Basic care for Uromastyx Lizards
Photos by Susan Horton, DVM
are also called Dab lizards, Spiny Tailed lizards, Uros, and Agamids.
These medium sized herbivores are quickly gaining popularity
in the pet trade due to their unique appearance and interesting
diet. There are 13
different species of Uromastyx, but only six species are currently
kept. Uromastyx aegypticus (Egyptian uromastyx) and U. ornatus (Ornate uromastyx) are two of the most commonly kept in
uromastyx are the largest of the species reaching 25-30 inches in
length from the tip of the head to the tip of the tail.
This species has a light to dark brown coloration.
Ornate uromastyx reach an average size of 10-18 inches with
various browns, yellows, orange, green or blue coloration.
All of species have a bulky body and a characteristic
triangular shaped head. The
iconic spiny tail has between 10 and 30 rows of spiked scales on top
of the tail. This lizard
is not capable of “dropping” its tail.
These lizards generally live for 15-20 years and reach adult
size by four years old.
are found through out the arid regions of north western
down to the
They are naturally occurring in rocky outcrops and burrow
several feet below the surface during the hottest portions of the
day to decrease body temperature as well as increase humidity.
This is a diurnal species of lizard that is best kept in an
environment that simulates the hot, arid, and bright environment
they would naturally be found in.
are strict herbivores. There
is always debate in the reptile community whether or not to offer a
few insects every now and then but there has been no proven benefit
to this practice. In the
wild, these animals relish vegetation and ingestion of insects is
accidental. Dark leafy
greens such as dandelion greens, turnip greens, mustard greens,
spring mix, etc, should be offered once a day.
Shredded yellow, orange, and red vegetables can be added as
well. Uromastyx are
unique in their preference for small seeds such as millet and
lentils. Lentils are
easily sprouted using a damp wash cloth.
Dry lentils can be offered as well and are generally eaten
with equal enthusiasm.
owners opt to feed a pellet based diet in addition to the dark leafy
choices to feed are Mazuri tortoise, grass land tortoise pellet, and
iguana pellet. Pellet
diets should not be the bulk of the diet and should be offered 1-2
times a week. All Uros
should have their meals dusted with a calcium supplement and a
multi-vitamin supplement used once to twice a week.
species does not drink large amounts of water.
Greens should be offered after soaking or heavy misting with
water to ensure proper hydration.
above is a young male yellow saharan uromastyx (Uromastyx geyri).
lizards are terrestrial although they can climb low level branches.
Uromastyx are diggers by nature and if given the chance will
dig several feet down. This
species is extremely active and will require large amounts of floor
space. Hatchlings can be
easily housed in a 20 gallon aquarium or enclosure of a similar size
although they will quickly require larger accommodations.
As Uros grow they will need a 40 gallon breeder tank or
larger (keeping in mind floor space is important) or a custom
enclosure. It is
recommended to create a custom enclosure, especially for the
Egyptian uromastyx that offers more space for these larger lizards
and can handle the high heat. It
is highly recommended to offer an enclosure that is roughly 5-6 feet
long, 2 feet wide, and 2 feet tall for adults.
Uromastyx require space to roam and sprawl out.
Make sure that all enclosures are sturdy and escape proof.
Enclosures will also need to withstand intense heat as well.
Various levels created using rocks and branches will help the
lizard utilize all potential space and provide enrichment.
are numerous substrates to offer in enclosures ranging from
complicated naturalistic set-ups to simplistic newspaper.
Newspaper, although unattractive to look at, is easily
cleaned out and Uros genuinely seem to appreciate hiding under the
layers of paper. Butcher
paper can be used as a uniform color alternative.
Since Uros enjoy burrowing and will spend most of their time
hidden under the substrate if allowed, they seem to benefit from the
addition of dig boxes. Dig
boxes are designated areas or enclosed sections of top soil that can
go as much as 2 feet deep! These
boxes allow the Uromastyx to fulfill natural desires to dig as well
as offer another form of enrichment.
The dig box should be on the cooler end.
particulate substrate is desired, millet is best.
This allows for digging, ease of cleaning, and is edible.
However, if the lizard focuses on eating only the millet and
not its regular diet, a change in substrate will need to be made.
Dr. Horton does prefer to have a small dish of water available at
all times. This is particularly important for young uros,
breeding females, and compromised or sick individuals. A
shallow soaking dish should be provided. Post egg deposition females
will drink gratuitously once they have laid their egg clutches.
Healthy uromastyx will get most of the water they need from
Pictured above are a male (left) and female (right)
Mali uromastyx (Uromastyx maliensis).
lighting is required not only to prevent calcium deficiencies but to
simulate the bright natural habitat of these lizards. Exposure
to one or two ReptiSun 10.0 bulbs is recommended for 12-14 hours a
day. At night, there
should be no visible lights on.
heat sources should ideally be kept on a thermostat that allows for
proper gradients while offering piece of mind to owners as well.
A thermometer should be placed ideally one inch above the
substrate on the cooler end of the enclosure.
Another thermometer should be placed once inch above the
substrate on the warmer end of the enclosure and the one last
thermometer at the basking site.
Uromastyx can happily be housed in ambient temperatures ranging from 80°F
to 100°F. A range of
temperatures should be provided to these lizards.
Ambient temperatures can easily be maintained utilizing under
tank heaters, heat cable (only on the outside of the enclosure),
heat tape, heat bulbs, ceramic heat emitters, and heat emitting
panels. The basking site
should be maintained between 105°F and 110°F ideally.
At night, the enclosure should never fall below 65°F.
much humidity can kill this species.
It is important to maintain humidity at 10-35% with a humid
burrow box that reaches 40-45%.
is essential for excellent Uro keeping.
Tree trunks, tree branches, and root stocks make excellent
obstacles, hides, rocks, and climbing surfaces.
Make sure that all climbing surfaces are more horizontally
angled as they are not necessarily agile climbers especially as they
get older. Dig boxes are
essential for working out extra energy and allowing for natural
behaviors. Although a
hide box is offering a place to retreat, this is a form of
enrichment as well. A
hide box should be offered on the cooler side of the enclosure and
can be a simple opaque container that is larger than the lizard with
a tunnel of PVC or corrugated drain pipe leading to the entrance of
the box. To create the
entrance of the box simply cut a hole large enough for the lizard to
enter into on the side that will be facing the tube or piping.
new uromastyx should be checked for parasites before being
introduced to your existing colony and in general for it's own well
being. This is done simply by checking a fresh fecal with your
lizard should appear plump and well muscled. If you can see
ribs or bones of the pelvis, this is cause for alarm. A
complete physical should be performed by a reptile
veterinarian. Female lizards will slow down or quit eating
just before egg deposition.
shed skin on the toes or the tail can also be signs of ill
health. These should be gently removed after warm water
soaking. If the skin seems compromised in any way, consult
your reptile vet.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to
provide helpful service to you and your pet. If you have any
questions, give us a call at 847-329-8709.