Do Iguanas Change Color?

By Kyoko •  Updated: 08/15/21 •  6 min read
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You may have heard that iguanas are able to change their color. Is that true? We’ll take a look at whether or not they can change colors. And we’ll also review what different colors in your iguana can mean.

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Can Iguanas Change Color?

Yes, they can! However, they don’t change their colors like a chameleon. They’re also not able to camouflage themselves. However, they do change colors. Some of their colors are normal; however, some may indicate your iguana is sick. If you’re ever worried about your iguana’s coloring, then be sure to call the vet. This post is a general guide and should not be used to diagnose your iguana’s health.

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Iguanas generally turn colors in response to something in their environment. And keep in mind that not all iguanas are green. Some are naturally other colors, which are healthy for them!

What Color are Iguanas?

The typical color for most iguanas is green. There’s not just one shade of green. Some iguanas may be a lighter green, while others have a deeper green tone. Then there are lizards that are blotchy, have stripes, multi-colors, or some can even be a pale color.

Iguanas can also come in other colors:

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Blue: are mostly blue with some green in them. They may even be a turquoise color, which is their normal color. It indicates they’re happy and healthy. If they become cold, blue iguanas will turn green.

Brown: maybe brown, cream, and tan. When they’re healthy and happy, they may also have some green markings or stripes.

Gray iguanas: are gray, with very scaly on their head and neck when they become adults. They may also have “blurry” stripes or other patterns on their skin.

Red heads: these are a very rare type of iguana, found only in South America. As you can tell from their name, these iguanas have red heads.

White heads: they really don’t have white heads; instead, these iguanas have a very pale head that looks almost white. Their heads turn blue when the lizards are territorial or mating.

These are all normal iguana colors! Keep in mind that young iguanas’ color may change when they become adults. Iguanas shed their skin about every 4-y6 weeks. During this time, their skin may change color. When shedding, the iguana’s color becomes paler or dull. It may even look yellow.

Stress can also bring on color changes in iguanas.

In the next sections, we’ll take a look closer look at what makes an iguana’s color change and what that color means.

My Iguana is Changing Colors—Why?  

There are many things that can cause an iguana to change his color. As noted above, shedding is one of these. But there are also other reasons, including those below.

Sickness

When an iguana becomes sick, his color may change from normal to yellow, dark brown, black, yellow, or even pink. Bacterial infections may cause an iguana’s skin to turn dark brown or black.

Liver disease can make an iguana’s skin turn yellow.

It’s important to know that baby iguanas are normally a bright green; however, as they age, they may become a browner color. Some iguanas may naturally turn brown when they’re between 1.5 to 2 years old.

Other Health Issues

There are other health issues that can make an iguana change colors. For instance, a mite infection can make your lizard’s skin turn dark, with red spots on or under the scales.

Poor Habitat Environment

If your iguana’s habitat is not kept at the proper temperature and humidity, it can make him change color. Your iguana may turn brown if the temperature is too low, for instance. They turn a darker color in order to attract and maintain more heat. As they become warmer, they will usually return to their normal color again.

Mating Season

Both the female and the male change their colors to orange during mating season. Males typically change to very bright orange. This is to help females find them and to show their dominance.

Some iguanas will remain orange months after the mating season has ended. It’s also interesting to note that an iguana may also turn orange if they want to show they’re dominant, even outside of mating season. This may happen if you have other pets in the house or if iguanas are housed together.

Age

Age can also make an iguana change his color. Younger iguanas may be a bright green or blue, with some stripes on their body and tail. The stripes help camouflage the young iguanas when hiding in leaves.

As they age, iguanas can become a lighter color green. Their stripes may become more intense as they reach the age of 18 months.

Stress

Stress can cause an iguana to change from his usual color to a darker or brown color. He could also turn black or even yellow if stressed. When stressed, an iguana’s color will start on the head, then move to the upper body, the tail, and legs, finally spreading to his torso and belly.

Stress can be caused if his habitat is too small, it’s not correctly maintained, or even a poor diet can cause him to turn brown. It can also be caused by an aggressive cage mate, another pet (such as a cat or dog) hovering outside the habitat and more.

My Iguana is Turning Yellow—Why?

As noted earlier, iguanas that are turning yellow may have liver disease. If so, they will have yellow mucus membranes (in their mouths, for instance). Turning yellow may also be a sign of an infection or that your iguana is getting ready to shed.

Summing It Up

As you can see, iguanas can change their colors for many reasons. It may be stress, natural, illness, and more. If your iguana has changed colors and it’s not normal for him, then it’s best to take your iguana to the vet. Your vet will give your iguana a checkup; if he finds anything wrong, the vet will be able to treat it. Getting your iguana treated as soon as possible is the best way to keep him happy and healthy! He’ll also be able to stay his normal color!

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Kyoko

Kyoko is from a family of 3 and moved to New York with her parents and siblings when she was 13. Kyoko is fond of spending a great amount of time with pets, specifically her beagle Luna and cat Missy. Her boyfriend often complains that she spends too much time giving attention to their animals. Kyoko has written dozens of articles concerning pets and is aiming at owning a pet shop one day!
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