If you are looking at keeping an exotic animal like an iguana as a pet, you’re going to need to know some information to ensure they live a long and healthy life. But what is their average lifespan? What age can you expect an iguana to live to? I’ve done some research and, accidents or illness aside, I would like to present to you some rough estimations.
So, how long do iguanas live? Iguanas will live from anywhere between 9-60 years. This will range between the different species of iguana and will depend on their genetics, the environment and the lifestyle that they ultimately lead. Wild iguanas generally live longer and toward to upper ends of this range. Pet iguanas however, live around 9-10 years on average. Some do manage to reach their teens and rarer still into their twenties – yet this is the exception rather than the norm.
No pet owner wants to lose their pet after having them for just a few years. However, an iguana is one of the more challenging pets to take care of. They have a lot of their own specific needs and requirements and as such, to properly care for an iguana, it requires knowledge of the species. You are doing a disservice to these animals if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Let us now take a closer look into their average lifespan when kept as pets alongside some of the primary factors that impact their lifespan. This way, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to properly take care for them and ensure you are doing all you can to promote maximal chances of longevity in your pet.
How Long Do Iguanas Live As Pets?
When it comes to the lifespan of an iguana in captivity, let’s look at the green or common iguana as an example as they are the most popular pet of the species.
Many green iguanas that you would find and adopt from a pet store tend to live for nine to ten years.
Some of these lizards make it into their teens and rarer still into their twenties; however this is the exception rather than the norm..
Unfortunately, these reptiles live for such a short time as pets when they could live for a lot longer in their natural habitat. There are many reasons for this, and your duty as their owner is to try and make their enclosure and habitat as close to nature as you possibly can.
The truth is that many owners do not know what they are getting into when they bring an iguana to live with them.
They have a lot of their own unique needs, and do require an optimized environment at all times. This makes it a challenge to provide proper care.
Unfortunately, despite being some of the most popular reptile pets in the United States, most die within the first year, let loose by their owners or given to reptile rescue groups.
That doesn’t have to be the case. In the following section, we will take a look at some of the reasons why iguanas can fail to live the longer life they deserve. We’ll also be giving you some information that will help you support their needs and requirements so be sure to read on!
Factors That Impact The Lifespan Of An Iguana
Continuing the example of the green iguana, they are known to succumb to kidney disease before they reach ten years of age.
By right, these creatures should live into double digits. However, proper care takes dedication, time, money, and specific veterinary care to ensure their ongoing survival. Therefore, if you are yet to adopt a iguana and are not able nor willing to ensure any of those things referenced, this is likely not the pet for you.
Nonetheless, they make fantastic pets and if you do decide to get one, as long as you equip yourself with the right information then you and your iguana should be more than okay. Often, its negligence that causes issues. But, by being here, you’be already proved that you’re willing to invest the time in caring for your reptile.
Let’s now explore some of the primary and most important factors that will impact the lifespan of an iguana:
Iguanas are more water-oriented than some would initially think. So, you must furnish their enclosures with an accessible pool that they can use for swimming and drinking. Proper hydration is crucial for healthy kidney function.
In the wild, iguanas will stay near ponds, rivers, and lakes in order to be close to water. They simply need access to water, and it takes more than a light misting to keep them sufficiently hydrated.
It’s worth mentioning that iguanas are impressive swimmers and capable of staying underwater for extended periods.This just goes to show the significance of water for an iguana. You must replicate this natural proximity to water if you keep them in captivity.
Temperature, Humidity, and UVB Light
Iguanas are indigenous to Mexico, Central America, South America, the Caribbean and are used to tropical climates. These creatures depend on their environment to regulate their temperature.
They do not produce their own body heat, so when external heat sources are absent, their body cools down. This can lead to hypothermia if not provided promptly.
While larger iguanas will take longer to heat up, they also lose body heat more slowly. This makes the less susceptible to hypothermia than smaller iguanas whom will become hypothermic faster.
Therefore it is imperative that you keep your iguanas enclosure sufficiently warm at all times. But how warm?
Iguanas require high ambient temperature in their basking spot (95 degrees F to 100 degrees F). The rest of their enclosure must be 80 degrees F to 85 degrees F.
Beyond just temperature, iguanas require a certain amount of humidity too. Humidity is essentially the amount of ‘water in the air’. Experts recommend that their enclosure should be kept at around 70% humidity at all times. This will prevent kidney disease as well as poor shedding.
Thankfully, there are fantastic duo thermometer/hygrometer measuring devices available that monitor temperature and humidity within the enclosure. They will help you to ensure the environment is sufficient for your iguana and veterinarians will often recommend that you get one. I wrote a best hygrometer guide if you wanted to learn more.
Beyond temperature and humidity, these reptiles require a 12 hour light/ dark cycle. This ensures they receive ultraviolet light at least twelve hours per day. You can get complete kits on Amazon for a great price.
UVB lights must be provided and strategically placed. It is advised that you keep UVB lights close to iguanas, no further than 12 inches from them.
Iguanas are strict vegetarians and need a variety of leafy greens every day. Examples are kale, spinach, parsley, dandelions, and collards.
They can also eat some fruits like strawberries, bananas, apples, and grapes.
Under no circumstances should you be feeding ‘human foods’ or protein rich foods to your reptile. Foods such as bread, pastries, or eggs should never be given.
Nonetheless, you must ensure that you offer your pet a balanced and varied diet. This will help to prevent nutritional deficiencies and make sure they have all the vitamins and minerals they need to grow, stay strong and have a robust and well-functioning immune system (which will help fight off bacteria and disease).
Its also important that you monitor your reptiles diet. Make sure that they do not become addicted to fruit, as the sugars can later cause metabolic diseases.
Continuity is critical in providing a stable and controlled environment for your pet.
Iguanas require lots of room in their environment for climbing and exploring. Make sure that you purchase a sufficiently large cage and one that you can easily clean and optimize for their health and well being. This is perhaps the best natural terrarium for iguanas that you can get on Amazon.
Moreover, even with an optimized and spacious enclosure, it is important that you do not not keep them inside for too long at any stretch of time.
They need some time out of the cage every day to roam freely. When doing so, plan on where you are taking them in advance. Make sure that your home is iguana proof to prevent escape or any potential risks/issues or dangers. This is especially true if you have young children or pets.
Be on hand and with them at all times, never leave them unattended. Also be aware of the amount of time they have been let out for. Consider the temperature and humidity and be sure to return them to their habitat within 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Common Iguana Diseases
Just like other animals, reptiles and pets, Iguana’s are susceptible to disease. In some ways, they are more prone and if you do not care for them correctly, can develop some them quickly.
Here are the main ones to be aware of and to watch out for. If you suspect any of these in your iguana, you should always seek out your veterinarian for advice and assistance.
Kidney Disease – Insufficient access to fresh water every day is the main reason iguanas succumb to kidney disease too early. Lots of water and a balanced diet will promote healthy kidney functioning.
Poor Shedding – if an iguana doesn’t shed their entire skin during a molt, this can lead to problems. The diagnoses is called poor or wrongful Shedding. Low temperatures, insufficient humidity, and lack of appropriate hydration are the leading causes of this condition.
Metabolic Disease – Iguanas need a diet that is rich in calcium and low in phosphorus. This nutritional requirement is found in leafy greens like kale, and spinach, etc. If their diet is lacking in calcium, iguanas will suffer from this painful condition that lowers their lifespan.
You can also purchase calcium supplements which will ensure that they are obtaining a sufficient amount.
How Can You Tell How Old An Iguana Is?
Every iguana grows at different rates, so you can only make an educated guess. However, you can estimate their age roughly by their overall size and the maturity of their bodies, including sexual organs.
Males have more prominent bumps on their heads as they age, and also their jowls (located at the iguana’s jaw line and feels soft like a pillow) get larger.
Females are generally smaller than males so you must take this into account. There is also some regional difference in size/mass so it does also depend upon where the iguana was originally from.
If you were interested in how big iguanas get, in reference to their age, our guide here will be of help.
According to many experts, there is a period latter in their lives (from ages 7-8 or 8-16) where it becomes impossible to determine the age of an iguana.
Many vets will tell the age of an animal by looking at their teeth. However, this is impossible with iguanas as they shed their teeth up to 5 times a year, growing a new set each time. This ability to produce a new set of teeth each time allows them to cut plants and leaves to eat effectively.
The common, domesticated iguana in captivity will live on average to be nine or ten years of age. They do live much longer in the wild, and you can potentially increase your iguanas chances of a long life by optimizing their habitat and environment – making it as natural as possible.
Some owners are very knowledgeable on how to care for their pet iguanas, and this goes a long way to ensuring they live to their maximum potential. However, education is needed for anyone considering one of these lizards as a pet.
It is important to note that you should never get an iguana based on impulse – they require a lot of careful planning and there is a lot to consider. You’ll also need to invest time, money and effort. You’ll need to learn about their natural habitat, their temperature, humidity, and hydration requirements.
Do some research on how they would live in the wild and replicate their natural habitat as closely as possible. You must do all you can to ensure that these fantastic creatures live for as long as they can; you owe it to them as their guardian.
While in many ways, the above information may have potentially put you off adopting an iguana if you had yet to, this needn’t nor should not be the case. They are fascinating animals and great to look at and care for.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.