Iguanas are a prehistoric pet, loved by dinosaur fanatics. Not recommended for those new to lizard keeping, they require a carefully managed environment and knowledgeable feeding to stay healthy. For those who have kept other reptiles, it is a docile and unique animal to observe and breed from.
The most popular of the species kept as pets, they are both calm to manage and very colourful. Despite their name, they come in a range of colours from pink, black, blue and of course green. Some species are also born blue, changing as they get older to green. They all have spines growing out of their backs to protect them from predators. If attacked or scared they will use their tails and claws to scare predators away. Like the gecko, they can also detach their tails and regrow another. Growing up to nearly 5 feet from head to tail, they can also weigh over 9 kilogrammes. Handling requires someone strong and confident! Green iguanas are herbivores, and require fresh leafy greens, vegetables and fruit every day. Do not try to feed them meat – although they will eat it and have been seen eating insects in the wild, it can lead to kidney damage.
Despite being marketed as a separate type of iguana, they are actually a colour variation of the Green Iguana. Over time breeders have aimed to breed certain colours, selectively choosing mates to develop bright red colouration. The red can range from rust to an almost orange colour. Their stomachs are usually always green. As a variation of the Green Iguana they require the same care and attention.
Coming from the dry lands of America, they naturally live on the hot sand of the desert. Growing up to 16 inches long, most of their length is taken up by their long banded tails. They are designed to camouflage into the desert, ranging from a greyish tan to white. They can also change colour throughout the day to regulate their body temperature – starting as grey in the mornings, and turning white at midday to reflect the sun. They also like to burrow or climb bushes to find cool spots. As a result you should allow for this in your tank, as well as heating to accurate levels during the day and at night. They are very fast, and when in danger can run at great speed on their hind legs, whilst folding their front limbs in and standing tall.
Despite being a steel grey or brown, the rhinoceros iguana actually gets its name from a small protrusion on its nose resembling a rhino horn. The males have slightly larger “horns” than the females. The males also have crests and femoral pores on their thighs where they release pheromones to attract females. Although they will usually run away when scared, if cornered they will attack a handler or pet. They will use their tails as a whip, and bite. They like to live on rocky terrain, and will eat leaves, berries, flowers and fruit. Rhinoceros Iguanas have developed a digestive system that passes seeds germinate a lot quicker than normal. This means they hold a unique place in ecosystem. They are kept in captivity despite their status as a protected animal in the wild. Expert iguana keepers as well as zoos keep a number in the UK and they are available on the market.
As the tamest and most docile of all of the types of Chuckwallas, it makes a good pet if a large one. Originally taken to Angel Island as a form of food, they now live freely on the island. Instead of attacking or fleeing predators, they have developed other methods to defend themselves. They will inflate their lungs and swell out their body so they can wedge themselves into rock cracks. This ability means that normally they look like they have a lot of excess, loose skin. They also change colour and do a variety of dances, such as head bobbing, to communicate with other species. It is also known as the Spiny Chuckwalla, with its skin covered in tiny spines that are more pronounced on the head and legs.
Commonly known as the Blue Iguana, this is currently an endangered species. Naturally, these iguanas will be grey to match the rocks until another iguana is in the vicinity. Then they will turn a bright shade of blue. They have articulated feet so they can climb trees and dig through the bark. By 2003 only 15 Grand Cayman Iguanas were left. Thanks to the intervention of a number of conservation charities and trusts, a reserve was created to encourage the iguana to breed safely in the wild. By 2012 there were over 750 iguanas in the population. Although you will see blue Iguanas for sale in the UK, none of these will be THE Blue Iguana. They are not exported to collectors or even zoos at present. They are the world’s oldest living lizards, with some recorded as living up to 69 years old.
Only found on the Galapagos Island, these iguanas were observed by Charles Darwin during his voyage on The Beagle. In the 1950s they also became extinct due to soldiers shooting them for entertainment as well as the introduction of feral animals such as rats, pigs and dogs. An extensive breeding programme has increased the numbers, and are now researched to discover how they breed, eat and interbreed with marine iguanas. The Land Iguana lives in a close relationship with the bird population, where birds remove their ticks and parasites. As the islands are very hot, they bask in the sun during the day and then live in burrows at night to conserve their body temperature. With little water on the island, most of their diet is cactus. They live up to 60 years of age. You will not see this species for sale on the market, as they are a protected species.