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Desert Iguana

Dipsosaurus dorsalis

  • Family: Iguanidae
  • Adult Size: 14 to 20 inches
  • Range: Southern Arizona and California, and down into Mexico
  • Habitat: Flat, sparsely vegetated deserts
  • Captive Lifespan: 8 to 12 Years
  • Dangerous:
  • Care Level: Intermediate


These iguanids subsist on an assortment of flowers and new leaves of hardy plants in their dry, desert domains. Desert iguanas are strict vegetarians that are particularly attracted to colorful flowers and newly emergent leaves. Desert iguanas are adept at climbing into plants to get at the fresh growth and flowers out on the ends of branches.

Desert iguanas like it hot, so a powerful light is needed to run for a minimum of eight hours daily to allow them to bask as if in the sun. They will wander into and out of the light all day to finely maintain a perfect activity temperature. Give them plenty of room to escape the heat too; a 30-gallon long aquarium would be the bare minimum required for this species, and a larger cage is preferred.

Dry sand and rocks makes a good substrate, with just a tiny water bowl wedged in a corner where it won’t be spilled by digging. Misting a desert iguana every few days so it can lap up the drops is a suitable alternative to a bowl of standing water.

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