10 Types of Iguanas with Pictures & Explained in Detail

Ever since Emilia Clarke played ‘Mother of Dragons’ on Game of Thrones, every herper has dreamt of such motherhood. North American Iguanas are the closest you can get to dragons on the Earth!

Iguanas are giant, majestic, and almost magical in appearance. They do not blow out fire and some are very docile with their parents. Sadly, many stunning types of iguanas are now struggling to survive in their natural habitat. 

We do not recommend having an Iguana as a pet unless you are well-experienced with giant lizards. However, we encourage putting your love for these animals into their conservation efforts

In this article, you will learn about some of the biggest, smallest, rare, pet-worthy, and Florida-based Iguanas!

Meet the biggest Iguana species in the World! 

#1 Green Iguana 

Green Iguana on rough cemented floor outdoor

Scientific Name: Iguana iguana

Adult size: Up to 6.5 feet

Identifying Characteristics: Large, majestic, distinctive green lizards with dewlaps under the chin and spines running on the middle of the back from neck to tail.

Lifespan: Up to 15 years

Interesting fact: Some researchers believe that Green Iguanas communicate with other Iguanas through quick eye movements!

Iguana iguana is the most common type of iguana. Native to Central America, it typically thrives in hot and humid climates and has managed to invade regions like Central and Southern Florida that remain soggy throughout the year. Green Iguanas stay on trees that are close to a water source. They are fundamentally herbivores but young iguanas are known to be omnivorous. 

These fantastic lizards are known for their large size. In fact, their long and heavy tail sometimes exceeds the length and mass of their snout ventral portion. Understandably, Green Iguanas often use their tail as a weapon to lash at predators. Their self-defense tactics can scare a full-grown man as they can quickly cast off that enormous tail to escape.

They were once extremely popular with reptile lovers and mythological dragon lovers alike. But like most high-maintenance pets, their popularity has fallen. They are relatively common and not endangered. The trade of Green Iguanas in America is restricted to control their numbers in the wild

Know about uniquely rare types of Iguanas in the Wild!

#2 Blue Iguana   

Blue Iguana on log

Scientific Name: Cyclura lewisi

Adult size: Up to 5 feet

Identifying Characteristics: Large, pronounced blue or bluish-gray lizards with cross bands, dorsal crests, and segmented toes that help them in climbing trees.

Lifespan: Up to 40 years

Interesting fact: Blue Iguanas are amongst the longest-living reptiles. One of them lived to be 69 years old!

Native to the Cayman islands in Jamaica, Blue Iguanas are an endangered species. This rare species is quite adaptable when it comes to thriving in a habitat. The longest-living Blue Iguana lived up to 69 years in a man-made enclosure! In the wild, they prefer the vicinity of thorny plants in rocky jungles by the coast or humid deciduous forests. 

Cyclura lewisi is known to be omnivorous and typically feeds on fruits, stems, flowers, insects, and small crustaceans. Although their predominant color is blue, these rare majesties can change to a lighter or darker shade depending upon the circumstances. They transform to a less conspicuous blue to develop camouflage and hide from predators. But when threatened by another territorial male iguana, their color changes to a shimmering bright blue. 

Blue Iguanas are severely endangered in their natural habitat, primarily due to habitat destruction. They were earlier predicted to be extinct by the early 21st century.

#3 Jamaican Rock Iguana 

Scientific Name: Cyclura collei

Adult size: Up to 4.5 feet

Identifying Characteristics: These rare, greenish-blue, bulky lizards display a ridge of scales that runs through the entire body length. Their sharp-clawed fingers are longer compared to other lizards.

Lifespan: Up to 20 years

Interesting fact: Jamaican Rock Iguana was rediscovered in 1990. It was considered extinct for 40 years!

The second largest land animal of Jamaica, Cyclura collei, is still critically endangered. Their numbers are 100-200 in a small area of southern Jamaica. These captivating big lizards thrive under rocky burrows or trees of the St. Catherine Parish limestone forests. Known to be dire herbivores, these unique iguanas ordinarily dine on flowers and fallen leaves. Although, they happen to eat insects by accident!

Like Green Iguana, Jamaican Rock Iguana can detach its tail to escape predators. It is hard to imagine the predator of a gigantic blue lizard. The population of these Iguanas have historically been threatened by mongoose and Jamaican boa. There is no way this scarce beauty would be a pet. But Jamaican Rock Iguanas are quite friendly with other members of their species and often gather as a mess (or mass)!

Discover distinctly small Iguana species 

#4 Fiji Banded Iguana 

Fiji Banded Iguana (Brachylophus Fasciatus) on rocks

Scientific Name: Brachylophus bulabula

Adult size: Up to 2 feet 

Identifying Characteristics: Small, sparkling green iguanas with a relatively long tails and crested spines running throughout the back. 

Lifespan: Up to 15 years

Interesting fact: Fiji Banded Iguanas appear lazy until they are in the water. They are fantastic swimmers and can catch speeds up to 1.5 feet per second!

Brachylophus bulabula were initially considered a separate species distinct from other iguanas. They are now restricted to just three islands in Fiji and are an endangered species. These beautiful lizards live in wet and humid forests, shrublands, burrows in rocky grounds, and coastal swamps. Generally herbivores, they feed on leaves, fruits, and flowers, with a strong affinity towards hibiscus flowers! 

Fiji Iguanas generally appear idle. But they are quite the sportsperson amongst their kind. When required, they can swiftly swing through tree branches or run a swift course through the water. They often escape predators by changing their color to black as a means to blend with the surroundings. 

These incredible lizards have a status no less than royals in their native country Fiji. The beauty and uniqueness of these iguanas is celebrated with their depictions on currency notes and postal stamps!

#5 Desert Iguana 

Desert iguana (Dipsosaurus dorsalis) on owner's palm

Scientific Name: Dipsosaurus dorsalis

Adult size: Under 2 feet

Identifying Characteristics: Small, cylindrical, tan, or brown iguanas with tails longer than their snout ventral portion, and broken bands on the back. While the banded iguana has broader, bluish bands, their endemic relative Fiji crested iguana has white strips.

Lifespan: Up to 10 years

Interesting fact: Desert Iguanas have the smoothest features as compared to other iguana species. They don’t have spikes or even a chin!

Found in the arid regions of Arizona and California in North America, Desert Iguanas are commonly spotted in North American deserts. Distinct from other iguana species, their appearance matches their surroundings and helps them blend with the tan desert backdrop. This is how these special lizards stay close to sandy ground and hide in desert scrublands. They typically feed on buds, leaves, and flowers, and especially prefer flowers of the creosote bush.

Like most animals of the desert, Dipsosaurus dorsalis’ body has adapted itself to navigate unforgiving sands. Their strong legs help to quickly pace through dry sand and even climb bushes or rocks to escape predators. Although common, Desert Iguanas are rarely raised as pets because of their special habitat conditions and unique diet requirements. Only an experienced herper can succeed in making them comfortable in large desert-like terrarium enclosures. 

Know what is up with the types of Iguanas in Florida

#6 Mexican Spiny-Tailed Iguana

Mexican Spiny Tailed Iguana outdoor eating plant leaves

Scientific Name: Ctenosaura pectinata

Adult size: Up to 5 feet

Identifying Characteristics: Bulky, brownish-gray iguanas with thick spines throughout the back. Their most distinctive feature is a heavy, keeled tail.

Lifespan: Up to 25 years

Interesting fact: Most species of Iguanas prefer solitude. Mexican Spiny Tailed Iguanas live in social groups with others of their kind!

Native to Mexico and Central America and invasive in Florida, Mexican Spiny Tailed Iguana prefers tropical and dry climates. They thrive well even in urban environments. However, their population is rapidly declining because of factors like poaching, hunting, and consumption of their meat in some areas. Ctenosaura pectinata is omnivorous and feeds on leaves, flowers, and small animals.

The most striking feature of Mexican Spiny Tailed Iguanas is their huge keeled tail. They are known to whip their tail for self-defense and inflict serious injuries! Their hot temperament, tendency to bite, and nervousness have limited their popularity as pets. 

Editor’s Note
Mexican Spiny Tailed Iguanas are present in notoriously large numbers in Florida and have threatened the survival of native species of small animals. They were introduced into the wilderness of Florida by some careless pet owners and have now become invasive.

#7 Black Spiny-Tailed Iguana 

Black Spiny Tailed Iguana  on grass

Scientific Name: Ctenosaura similis

Adult size: Up to 6 feet

Identifying Characteristics: Big in size, black or gray, with a long snout, black bands on the body, and a tail covered in long spines.

Lifespan: Up to 65 years

Interesting fact: This species is the fastest runner amongst lizards and has attained a record speed of 21.5mph.

Another native of Mexico and Central America, Black Spiny Tailed Iguanas too are infamously invasive in Florida. They favor hot and humid environments but can live in most open terrains in Central America. They are happiest in the hollows of tree trunks where they can block the entrance with their intimidating tail! Ctenosaura similis is omnivorous and feeds on small insects as well as plants. 

Interestingly, this species is the primary pollinator for the Pitayo Organ Pipe Cactus! Black Spiny Tailed Iguanas feed on the fruit of this cactus and help in the dispersal of its seeds throughout the forest. 

Editor’s Note
Since Black Spiny Tailed Iguanas are abundant in number and their population has disturbed the ecological balance of fauna in places like Florida, there is a special conservation project to control their invasiveness. 

Take note of some exceptional types of pet Iguanas

#8 Rhinoceros Iguana

Rhinoceros Iguana

Scientific Name: Cyclura cornuta

Adult size: Up to 4.5 feet

Identifying Characteristics: Large and bulky lizards, with heavy heads, often steel gray in color, with a bony outgrowth on the snout that resembles a rhino’s horn.

Lifespan: Up to 80 years

Interesting fact: Rhinoceros Iguanas produce the largest eggs among the lizards of the World!

Native to the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, this endangered species is not found in the wild in the USA. They prefer solitude and live inside hollow tree trunks or stay camouflaged with their surroundings in rocky and arid tropical forest floors. These iguanas are herbivores and help in the dispersal of seeds of fruit trees.

Largest lizards in their genus, Rhinoceros Iguanas are endangered because of climate change, hurricanes, and deforestation. These Iguanas are quite popular as pets despite their large size and expensive requirements. Rhino Iguanas need a large temperature-controlled enclosure suitable for their huge size and with appropriate climbing spots, hiding spots, and digging ground to facilitate their natural habits. 

Contrary to their appearance, Rhinoceros Iguanas are very docile as pets and rarely get aggressive. They are still not recommended for homes with small children as they can deliver serious bites. 

#9 Chuckwalla Iguana

man holding Chuckwalla Iguana

Scientific Name: Sauromalus sp.

Adult size: Up to 3 feet

Identifying Characteristics: Large, brown, or black desert lizards with red speckles, large folds of loose skin on the sides, and a big scaly tail.

Lifespan: Up to 25 years

Interesting fact: Chuckwallas change the color of their body depending on their mood and the temperature outside.

The largest lizard of the North American deserts and native to desert regions of Western America, Chuckwallas are often compared to dinosaurs in appearance! Like typical desert lizards, they prefer rocky habitats with enough hiding spots. 

Chuckwallas have adapted well to the toughest challenges of the arid climate. These remnants of the Jurassic age feed on desert vegetation and fulfill water intake through their food. 

Despite their tough exterior, Chuckwallas are very shy and tend to hide in rocky crevices. Once they’ve lodged their hefty body in a rocky gap, they inflate themselves with air to attain the tightest possible wedge!

Chuckwalla Iguanas are abundant in the wild but rare as pets. They require huge vivariums with specific habitat conditions, and closely monitored environments. Otherwise, they are very docile by nature and accommodate better in comparison to other pet lizards.

#10 Cuban Rock Iguana

Cuban Rock Iguana on rocks

Scientific Name: Cyclura nubila

Adult size: Up to 5 feet

Identifying Characteristics: Large, gray, or black in color, with bulky heads, jowls on the sides, and spikes that run through the length of their back and tail.

Lifespan: Up to 60 years

Interesting fact: Cuban Rock Iguanas have the most striking eccentric eyes with the deep red sclera and a golden red iris!

Native to the northern and southern coasts of Cuba in North America, Cuban Rock Iguanas prefer rocky beaches along the coast. Their natural habitat has been severely affected by hurricanes, global warming, and deforestation. Added to this, an increase in the population of their natural predators threatens their extinction in the wild! 

These majestic lizards feed on a high cellulose diet consisting of leaves and flowers and occasionally feed on small animals. Cyclura nubila typically depicts unpredictable behavior in the wild. Since their strong bite can cause severe injuries, they can only be handled by experienced reptile collectors

Their popularity as pets is on the decline because of their specific habitat and dietary requirements. But despite their declining numbers in the wild, private breeders and collectors hold a significant number of Cuban Rock Iguanas. 

How to pick the best Iguana for you?

types of iguanas

Who doesn’t want to be the mother of dragons? But Iguanas are quite challenging and expensive to have as pets. Here’s what you need to decide which Iguana you should pick.

  1. Know what to expect 

Iguanas are easy to care for as babies. But the large species grow several feet long as adults and sometimes weigh over 20 pounds! Do your research in advance and see if you are experienced to manage a full-grown Iguana.

  1. Replication of their natural habitat 

Iguanas are wild animals that thrive in specific conditions and special ecosystems. According to your iguana’s particular needs, you’ll need to construct a terrarium/vivarium that is thermoregulated, has space to climb, spots to hide, and places to dig. You need to ensure that they can live an active, long, and healthy life just like they would in the wild. This can be quite expensive. 

  1. Following their dietary habits

Most iguanas are herbivores and primarily eat plants occurring in their natural habitats. You need to feed them huge portions of plant-based meals up to two times a day! This can be very high maintenance on a long-term basis. 


Which is the best Iguana for a pet?

Rhinoceros, Chuckwalla, and Cuban Rock Iguanas are comparatively docile and manageable as compared to other large species. Desert Iguana is a good option if you’re considering small Iguana species.

Is it legal to have iguanas as pets in Florida?

Some cities in Florida prohibit the ownership of Iguanas. Florida has banned 16 highly invasive species of reptiles as pets. 

Note for the herpers

It is crucial to note that many Iguanas in the wild might soon face extinction and become characters in mythological stories like dragons. One way of loving majestic reptiles is by helping in their survival. Educating yourself and others about the animals we share our planet with can go a long way in conservation efforts. Share this article ahead! 

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