How to Buy an Iguana

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The common green iguana (Iguana iguana) is a naturally herbivorous lizard that may be kept as a pet. Typically, it is the only type of iguana you can keep as a pet in the United States and other countries, so check your local laws before deciding to buy an iguana.[1] Keeping an iguana is a long-term project with a great deal of responsibility. As small as the juvenile iguana may appear, it will grow into a large lizard, meaning that it isn’t a small task to feed, care for, and move this creature. Provided you understand fully what you’re in for in terms of care, it can make a great pet that stays your companion for many years.


EditFinding Iguanas

  1. Check with local rescues to provide a home to a rescued iguana. Many rescues will take in unwanted iguanas from owners who can’t care for them anymore. You may find rescues that specialize just in reptiles or even just in iguanas. Alternatively, some rescues take all animals, including cats, dogs, and iguanas, so look around in your local community.[2]
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    • Try doing an internet search for iguana rescues in your area or ask your vet if they know of any.
  2. Look for an exotic pet amnesty program to see if they re-home iguanas. Because some owners release iguanas into the wild when they don’t want to care for them anymore, some states have amnesty programs. Basically, anyone can surrender a pet, even if it’s exotic or illegal, and it will be re-homed. If your state has such a program, you may be able to get an iguana by applying to be a designated home through the amnesty program.[3]
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    • Florida, for instance, has one of these programs where iguanas can be surrendered. Search your local government’s website to see if you have an amnesty program nearby.
  3. Consider a breeder for a healthy, socialized iguana. Responsible breeders focus on providing the healthiest animals they can, and they tend to socialize them as much as possible before passing them onto you. If you absolutely can’t re-home another iguana, a breeder is a good option.[4]
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    • Search online to see if you can find a local breeder that has good reviews. Talk to your friends who own reptiles to see if they know of a good breeder.
  4. Try a pet store as a last resort. Many iguanas are relinquished each year to rescues and zoos, so if you can, try to rescue one of those. But if that simply isn’t an option, you can get one at your local pet store. Choose a reputable store in your community.[5]
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    • Make sure to do your research first and pick a store that has good reviews and a reputation for having healthy animals. Check reptile forums to see if you can find reviews for pet stores.

EditChoosing a Healthy Lizard

  1. Ask to hold the lizard so you can examine it. If you’re at a pet store, pick out several you like and ask to hold them one at a time. Hold one in both your hands to examine the lizard more closely. You can gently lift the limbs and dewlap to make sure everything looks healthy.[6]
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    • As you move the limbs, notice if the iguana seems strong. It should offer some resistance as you try to move the limbs. If it isn’t, that could indicate a calcium deficiency or some other problem.
  2. Look for bright eyes that aren’t sunken. If the iguana’s eyes appear to be sunken in its head, that could be a sign of sickness.[7] Also, check for drainage and crustiness, which could indicate a respiratory infection.[8]
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    • A healthy iguana will look around and follow your finger with its eyes or head if you move it around nearby.
  3. Check for tight, green skin. Loose skin could indicate the iguana has lost weight and is sick or unhealthy. The skin should look taut against the iguana’s body, and it should be bright green, not dull-looking. The back end of the lizard at the near the legs and tail should look round not bony.[9] However, if the back legs look swollen with hard knots, that could indicate a calcium deficiency.[10]
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    • The “green” iguana is something of a misnomer. They typically are green, but they can also be brown, red, or blue. However, you want the skin to look bright and healthy either way.[11]
    • While looking at the skin, check for mites, which are little red, black, or orange dots that move around.
  4. Examine the body for burns and feces. If there is dried feces on the belly, that means the iguana has been kept in an unhygienic environment and could have underlying infections. If the iguana has burns, it’s sat on heat that comes from below, something you should never do for an iguana.[12]
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    • If it’s been burned, it’s belly may always be sensitive.
  5. Look in its mouth for a bright pink mouth and tongue. Tap your finger gently on the iguana’s nose, and it will usually open its mouth. You should see clear saliva, along with the pink tongue. A grayish or dull mouth could indicate sickness, as does stringy mucus.[13]
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    • You may also see “cottage cheese” fungus or tiny fungus spots that may be green, yellow, or white. Avoid any iguana that displays these signs.
    • If it doesn’t open its mouth, you can gently try to pull it open.
  6. Notice if the lizard is relaxed around you. If the iguana has been socialized properly, it won’t be startled by you. In fact, it may even try to climb up your arm or hand. Ones that haven’t been socialized will try to run away from being caught.[14]
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    • It’s fine if the iguana is young and unsocialized, as you still have time to socialize it.
    • If it’s completely unresponsive, it’s too weak or sick to respond.
  7. Pick a male over a female if you’re not interested in breeding. While males can be more aggressive during breeding season, ovulation in females can be difficult to deal with if you don’t know what you’re doing. For instance, females often don’t eat in the 4 weeks leading up to ovulation; if your iguana is in poor health at all or is malnourished at all, it can collapse during this period from weakness.[15]
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    • Often, this is due to the female not getting enough calcium in its diet.

EditPurchasing Your Lizard and Supplies

  1. Expect to pay at least $ 10-$ 20 USD for an iguana. In a pet store or from a rescue, an iguana can cost as little as $ 10 USD. From a responsible breeder, you may pay a little bit more, as they put more work into the animal.[16]
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    • These pets are remarkably long-lived, and if you expect to only want this pet for a few years, you should think about getting another pet. While some iguanas only live 10-15 years, some live as long as 20, so they are quite a time commitment.[17]
  2. Buy a small cage in the beginning but be prepared to upgrade. While the iguana may look little and cute in the pet store cage at , keep in mind these lizards can get quite large. Even if you get a baby, prepare for it to grow to in length. You need to start with an aquarium that’s as large as .[18] By the time it gets full-size, you may need one that’s as big as .[19]
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    • However, you shouldn’t start small iguanas in a huge cage. They may not be able to find their food and water, and the smaller cage helps train the lizard not to see you as a predator.
  3. Purchase the appropriate heating equipment for the tank. All iguanas need heat lamps to help keep them warm. For a small iguana, 1 lamp is sufficient. However, for a full-grown adult, you’ll need as many as 6 bulbs to make sure the iguana can maintain its body heat. You’ll need to place these above the cage so the iguana can regulate its heat.[20]
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    • Maintain a temperature of for your iguana.[21] Keep one area at at least so your iguana can get warm.
    • Avoid hot rocks and heating pads that provide heat from below. Heat from above the iguana engages a sensory organ called the parietal eye that tells it to start basking and regulate its heat. When the heat comes from below, this organ is not used, and the iguana may not realize it is getting hot or even burned.
    • Keep in mind that if you’re housing the iguana inside, this heat output could increase your electricity bills in the summer when you’re trying to cool the house down with the air conditioner.
  4. Buy the ultraviolet lighting your iguana will need. This type of lighting is also referred to as UVA and UVB lighting. This lighting gives your iguana the light it needs to make vitamin D, an essential nutrient. Speak to an associate at a store that sells reptile accessories to find the best lights for your iguana.[22]
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  5. Be ready to feed it fresh leafy greens and produce. Iguanas are vegetarians, and they need fresh produce in their diet. You’ll need to feed them leafy greens as at least 80% of their diet, including romaine, collard greens, mustard greens, cabbage, kale, parsley, broccoli, Swiss chard, and cilantro. About 10% or a little less should be reptile canned food or pellets, while the rest should be other fresh fruits and vegetables.[23]
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    • Keeping fresh greens on hand can get expensive.
    • Iguanas can eat veggies like squashes, sweet potatoes (cooked), carrots, cucumbers, and mushrooms.
    • For fruit, try ones like apples, peaches, melons, mangoes, pears, strawberries, apricots, figs, and bananas (with the skin on).


  • Buy an iguana book to learn more about iguana care.
  • Iguanas only eat vegetables so do not feed them crickets or other insects.[24]


  • Iguanas can carry salmonella. While rare, it is important to clean any wounds you receive from an iguana very well. Also, wash your hands after handling the iguana or dealing with the cage. Do not allow very young children or the elderly handle the iguana, especially if it’s known to be aggressive.[25]


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