Care of Cyclura Iguanas (also known as Rock or Ground Iguanas)
by Marie Eguro
NOTE: Care of Cyclura Iguanas is similar to that of Green Iguanas, so please read all sections addressing green iguanas first. This article will often make reference to green iguanas for comparison.
Iguanas of the genus Cyclura consist of 8 species and 17 subspecies. They are endangered and are all listed as CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) Appendix I. One subspecies is considered extinct (C. cornuta onchioppsis, the Navassa Island Rhino Iguana), and two others are close to extinction (C. collei, the Jamaican Iguana, and C. nubila lewisi, the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana).
Before these laws were set up, cyclura of certain species were brought into the United States, so some are available legally in the pet trade albeit at high prices. A hatchling from a reputable breeder will cost about $350, and flawless fully grown adults with good temperaments can sell for $1000-$4500 depending on the species. Most nubila species cannot be bought or sold over state lines without a federal permit, which is very difficult to obtain. Rhinos and some cuban cyclura have no laws restricting movement of animals over state lines. The good news is breeders with experience will accurately sex the babies at 3 months old so you will be able to choose the sex you prefer, and you can even buy an unrelated male/female pair to breed when they grow up.
Cyclura iguanas mature slower and live much longer than green iguanas. Health wise they are much more hardy. David Blair of Critter Corner, one of the top breeders of cyclura in the world, says that researchers believe cyclura are among the longest living lizards. In the wild, a cyclura iguana can live to be 25-40 years old, and with good care in captivity, cyclura can live to be twice that old!
There seems to be some difference in temperament of the different species of cyclura. Although there are some very tame adult rhino cyclura (C. cornuta), especially the males, rhinos tend to be more aggressive and require more work to tame than Cayman and Cuban cyclura (C. nubila). C. nubila are almost always very calm and tame as adults if they have been given a decent amount of attention and handling, and sometimes the hatchlings will even be extremely tame right from the start. I believe the C. nubila to be much easier to tame than green iguanas.
Growth/maturity happens slower than the average green iguana. Here is an example of healthy growth of a female Blue Cayman Hybrid (C. nubila) fed a completely vegetarian diet for green iguanas:
Sapphire’s Growth Chart: (hatch date - Sept. 28, 1997)
Notice that cyclura are heavier than the average green iguana of similar SVL.
Temps for Cyclura:
Cyclura as adults are very hardy when it comes to temperatures. Although not ideal, adults can even take temperatures at night down to 55F with no ill effects as long as they can warm up sufficiently during the daytime.
The need for UV:
Cyclura iguanas, like all other iguanas, require lots of UV to thrive. These magnificent animals deserve and need to be exposed to unfiltered, natural sunshine as often as they can during warm weather. During colder months, the use of UV-B producing lamps such as the Vitalight or the Zoomed 5.0 in close proximity to the iguana are absolutely necessary.
Just as there is much debate over diets of green iguanas, there is also much debate over the diets of cyclura iguanas. Although cyclura tend to be less sensitive to diets with some animal protein than green iguanas are, I do not feel it is necessary to feed animal protein of any kind to cyclura, and too much can certainly lead to similar detrimental health effects that green iguanas often suffer. I feed my cyclura the same 100% vegetarian diet as my green iguana.
While they do like to climb, cyclura iguanas (also known as ground or rock iguanas) also feel comfortable on the ground and are often seen sunning on rocks of limestone or on hot paved roads in the wild.
Since the cyclura species is less arboreal and in captivity are often larger/heavier and than green iguanas, cyclura need more floor space than green iguanas. A 10’X10’ room or cage is usually suggested as the *minimum* space a male/female pair of cyclura can live in. Try setting up a few basking areas in this space that have access to direct sunlight and proper heat/temps, and that have a nice view of the outside world.
Cyclura in the wild like to sleep in burrows in the ground at night, rather than retreat to trees, so a hide box made out of a large cardboard box or a dog house may be appreciated. Put some sort of heating device such as a heat pad inside to keep the lizard warm, and if you live in a place where it is warm enough to house your cyclura outside year round, make sure the nighttime temps do not fall below optimum levels.
Breeding behaviors of cyclura are very similar to green iguanas, but since cyclura take longer to mature, breeding starts when they are older; in the wild they mature in about 5-9 years. Breeding and egglaying months will depend on many factors, especially geographic location, but even within the same species on their native islands there seems to be some debate as to when these months are. One account said mating usually occurs in March and April, depending on the species, with egglaying in May and June. But another account stated that breeding occurs in May with egglaying in June or July. Unlike green iguanas, female cyclura usually guard their nests, sometimes for even months after egglaying. Cyclura eggs are huge for lizard standards.
Cyclura iguanas are very hardy captives that will thrive for decades if properly cared for. As adults, they are truly impressive animals and many, especially C.nubila and its subspecies, become very tame, wonderful pets for people who enjoy iguanas.
This is by no means a complete care sheet for these animals. Reading all available information on cyclura as well as ordering the 21 page cyclura care sheet from David Blair (1-800 HERP NUT) is suggested. Joining the International Iguana Society and reading the society’s magazine, "Iguana Times", is a great way to obtain information on cyclura. The June 1994 issue has the "IIS Vegetation Studies" which lists vegetation eaten by some cyclura in the wild. Many of the articles listed as references below are still available for sale on backorder.
Blair, David. 1994. "Rock Iguanas". Reptiles, Vol 1, No 4: pp. 40-63.
Blair, David. 1992. "The Cayman Island Rock Iguana, Cyclura nubila caymanesis". Iguana Times, Vol 1, No 4: pp. 2-5.
Blair, David. 1992. "Iguanas of the West Indies". Taken from "The Green Iguana Manual" by Philippe de Vosjoli, pp. 56-60.
Dorge, Ray. 1996. " A Tour of the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana Captive Breeding Facility". Reptiles, Vol. 4, No. 9: pp 32-42.
Lemm, Jeff, and Alberts, Allison, Ph.D. 1997. "Guided by Nature: Conservation Research and Captive Husbandry of the Cuban Iguana". Reptiles, Vol 5, No 8: pp. 76-87.