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Arid Lizard

Arid Lizard Care Sheet

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.

arid lizard care sheet

This care sheet covers a variety of arid lizard species, including:



Arid lizards include several species originating from dry, hot environments. Different species come from different geographies around the world, but all tend to enjoy drier climates and basking in the warm sun.

These lizards have varied dietary and environmental requirements, so arid lizard recommendations are general in nature. Speak to your veterinarian and research the specific needs of your particular arid lizard when it comes to feeding, housing, cleaning and providing enrichment for your pet.


Typical appearance and behavior 

  • Will reach adult size in one to three years, depending on the species and under ideal conditions; upgrade habitat size as your reptile grows
  • All arid lizards will spend part of the day basking in the warm end of the habitat, as well as some time in a hiding spot in their habitat
  • Male arid lizards are territorial and should be housed separately
  • Most arid lizards are solitary and prefer to be housed alone; the armadillo lizard is a social reptile who prefers to live with other armadillo lizards
  • Each arid lizard has unique, species-specific behaviors:
    • Bearded dragons distend the skin on their neck and turn it black—hence the name “bearded” dragon—when they are stressed, feeling threatened, regulating their temperature, exhibiting dominance or attracting a female
    • Armadillo lizards roll into a ball and put their tails in their mouths to look as small as possible when a predator is nearby
    • Steppe lizards may be skittish at first but once acclimated to a new habitat are generally calm and tame and enjoy handling
    • Curly-tailed lizards get their name from their behavior of curling up their tails when a potential predator is present to try to draw attention to their tails so that if they are caught, they can drop their tail and escape
    • African-plated lizards are large reptiles with square, plate-like scales that make them look like they are wearing a suit of armor
    • When threatened, frilled lizards stand up on their hind legs, open their mouths, hiss and unfurl the pleated flap of skin encircling their heads to scare away attackers
    • Agama lizards are also called rainbow lizards, as dominant males will change skin color (with their bodies turning blue and their heads turning red or yellow) when they want to assert dominance
    • Uromastyx lizards are known for their spiny, 10- to 30-scaled tail that they use to fight off predators
  • Never grab a lizard by their tail, as they may release, or drop, their tail, an instinctive behavior they have developed to get away from predators



Care Difficulty Beginner to advanced, depending on species
Average Life Span Up to 10+ years with proper care, depending on species
Average Adult Size 4-36 inches long, depending on species
Diet Herbivore, carnivore or omnivore, depending on species
Minimum Habitat Size Varies depending on species and on number of lizards housed; check specific species requirements



Habitat size

House in an appropriately sized and shaped habitat that accommodates an adult lizard’s normal behaviors and exercise. It should include a securely fitted mesh top to prevent escape. Due to the varied sizes and growth rates of arid lizards and their differing needs by species, consult your veterinarian to determine specific housing requirements. Be sure to increase habitat size as the lizard grows or if you are housing more than one lizard in a habitat.


Building your habitat

  • Habitat - Provide a commercially available hiding area and rock and branch décor for basking and climbing
  • Humidity - Species’ humidity requirements vary, but in general, as arid lizards who live in dry, hot climates, they thrive in low humidity levels of less than 50%. Monitor humidity levels with a humidity gauge. When humidity falls too low, lizards will retain shed skin. To increase humidity, mist habitat and décor as needed. To decrease humidity, improve ventilation
  • Substrate - Provide commercially available substrate or reptile carpet. Gravel, wood chips and walnut shells are not recommended, as they are indigestible. Pelleted, paper-based substrate is ideal, as it is digestible if eaten and lizards can dig and bury in it. If using a particulate matter bedding such as calci-sand, feed your reptile from a dish or in a separate feeding tank to reduce the ingestion of substrate, which can cause potentially life-threatening gastrointestinal tract obstruction
  • Temperature – Provide a temperature gradient with a warm zone containing an ultraviolet (UV) light and a heat source plus a cool zone farthest from the heat source. The exact temperature range depends on the species. Check with your veterinarian for specific species requirements. Use an incandescent light or ceramic heater as the primary heat source. Never use a hot rock as a heat source, as many reptiles get burned when sitting on them
  • Lighting – Provide UVB rays with a full-spectrum UV light for 10 to 12 hours a day so that lizards can make vitamin D in their skin to help them absorb dietary calcium. Use an incandescent day bulb to provide light and heat in the basking area during daylight hours and a ceramic heater or nighttime heat bulb to provide just heat at night


Cleaning your habitat

  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect water and food bowls daily. Spot-clean the habitat daily to remove droppings and discarded food. Thoroughly clean the habitat at least once a week:
  • Place the lizard in a secure habitat
  • Scrub the tank and furnishings with a reptile-safe habitat cleaner or 3% bleach solution
  • Rinse the tank and all furnishings thoroughly with water, removing all traces of habitat cleaner or bleach smell

Dry the tank and furnishings before putting new substrate and the lizard back in the habitat



What to feed your arid lizard

A well-balanced arid lizard diet will vary depending on whether the arid lizard is an herbivore (plant-eater), insectivore (insect-eater), carnivore (meat/animal-eater) or omnivore (both plant- and meat/animal-eater) Consult your veterinarian about the species-specific dietary needs of your lizard.


Things to remember when feeding your arid lizard

  • Fresh, clean water should be available at all times; water should be offered in a bowl so that lizards can soak if they want to. Some lizards may not drink from a bowl but instead stay hydrated by absorbing or drinking moisture from habitat décor
  • Most lizards should be fed daily. If they are omnivores, they may have varied requirements, depending on the species, for plant (vegetable/fruit) matter and meat/animal matter. Check with your veterinarian to understand your lizard’s nutritional needs and feeding frequency
  • Lizards kept as pets require supplemental calcium, vitamins and minerals. These supplements are generally provided by lightly sprinkling them on fresh produce or dusting insects with them. Speak to your veterinarian about what supplements your lizard requires
  • If feeding insects, be sure to offer gut-loaded (recently fed) insects no bigger than the space between the lizard’s eyes, and never offer more insects at one time than your lizard can consume. Overfeeding insects can lead to obesity, and insects not consumed but left in a habitat can chew on and damage lizards’ skin
  • If feeding vegetables and fruits, produce not eaten within 10 hours should be discarded to prevent it from spoiling
  • If feeding rodents, be sure to offer only frozen/thawed rodents and not live rodents, as uneaten live prey left in a habitat can bite and cause life-threatening injury to lizards



  • Arid lizards regularly shed their skin; ensure humidity of habitat is at appropriate level to allow proper shedding
  • To facilitate shedding, provide warm water in a large, shallow container that allows the lizard to immerse their entire body for soaking, or provide a moist shedding  box—a hide box with moist sphagnum moss—that will aid in shedding


Where to buy

Arid lizards are available for purchase at your local Petco Pet Care Center location. Please call ahead to check availability.




Habitat mates

  • Some arid lizards are better housed alone, while others prefer to be housed with other members of their species
  • Often, male lizards will fight when housed together, so they should not be kept in the same habitat
  • Do not house different reptile species together



Signs of a healthy lizard

  • Active and alert
  • Clear, bright eyes with no swelling or discharge
  • Full, muscular tail
  • Supple skin with no sores, swellings or discoloration
  • Droppings are firm, not runny or bloody
  • Eats and passes stool regularly
  • Clear nose and vent


Red flags (If you notice any of these signs, contact your veterinarian.)

  • Weight loss or decreased appetite
  • Discharge or bubbles from eyes, mouth or nose
  • Lesions, swelling or discoloration of skin or retained shed
  • Lethargy
  • Sneezing, runny nose, difficulty breathing
  • Weakness or paralysis of limbs
  • Runny or bloody stool or lack of stool


Common health issues

Health Issue Symptoms or Causes Suggested Action
Health IssueGastro-intestinal disease Symptoms or CausesRunny stools, caked or smeared stool around the vent, weight loss and loss of appetite; may be caused by bacterial, viral or parasitic infection or nutritional imbalance. Suggested ActionConsult your veterinarian.
Health IssueMetabolic bone disease/vitamin deficiency Symptoms or CausesInability to absorb calcium due to insufficient UVB light or inappropriate diet or supplementation. If untreated, can lead to skeletal deformities, soft or fractured bones, swollen limbs, decreased appetite, weight loss, lethargy, seizures and death. Suggested ActionConsult your veterinarian and provide ample UVB lighting and the proper amount of calcium/vitamin supplements.
Health IssueRespiratory disease Symptoms or CausesLabored breathing, discharge or bubbles from eyes, nose or mouth, decreased appetite and lethargy. Can be caused by inappropriate temperature, humidity or lighting in habitat, predisposing to infection. Suggested ActionConsult your veterinarian and ensure habitat has proper temperature, humidity and lighting.


Additional care sheets

Bearded Dragon

Arid Gecko

Arid Skink


Notes and resources

Ask a Pet Care Center associate about Petco's selection of products available for the care and happiness of your new pet. All products carry a 100% money-back guarantee.

Because all reptiles are potential carriers of infectious diseases, such as salmonella bacteria, always wash your hands before and after handling your reptile or habitat contents to help prevent the potential spread of disease.

Pregnant women, children under the age of 5, senior citizens and people with weakened immune systems should contact their physicians before purchasing or caring for reptiles and should consider not having a pet other than a reptile.

Go to the Centers for Disease Control at for more information about lizards and disease.


The information on this Care Sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian as appropriate.