Do Spiny-Tailed Lizards Make Good Pets?

Bearded dragon (Uromastyx) on sand and gravel in front of a log

The spiny-tailed is not a common pet, in contrast to other reptiles. Although it is lawful to own in the United States, exporting it to most other nations is prohibited, making it difficult to get. The spiny-tail is an intriguing pet, if you can locate one. The spiny-tail requires far less upkeep than its cousins that consume crickets only based on their diet. Only sometimes does an adult need to consume grass. Its housing requirements are also rather basic. You should be able to maintain a happy and healthy if you can offer a warm cage with low humidity and rocks where it can both bask and hide.

Species Overview

Common Name Spiny-tailed lizard, Uromastyx

Scientific Name Uromastyx spp.

Adult Size 10 to 18 inches

Lifespan 15 to 30 years

Can You Own a Pet Spiny-tailed Lizard?

Legality

It is legal to own a spiny-tailed lizard without a permit.

Things to Consider

It is entirely OK to acquire a spiny-tailed lizard, but you should think about whether you can provide it the care it needs for a long time. Because spiny-tail lizards can live up to 30 years, owning one is a big commitment.

Spiny-tailed Lizard Behavior and Temperament

The spiny-tailed lizard resembles a little, docile reptile that defends itself by waving its tail at approaching danger. The term "tail" or "whip" in the scientific genus name Uromastyx is derived from an old Greek word.

In the wild, this lizard naturally lives underground in tunnels up to ten feet long. This pet's tendency for seclusion results in a timid personality when kept in captivity. When handled, most spiny-tailed lizards will run away. Some animals will, however, put up with moderate handling, and some will even eat directly from their owners' hands.

These lizards have strong jaws, and while they may bite painfully, they typically only do so in self-defense. Your pet is unlikely to bite you if you handle them gently, calmly, and without making any abrupt movements.

Male spiny-tailed lizards may act aggressively towards other due to their territorial nature. So, either keep one male per group or house it alone.

Housing

A spiny-tailed lizard needs a big or (40 to 55 gallons) to live in. Additionally, a few rocks are required to give areas for feeding, sunbathing, hiding, and climbing. You may purchase a ready-made reptile shelter or build your own out of neatly placed rocks, a few tiny logs, and holes for your lizard to hide in. Although it could be alluring to reduce hiding places in order to increase viewing chances, leaving your lizard exposed will stress it out and worsen its health.

Once a month, you will need to thoroughly clean the lizard's enclosure by removing all of the supports and substrate. To keep the area hygienic in between periodic cleanings, you will need to spot clean or sweep up any visible feces.

Specific Substrate

Reptile owners sometimes use substrate or bedding to line the bottom of a cage. Since spiny-tailed lizards are diggers, they will appreciate ample substrate for burrowing.

Make sure the cage has 6 to 8 inches of bedding so your lizard may naturally burrow. It works well to use calcium sand from pet stores or natural sand marketed as "washed play sand."

Any substrate that can fit in your lizard's mouth has the potential to be inadvertently consumed when eating and result in an impacted colon. To prevent this, feed your lizard on a plate that covers the substrate so that it won't accidentally consume sand particles.

Heat

Utilize heat lamps to provide warmth. All reptiles move between warm basking areas and chilly recesses to maintain their body temperatures. At one end of the tank, place a bulb to create a basking region where the temperature stays about 120 degrees; the colder end of the tank should maintain a temperature of approximately 90 degrees. As long as it maintains above 70 degrees, the enclosure's temperature can drop at night to mimic its actual desert environment. You have the option of using a ceramic light or a blue, red, or white heat light bulb for lighting. To routinely check the temperature, be sure to have a thermometer close by or put one at either end of the cage.

Light

The UVB radiation that a fluorescent or mercury vapor bulb provides is sufficient for spiny-tailed lizards. Purchase bulbs with a minimum UVB output of 8% to 10%. (a higher UVB output is excellent, too, and preferred). Set this light bulb on a 12-hour cycle to replicate the sun's ebb and flow.

10 to 12 inches should separate your light from the area where your lizard basks. Mount it behind the mesh screen if you can, but keep it away from the basking surface because mesh screens filter a significant amount of the light's UVB rays.

Replace fluorescent bulbs every six months or following the manufacturer's recommendation. Even if the bulb still emits light, the invisible UVB rays stop emitting after six months.

Humidity

High humidity is intolerable for this lizard, and too much wetness can be fatal. The spiny-tailed lizard prefers a humidity range of no more than 35 percent. To mimic its burrow, provide a damp hide or container for this lizard (with a maximum humidity of 65 percent). This lizard generally digs deep into the ground to get the moisture it requires. It could require this humid atmosphere to aid in skin shedding. Make use of a hygrometer or humidity gauge to keep track of the moisture content.

What Do Spiny-tailed Lizards Eat and Drink?

The spiny-tailed lizards eat only plants. Although they occasionally consume in the wild, feeding your lizard might cause it stomach pain or even renal problems.

Feed a variety of dark leafy greens, such as escarole, dandelion greens, endive, collard greens, mustard greens, and spring mixes. For added protein, include lentils, split peas, beans, and millet.

These lizards may survive weeks or months without eating in the wild. Feed juveniles and hatchlings every day, while adults can eat up to four or five times each week. Feed the lizard in the morning and give it as much food as it will take. Remove the food if it won't eat so that it doesn't go bad. Your spiny-tailed lizard might occasionally go a week without eating. When under stress, getting ready to molt, or being unwell, these lizards may lose their appetite.

Although many exotics physicians still advise sprinkling calcium powder over your lizard's food a few times a week, healthy lizards who are given a diversified diet of vegetables shouldn't require a calcium supplement.

A water dish is not necessary since spiny-tails get their water from their food.

Common Health Problems

One of the most widespread conditions affecting pet reptiles is metabolic bone disease (MBD), which is frequently brought on by calcium and vitamin D deficiencies. MBD symptoms include shaking, loose jaw muscles, and swollen joints. Your lizard shouldn't get MBD if it has a balanced diet, lots of UVB illumination, and calcium supplements.

Dehydration can also result from an inadequate diet. Since spiny-tailed lizards rely on their food as their source for water, an abundance of leafy greens will prevent dehydration.

Size Information

Spiny-tailed lizards measure between 10 and 18 inches, including their tails, as adults. Females are generally larger than males.

Purchasing Your Spiny-tailed Lizard

Look for trustworthy local breeders or vendors that have expertise with spiny-tailed lizards that have been raised in captivity before making a purchase. If you can get your pet reptile from a breeder, they can guarantee its health and in most cases, the lizards have been nurtured by hand to make them tolerant of human interaction. Lizards that have been raised in captivity are used to living in cages and are less likely to flinch when handled. Avoid purchasing imported lizards since they are frequently obtained illegally and poachers are to blame for the decline of wild populations.

Reputable breeders are frequently discovered through exotics veterinarians, other reptile owners, and reptile exhibits. You may frequently meet breeders at reptile expos where you can also get all of your materials and lizards in one location. Costs for adult spiny-tailed lizards range between $100 to $300. Since hatchlings have the highest death rates, they often cost less.

Signs of a healthy spiny-tailed lizard include smooth skin with no traces of mites (small, reddish-brown spots around the face), clear eyes, a smooth jawline, and a fat, rounded tail.

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FAQ
  • Do spiny-tailed lizard like to be held?

    These shy lizards are not particularly fond of being touched, but those raised from babies will be more likely to accept petting and holding.

  • Can I put my lizard's food on the floor of its enclosure?

    It's better to feed your lizard on a dish or flat surface above the ground so that it doesn't accidentally ingest sand or other substrate; these materials can cause digestive problems.

  • Where do spiny-tailed lizards live in the wild?

    Spiny-tails live in parts of northern Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and India.

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