Desert Iguana Care Sheet Archived Comments

My desert iguana is at least 20 years old - no idea how old he was when I bought him in 1999 but he's still going strong!Posted by TheBFB, Dec 26, 201

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My desert iguana is at least 20 years old – no idea how old he was when I bought him in 1999 but he’s still going strong!
Posted by TheBFB, Dec 26, 2019 05:11 AM

We had desert iguanas many years ago while stationed at Ft. Irwin, CA. Kids were always catching them and bringing them home. We had 3 in an aquarium which had a hot rock and the light was from the aquarium top. I don’t remember what we fed them but it must have worked because we had them for the 2 years we were there. I let them loose in the house regularly, they loved climbing the curtains and would stay there for hours. Very docile, friendly. No internet then and not much information available. They were a pleasure to share our home with.
Posted by Deborah, Oct 5, 2017 04:29 PM


I’ve had a desert iguana for a little over a year now and they are probably the best lizard you can have. They’re easy to take care of, fun to watch, and they’re strict vegetarians. I would strongly suggest them to anyone looking for a lizard.
Posted by Anonymous, Jul 7, 2017 10:06 AM

“Some good information on a still very underrated lizard here. There’s an impressive reference list as well, so I’m not claiming to know better, just offering another opinion / experience. The following is just my own opinion. The only points I would offer a different opinion on are:

The hot spot / basking temperature can be 50 C – these lizards are known to be out in temperatures above that when most other reptiles have hidden away. No doubt this plays a part in their survival.

I would stay away from a focus on fruit and nuts and try to replicate the tough, fibrous plants they eat in the wild – look at uromastyx feeding guides – and stay away from citrus fruits. You need to do your own research to be happy with your feeding plan, but you could start with spring greens, runner beans, sugar snaps etc, cactus pads, pak choy, squash, chicory etc. When feeding fruits, which should be a much smaller part of the diet, try feeding the skins and leaving the flesh out.

Co-habiting with other species is always up to the owner, and causes much debate. However, I believe the idea of desert iguanas and chuckwallas sharing space has largely come from examples in zoo collections, which have extremely large enclosures able to give these reptiles space to keep away from each other. The average hobbyist does not have a vivarium large enough to allow that to happen.


The size of the vivarium is usually recommended to be much larger then mentioned here. A 4 x 2 x 2 foot is fine for a single lizard, with 5 x 2 x 2 a minimum for a pair. The more the better as these are very active lizards that need to be given opportunities to run, jump and climb, as well as move around to find temperature spots.

The idea of spraying does make sense as a way of offering drinking water, but I feel that the point is over stated here. If fresh vegetables / leaves are offered, the lizard will gain its moisture from those. If a bowl of water is kept in the viv, it needs to be small and in the cooler end. Regular spraying will create a high humidity which these lizards do not need. Again, look at advice for uromastyx, for which there seems to be more available info. As creating moist, dig-able sand without a moisture issue can be difficult in the average viv, I would suggest just offering dry substrate with a few secure hiding spaces (plastic hides, bark, rocks etc).

Lastly, I would like to say that, in over a decade, I have never been bitten by a Desert iguana. If they are wild caught, the are likely to be flighty, and may stay that way. I have experienced both ends of the spectrum, with a male being happy to walk onto my hand and take food from me, and a female that bolted very time I opened the door. Still, no biting. If scared, they will run, which they can do very well.
Posted by Anonymous, Apr 3, 2016 01:59 PM