Common or Green Iguana

Iguana iguana

Out of eleven species in the family Iguanidae, the green iguana (Iguana iguana) is the most common iguana in the pet trade. Green iguanas are native to Central and South America, ranging from Mexico to Brazil. In the wild, they live in trees, basking in the sun, and only come down to the ground when females dig burrows to lay eggs.

Iguanas can grow to over 5 feet long and weigh up to 11 pounds. They have very specific care requirements and can live 10 to 15 years in captivity. Green iguanas can be quite aggressive and are not suitable for inexperienced reptile pet owners.

Did You Know?

Green Iguanas can be quite aggressive and are definitely not suitable for inexperienced reptile pet owners.


Does the harvest for wildlife trade or captive breeding of this species harm wild populations?

Little Cause for Concern

Wild populations of green iguanas do not appear to be at risk. Most animals imported into the U.S. are captive raised and it is presumed that the pet trade has little impact on native populations.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Ensure that your iguana is captive-bred from domesticated animals. Only acquire a pet from a reputable breeder or seller to ensure that you are not buying a wild-caught and/or imported animal.

Invasion Threat

Does the release or escape of this species into the wild harm the environment and/or economy?

Significant Cause for Concern

Self-sustaining populations of green iguanas have become established outside of their native range in Texas, Florida, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and other places. In Florida, they are considered invasive because they eat yard plants, chew on screens and furniture, and can be aggressive. Additionally, green iguanas may be negatively impacting the native Florida burrowing owl by taking over the owls’ burrows. In Puerto Rico, green iguanas are considered an exotic pest and pose a significant runway hazard at the San Juan international airport.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Before obtaining any non-traditional pet, check that it is legal to own one in your state of residence and check for permitting requirements. Only acquire a pet that is from a reputable breeder or dealer to ensure that you are not buying an illegally imported or wild-caught animal. Always keep your pet inside a safe and secure enclosure. Never release a pet into the wild.

Ease of Care

Does harvest, captive breeding, transport, or being kept as a pet harm individual animals?

Some Cause for Concern

Ease of care of many non-traditional pets depends on the individual owner’s years of experience and knowledge caring for a particular species. For the purposes of this website, we have geared information toward the benefit of the beginner.

Green iguanas can be difficult to keep in captivity. As they age and grow larger, they require more intensive care, which many pet owners are unable to provide. Green iguanas are therefore one of the most common animals to be donated to rehabilitation centers when owners become unwilling to provide care. A diet of calcium-rich fresh greens, fruits, and vegetables is best. Iguanas need a vertical enclosure with high perching, daily misting and a water source large enough to soak in, a heat gradient and UV light source. As they grow they require large enclosures (at least 4 x 4 x 6 ft).  Animals that are aggressive are especially difficult to maintain.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Before acquiring an iguana, be sure to research its specific care requirements.

Health Threat

Does this animal pose a health risk to native wildlife, humans, livestock and agriculture?

Some Cause for Concern

Green iguanas—especially males—can become very aggressive when they reach sexual maturity. They have powerful teeth, claws, and tails and are capable of causing significant injury to humans and other household pets. These injuries require medical attention as they can easily develop bacterial infections.

Green iguanas are known carriers of Salmonella. If ingested by humans, Salmonella can cause vomiting and diarrhea; these symptoms are usually mild in healthy adults but can be fatal to infants and young children, or anyone with a compromised immune system. It is important to wash hands before and after handling an animal. Salmonella can be transmitted from exotic pets to any member of a household, even those who do not handle the pet directly.

EcoHealthy Recommendation:

Reptiles often do not show signs of illness when harboring Salmonella. Regardless, when purchasing a pet ask the seller if the animal has been checked by a veterinarian and obtain a list of any medical treatments the animal has received. Always wash your hands after handling a reptile.

EcoHealth Alliance works at the intersection of ecosystem, animal and human health through local conservation programs and develops global health solutions to emerging diseases.
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