8 Types of Iguanas – Popular and Rare Species

Besides their uniqueness, iguanas are intelligent and beautiful lizards. These lizards are available in many types with some making excellent pets with a few being on the brink of extension. Also, iguanas come in various morphs and colors, making them desirable pet lizards for most homeowners.

Below are different iguana types that you should know about. Some of them are very popular pet choices among reptile lovers, while others are illegal to keep.

Green Iguana

The scientific name of green iguana is Iguana iguana. This undoubtedly familiar species of iguana was popular among pet reptile hobbyists a few decades ago. Today, they have largely fallen out of favor due to their large sizes, nervousness, and defensive nature. Besides, they are relatively expensive to maintain.

Green iguanas can grow to more than 6 feet in length under good care. These pet lizards have spines along their backs in addition to prominent jowls and large dewlaps hanging beneath their chins. From their name, these pet lizards are usually green with blotches and stripes of different colors such as black, white blue, orange, or everything in between.

Just like most iguana species, green iguanas are primarily herbivorous although they can occasionally feed on animal-based foods. These lovely lizards spend most of their time basking on branches of various trees while in their native habitats.

They are also excellent swimmers, which is why they quickly dive into the nearby water to evade capture by predators. Even though green iguanas are pleasant pet lizards, they are best suited for advanced keepers.

Desert Iguana

Desert iguanas are also known as Dipsosaurus dorsalis by their scientific name. As their name suggests, desert iguanas inhabit arid areas throughout some portions of California, Arizona, and Mexico. These reptiles lead a completely different lifestyle from that of green iguanas since they spend all the time in arid conditions.

Typically, desert iguanas grow to a length of about 18 inches with 60% of their bodies comprising their long tails. They usually have a combination of colors such as dark grey, white, and rich reddish-brown pigmentation. Also, they can be identified from their more cylindrical-bordering on their dorsoventrally flattened bodies.

Desert iguanas are tricky pet lizards for beginners in terms of maintenance. They are rarely found as captive-bred offspring. As a matter of fact, wild-caught adults are extremely difficult to acclimate to captivity. Regardless, desert iguanas can be rewarding pets for experienced keepers.

Fiji Iguana

Also referred to as Fiji banded iguana, this type of reptile is native to the Islands of Tonga and Fiji in the southwest Pacific region. Fiji iguanas are scientifically known as Brachylophus fasciatus and are green in color with no large spikes. They also have various tones of blue, white, and yellow. They are capable of darkening themselves in order to frighten off potential predators.

These colorful lizards spend most of their days basking while keeping their territories safe. Besides, Fiji iguanas are also diurnal and will often return to spend the night on of the trees.

On average, they can grow to a length of about 24 inches and weigh up to 200 grams. Fiji iguanas are herbivorous when adult but juveniles can occasionally consume insects.

West Indian Rock Iguanas

Collectively, West Indian Rock Iguanas comprises 10 species and numerous subspecies. These lizards belong to the genus Cyclura and they only inhabit the West Indies, hence the name. Each species under West Indian Rock Iguanas is considered endangered while a few are categorized as critically endangered.

However, captive-bred individuals belonging to a few species are readily available to keepers. They include the Rhinoceros iguana (Cyclura cornuta) and Cuban iguana (Cyckura nubila).

Cuban iguanas can grow to about 4 feet long while exceptional specimens can exceed 5 feet in length. Physically they are thicker than green iguanas and covered in an array of colors such as grey, black and black. Cuban iguanas also great climbers although they are not as arboreal as other lizard species within the Family Iguanidae.

Rhinoceros iguanas, however, are largely similar-looking with a characteristic small “horn” located on their snouts. They are also thicker compared to green iguanas and can weigh to an average of 20 pounds.

Generally, West Indian Rock Iguanas are ideal for captive maintenance even though their high price tags make them unaffordable for beginners. They are primarily herbivorous pet lizards but can eat animal-based foods when they have the chance.

Spiny-Tailed Iguanas

Even though spiny-tailed iguanas are somehow underrated lizards among reptile hobbyists, they can make great pets at home. Sadly they are not suited for beginners. In addition, they have some traits that make them unpopular by many keepers.

On the contrary, they are still a great choice of pet reptiles for experienced keepers who are looking forward to having something different among their pets.

Also known as Ctenosaura spp., spiny-tailed iguanas obtained their name from the keeled scales on their long tails. This feature plays a significant role in protecting these lizards against perceived threats.

They also exhibit foul temperament, making them undesirable by many reptile enthusiasts. Apart from that, they are defensive, flighty, and nervous. In extreme cases, they may bite the hands of their keepers, especially during feeding time.

More than a dozen known species of spiny-tailed iguanas are so far recognizable. However, the black spiny-tailed one (Ctenosaura similis) is the most available for keepers.

This type of iguanas needs a large enclosure with extra height for the addition of climbing branches. These semi-arboreal lizards are omnivorous although their diet should have large portions of plants.


Chuckwallas (Sauromalus spp.) are native to Mexico and are considered part of iguana lizards. They are different from other species of iguanas in tropical climates. Just like desert iguanas, chuckwallas inhabit the arid western parts of North America.

Chuckwallas thrive best in the same type of ecological niche that desert iguanas inhabit. Also, they share the same physical characteristics only that the desert iguanas are not that robust in addition to lacking the spike-covered tails found in chuckwallas.

Chuckwallas are not common pets in captivity although they can be tamed into household pets with some effort. What is more, there are several species of the chuckwalla genus found today but the most common one is the Sauromalus ater.

The most fascinating thing about these lizards is that they have a habit of spending most of their lives near rocky outcroppings. This is because whenever they are frightened they just run to seek shelter and safety among the rocks.

These lizards can wedge themselves into confined spaces while filling their bodies with air. By doing so, they prevent predators from accessing and extracting them.

Typically, chuckwallas grow to an average body length of 18 inches. They are a good choice of pet reptiles for inexperienced keepers, especially when they are captive-bred. All they need is an appropriate habitat in captivity to live comfortably.

Galapagos Land Iguana

Galapagos land iguanas are one of the two types of iguanas that are native to the Galapagos Islands. The other type is the marine iguana. Land iguanas from the Galapagos Islands belong to the genus Conolophus.

They are closely related to marine iguanas. But these land lizards don’t forage in the ocean, instead, they obtain their food from the land. Because these iguanas are highly endangered it is illegal to keep them as pets.

Galapagos Marine Iguana

Marine iguanas are also called sea iguanas. They inhabit Galapagos Islands just like Galapagos land iguanas. These unique lizards belong to the genus Amblyrhrynchus and are described as having an ugly appearance.

Their color is usually yellow-orange from beneath and brownish-red when observed from above. These lizards can grow to an average length of 5 feet.

As their name suggests, Galapagos marine iguanas live on rocky shores of the sea. Whenever they want to get some heat, they lay on the nearby volcanic rocks during the day. Male marine iguanas dive into the ocean/sea to obtain food.

Some years back marine iguanas were declared endangered to extinction. Thanks to the breeding program, these unique iguanas have since multiplied in numbers. However, they are extremely rare on the market because they are highly protected.

Which Iguana Types Make Good Pets?

Pet iguanas need special care and a bit of set up. Usually, keepers are required to keep certain factors in mind before they can start adopting iguanas as their pets.

They have to consider the size, habitat, heat, humidity, and safety of their upcoming pet lizards. Once they have all these conditions ready, they can choose the type of pet iguanas they want to keep.

The most recommended iguana types that can make great pets include:

  • The green iguana
  • The desert iguana
  • The rhinoceros iguana
  • The black spiny-tailed iguana
  • The grand cayman or blue iguana

Before they start their journey of pet iguana parenting, keepers are advised to carry out thorough homework to get the facts and everything right. This is because iguanas are not like other pets in many different ways including how they interact with their keepers. So getting everything ready for them will help reptile hobbyists to handle these unique pets properly.

Wrap Up

Iguanas are attractive, unique, and fascinating species of lizards to have around your home. These pet reptiles exhibit some diversity not found in most pets.

However, some iguanas can make excellent pets at home while others are inappropriate for maintenance in captivity. Such iguanas are mainly suitable for zoological institutions.

avatar William
William is a respected pet enthusiast with expertise in reptiles and birds. With extensive experience caring for these animals, he shares his knowledge through engaging and informative articles in various publications. He is an active member of pet-related organizations, volunteering regularly at shelters and promoting animal welfare and conservation. read more...

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