Scientific name: Uromastyx sp.
Size: up to 30 inches
Lifespan: 30+ years
Wild Population: 35,000+
Habitat: Asia, North America
Difficulty of Keeping: Medium
Optimum environment Temperature: 115°F hotspot with ambient temp of 80+°F
What do they eat? Plant Based, Fruits & Insects
Eggs or Live birth: Egg baring lizard.
Venomous: None venomous/ None poisonous
Are they kept in captivity? Uromastyx are increasing in popularity as a pet lizard.
Ease of keeping as a pet: Once the fundamentals have been learnt, they are easy to keep.
Cost: Ranges between £100 – £500 dependant on morph (colour)
A little bit about uromastyx
The Uromastyx lizard is part of the agamid family, this group of lizards also includes the most popular pet lizard bearded dragon and many others.
Uromastyx also known as the spiny-tailed lizard gets its name from the bands of up to 35 spiked scales that runs down their tail. Other popular nicknames for these lizards are mastiguries and dab lizards.
With over 20 different sub species of uromastyx, which range from different colours and sizes.
These lizards inhabit most of north America and parts of Asia.
Do uromastyx make good pets?
Though they are a small sized lizard, there are some things to consider before owning one. Some sub-species can grow larger than other, while most remain to a manageable adult size.
While not always recommended as a first-time pet lizard, we disagree. If you are 100% sure that these are right lizard for you after reading this, you will not be disappointed.
Always get a “CB”, this means captive bred and not wild caught, this will reduce the chances of bringing parasites and other nasties into your home. Uromastyx are gaining popularity as pets so finding a reputable breeder local to your area should be easy.
When looking for a pet lizard, it is best to get a hatchling or a sub-adult as this will allow you and your pet to get used to their environment and handling schedules.
Across all the different species, you can expect a size of between 13 – 20 inches as an adult. This is similar to a bearded dragon but is slightly heavier.
Baby uromastyx from the egg can measure as small as 3 inches!
Housing A Uromastyx
For a little lizard they require a large enclosure, uromastyx are active lizards and need room to exercise and thrive. In the wild spiny tailed lizards graze and can cover serious miles looking for the best grazing areas.
For an adult uromastyx that is 20 inches long, a 6ft long, 2 foot in depth and 2ft+ tall enclosure will suitable house them for the entire life. This is a serious sized terrarium and must be taken into consideration if thinking of having a pet uromastyx.
The taller the caging, the more it will cost to heat, but higher cages will ensure a happy lizard. It is always recommended to get a heat bulb that’s wattage is higher than you will need. The thermostat will control the power going to the bulb and is not likely to cost you more in energy with a quality thermostat.
Uromastyx love to burrow and can be quite shy lizards, to feel safe and reduce stress they will need one of more hides or burrow boxes within their vivarium.
Uromastyx heating & lighting requirements
These are diurnal lizards; this means they are active during the daytime hours. This allows them to bask in the sun to heat up and absorb the UV rays.
Throughout the day, uromastyx will move between shaded areas and basking rocks, this is important to note as you will need to replicate this within their enclosure. Their terrarium must have a heat source on one side of the cage, and a cooler side. This is called thermoregulation, being cold blooded a uromastyx needs to manually control how hot or cold there are by using their environment.
Often, they will bask for too long and need to cold down relatively quickly, uromastyx will burrow themselves underground in a shaded area where the temperature is lowest during the day and remain there for hours to get their temp down faster, this also has another purpose of rehydrating their skin, within a burrowed area humidity increases dramatically which loosens the skin and keeps it healthy.
When setting up your enclosure it is best to have a hot size combined with a basking platform. Place the thermostat probe on the elevated basking area and set it to 115 degrees F. Do not put the recording probe on the ground as this area needs to be around 100 degrees F.
If you are struggling to make a platform, using a large rock to allow your pet to get closer to the heat will work just as well, please note, do not allow the rock too close to heat source as rock will absorb heat and will cause burns.
Always use more than 1 thermometer to record the enclosures temperature on both the warm area and the cooler area, the more you have, the more accurate and optimised their environment will be.
Towards the cooler of the side, the temp will drop, look for this to be in the region of 80+ degrees.
Creating an enclosure design with numerous different levels will allow your pet uromastyx to find their favourite spots to bask or cool-down. Keep testing with different layouts and observe where they choose to spend most of their time and adjust accordingly.
During the night-time, all lighting bulbs needs to be turned off, but using a ceramic or infrared bulb to keep the cage above 70 degrees F.
For a uromastyx, the most popular by far is sand, although some keepers advocate to use any sand, while other prefer reptile specific sand.
We would recommend using sand that does not too coarse, we found the bottom end sand to have small sharp edges. Trial and error are best in finding the one that is best quality and cost effective. Reptile sand is often over-priced and is just the same as regular quality sand.
There are downsides to sand as a substrate, the have been reported to cause impactions with juvenile or baby lizards more often, though these are few and far between. You can also minimise the risk by getting a very large feeding rock that acts like a bowl and removing food that has dropped into the sand.
It is good practice to use paper or artificial grass for uromastyx under the age of 1 – 2 years to avoid any risk of impactions happening.
An additional benefit is the easy of spot cleaning, using a mesh scooper to remove defecation makes cleaning the vivarium a breeze.
Finally, include a moist box which allows your lizard to get into and acts as a burrow, this must be above 75% humidity to hydrate their skin and 2x the size of your reptile. There are plenty of reptile hide boxes online or a large meal prep box with a hole cut in the side will be just fine, just ensure there is no sharp edges where the hole has been made.
It is best not to use any beddings such as aspen, bark or beech chip as these can be ingested and cause serious injury to your pet, sticking with sand and reptile grass carpet is a safe bedding.
The Uromastyx Diet
Uromastyx live on a diet which consists of 80% of plant-based foods and 20% of bugs and other insects.
So, let’s start with the insects first, we feed 2 – 3 crickets or a small amount of meal worms two times per month, we find this to be the optimum amount and gives them the most nutritional value.
See the full list below to find out exactly what you can feed your pet uromastyx.
Now for the plant-based foods, this can be anything from spring mixes to collard greens. Some options are calcium-blocking, this is not ideal for them and we will include these in a list below for reference, you can feed these but should be kept to the bare minimum.
Within the caging area the food should not be put under the hot side, this will cause it dry out quickly and begin to mould sooner. The middle or on the cooler side is the ideal place, uromastyx have good eyesight so placing it somewhere they can easily see it will make sure they can locate it.
Seeds are another option which is often missed by keepers and they go crazy for them, they often get seeds that are in the plants they eat in the wild and have some nutritional value too.
Pellets are yet other food-source, tortoise grassland pellets are perfect and last a long time as backup if you run out of fresh foods.
Last but not least, calcium powder, this is very important and a must have. Calcium is important in keeping these lizards healthy and bones strong. This is the first thing you should have. It is a white powder and once every week dust it over the food that is being given at least once a week.
Uromastyx Foods List
Plant Based Foods & Seeds
- Dandelion greens.
- Collard greens
- Mustard greens
- Turnip greens
- Dark Lettuce
- Swiss Chard
- Proso millet (white)
- Flax seeds
- Never feed iceberg lettuce or cabbage to a uromastyx
- Prickly pear
All fruits should be limited at no more than 10% of the uromastyx diet.