Uromastyx Lizards


These fascinating lizards come from Africa in the desert climates. They are vegetarians and eat lettuce, green beans, broccoli, etc. They must have vegetables high in vitamins such as romaine or endive. Try yellow squash, zucchini.

The Aegypticus can grow to 2 feet while the others can grow up to 18 inches.

Males are usually larger, with wider heads. They have enlarged femoral pores and are usually huskier than females. Babies should be carefully probe sexed.

These lizards can inflate their bodies when warm or emotional.

Youngsters should have vitamin/mineral supplement every other feeding. Adults should be given calcium only every 10-14 days.

A 20 gallon tank is minimum and as they grow they need a 55 gallon when 2-1/2 feet. Larger adults need custom enclosures. Use substrate of sand, and landscape and create basking areas with rocks, driftwood, cork bark slabs and branches. Bromeliad plants also enhance their environment. Provide a shallow pan of water for drinking.

Day temperature should be 80-90 with nights 68-78. Expose to natural sunlight or provide full spectrum UV lights to help synthesize Vitamin D-3 and calcium absorption.

They must have the proper temperature to digest food. They must have a basking temperature of 92-98. Under the tank heating pads or hot rocks are a good source of extra heat. The animal must be able to 'get away' from the heat source when desired or you may have baked lizard for dinner.

Roadkill for a pet??

The Featherless Peacocks of the African Desert

Nature has certainly played favorites when it comes to the various species of Uromastyx lizards. One looks like it was just run over by your mother-in-law and the other could proudly spread its tail for NBC. Uromastyx was once classified together with Agamidae and has recently been split into its own genus. There are at least ten species including these two very different looking lizards, the Aegypticus and the Ornatus. They are on Appendix II of CITES.

These lizards are from the dry desert regions of Africa where there may be many rocky outcroppings. Their bodies, quite opposite from the common iguana are flattened dorso-ventrally which means that their bodies look rather flat like pancakes rather than the familiar shapes of iguanas and chameleons.

In fact, that is the most distinct feature of the olive drab or brown Uromastyx aegypticus. It is probably the most compressed ventrally of all lizards I have ever seen. When I take to expositions, many people jokingly ask if I just scraped it up from the side of the road! This species can grow up to 24 inches long. Usually, I have seen specimens from 15 to 20 inches long from nose to tip of tail, and 6 to 8 inches wide, with a body so flat that it is sometimes barely an inch thick. These handsome lizards have a masculine tortoise-like head and heavily muscled jaws and forehead. They look right at your eyes with theirs as if they are trying to communicate in their own way. I have seen them hiss at each other but never at us. I have heard reports, however of them hissing at other people. I suspect that those people were trying to pick them up like you would pick up an iguana and the animal was in distress. I would suggest using one hand for support underneath the lizard and the other to pick it up by its neck and shoulders. Never squeeze it from side to side as this would definitely be painful to the lizard.

I like to think of the Ornatus as the featherless peacock of the desert, with a breath-taking range of hues from oranges, reds, greens, yellows, turquoise and browns. There are rows or contrasting bars across the back. It is not uncommon to find an individual with several colors. The males are much more colorful than the females who are more drab and less spectacular. When these animals become very warm, their colors lighten and they become rapid in their scurrying movements. They are not quite as flat as the Aegypticus or as large and usually do not exceed 15 inches in length. Both species have the ability to puff up, possibly as a defense mechanism when crawling under rocks, to keep predators from prying them out.

These lizards can inflate their bodies when warm or emotional.

Another species, Acanthinurus, is as large as the Aegypticus, more rare and with the vivid hues of the Ornatus without the bars. It has a blackish head with strongly whorled tail and reticulated markings on the back. These are very rare. All four feet have five well-clawed toes used in aiding these agile climbers. They have a thick fat tail that has spines arranged in whorls. They use this tail both for defense and for a fat/water reserve.

In the wild these lizards inhabit the very hot, arid zones feeding on many types of vegetative matter including tough shrubs. They rarely encounter water in the wild and in captivity it is imperative that they be kept dry and free of moist bedding to avoid sickness. They get most of the water in their diet from the food they eat and the majority of the water in their urine is resorbed by their bodies. During extreme drought and food scarcity, they can use the water from the fat in their tails to stay alive. They give off salts through glands along the nasal passages and you may see salt crusts at the nostril openings at times.

They are good eaters if the temperature is kept within their required range of 85 to 98 degrees F. I suggest maintaining a normal day/night difference by dropping it to 70 degrees F at night. We feed ours a salad of mixed greens including most lettuces especially kale, endive, romaine, etc. but excluding nutritionless iceberg. We also offer finely chopped carrots, sweet potatoes and broccoli, squash, green beans and canned corn or soaked lentils (and certain beans). You can also offer dandelion greens and their flowers, clover and cabbage. Small or crushed rodent chow can also be used as well as leafy alfalfa hay. They can be given certain non-toxic flowers such as rose, hibiscus, bergamot petals, borage, chives, cress, dill, fennel, lavender, thyme, mints (excluding pennyroyal), oregano, sage, rosemary, safflower, sweet cicely, calendula, carnation, pansy, marigold, and nasturtiums. I recommend that you only give petals because some stems and calyxes could be toxic. When you prepare their meal be certain that all vegetables and flowers are free of pesticides and fertilizers which can be harmful to them. There are probably many native flowers and weeds that could be given to these lizards however, check with your county agriculture extension agent BEFORE introducing any to their diet. Some animals, especially youngsters will eat some insects such as crickets and super meal worms.

Our exact regimen goes as follows: Turn on heat lamps and basking spots in the morning so that the temperature is around 90-95 degrees F. About 1:00 we turn off the heat lamps but leave on the spots and feed at that time, a wonderful salad as mentioned above. At night, we turn off the spots so the temperature drops to about 70 degrees F. They usually eat after 8:00 pm, believe it or not.

We do not give water in dishes but do hang a water bottle an the side just because it makes us feel better. They rarely use it deriving most of their moisture from their food. If they eat lots of dried alfalfa, they will drink water.

We place rabbit pellets (instead of sand) about 5 inches deep for substrate to prevent impaction from sand ingestion with their food. Be sure to provide hiding places such as clay or plastic pipes, rocks, tree limbs, etc. Their food can be hung from wires (heads and leaves of lettuce) or placed on flat pans. The lizards have no discernible odor of their own and the only thing we smell is the rabbit pellets. They excrete a hard dry pellet and rarely have urine of any noticeable amount.

Our lizards are not hostile. We have NEVER encountered an aggressive animal to date. They prefer to get out of the way when first introduced to their environment but soon settle down to your routine. They tame readily and can learn to eat from your hand. While the lizard is learning to accept both you AND its new environment, it is imperative that you never upset or scare it by grabbing at it with fast movements. Be calm and give it a chance to see that it is YOU who is not a threat. It will soon learn that it does not have to run or be afraid of you.

Uromastyx are egg layers and can lay clutches of up to 20 eggs when fully mature. Eggs can be incubated in an incubator on moist vermiculite with a temperature of about 80-85 degrees. Babies are 2" to 3" long.

Many internal parasites can be detected by means of fecal flotation. Panacur (fenbendazole) is often given. Often three treatments are required at 2 week intervals. Ivermectrin is also used but to figure the dose is difficult. Giving the oral medication is not difficult with a syringe. You can easily mix it with their food however.

These animals are good climbers if they can get a hold on the surface with their claws. We suggest a large terrarium with a top and a basking spot light and plenty of interesting places to climb and in which to hide. They require ultraviolet radiation to synthesize Vitamin D3 which is necessary to absorb calcium. The UV-B rays that are necessary are found in natural sunlight or some special reptile lights so be sure to provide one or the other. Their gorgeous colors, in the case of Ornatus or Acanthinurus, make them a most attractive addition to your collection. Aegypticus are not colorful, but are so prehistoric looking and unusual they make a wonderful menagerie addition and give a flavor of Jurassic ParkÒ to your decor.


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