Spiny Tail Lizard - VCA Animal Hospitals
VCA WEST LOS ANGELES ANIMAL HOSPITAL
AVIAN AND EXOTICS PET CARE LIBRARY
Uromastyx species are now being successfully kept
in captivity due to better understanding of their
dietary and environmental requirements. Two
popular species that do well in captivity include
Uromastyx maliensis (or mali uromastyx) and
Uromastyx ocellata (Ornate uromastyx). Very docile
and often shy, these gentle creatures are diurnal —
active during the day and sleeping at night.
Spiny Tail Lizard (Uromastyx) Care and Husbandry
Most uromastyx lizards are herbivores, meaning they
eat mainly vegetables. A few species may require
more protein in their diet and can be offered crickets or
mealworms. Juveniles require a higher percentage of
protein in their diet than adults.
The majority of the diet should consist of dark leafy
greens, such as collards, endive, spring mixes, bok
choy, and dandelion greens. These greens are
excellent calcium sources and provide most of the
hydration your lizard will need. Squash, sweet
potatoes and other mixed vegetables can also be fed
in small amounts for a balanced diet. Avoid kale and
A healthy male Uromastyx (saharan uromastyx)
spinach because they tend to disrupt calcium balance.
Incorporating softened iguana or tortoise pellets is beneficial to maintaining a healthy lizard. These
items should be chopped and presented as a ‘mixed salad’ on a large, flat surface within the enclosure.
Presenting food on a flat surface will help prevent your pet from ingesting substrate with the food.
Calcium supplements should be given 2-3 times a week and multivitamins (with Vitamin A) should be
given once a week to every other week. Ideally, your uromastyx should eat about 30% pelleted diet with
the rest of the diet being dark, leafy greens and vegetables.
Fresh water should always be available in a shallow dish for those species that prefer to drink. Water
dishes that are too large or deep may result in humidity levels too high for an ideal captive
Enclosure: Glass fish tanks with secure, fine, mesh
screen tops are good options for uromastyx housing. The
size of the tank will depend on the size of the lizard you have.
The ground surface area should be at least four times the
length of the lizard.
Humidity: Uromastyx are a desert species. Humidity
should be maintained at 10-40%, and can be monitored
with a temperature/humidity gauge within the enclosure.
Commercial dehumidifiers placed near the enclosure can
be used to maintain this environment.
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Spiny Tail Lizard (Uromastyx) Care and Husbandry
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Heating: Uromastyx are a desert species, and require a very warm basking area and a non-basking
area with a temperature gradient between the two. To achieve this, a basking area with a
broad-spectrum UVA/UVB heating bulb (for example, a mercury vapor bulb) should be offered on
one side of the cage. This should be least 12”
away from where the lizard would bask. Two
temperature gauges should be placed in the
enclosure, one near the basking area and one
in the non-basking area. The basking area
gauge should also include a UVA/UVB monitor.
Ideal temperatures for each area are:
Basking area: 110-120ºF
Non-Basking area: 88-104ºF
Uromastyx acantlinura (4 years old)
Keep in mind that broad-spectrum UV lighting bulbs are only effective for 4-6 months. It is very
important to have a UV meter in place. The bulb will continue to give off light and heat, but will not
emit UV. Also make sure there is no glass or plastic between the bulb and the basking area, as these
can prohibit the transmission of UV light.
Light/heat should be provided for approximately 12 hours per day. Night time temperatures for
uromastyx lizards can be 60-70ºF, so heat sources are not typically necessary at night.
We do not recommend the use of under-tank heating pads or heat rocks. These are often the
cause of thermal injury in reptiles and the heat produced is not easily regulated.
Substrate: The most ideal substrate for adult uromastyx species is thoroughly washed play
sand. We do not recommend the use of ‘calci-sand’ advertised for use in lizards because this type of
sand can be ingested with food items and cause gastrointestinal impactions. Another option is to use a
thin (less than 1” depth) layer of smooth bird seeds.
Veterinary care is important in uromastyx lizards
because most of the animals in the pet trade are caught
from the wild. Many animals suffer from malnourishment
and dehydration during shipment. Internal and external
parasites are also common in wild animals. Yearly exams
help maintain health and identify problems such as gout,
skin infections and other medical conditions.
Uromastyx maliensis (mali uromastyx)
If you have any questions or concerns about your pet
lizard or would like to schedule an appointment for your
pet, please call VCA West Los Angeles Animal Hospital