity

Since the species is native to xerophytic shrublands and dry forests, they don’t require high humidity levels. Keep a water bowl in the enclosure all the time. With juveniles, you may have to mist them occasionally.

Substrates

For adults housed outdoors, substrates shouldn’t be an issue. You can use stones or just leave the earth as it is. For hatchlings, I recommend using edible material such as alfalfa pellets as substrate, just in case they ingest some.

Feeding the Blue Iguana 

These lizards are generally herbivorous. They accept a wide variety of plants. I recommend offering leafy greens such as romaine lettuce, dandelion greens and flowers, collard greens, and vegetables such as yellow squash and green beans. Offer kale, spinach, and fruits only occasionally – once a week.

You can also offer them commercially manufactured iguana diets in addition such as Nature Zone Iguana Bites Soft Moist Food and Rep-Cal Adult Iguana Food.

Offer juvenile mice or insects once a week and adults once a month.

You can feed them every other day or daily. When fed daily, offer smaller portions. 

Breeding and Availability

These iguanas are quite readily available although you may have contacted a breeder online. They are much more expensive than green iguanas as these lizards are endangered. A specimen should cost you anywhere from $90 to $300. The smaller/younger the lizard is the more affordable it will be so keep that in mind. 

One online breeder that deals with blue iguanas is bigappleherp.com.

Health Problems

Keeping a warm and large enclosure should ensure that most of the health issues faced do not surface. A well-balanced diet is also important. Signs of a healthy blue iguana include feeding regularly, basking regularly, being active, and defecating every few days.

Here are some health issues common to blue iguanas.

Metabolic Bone Disease

This is one of the most common health issues reptile pet owners face. This is a bone disease that leads to disfigurement and abnormal growth. MBD is caused by vitamin D and calcium deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency can be avoided by providing access to UVA/UVB lighting. This can be prevented with adequate daily exposure to sunlight or radiation from UVA/UVB light bulbs. 

Cuts and Bruises

Cuts and bruises are inevitable. Regardless of how careful you are, the reptile can injure itself. To reduce the possibility of cuts and bruises ensure there are no objects with sharp or pointed edges that can cause injuries. Also, treat all injuries promptly and properly.

Burns

This is generally caused by poorly installed heating devices such as heat bulbs. Also, heating devices such as heat pads and heat rocks can cause severe burns. Only overhead heating should be used to prevent any burns.

Dehydration

Symptoms of dehydration include lethargy, weight loss, and the development of wrinkles on the skin. Dehydration can lead to death. Young iguanas in particular find it difficult to locate the water bowl. You may have to mist them every now and then.

Respiratory Infections

This is caused by low temperatures. Symptoms include difficulty breathing and wheezing. You can correct this by increasing the temperatures in the enclosure to the required levels. 

Conservation/Threats 

The blue iguana is a quickly disappearing species. The species is endangered and faces extinction. 

Habitat loss is the biggest threat to the existence of the species. The main causes of habitat loss are human activities such as clearing of habitat for agriculture and human settlements  -residential and commercial structures. 

Another major reason for the species decline is predation by invasive species. Since the predatory species aren’t native to the region and the iguana hasn’t developed the anti-predator adaptations needed to avoid them. This has made the lizard easy prey.

The Cyclura lewisi is considered to be a Critically Endangered species on the IUCN Red List. They are also considered an endangered species on the US Federal List and are listed under CITES Appendix I.

FAQ’s

Can the Blue Iguana be housed indoors?

While technically they can be housed indoors, they require a very large enclosure. The enclosure must measure at least 12 ft by 6 ft by 6 ft. The height of the enclosure should be around 6 ft. The enclosure should be fully enclosed. A wire enclosure is most recommended for the species.

Where is the Blue Iguana found?

This lizard can be found on the island of Grand Cayman. This species covers most of its geographic range except for the urban areas of West Bay, Seven Mile Beach, Gun Bay, Bodden Town.

As relatively popular iguanas, they can also be found in pet stores that sell iguanas. If you are having difficulty locating these reptiles, you can contact an online breeder such as bigappleherp.com.

What do Blue Iguanas eat?

These lizards are herbivores and accept a wide range of vegetables, seeds, grains, and fruits. I recommend feeding them mostly on leafy greens such as collard greens, dandelions, and turnip greens. They also accept commercial iguana diets and tortoise diets.

In the wild, they have been seen to eat flowers, leaves, bark, stems, grains, seeds, and nuts. They have also been known to ingest soil, shedding, fungus, and even feces.

How big do Blue Iguanas get?

This is a huge lizard. It is actually the largest land animal on Grand Cayman island. They can grow up to 5 ft, from the nose to the tip of their tail, and weigh 14 kg or 30 kg.

Are Blue Iguanas dangerous?

These lizards are dangerous when threatened. They have sharp claws which can cause serious injuries. However, they aren’t as defensive or territorial as the green iguana.

Are Blue Iguanas endangered?

The blue iguana is a critically endangered species. The species is considered to be a Critically Endangered species on the IUCN Red List. They are also considered an endangered species on the US Federal List and are listed under CITES Appendix I.

Conclusion

While the blue iguana may not be as aggressive as the green iguana, they are still not a pet for novices. While they are easy to care for when young, fully grown blue iguanas and subadults require extensive care and can die when not offered that care. This is mostly down to the huge enclosure and high temperatures they need. You need to build adults and subadults a huge outdoor enclosure and maintain basking temperatures of 120 degrees (overhead heating only).

Additionally, the species is endangered so they can be expensive to obtain.

Regardless of the negatives mentioned, these are exquisite and gorgeous lizards with vivid blue coloration.

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