I have always been fascinated by iguanas and have had many questions over the years about them. One of which was their distinct color. Is it possible for them to be able to change color and even camouflage when the opportunity presents itself? To answer these questions, I decided to conduct a lot of research. Below is what I have been able to find.
So, do iguanas change color? Iguanas do and can change color; either more vibrant or a different shade altogether. However, iguanas are unable to camouflage (like Chameleons) and instead change color in specific circumstances. For example, color changes might be due to stress, breeding, or the result of something in their environment.
Color changes are often entirely normal (especially if it’s to a darker green/orange).
However, if an iguana turns black it is a bad sign and often indicates something is clearly wrong. Veterinary attention will be needed, and fast.
Changing color for an iguana is the result of a stimulus from their environment and occurs at different times during their life.
They will not just change color for the sake of it.
Its important to note that there are various ‘natural colors’ of iguanas, not all bear the same color green as we so commonly see and may imagine.
There are some genetic mutations in the color of these reptiles which play a role here.
Let us now explore these mutations, and the topic in more detail. We’ll also be looking at the possibility of camouflaging and answering some of the most common questions that you may have as an owner related to the topic.
What Color Are Iguanas?
Most iguanas bear the color green – this is why your average iguana is called the green iguana or common iguana.
There are different variations of green; some iguanas have a deep tone to their green, others pale, multi-hued, tinges of blue, stripes, and blotches; however, green is the predominant color.
There are some exceptions, to your average green iguana, some don’t have any green on them and may even have different colored stripes.
Let’s explore color variations in iguanas:
These iguanas are predominantly blue with some green. These iguanas have gorgeous turquoise hues, when happy and healthy.
When they are cold, or uncomfortable in any way, they turn green.
You will notice that the irises of their eyes tend to have a deep reddish-brown color, and they have black skin around the scales of their bodies, heads, tails, and on the loose skin hanging from their throat.
Keep in mind that some iguanas are blue when young, as it takes time for yellow to develop, to turn green. This delay in yellow development does not mean that you have a blue iguana.
Brown iguanas can be mostly brown, cream, and tan colored. When these lizards are happy, and well, they might get some green in their stripes and markings.
Shadings and markings of these iguanas are like any other iguana; it’s just that the color is different.
These iguanas can have very gray scaly heads and necks once they become adults. Rostrums might even have tiny horns, and their bodies will be dark green. Many have blurry stripes or reticulated patterns on their skin.
When it is breeding season, the heads and bodies of males take son a rust color that can turn to deep orange, when they become excited.
These iguanas are very rare and only found in one part of South America, and their heads are red.
These iguanas don’t have white heads as such; they have extremely pale green heads that look white from a distance. The color of their heads changes during sexual arousal or when feeling territorial and will turn to a pale blue.
Do Iguanas Change Color To Camoflague?
Iguanas do change color to camouflage, in response to specific situations. Baby iguanas are usually a bright green color with some brown stripes or bands around the tail. Sometimes their stripes can become darker and bronze when basking in the sun.
When an Iguana is in their second year of life, their colors change into what would be their adult color.
Many iguanas shed their bright deep green color to develop a paler green. The belly bands of males become more vivid as they reach sexual maturity.
Iguanas shed their skin every four to six weeks; in the weeks leading up to this, the color can change.
The normal color will become duller, veering on yellow. Heat and cold also have an impact on their standard color. The skin of these reptiles becomes darker when it’s cold as dark colors absorb heat and get lighter when they are too warm.
Stress can also have an impact on their coloring, bear in mind, dark brown, dark gray, yellow, and black are not healthy iguana colors.
There are exceptions to the rule, some iguanas are this color, but this is a sign of stress in your average iguana.
In a pet that is stressed, the head will be first to change color before the rest of the body changes; the belly will remain green or yellow.
During the breeding period, males will usually develop a rusty orange color over their entire body, or their green color will become paler, with bright orange appearing on the spikes and dewlaps.
This color change happens months before the breeding season begins and will last for many months after the breeding season ends.
When females change color during the breeding season, they usually develop a soft rust color around their eyes.
Do Iguanas Camouflage Themselves?
Iguanas don’t change color or camouflage themselves in the way chameleons camouflage themselves.
Chameleons change color by expanding and contracting cells in their skin that comprise of different pigments- this is what helps them to blend into their surroundings.
Iguanas do not have this ability to blend into their surroundings. However, they have adapted colors naturally over generations which help them to blend into their natural habitats.
Young iguanas are green; this helps them to hide high in the trees, among the foliage.
When they mature, they move to more massive branches with less foliage, thus developing a paler green, sometimes gray to brown colors develop.
These changes in skin color camouflage them from predators.
Iguanas are mostly green, with some exceptions, color changes can be a sign of stress or ill health.
Iguanas can develop a muddy brown color when they are stressed in the beginning before turning a very dark brown to black; this is a sign that an iguana is suffering.
A simple change in your iguana’s environment can cause a world of stress. This is why you need to be so careful with domestication. Its important that you purchase an iguana from a specialized breeder or designated pet store.
Iguanas are beautiful and exotic creatures, and people like to keep them as pets because they are relatively laid back and gentle.
The skin color of these reptiles is strikingly fascinating but also a good indicator of your iguana’s overall health.
If you were wondering whether iguanas change color, you now know for sure that they do. Iguanas are not able to blend into their surroundings instantly, in the way chameleons do, but nevertheless iguana colors are designed to match their given environment.
It’s helpful to be aware of specific colors displayed by an iguana, in relation to their common color.
It indicates that something has changed or there is a cause from their environment. For example, changes are likely to occur when these lizards are stressed.
As such, observing and monitoring color changes enables owners to care for their pets properly.
Any iguana owner wants to give their pet the best possible outcome in life; so being on top of the potential causes, limiting opportunities for stress and keeping the environment optimized and stable are all going to help in this way.
Green iguanas typically turn orange during the run-up to breeding season. They may also do so when other iguanas are present, as a means of asserting dominance. It is most common in males, and may only appear in certain body areas.
Green iguanas turn black when something is wrong. Stress (intimidation or subordination to other housed iguanas), burns (from heat lamps/pads/sources, etc) the onset of blackening skin syndrome (diet inefficiencies, environment issues, and/or Vesicular Dermatitis/Blister Disease (infection of the skin/blood) are all potential causes. This is not a normal or healthy change.
Iguanas cannot change gender. While it can be hard to determine their gender, male and female iguanas do have their own differences; like their cloacal vents. Iguanas are known to display different gender-specific behaviors during specific events and stages of life.
I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.