The red iguana is a member of the Iguadnidae family that has seen a tremendous gain in popularity due to its unique red tint. What many people do not realize is that the red iguana is a variation of the common green iguana. The red color is the result of a selective breeding process focused on the manipulation of the color gene. Coloration can vary from a slight red or orange hue to a bold red color, all with black stripes or shading that tends to darken on the tail. The underside of the red iguana will typically have some traces of green, although the amount can range from a few small spots to an entirely green lower half.
Both the green and red iguana can get very large, which can be a factor for those considering one for a pet. Some of the larger species can grow to an impressive 7 feet (2 m) and weigh nearly 18 pounds (8 kg). Males of the species tend to grow larger than females and can typically be identified by a larger dewlap and dorsal crest. Males also have a bulge behind the vent, which contains the reproductive organs.
Both male and female iguanas have a row of spines that begins at the base of the skull and ends at the point of the tail. The body of an iguana is narrow, long, and covered in soft scales. They also have five long toes with relatively sharp claws to assist them with climbing in their natural habitat.
Another characteristic of iguanas is their row of sharp teeth, which they use to eat a varied diet consisting of leaves and flowers. While an adult iguana’s diet is mostly herbivorous, juvenile iguanas may eat insects as their primary source of nutrition. Some of an iguana’s hydration comes from drinking water collected on leaves, but the primary source of water intake is through the food it eats.
While the red iguana is a phenomenon found in captive breeding programs, the common green iguana is native to Central and South America. Green iguanas prefer areas that have both trees and a water source, and are often sighted along rivers and swamps. In their natural habitat, these iguanas are a social species that tend to live in a group setting. Males tend to be territorial and can be found fighting for the prime basking spots.
In captivity, the green and red iguana are typically easy to keep; they do, however, require some mimicking of their natural environment. Because iguanas enjoy both the direct sunlight and shade that treetops provide, their cage should be set up with lights only on one side. The temperature of the enclosure should be regulated by UVA and UBV producing heat lights, while humidity levels can be achieved through a water source and by regularly misting the iguana by hand.