green iguanas: impressive “warriors” for stately tanks

Many of us, especially the middle and older “semesters”, will be familiar with the green iguana ( Iguana iguana ) from our school days. Because it was not uncommon for the stately and mostly peaceful green iguanas to be presented in the classrooms by travelling reptile zoos or zoo educators. A “showmanship” that many animal rights activists strictly reject today and which is still celebrated, especially with snakes. 

Even today we see advertising motifs with giant snakes hung around the necks of lightly clad models more often. The green iguana, on the other hand, is not necessarily a media star, even if iguanas are impressive reptiles simply because of their kite-like appearance.

Green iguanas and their whims: when marital disputes and territorial disputes are around the corner

The green iguana can also do anything other than peaceful: some specimens can be quite rough and sometimes threaten their keepers. Others, on the other hand, can easily be taken out of the terrarium and stroked. The capture must then be done very calmly and without any haste, warns Johannes Jahn in his “Small Terrarium Studies” and refers to the strong claws of the green iguana and to the fact that young animals, so-called “baby yuana”, get used to the hand of their keepers with patience should be. 

Green iguanas can also do bad things to each other. It doesn’t always stop at “nodding” and threatening gestures. Iguanas, which the keeper in front of the terrarium actually thinks to be an “ideal pair”, can suddenly attack each other very badly, with teeth and claws … until one of the iguanas, but in the worst case both, are wounded.

Green iguanas and their space requirements: Large tanks for stately animals

Since green iguanas easily get one and a half to two meters long, potential owners should be aware of the acquisition costs for the terrarium or accommodation in good time. Only young animals of the green iguana can be accommodated in pools measuring 120 x 120 x 60 centimetres, whereby this terrarium size is “blown up” by the animals after a short time. Even growing iguanas need a floor area of ​​2.50 by 2 meters and a corresponding height for climbing, which is why many keepers keep their iguanas in their own specially furnished rooms, winter gardens or heated greenhouses. 

The demands that our “dragons” place on their potential owners should not be underestimated. The entire facility must also be appropriately anchored and stable. Even more, when a tank is designed for loved ones like the rhinoceros iguana. With his tail, which looks like a hippopotamus whip, he can even dent a sturdy watering can and, while digging and scratching, throw tons of earth and gravel against the terrarium pane, says Wolfgang Bechtle’s “Colorful World in the Terrarium”, describing the essence of the imposing, but everything other than undemanding animals.


Heated water basin, moist substrate, 1/2 of the climbing branches thicker than the body!” for keeping reptiles to the green iguana. And in fact, our green iguana is an excellent swimmer, who can paddle longer distances in its natural habitat when it is flooded. 

In Central and South America, the idol snake is one of his enemies. According to their tropical origin, green iguanas also like it warm and humid in the terrarium, whereby the rainforest basin has a basic temperature of 28 degrees, but the sun places are heated to over 40 degrees.

“In the zoo, one of them was given a quarter pound of meat every other day, a half-pound of cherries on a salad and other sweet fruit.” This is how Bechtle describes the menu of the nose horned iguana ( Cyclura cornuta), which is native to Haiti), who also lives mainly vegetarian in the wild and only occasionally adds insects and small mammals to his diet. Our green iguana, on the other hand, can and should only be fed plant-based foods. 

Above all, dandelion leaves and blossoms, clover and plantain, but also cress and chickweed come into consideration, whereby the cold season and other food shortages can also be bridged well with the Exo Terra Iguana Adult – a ready-made food for adult green iguanas. This is because it contains important raw fibres, is easy to digest and, thanks to the light-protected aroma freshness bag with zipper, stays fresh and crispy for a particularly long time. 

The Exo Terra Iguana Juvenile, which guarantees a good start to a long iguana life, has also been developed to meet the high energy requirements of growing young animals. On the other hand, we should refrain from meat, insects and nestling mice, as they are still described in the older literature and are also gladly taken since our green iguana is otherwise at risk of liver damage and gout. Even fruit may only be served in moderation!

iguana closeup, on black background

Green iguana: profile & useful information in brief

Origin: Central and Northern South America; diurnal, lives more in the plains and prefers the proximity of rivers and other bodies of water; excellent swimmer

Appearance and size: Stately, up to two meters long lizard with strong claws, powerful throat trough and serrated crest on the back, which gives the green iguana a kite-like appearance

Aggression and socialization: Very territorial animals; socialization can become a problem, even with supposedly matching couples; aggressive specimens of the green iguana can also seriously injure their keeper

Protection Status: WA Annex II. Obligation to keep accounts. Not notifiable.

Guide values ​​for keeping green iguanas

Temperature: Recommended air temperature in the terrarium between 25 and 28 ° C. Local heat islands is essential – use spotlights. Local temperature zones should be 35 to 38 ° C. In the raised area of ​​the terrarium (upper area of ​​the climbing branch, for example) peak temperature up to a maximum of 45 ° C. Night setback is mandatory! The ideal night temperature for the green iguana is between 20 and 25 ° C.

Humidity: 60-80% humidity is a good guideline. Over 90% at night – as is common in tropical rainforests. Recommended: terrarium fogger or sprinkler system in combination with a hygrometer to correctly control the humidity in the terrarium.

Lighting: For the basic lighting, we recommend a bright T5 daylight tube or corresponding daylight lamps. UV light is absolutely necessary! Use an additional UV lamp. Well suited: Lucky Reptile Bright Sun UV Jungle.

Substrate: The substrate for the green iguana must be loose and very absorbent. An appropriate jungle substrate is suitable. At the same time a good regulator for the humidity.

Furnishing: Typical jungle terrarium. The green iguana has to be able to climb a lot. Large climbing branches are ideal here. Cork back panels are recommended. Terrarium needs water (heated if possible) – otherwise: Large water bowl that is suitable for bathing. Providing retreats and hiding places – cork tubes are a good choice here.

Terrarium size: the green iguana needs a lot of space! 5 x 3 x 4 (L x W x H) in pairs, based on the body-trunk length, is an absolute minimum here and often too little. A terrarium suitable for green iguanas is approx. 250 cm x 150 cm x 200 cm (L x W x H). A separate terrarium room or a suitable winter garden can also be considered.