Chances are if you’re reading this article, you’re considering adding a new addition to your family, in the likely form of a bearded dragon or an iguana.
But, how do you know which one will have the right temperament, price, and characteristics that will compliment you and your lifestyle?
Fortunately, I’ve assembled your ultimate look at both reptiles in this head-to-head breakdown of the Bearded Dragon Vs Iguana smackdown.
Except, in place of bloodshed, we’ll be spilling only cold, hard facts about each of these lizards.
Specifically, we’ll be taking a closer look at what makes each of these species unique and desirable, as well as their pros and cons so that at the end, YOU can make an informed decision about which reptile you should get.
With that being said, let’s jump straight into the article and let the comparisons begin!
Difference in Cost
Naturally, where you purchase your reptile will always affect price.
I recommend purchasing from a reputable breeder or animal rescue which is more times than not, priced cheaper or competitive to that of a pet store.
Also, when you go through a breeder or rescue, you also increase increase your chances of obtaining a healthier pet as these animals are often cared for much better.
For bearded dragons, you can expect to pay anywhere from $20 to $150, with babies being on the cheaper end of the spectrum.
Iguanas will, of course, vary in price depending on their breed with Green Iguanas being the cheapest.
Expect a baby Green Iguana to be around $15-$20 with a larger adult being $100-$150.
Something to note about both species, however, is that depending on what exact breed/morph they are, the price will of course vary.
Extremely rare morphs can go for thousands if not tens of thousands.
Difference in Size
Most adult bearded dragons are going to be between 18 and 25 inches long, and weigh anywhere from 0.5 to 1.5 pounds.
This makes them pretty easy to handle and even carry around. In fact, some people even let their bearded dragons ride on their shoulders while running some quick errands!
Iguanas will naturally be much larger, with the typical adult iguana being between 4.5 and 6 feet long, although some can grow to be even longer! In terms of weight, expect an adult to weigh between 20 and 30lbs.
Whereas bearded dragons are fairly docile and lightweight, iguanas are very powerful, fast, and often times aggressive.
Handling the two could not be more different. An angry iguana makes an angry bearded dragon look like a puppy.
If you have children, especially small children, an adult iguana could be downright impossible for them to handle.
While a tail that whips hard enough to break human bones, razor sharp claws and teeth… an adult iguana should only be handled by educated adults.
Differences in Life Expectancy
You can expect a healthy, well cared for bearded dragon to live between 8 and 14 years on the high end.
Dragons that are cared for especially well may exceed 14 years, but this is more rare.
On the flip side, you can expect a well cared for green iguana to live between 10 and 12 years on average.
Again, especially well cared for iguanas may live longer (there are reports of some living into their 20s!) but this will be more rare and different on a case by case basis.
Difference in Diet
Iguanas are herbivores, whereas bearded dragons are omnivores.
While both lizards will thrive on a diet of dark leafy greens as adults, beardies will also need a solid source of protein in the form of various LIVE insects (crickets, Dubia roaches, silkworms, etc.)
Obviously, if the thought of having to handle/keep live insects freaks you out, you’re either going to have to get over this fear OR pass on getting a bearded dragon.
Because they require protein, bearded dragons will typically cost you more to feed than iguanas.
Expect to spend anywhere from $10 to $25 on a weekly basis for bearded dragon adults, and more for babies.
If you are comfortable breeding your insects, you can expect to save much more money as well.
For an iguana, you’ll spend much less since you’ll only be feeding them vegetables and occasional fruit. Expect to spend around $20-$40 per month, give or take feeding your adult iguana.
Please Note: These prices are not taking into consideration the cost of supplements and vitamins. Regardless of which reptile you get, these prices will be essentially the same., which is why they are not factored in.
Difference in Tameness/Temperament
Probably the BIGGEST difference between these two reptiles is temperament.
Bearded dragons tend to be pretty laid back and easy going, whereas it is not uncommon for iguanas to be cranky, aggressive, and downright irritable.
As someone who has experience with both, I would HIGHLY recommend if you are new to reptiles that you opt for a bearded dragon as they are so much easier to care for. Iguanas are difficult. Point blank and period.
If you simply peruse online forums or YouTube videos you will see time and time again that bearded dragons are coveted as one of the best beginner reptile pets for many reasons, but mostly, their friendly demeanor and ease of care.
On the flip side, you will also see that even loving iguana owners will strongly discourage people from owning them... especially first time reptile owners.
So, why is this exactly? Well, to put it bluntly… iguanas can be downright mean!
Although an intelligent species (Fun fact: You can expect your iguana to ALWAYS be looking for ways to escape their cage), the chances of you getting a friendly iguana are low.
Now, a baby may seem friendly at first, but often times they can grow up to just be plain irritable!
You will hear stories now and again of iguanas who are puppy dog sweet, but iguanas of this disposition will be few and far in between.
If you are someone who is up for a challenge and is fully prepared to spend years (not an exaggeration) working with your pet to earn its trust, then an iguana may be right for you.
Just please understand that even the best, most patient and loving owners are sometimes unable to raise even tempered and mild mannered iguanas.
Differences in Cage Setup
When it comes down to determining which reptile has an easier cage setup… the bearded dragon is going to win hands down.
An adult bearded dragon can thrive in a 75 gallon tank with a basking bulb and UVB bulb, as well as proper substrate and some basic decor.
All in all, you can expect to spend anywhere from $100 to $500 on the extremely high end for a good bearded dragon setup.
The iguana on the other hand, is going to require a much larger space in order to thrive.
Most adult iguanas will require cages that are at least 6 feet tall by 6 feet wide and 3 feet deep… that’s over 100 cubic square feet of space!
As you might suspect, these cages aren’t exactly cheap either.
You can expect to spend anywhere from $500 well into the thousands for a suitable adult iguana cage.
Because of this, I would actually recommend you consider building your own iguana cage.
Most responsible iguana owners build their own cages to fit, not only the allotted space in their homes, but the needs of their pet.
Because Iguanas are aboreal (animals that live in trees), you will need to give them plenty of height to climb. Cages should be at least 6 feet tall, but ideally 8 or 9.
Bearded Dragon Vs Iguana: What are the PROS for Each?
So, now that you have a solid understanding of some of the key differences in a bearded dragon vs iguana debate, let’s recap the pros behind owning each species…
Bearded Dragon Pros
- Low maintenance
- Stay small
- Beginner friendly
- Easy to handle
- Affordable cages
- Not dangerous
- Great for kids
- Cheap diet
- Strong, durable body
- Easy-to-prepare meals (no live bugs!)
Bearded Dragon Vs Iguana: What are the CONS for Each?
Now, let’s recap the cons behind owning each species as a pet…
Bearded Dragon Cons
- Diet can be expensive
- Must be fed live bugs
- Somewhat fragile – handle with care
- Can be aggressive
- Can be irritable
- Sharp teeth and claws
- Not beginner friendly
- Behavior can be unpredictable
- Not child friendly pets
- Expensive housing requirements
- Require A LOT of room
Wrapping Up Bearded Dragons Vs Iguanas
Hopefully by now you have some clarity on which pet (if either!) would be a good suit for you and your family.
And if it isn’t already abundantly clear… let me just say these two reptiles could not be any different!
Whereas bearded dragons are fairly easy to care for and handle, iguanas can be quite challenging in many regards.
Regardless of which pet you choose to move forward with, your best bet will simply be to do your homework and research each species to ensure you make a responsible and educated decision moving forward!