What Does It Mean When Iguanas Change Color?

Have you ever seen an iguana turn from one color to a completely different color? Perhaps you have a pet iguana and you’ve witnessed this phenomenon more than once. So now, you’re curious: what does it mean when iguanas change color? What causes this color change to occur? Do they change colors to camouflage? And what do specific color changes indicate? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions.

What Causes Iguanas to Change Color?

What Causes Iguanas to Change Color?

Iguanas can change their skin color due to a process called physiological thermoregulation; this is a fancy term used to describe an animal’s physical response to temperature changes in the environment. 

Iguanas may change color in order to take in more or less heat when they are cold or hot. Iguanas are cold blooded, so they get their heat from their environment.

They may also change color in response to stress. Color changes of this nature will likely be accompanied by changes in body language–the iguana may stand up, tense its dewlap, close its eyes, hiss, or display other behaviors in efforts to appear aggressive.

Iguanas may also change color during the breeding season. In this case, the color change is due to physical changes taking place to prepare the iguana for mating and producing offspring.

While most color changes in iguanas are natural and no reason to be concerned, they can also be a sign of illness. If you are unable to determine the cause of your pet iguana’s color change, and if this change persists, you’ll want to get the iguana to the vet.

Check out this video of an orange-green iguana undergoing a normal color change when going from inside the house to outside:

Why is My Iguana Turning Black?

Any iguana that turns black is likely to be very cold or highly stressed. Turning black is a rather extreme color change, and most iguanas will not turn this dark normally.

Dark colors allow iguanas to take in more heat from the environment, and black is the darkest color they can turn. If your iguana turns black, it is likely quite cold, and you should check the temperature of its cage or turn up the heat in your house.

Iguanas may also turn black when extremely stressed, and they may tense up and become aggressive as well. Again, black is an extreme color change that is generally caused by extreme discomfort or stress.

A notable exception would be marine iguanas, which are naturally dark in color and may turn black after going for a swim simply because the water is cold. That said, marine iguanas are not generally kept as pets, so if your pet iguana is turning black, it is likely not for the same reason a marine iguana would turn black.

Why is My Iguana Turning Brown?

Many iguanas are naturally brown, or some shade of brown. If your brown iguana turns a different shade, this color change can give you clues about how it’s responding to its environment.

For example, if you have a tan iguana, it may turn a darker brown when it’s cold or an almost cream-colored white when it’s hot. The darker color allows it to take in more heat, while the lighter color allows it to deflect more heat and light from the environment.

If your iguana isn’t naturally a shade of brown, then turning brown may be a sign of illness; the iguana should be taken to the vet immediately.

Why is My Iguana Turning Green?

Why is My Iguana Turning Green?

Most iguanas are born green with some brown markings; some species turn brown, red, or gray as they grow, and this is normal. Many iguanas remain a bright greenish blue into adulthood.

These greenish blue iguanas may turn more green in color when they are cold, stressed, or uncomfortable. They may also appear tense, with black skin visible between their scales, and their eyes will take on a darker red-brown color. 

Iguanas may start out more blue and change from blue to green naturally as they grow. If this color change lasts and the iguana is showing no signs of stress or discomfort, then there’s a good chance the young iguana has simply acquired a natural green color.

Iguanas that are naturally green may take on lighter or darker shades depending on temperature changes, much as other iguanas would. Cold temperatures will lead them to turn a darker shade of green; hot temperatures will turn their skin a lighter shade.

Why is My Iguana Turning Orange?

Iguanas will turn an orange or rust color during the breeding season. They will typically change to this color long before breeding begins and maintain the color shading long after breeding ends.

Males will take on this orange or rust color over their entire body; they may not change color completely but will take on more rust-colored tones, as seen in the video above. Female iguanas don’t change as much; typically they will only shift to the orange or rust color around the eyes.

Do Iguanas Change Color to Camouflage?

Not specifically. An iguana’s color changing abilities may allow them to camouflage better, but they don’t camouflage intentionally–when they change colors, they have other reasons for doing so.

Iguanas are usually fairly well camouflaged to surroundings in the wild; for example, green and blue iguanas tend to live in brightly-colored rainforests, and marine iguanas live in the Galapagos Islands, where their muted gray colors allow them to blend in with the rocky shorelines where they spend most of their time. 

In short, most iguanas don’t have any need to change color specifically to camouflage to their environment–most are naturally similar in color to the trees, plants, and rocks around them.


Iguanas have some natural color changing abilities. They may change color for many reasons, but the most common reason is that they will turn lighter or darker to help regulate their body temperature.

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