Desert Iguana

Desert Iguana

The Desert Iguana (Dipsosaurus dorsalis) is native to southwestern United States (Sonoran and Mojave deserts) and northwestern Mexico. They can live 7 - 14 Years and grow to 16 - 18 Inches. Their conservation statis is Least Concern (LC).

The Basics for Desert Iguanas

  • Housing
  • 36"W x 18"D x 24"H Minimum
  • Substrate
  • Sand
  • Lighting
  • UVB Basking
  • Temperature
  • 90 - 105 ° F
  • Humidity
  • 30% - 40%
  • Food
  • Leafy greens, vegetables, flowers & soft fruits

Desert Iguana Care Sheet

Desert Iguanas can be quite calm or docile in nature. It’s said that they’re best kept in groups with just one male. The average adult size is around 16 – 18 inches including their tail. The lifespan of these lizards is typically 8 to 10 years but have been known to live upwards of 17 years. Caring for them is relatively easy provided your caging setup is correct.


Up to two adult desert iguanas can be kept in a glass terrarium at least 36 inches in length, 24 inches width and 24 inches in height. Many people cage them in a 65-gallon aquarium with a screen cover. I’ve seen others using the exo terra 36″ in width x 18″ in depth x 24″ in height but that might be a bit on the small size.

If you want to keep more than 2 desert iguanas in the same cage, you should increase the size to 4 – 6 feet in length. Glass tanks/terrariums are preferred because desert iguanas tend to run and run their bodies along the walls of their cage, hence the reason a screen tank could prove problematic.

  1. Temperature between 85 – 105 ° F
  2. Humidity between 30% – 40%
  3. High-quality sand as substrate
  4. At least 12 hours of light per day
  5. Hides to escape direct sunlight


Substrate is another reason for having a deep enclosure. There should be enough high-quality, slightly damp sandy substrate for them to burrow. Its easy enough to keep damp by lightly misting when needed. I suggest a high-quality sand from your local pet store or you can probably find some online, although I imagine shipping might be expensive.

Temperatures ranging between 90 – 105 ° F are optimal for growth. This is one of the reasons most people opt for a large aquarium instead of a more ventilated terrarium; its easier (and cheaper) to keep the high heat required for your desert iguana. A basking area is suggested with a temperature around 120 ° F.

Lighting – A UVB light and basking lamp are suggested. Provide 12 hours of light per day and 12 hours of nighttime.

Hides can be important depending on your cage setup. Desert iguanas like to hide and burrow to escape direct sunlight at times. If your substrate isn’t properly set up, use some decorations in a way that gives your pet somewhere to hide.

Food & Water

Desert iguanas primarily eat greens, vegetables, flowers and sometimes soft fruits. In captivity, however, owners often feed them small insects such as crickets and mealworms. These provide proteins for their diet.

  • Vegetables – carrots, celery, and cabbage
  • Greens – collard greens, parsley, mustard greens and certain grasses
  • Flowers – dandelions, hibiscus, and roses
  • Fruits – bananas, grapes, and oranges
  • Insects – mealworms and crickets

A small water dish filled with clean drinking water is always suggested. However, moist lettuce will likely be the main source of water for your desert iguana. Provide moist leafy greens to supplement their water intake.

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