Fitch, Henry and Robert Henderson. Ecology and Exploitation of Ctenosaura similis. Univ. Kansas Sci. Bull. 51 (15): 483-500 p.p.

Taking care of these iguanas is fairly easy. This is because you don’t require too much of designated space, special food or housing to take proper care of these pets.

Spiny-tailed iguanas range in size from the small Yucatan spiny-tailed iguana (C. defensor), which reaches an overall length of 10 inches, to the black spiny-tail, which can grow to 5 feet.

Kelly Paul is a hobbyist with a lifelong interest in reptiles. He has bred more than two dozen species, including six Ctenosaura. He has been a guest speaker at several events, including the International Herpetological Symposium. Email him at

On average, these iguanas can live for up to 15 years. Some males have been shown to live up to 25 years of age.

Krysko, Kenneth; Wayne F. King, Kevin M. Enge, Anthony Reppas. Distribution of the Introduced Black Spiny-Tailed Iguana (Ctenosaura similis) on the Southwestern Coast of Florida. Florida Scientist 66(2):74-79, 2003.

Black iguana comes in a very large size. Iguanas are among few species that are very active. They cannot be a good pet since they require a lot of care during handling.

While you should ensure indoor enclosures are well lit, you should ensure that they have temperatures of between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. The basking areas of the enclosures should have temperatures of between 95 and 105 degrees.

Reproduction These oviparous lizards lay clutches of 20-30 eggs in sandy soil. Follow green iguana incubation and diet plans but reduce humidity. Young are 6-7", hatching after 90 days.

A juvenile iguana can reside in a 30-50 gallon aquarium. But their rapid growth will cause them to outgrow this enclosed space within several months. The enclosed space must be large enough for the pet to walk around.

Spiny-tailed iguanas (Ctenosaura spp.) are native to hot and dry areas of Mexico and Central America. They can make great pets or display animals. Despite laws to protect them, most spiny-tailed iguana populations are declining in the wild due to hunting, loss of habitat and poaching for the pet trade. Every effort should be made to purchase captive-born-and-bred animals because they generally are hardier and less skittish, and purchasing them helps take pressure off wild populations.

Species and Range C. acanthura - mainly along Atlantic side of Mexico. Only a few tail whorls; more than one row of granular scales between whorls.

The black spiny-tailed iguana is a lizard first native to Mexico and Central America. Although, that part of the world is its original homeland, this lizard has been extensively bred. It is available in almost every country in the world as a pet.

Common Name: Black Iguana, Black Spiny-tailed Iguana, or Black Ctenosaur

The pets don’t easily trust; therefore, it’s common for them to be very cold to strangers. Earning the pet’s trust takes time and you have to treat it properly. For example you should never restrain the pet by its tail. The good side with the pet is that once you earn its trust, you become the pet’s best friend.

Black spiny-tailed iguanas are excellent climbers, and prefer a rocky habitat with plenty of crevices to hide in, rocks to bask on, and nearby trees to climb.[4] They are diurnal and fast moving, employing their speed to escape predators but will lash with their tails and bite if cornered.[4] The Guinness Book of World Records lists the running speed of this species at 21.7 mph or 34.9 km/h making it the world's fastest lizard.[4][7]

Weight: It can weight close to 9-11 pounds (5 kilograms), like green Iguana.

Elfstrom, Bruce. Genus Ctenosaura: The Spiny-Tailed Iguana, Reptiles, August 1997.

Complete and updated species listing at TIGR Reptile Database...

This lizard is characterized by the distinctive keeled scales on its long tail from where it gets its name, spiny tailed. The male members of the species grow up to 1.5 meters while females grow up to 1 meter. These pets have a crest of long spines that extend down the center of their back.

If you are living in the urban areas where you can’t grow the plants for the pets to feed on, you should purchase the plants from your local stores. When you buy the plants from the stores you should keep them for at least 30 days before you give them to the pets. This is to ensure that all systemic pesticides and fertilizers on the plants are inactive. Some of the excellent foods include: shredded carrots, mixed greens, dandelions, pursland, and mulberry.

This species is locally eaten and is sold in markets throughout Mexico and Central America, where it is believed to have medicinal value (Savage 2002).

Black iguanas look impressive with bold bands and spiny bases of their tails, so many are tempted to assume they are just like green iguanas in temperament and behavior. Baby spiny-tailed iguanas are also bright green like green iguanas, but that color fades quickly as they grow. Nervous and flighty, they do not make very good pets as a rule.

Mating generally occurs in the spring. Males show dominance and interest by head bobbing; eventually the male will chase the female until he can catch her and subdue her.[4] Within eight to ten weeks, the female will dig a nest and lay clutches of up to 30 eggs.[4] The eggs hatch in 90 days with the hatchlings digging their way out of the sand.[4] These juveniles are typically green with brown markings, although all brown hatchlings have been recorded as well.[6]

The black iguana, green iguana, and several other species are common throughout the Costa Rica. Manuel Antonio National Park is also having these species. Barra Honda National Park and the whole Puntarenas province of Costa Rica are having these species.

Found in Mexico, large areas in Central America and islands adjacent to Panama, these 24-36" lizards are great diggers and baskers. They are found around ruins, stone walls, rocky open slopes and branches of large trees along the open borders of the forests.

Quickest among all lizards in the planet, the Ctenosaura similisor commonly known as Black Iguana (Black Spiny-tailed Iguana or Black Ctenosaur) are endemic in Mexico and Central America. “Ctenosaura” is a combination of two Greek words: cteno meaning “comb”, noticeably in the Black Iguana’s spiny back and tail, and saura which means lizard. On the other hand similisis the Latin word for “similar to”.

Water misting is my preferred method of watering, particularly for baby spiny-tails, as they will drink the droplets off the plants. I also keep a water dish inside the enclosure; be sure it’s heavy enough so it doesn’t tip over. Misting into the water dish can help draw your spiny-tails’ attention to it. Do not mist if you use rabbit pellets as a substrate.

C. similis - from Mexico through Panama; the most frequently imported species. More than one row of scales between tail whorls.

Townsend, Josiah H., Kenneth L. Krysko, Kevin M. Enge. The Identity of Spiny-tailed Iguanas, Ctenosaura, introduced to Florida, USA. Herpetozoa 16 (1/2):67-72, July 2003.

There is no recommended cage size for iguanas as different iguanas come in different sizes. You should ensure that you construct a cage that is ideal for the iguana by making sure that they have plenty of space to move around. Since these pets love climbing, it is wise to include several tree branches for the pets to climb on.

Black Spiny-tailed Iguana

Spiny-tailed iguanas can be long lived, easily living to 15 years of age. Many male spiny-tails can live up to 25 years of age or more.

Temperatures Basking areas up to 100 F; gradient from high 70s to mid 90s during the day, low 70s to low 80s at night. Basking lights should be available 10-12 hours a day.

Obst, Fritz et al. The Completely Illustrated Atlas Of Reptiles & Amphibians For The Terrarium 1988. TFH Publishing, Inc.

In situations where outdoor enclosures compromise the security of the pet, you should go for indoor enclosures. To provide warmth, indoor enclosures should have full-spectrum bulbs that should occupy at least two-thirds of the enclosure’s length.

Lighting UVB lighting is essential for proper D3 and calcium metabolism. The unshielded/unfiltered fluorescent tube must be within 12-18" of the lizard. See the document on UV lighting to see a list of UVB producing fluorescents.

When it comes to space, you only need a cage or an aquarium. When constructing the cage, you should remember that the iguanas are excellent climbers; therefore, ensure that the cage is sealed at the top to prevent these pets from escaping.

This species has been reported as common in its habitat in Belize and Costa Rica (Stafford and Meyer 2000, Savage 2002). In Honduras, some subpopulations of this species are severely depleted (Puerto Lempira, Gracias a Dios), whereas it remains abundant along the entire Pacific versant in Valle and Choluteca (J. McCranie pers. comm. 2009).

Found in wild in groups usually dominated by a major male.

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