Fact & Fiction
are many myths and fallacies floating around about iguanas. Many older
publications about iguana care contain old and outdated information, and
most pet store employees are ill-educated in the correct care of these
fascinating animals. Because of these widespread fictions about iguanas,
they have long been labeled as a good beginner reptile. In fact, the exact
opposite is true. Iguanas are large, aggressive, difficult to care for
reptiles that have very specific needs that the owner needs to provide
for. Below are some of the most common iguana myths, and the true facts
Iguanas will only grow as large as the cage you keep it in.
FACT: Iguanas that are *properly* cared for will reach 5-6 feet long no
matter what size cage they are kept in.
Iguanas should be fed lettuce.
FACT: Lettuce has virtually no nutritional value. Iguanas need a very
varied diet high in dark leafy greens, with vegetables and fruits added
All I need is a heat light for my iguana.
FACT: Iguanas need two types of light, a heat light and a UVB light. Without
sufficient UVB, iguanas cannot process the calcium in their diet and develop
Metabolic Bone Disease and die.
An aquarium light or ‘full spectrum’ light will provide enough
UVB for my iguana.
FACT: Most bulbs marketed for fish, plant grow lights, or as ‘full
spectrum’ bulbs do not produce enough UVB. Look for one that specifically
states it produces at least 5% UVB, like ZooMed’s Iguana Light 5.0
or ReptiSun 5.0.
My UVB bulb will last until it burns out.
FACT: Even though they continue to produce visible light, the UVB output
of a bulb drops drastically over time. UVB tubes should be replaced every
Dog or cat food is good for my ig and will make it grow faster.
FACT: Iguanas are obligate herbivores. Their bodies cannot process animal
protein (cat or dog food, meat products, insects, eggs, etc.). Iguanas
fed animal protein do grow very fast, but die at an early age from kidney
and liver failure.
An aquarium/terrarium is a good home for an iguana.
FACT: Iguanas are arboreal (tree dwelling) animals and need a large cage
with lots of height for climbing. A properly cared for iguana will outgrow
any commercial aquarium within the first year or two. An adult iguana
needs a cage at least 6 feet tall, 5 feet long, and 3 feet deep.
Iguanas need a friend. I can keep 2 (or more) iguanas in the same cage.
FACT: Iguanas are solitary animals that prefer NOT to share their territory.
Housing two iguanas in the same cage will cause dominance issues, and
at worst the death of one or both iguanas. Iguanas can and do die from
I can keep other reptiles in the same cage as my iguana. (turtle, other
FACT: You should never house different species together. Not only do they
all have differing habitat requirements, but they can pass disease and
parasites among each other, and can cause stress to each other.
I don’t need to take my iguana to the vet, after all, it’s
just a reptile.
FACT: Just like with any other pet, your iguana should see a veterinarian
at least once a year. Reptiles hide signs of illness very well, and having
your vet familiar with your healthy iguana will make it easier to pinpoint
and diagnose problems if they do occur.
My iguana will give me Salmonella.
FACT: Iguanas, like all reptiles, can carry the Salmonella bacteria. Salmonella
is most often transmitted through the feces. Keeping your iguana and its
enclosure clean and using common sense (such as washing your hands after
handling your iguana) is usually sufficient to avoid salmonella. Statistically
you are more likely to get Salmonella from undercooked chicken than from
Iguanas don’t have teeth.
FACT: Iguanas do have teeth, very similar to shark teeth. A full grown
iguana can literally bite your finger off.
Iguanas make good pets for children.
FACT: Iguanas do not make good pets for children. They grow very large,
and have rather demanding care requirements. It also takes several months
to a year of consistent work to tame and socialize an iguana.
Iguanas are cheap pets.
FACT: Iguanas are very expensive to set up and maintain properly. Proper
caging, food, heating, lighting, and humidity, along with vet bills, mean
that the $15 iguana will cost at least several hundred dollars in the
Your iguana will not live more than two or three years.
FACT: Okay, that's a trick fact. Iguanas can live up to 20 years, but,
only with proper care!
Iguanas can't swim.
FACT: Ohhh, yes they can! Although a baby iguana won't like the water,
all iguanas know how to swim, and will use the water as a method of flight.
Iguanas can't be 'potty' trained.
FACT: Sure they can! It's called tubbing, and it is an efficient way of
letting your iguana go to the bathroom, swim, and drink all combined.
(of course, if we go potty first, you should really change the water...EW!)
If I can't take care of my iguana anymore, I can just set him free.
FACT: NO! NO! NO! If you can't take care of your pet anymore, then you
need to take him to a shelter or contact some animal agency to find a
home that can properly take care of your ig. DO NOT SET HIM 'FREE'! The
iguana will die, whether or not you like it, and it is illegal in most
Everything the pet store tells me is the right way to take care of an
FACT: You gotta be kidding. Pet stores, for the most part, don't know
how to properly take care of an iguana. You need to research before you
get the iguana, not after!
My iguana will never trust me.
FACT: Sure he or she will, if you take good care of him/her and spend
time with your new pet/friend.
Iguanas are easy to tame.
FACT: Iguanas are very difficult to tame. Unlike cats and dogs who have
been domesticated for hundreds of years, iguanas are not bred widely in
captivity, and most are wild imports from South America. They are wild
animals, and it takes a lot of time and patience to get them to tame down
and trust humans. It is not uncommon for it to take six months to a year
or more to tame an iguana.
Hot rocks are a good heat source for iguanas.
FACT: No! Hot rocks are VERY dangerous for iguanas. Iguanas are arboreal
creatures, designed to get their heat from above. They have very few pain
sensors in their belly region, and can receive severe burns and even literally
cook themselves to death on hot rocks. Hot rocks are also well known for
shorting out and overheating, which can cause injury or death to iguanas.
My iguana can get UVB through the window.
FACT: False. The spectrum of UVB that iguanas need does not pass through
glass or plastic, and even most window screens cut out a lot of the beneficial
UVB. Another danger of putting your ig's cage near a window is that the
light coming in through the window can cause a glass cage to quickly overheat,
killing your iguana.
If I don’t have a male iguana, my female won’t lay eggs.
FACT: Female iguanas are rather like chickens in that they can lay infertile
eggs whether or not a male is present. Iguanas in captivity often have
difficulty egg laying, so if you suspect your iguana may be gravid (full
of eggs) please have her checked out by a vet.
are just some of the most common misconceptions about iguanas. If you
are an iguana owner, or plan to get one in the future, be sure to spend
some time researching them to make sure you can provide them with a proper
habitat and diet.