Iguana vs. Bearded Dragon: Choosing the Right Pet for You

by Joshua Paulson

Iguana vs. Bearded Dragon: Choosing the Right Pet for You


If you're interested in buying a new reptile companion, bearded dragons and iguanas are two species you should be considering. Both rank among the top options for reptile pet owners due to their unique looks and personalities.

But, before diving right in and selecting your new scaly sidekick, it's important to understand each of these species, along with their key differences.

This iguana vs. bearded dragon guide is here to help with that. Below, we'll take an in-depth look at the two species, comparing their physical characteristics, diets, behavior, and more.

Origin and Natural Habitat of Iguanas


Let's kick off with a closer look at the iguana. Firstly, it's important to note that "iguana" technically refers to multiple species, like the desert iguana or marine iguanas. However, when people talk about iguanas as pets, they're usually referring to one species in particular: the green iguana.

Are iguanas lizards? Yes, even though people tend to talk about lizards and iguanas as separate entities, iguanas are simply a type of lizard. The difference between iguana and lizard is that "lizard" is an even broader term, covering a wider range of species.

These creatures are native to tropical zones in Central and South America, and iguanas can also be found in the Caribbean. In the wild, the green iguana can usually be found close to water and trees, but are also capable of burrowing little tunnels and holes to live in, where they feel safe.

Understanding the native habitat of green iguanas is essential if you plan on owning one, as it will help you create a natural and comfortable habitat for your new friend.

Origin and Natural Habitat of Bearded Dragons

Bearded dragon on a textured rock

Next, let's learn a little more about the bearded dragon. Once again, it's important to note that the term "bearded dragon" doesn't refer to one specific species, but several. A more technical, scientific term for these unique reptiles is "pogona."

Is a bearded dragon an iguana? No. These little bearded fellows aren't part of the iguana family, but they are a type of lizard, just like iguanas. As for the "bearded" part of the name, it comes from the fact that they have little beard-like throats, which they can puff up when stressed or to attract a mate.

In nature, bearded dragons are native to Australia. There, they live mostly in dry, desert regions where there's lots of light and heat and very little moisture. Often, they'll be spotted basking on rocks, trees, and fallen branches.

Just like with green iguanas, it's important for prospective owners to have a clear understanding of the bearded dragon's habitat. This will be useful when it comes to setting up an appropriate habitat, with the right lighting, humidity levels, and other key features.

Physical Characteristics Comparison

Next, let's see how a bearded dragon and iguana compare as pets in terms of their physical characteristics, like size and weight.

Physical Features of Iguanas

As the name implies, the green iguana most often has green scales but can also be brown or somewhere in between. Compared to bearded dragons, adult iguanas are very large lizards, routinely growing up to six feet long and weighing up to 20 pounds. Female iguanas tend to be slimmer and smaller than the males.

The large size of a pet iguana means that they require quite a big enclosure or cage, which can take up plenty of space and cost a lot.

Iguana eating a leaf perched on a tree branch

Physical Features of Bearded Dragons

Bearded dragons have spiny scales in various bright colors, including brown, gray, red, yellow, and orange. They can also change color depending on their mood and health. Size-wise, they're way smaller and lighter than iguanas, growing up to two feet (24 inches) long and weighing around 0.5 to 1.5 pounds.

Thanks to their smaller size, bearded dragons don't have the same enormous living space requirement as iguanas. They still need plenty of space to move around and feel comfortable but can thrive in much smaller homes.

Behavioral Traits Comparison

When it comes to keeping a bearded dragon vs. an iguana as a pet, owners also need to be aware of the typical behaviors and habits of each one.

Behavior and Temperament of Iguanas

In general, green iguanas tend to be very intelligent creatures but can have complex personalities. Every iguana is different, and some will be friendlier than others. However, more often than not, they can be quite irritable.

In some cases, they're even aggressive, and their larger size means that they can do much more damage than bearded dragons if they feel threatened.

Owners will often need plenty of patience to gain their iguana's trust and tame it. Some may never truly be tamed and will prefer you to simply look at and admire them, rather than touching or interacting with them too much.

Behavior and Temperament of Bearded Dragons

Just like iguanas, bearded dragons are all different, with their own characters and personalities. You can find some that are super friendly and others that are a little more timid.

However, generally speaking, these fascinating creatures tend to be pretty laid-back. They're often quite friendly, curious, and invested in human interaction. Some will even sit on your shoulder or in the palm of your hand.

Thanks to their more chilled-out and friendly nature, bearded dragons are more suitable for owners who want lots of interaction. They're easier to pick up and pet compared to iguanas, making them more of a beginner-friendly choice.

Bearded dragon on a hand

Dietary Needs Comparison

No matter which lizard you choose, it's important to provide them with adequate and appropriate food. Here's how the two species' dietary needs compare.

Iguana's Diet

Iguanas are herbivores, eating nothing but plants. In their natural environment, they mainly feed on leaves, along with fruits or flowers they might find. Some iguanas also occasionally snack on crickets or worms in the wild. In captivity, their diet tends to be more varied but strictly herbivorous, with a mixture of leafy greens, fruits, and veggies.

It's very important to ensure that iguanas receive a balanced diet, with fresh salads and leaves to meet their nutritional needs. Otherwise, they may be at greater risk of health issues.

Bearded Dragon's Diet

Bearded dragons have very different dietary needs. They're omnivores, eating a mixture of plants and insects. In the wild, they'll munch on any leaves or fruit they come across, along with bugs, like ants beetles, or even smaller lizards.

In captivity, they must also be fed live insects, like crickets or roaches, alongside a healthy offer of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. While they can eat freeze-dried bugs occasionally, those won't provide them with enough nutrition and exercise. This can be an issue for owners who might not feel comfortable handling live bugs. But it's vital for these lizards to get their protein. Without it, they may suffer various health problems.

Habitat Requirements Comparison

One of the biggest differences between iguanas and bearded dragons is their habitat requirements.

Housing an Iguana

Pet iguanas should live in tall cages which include tree-like structures, platforms, and branches for the iguana to climb and bask on. An iguana cage should be at least six feet wide, six feet tall, and three feet deep. Cages also usually require multiple heating lamps to provide UVB light.

The average cage temperature should be around 80 to 85°F, with basking areas of around 95°F. Meanwhile, the humidity levels of the cage should also be controlled at around 70% for a green iguana. This can be achieved with a humidifier or a pool of water at the base of the enclosure.

All of this can feel like a lot for new owners to handle, but staff at your local exotic pet store should be able to provide guidance and advice.

Housing a Bearded Dragon

With their smaller size, bearded dragons don't need such massive living areas. They can thrive in tanks of around 75 gallons in size. However, their tanks will need key environmental features like a source of UVB light, basking spaces, and climbing branches.

These creatures naturally live in arid areas so don't need much humidity. Levels of around 35 to 40% should be sufficient. Temperature-wise, there should be a basking area of around 100 to 105°F, along with cooler spaces at approximately 75°F to emulate their natural environment.

Bearded dragon on a rock

Health Concerns and Lifespan

In this section, we'll see some common health issues that your pet reptiles might encounter, along with average life expectancies.

Health and Lifespan of Iguanas

Some common health issues for iguanas include fungal infections, parasites, and metabolic bone disease. But, with proper care, housing, and diet, they can live for an average of 10 to 12 years. Some last much longer, with a few even making it into their 20s.

Health and Lifespan of Bearded Dragons

Bearded dragon health concerns may include parasites, atadenovirus, metabolic bone disease, and respiratory problems, among other issues. But, once again, with proper care and the right diet, they'll live anywhere from eight to 14 years on average.

Interaction and Bonding

Many pet owners want to be able to bond and interact with their pets. This section will look at how easy it is to pet, play with, and develop a connection with each lizard.

Interaction and Bonding with Iguanas

Bonding with iguanas is difficult. Iguanas that are really friendly and eager to interact with their owners are rare. In most cases, they can be quite standoffish, territorial, and grumpy. In the worst cases, they can even be aggressive, and their sharp claws and heavy tails make them a bad fit for young children.

Interaction and Bonding with Bearded Dragons

Bonding with bearded dragons is usually a lot easier than with green iguanas. Dragons tend to be more laid-back and easygoing and often have a curious, inquisitive nature. They don't usually mind being touched or played with, which is why they're often cited as the ideal starter pet for new reptile owners.

Time and Financial Commitment

When it comes to the question of bearded dragon vs iguana which makes a better pet, it's also important to take cost and time into account.

Time and Financial Commitment for Iguanas

With iguanas, the big cost to be concerned about is the cage. Since it needs to be quite big, with multiple heating lamps, it often comes at a premium price. However, after the initial cost of purchasing and outfitting the cage, iguanas are relatively cheap to keep thanks to their simple diets of leafy greens and vegetables.

Time-wise, you'll need to interact with them for around half an hour each day to tame them. The cage will also need cleaning, which can take quite a while due to its big size. Overall, they are more of a display pet than an interactive experience.

Time and Financial Commitment for Bearded Dragons

Bearded dragons have cheaper, smaller enclosures, but you still need to consider the cost of lamps and humidity controls. They also have more expensive diets, due to the cost of live insects and mineral supplements.

In terms of time commitment, it's quicker to clean out the tanks of these lizards, but they tend to want more interaction than most types of iguanas.

Pros and Cons of Owning an Iguana vs. Bearded Dragon

Overall, each species has its benefits. Iguanas have cheaper diets, without the need for any bugs. And, if you can succeed in taming them, they can be wonderful, intelligent pets. On the downside, they're often tough to tame, can show aggressive behavior, and have huge cages, taking up lots of room in the home.

Bearded dragons, meanwhile, are friendlier, smaller, and easier to handle, with more of a docile nature. They're more beginner-friendly, better for kids, and have simpler enclosures. The big downside is their diet, involving live insects which many people may not want to handle.

Taking these pros and cons into account, it's clear that bearded dragons are the better choice for beginners, children, or those who don't want a huge cage taking up too much room. Iguanas are more suitable for those with larger homes and plenty of reptile experience.

Building the Perfect Home with Quality Cage

No matter which pet you choose, you'll need to give it the best possible home for its comfort, safety, and health. Check out Quality Cage for the very best lizard enclosures and essential exotic pet supplies.


What's a better pet, a bearded dragon or an iguana?

It depends on your needs and preferences, but most people will probably prefer the friendlier bearded dragon when it comes to picking between pet lizards.

Are iguanas hard to keep as pets?

They certainly can be. They often have difficult temperaments and can be grumpy or even aggressive, which makes it hard to interact with them. They also need very big cages, taking up lots of space in your home. On the flip side, they are sometimes perfectly content sitting in their cages and munching on leaves.

Are bearded dragons the best lizards?

Bearded dragons are certainly considered some of the most popular reptile pets, due to their small size and friendly disposition. However, prospective owners are encouraged to compare different options, like the iguana, bearded dragon, and leopard gecko to find the right fit for their home.

Are iguanas the same as Komodo dragons?

No, when it comes to the iguana vs. Komodo dragon, they're very different species. Komodo dragons are monitor lizards (a separate genus of lizards from iguanas), significantly larger than iguanas, carnivorous, and much more dangerous to humans. Smaller monitor lizard species such as the savannah monitor or spiny-tailed (Ackie's) monitor are probably the closest you can get to a Komodo dragon as a pet.


Email us at cages@qualitycage.com

Author: Joshua Paulson and Quality Cage Team

Josh is the owner and CEO at Quality Cage Crafters since 2015. During his time at Quality Cage Crafters, he has been able to learn from tens of thousands of pet owners and pet educators. He blends his ambition for manufacturing and passion for animal care to create solutions for pet owners, breeders, animal rescues, and zoos. He has brought together a team of great animal lovers to create high-quality pet care content for the Quality Cage Crafters audience.

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