Desert Iguana

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Species group:

Scientific name: Dipsosaurus dorsalis

The basics:
The Desert Iguana is found in the Mojave and Sonoran Deserts of California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Baja California, and Mexico. They are also seen in some of the islands off the Gulf of California. The preferred habitat of the Desert Iguana is hot, dry, sandy scrubland, rocky streambeds, subtropical areas, and deciduous forests. The creosote bush is their favorite shelter (the flowers their favorite meal), as well as burrows and foxholes.

Appearance / health:
Desert Iguanas mature to about 16 inches in length. The body is large and stout, and the tail is long (about 1.5 the length of the body). The base color is light brown or grayish tan with light-colored net-like or reticulated patterns on the neck, body, and sides. This pattern becomes dark round markings on the back next to the hind legs, then becomes tiny dark spots forming bands around the tail. The belly is whitish cream, which become pinkish on the sides during mating season.

Behavior / temperament:
The Desert Iguana loves extreme heat and is often seen basking on large rocks and sand mounds. They are diurnal and most actively preying when the temperatures are higher than 110F. They are good pets because they are docile, hardy, and easy to feed and care for.

Desert Iguanas are large lizards that require huge enclosures (at least 100 gallons). A desert terrarium with a substrate of at least 8 inches deed is recommended. Sand and gravel is considered the best substrate. The tank should be provided with some plants (preferably potted but should be stable), flat rocks for basking, assorted rocks and accessories for climbing, and structures for hiding and burrowing. All décor should be secure to prevent toppling or dislodging. A water bowl is also essential. Adding live creosote bushes for hiding and feeding is recommended. Day temp: 86-104F; night temp: 64-71F; basking temp: 113-122F; humidity: 30-40%; lighting: 14 hours, UV radiation required.

Desert Iguanas are best kept in pairs or groups with only one male. Strict adherence to the high temperature and lighting requirements is crucial to success in keeping these desert lizards. Optimum lifespan is about 17 years.

Primarily herbivorous, Desert Iguanas feed on the fruits, leaves, flowers, and buds of assorted plants, but most especially the creosote bush. Occasionally, though, they feed on insects and mealworms.

Desert Iguanas are egg-layers, mating in the spring (March to June), and lay one or two clutches of 2-10 eggs that hatch in July to September.


interesting display, favourite lizards


handleable lizards, UVB lighting


medium sized enclosure

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