As pets, five species of lizards are winning the popularity contest. Snakes may have led the way in herp culture, but lizards have caught up, and there's an inspiring range of choices in species that can be kept at home. If you're new to raising herps, consider these low-maintenance choices.
The resemblance to dinosaurs of more than 65 million years ago obviously has something to do with our interest. After all, who among us hasn't experienced a phase of fascination with dinosaurs? More important, it's easier than ever before to care successfully for a captive lizard. Over the past decade, enthusiasts have assembled extensive track records for many types, spawning reliable care guides.
Recent polls point to five species as the most frequently sold and kept lizard pets. The choices reflect these lizards' hardiness and ease of care.
Number five in popularity is the Savanna Monitor from Africa. Virtually all specimens are imported, with juveniles, which are easily civilized but smaller and more fragile than mature monitors, making up a higher percentage of the totals each year. These carnivores fare well on rodents and insects, supplemented with pieces of meat and raw eggs. They have relatively calm natures and typically reach about 3 feet and occasionally 4 feet in length.
Close behind are Asian Green Water Dragons. These peaceful iguana-like lizards rarely exceed 2.5 feet. Primarily meat eaters including mealworms, crickets and small mice, water dragons also eat some vegetable matter. Most are imported, but captive breeding success has been raising the percentage that come from domestic sources.
It's hard not to like Blue-tongued Skinks. They're shiny, chubby and slow-moving, making them comfortable to hold. They're also easy to feed, as they eat both plants and animals. Most pets here are brought in from New Guinea, although several beautiful species from Australia are raised in moderate numbers in the United States.
Fans of Bearded Dragons may be disappointed that this lizard came in second in the survey. A finer pet reptile is hard to find. Their adult size of 16 to 18 inches is ideal, their disposition is placid, their care needs are simple and their looks are perfectly prehistoric. New color varieties are emerging yearly.
And the number one pet lizard species is Leopard Geckos! These cute little terrestrials slightly edged out bearded dragons, thanks to their smaller size, which makes it a cinch to meet their housing needs. A standard 10 gallon aquarium can maintain one or two adults for life, especially if they receive plenty of handling attention as exercise.
Leopard geckos are also the lizards that show the most variety in color and pattern, with new designer morphs debuting each year to pique our interest. What's more, their hardiness on an insect diet and their long life span, sometimes 20 years or more, practically guarantees long-term success for the new owner.