The iguana—a large reptile from the lizard family—originally hailed from Central and South America but has scuttled its way into many homes and hearts worldwide as a much-loved family member. However, iguanas certainly don’t come without challenges.
Though they can be tamed, these lizards are not naturally docile or affectionate in human company, making them best suited to experienced reptile keepers. Moreover, though some iguanas aren’t very expensive to buy at first (depending on the type), they’ll need an appropriately-sized terrarium, proper heating and lighting, food, substrate, and much more.
If you’re considering getting an iguana, this guide gives you a heads-up as to approximately how much they cost to buy and maintain.
Bringing Home a New Iguana: One-Time Costs
The cost of bringing home a new iguana ranges from completely free to up to $2,500 or more for certain types. From our research, it’s clear that the popular green iguana is one of the cheapest to buy from a breeder.
That said, there are always adoption organizations and social media groups to check out—you may only have to pay an adoption fee or nothing at all depending on the organization.
In some cases, people buy reptiles without realizing just how much of a commitment they are. Some of these people are happy to give these reptiles away to new homes for free. Your best bet is likely to check out adoption organizations, ad sites, or reptile-centered social media groups to give an iguana a great new home (yours, of course!) for free.
We checked out some reptile adoption sites and found that adoption fees tend to vary. For common iguanas, you’re likely to pay around $40, but for uncommon reptile species (this may include rarer iguana types), you may pay up to $125 or even more. According to Fresh Start Rescue Inc., one of the most common types up for adoption in its rescue center is the green iguana.
You can typically get a green iguana for as little as $25, but less common species tend to go for much more. We found Blue Axanthic iguanas that cost upwards of $100 and Rhinoceros iguanas that cost $500.
We thought that was it, but then we came across an adult male Rhinoceros iguana for a whopping $2,500! Given how expensive it is to buy an iguana from a breeder, you might want to consider adoption as an alternative.
Initial Setup and Supplies
Once you’ve coughed up the initial fee for an iguana, you’ll also have to prepare to finance their living, general care, and nutritional needs. One of the most important things to bear in mind is tank size because this depends on your iguana’s size.
Baby iguanas can live in a 20-gallon tank, but adults will need a tank at least 12 feet long and 8 feet high as per Birds & Exotic Veterinary Clinic’s recommendation. Glass or Plexiglass enclosures are recommended. Here are the approximate prices of everything you’ll need for your iguana to be comfortable.
List of Iguana Care Supplies and Costs
|20-gallon tank for babies||$150–$200|
|12-foot tank for adults||$300–$700|
|Substrate/reptile carpet||$0 (can be newspaper)–$20|
|Heat lamp bulb||$10–$20|
|Food & water bowls||$5–$10|
|Tree branch (avoid natural branches)||$10–$20|
How Much Does an Iguana Cost Per Month?
Okay, so now the initial setup costs are out of the way, how much does it cost to keep an iguana on a monthly basis? The answer is: it really depends. Owning a reptile, like any animal, can be an unpredictable business.
For example, you may go several months to years with no health issues whatsoever, and then, bam, your iguana suddenly needs a (costly) visit to the vet followed by a course of some kind of medicine. If you plan on getting an iguana, it’s best to be prepared for any possible medical treatments they may need in the future.
When we think about health care for iguanas, we need to take into account several factors, most especially nutritional needs, grooming, potential vet visits and treatments, and exotic pet insurance. If your iguana doesn’t need any vet visits in a month and you already have all the supplies for setup, health care and maintenance shouldn’t be too pricey.
The above estimate is based on the cost of (various) fruit and vegetables and common health supplements for iguanas. Calcium and multivitamin supplements are typically sprinkled over an iguana’s regular food, and the frequency depends on whether your iguana is growing or an adult.
Dark, leafy green vegetables should make up 80–90% of an iguana’s diet and fruits should make up less than 20%. The cost of these vegetables and fruits monthly really depends on where you shop and if you grow your own produce.
Iguanas need a bath at least once per week. Moreover, iguanas shed their skin (babies every 4–6 weeks, adults about once per year), so you may need to give them a helping hand by gently peeling it off (avoid pulling if it doesn’t come away easily, though!).
This process can be helped along with a soak in some water or lubricant if necessary. It’s also important to trim your iguana’s nails regularly for safety reasons. Adults need their nails trimmed about once per month. As long as you have some reptile nail trimmers and a spot for your iguana to bathe, there’s likely no need to spend any extra cash on grooming supplies.
Medications and Vet Visits
You may not need to pay anything for vet visits and medication if your iguana is healthy, but sometimes, the unexpected happens. The consultation fee for an exotic vet costs around $50 to $100 on average. Treatment and surgeries may cost up to $500 or more depending on the procedure or type of medicine your iguana needs.
Exotic pet insurance is far less common than cat and dog insurance, but one provider that does offer exotic pet insurance is Nationwide. The monthly cost of pet insurance can vary greatly, but the general consensus is that Nationwide’s exotic pet insurance tends to start at around $9 per month. This may increase depending on factors like your iguana’s age and your location.
Once you’ve got your tank set up with everything it needs, you might need to replace a few items now and then, like substrate and cleaning supplies for the tank. If you use reptile carpets, these are really convenient as they can be washed instead of replaced every time you clean.
Moreover, if you get a big bottle of reptile-safe terrarium cleaner, it may last longer than just one month. An alternative is to use bleach diluted with water (just make sure your iguana is elsewhere while you’re cleaning).
The substrate can be free to replace if you’re using something like newspaper, but a bag of substrate typically costs around $30. How often you change the substrate depends on the kind you’re using.
|Reptile-safe tank cleaner||$10–$20|
If your iguana already has some durable toys in their enclosure, these will probably keep them entertained for quite a while. On the other hand, if you like to change things up regularly to offer a bit of variety, you can find plenty of toys and tank enrichment options online.
Options include hammocks and loungers, treat dispensers, balls, platforms, branches, and plush toys. Toys can cost anything from a few dollars to $30 for certain items like branches and hammocks.
Total Monthly Cost of Owning a Reptile
If your iguana already has plenty of toys, hiding spots, and branches to keep them occupied, you’re cleaning their enclosure with inexpensive disinfectants, the substrate you use is free (i.e., newspaper), and they’re completely healthy, you may only need to spend a relatively small amount per month, which would go toward things like vegetables, fruit, and substrate.
On the other hand, if you like changing the tank up regularly with toys, platforms, and climbing spots, one of your tank’s bulbs needs replacing, or your iguana gets sick and needs treatment, you could end up spending hundreds of dollars in a single month.
Additional Costs to Factor In
One of the most important additional costs to factor in is a pet sitter or boarder’s fees if you go on vacation. Though many pet sitters cater more to cats, dogs, rabbits, and small furry animals, you can certainly find reptile sitters.
Costs vary greatly and will depend on location and how experienced your reptile sitter is, but, in our opinion, it’s always best to hire someone who knows iguanas and has experience caring for them rather than cutting corners in this instance. Reptiles can be pretty tricky to care for, after all.
Your options are going for an independent contractor reptile sitter or using a pet sitting company. If you’re lucky, you’ll have family or friends who know how to care for iguanas!
Owning an Iguana on a Budget
Owning any pet on a budget can be challenging, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. With iguanas, the initial setup costs are typically the biggest financial burden. If your iguana gets sick, that’s another situation that could greatly increase your general and health care costs.
After that, expenses are mostly food, supplements, pet insurance (optional), vet fees and treatments (if necessary), and environmental maintenance, like cleaning supplies and replacement substrate. Below are some tips for owning an iguana on a budget.
Saving Money on Iguana Care
We would urge anyone thinking of getting an iguana to be 100 percent sure they’re up for the challenge—both in terms of general care and financially—before committing. Iguanas need a special kind of setup to stay healthy and happy, and some of the items within that setup can be very pricey, especially the tank itself.
More importantly, iguana care is largely about maintenance, especially the lighting and heating requirements, and providing a comfortable and interesting living environment. Medical care is another possibility to prepare for—your iguana could live a very long and healthy life, but sometimes, accidents happen, and/or they get sick. Luckily, it seems that exotic pet insurance isn’t too expensive on average.
If you’re ready to enter the vast and intriguing world of iguana care, we wish you the best of luck!
Featured Image Credit: Fill1970, Pixabay