Cuban Iguana

Cyclura nubila
Order: Squamata

Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

  • Adults require an enclosure measuring at least 8 to 12 feet in length and 4 feet wide.
  • Basking site should be heated to a minimum of 120 degrees Fahrenheit

Diet Requirements

  • In the wild, Cuban iguanas consume leaves, flowers, and fruits. Although they are herbivores, they are occasionally observed scavenging or eating crabs.
  • In captivity, they are fed mixed greens salad, plus a vitamin supplement.

Veterinary Concerns

Notes on Enrichment & Training


Colony or Breeding Management

Notes species is housed or managed socially or for breeding purposes.

Individual Identification

Dimorphism or practiced ways to individually mark species (such as those in colonies, like giant millipedes).

Programmatic Information


Temperature Guidelines



Tips on Presentation

  • For encounters, we have had success displaying our iguanas on a table (custom-made in house) that is about 3.5 feet high and 2 feet deep by 3 feet wide. We place a green plastic astroturf mat on the table for traction.
  • If conditions allow, guests can touch the sides of the iguana, as well as their dorsal spine. We do not allow touch of the head, feet or tail.
  • Both of our iguanas will readily eat their salad on encounters in front of guests. We do not allow touch if food is present.

Touching Techniques

Tips on Handling


Potential Messaging

  • In general, animals seen at the zoo do not make good pets. Most have specialized dietary, veterinary, housing, and social needs that are difficult or impossible for even dedicated pet owners to meet. Always ensure that your future pet has not been taken from the wild. Capture of wild animals for the pet trade has significantly damaged the survival prospects of species such as sloths, tamanduas, and many parrots. Captured animals are typically mistreated by profit-motivated traffickers and dealers, resulting in many animal deaths; well-meaning animal lovers may feel like they are rescuing animals by purchasing them but are really perpetuating the cruelty. In addition, many exotic pets are released by their owners when they become too dangerous or demanding, often with devastating effects on local ecosystems. Animals that should never be kept as pets include all bats, primates, and exotic carnivores. Birds, fish, and reptiles have specialized needs, are frequently wild-caught, and damage the local environment if released; guests should be advised to educate themselves and proceed with caution. Domestic dogs and cats are almost always the best option! Many deserving animals are available for adoption at animal shelters.

Acquisition Information


Comments from the Rating System

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat

Cuban iguanas are found in Cuba and throughout the thousands of islets surrounding the Cuban mainland. They prefer rocky coastal areas, primarily in rocky limestone areas where natural refuges and appropriate nesting sites are available.

Physical Description

The eyes of a Cuban iguana have a gold iris and a red sclera (the white of the eye on humans.) This gives them excellent vision, allowing them to detect shapes and motions from long distances. However, they have poor vision under low-light conditions, consistent with their diurnal activity.

Males are larger than females and their skin color can range from dark gray to red. Females are olive green in color and have dark stripes or bands. Juveniles are dark brown or green in color.

When measured from snout to the tip of the tail, Cuban iguanas can grow to just over 5 feet long.

Located directly on the top of their head is a photosensory organ that looks like a light-colored scale. Called a parietal “eye” or pineal gland, it is also sometimes called the “third eye.” The parietal eye cannot form images but is sensitive to light and dark and can also detect movement. It is used primarily for thermoregulation.

Life Cycle

Mating occurs in May and June. Males compete with each other for access to females and for territory. Aggressive encounters can be quite violent and may result in serious injury. After breeding, females will lay 3 to 30 eggs in June or July. She will lay them in nests that are exposed to the sun after the Cuban crocodiles lay there eggs, and away from where the adult population lives. She will use the same nest year after year.

Sexual maturity is reached at 2 to 3 years old. Lifespan in the wild is unknown, but in captivity, a Cuban iguana can live 25 to 40+ years.


The Cuban iguana will burrow in or near a cacti or thistle because the plant’s thorns offer protection and the fruit and flowers food. If cacti are not available, iguanas will make their burrows in dead trees, hollow logs, and caves.

The body posture and head movement are the primary means of communication in iguanas. Head bobbing is not necessarily indicative of aggression; it is more about asserting territorial dominance. Males are more likely to engage in head bobbing since they are more involved than territorial defense. If an iguana is feeling aggressive, it is more likely to hiss, grunt, or (in extremely aggressive situations), walk with legs very straight, dewlap extended, with a whipping tail.

Threats and Conservation Status

Eggs and young iguanas are often eaten by feral animals, such as rats, cats, and pigs. The habitat is also being degraded by development and the overgrazing of farm animals. This species is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. The total population in Cuba is estimated at between 40,000 and 60,000, and it is declining at a rate of greater than 1% per year the last ten years on the mainland Cuba. Cuban iguanas can no longer be found on the northeastern Havana coast, the Hicacos peninsula and Cay Largo, where it was very abundant 30 to 40 years ago.

Did you know…

  • The iguana’s dewlap helps regulate body temperature and is used in threat and courtship displays.
  • The Cuban iguana has a lateral nasal gland to aid with renal salt secretion since they are unable to create liquid urine more concentrated than its bodily fluids.
  • In 1985, the Cuban government issued a commemorative peso depicting a Cuban iguana on the “head” side of the coin in an attempt to raise awareness for this animal.
  • Of all the rock iguanas, the Cuban rock iguana is the most common, with a population likely exceeding 40,000 lizards in the wild.
  • The name “Cyclura” derives from the ancient Greek words “cyclos,” which means circular, and “oura,” meaning tail. The species name, “nubila,” is Latin for gray.


Any Documents to attach, species spotlights, etc.


By Staselnik (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Contributors and Citations

  • The Philadelphia Zoo
  • Houston Zoo, Natural Encounters
  • Reptiles Magazine