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Saharan Uromastyx Care Sheet

Developed with and approved by a qualified veterinarian.

saharan-uromastyx

Overview

Uromastyx geyri

Also known as the spiny tailed lizard, this species thrives in mountainous regions in northern Africa under harsh desert conditions. These lizards live in rocky areas where they wedge themselves into crevices. They are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day.

 

Typical appearance and behavior

  • This species is almost completely herbivorous, preferring a diet mainly consisting of greens and other vegetables
  • Males range from bright yellow to orange, while females are tan. Both have patterns of dark lines and spots, with females having more freckle-like patterns than males
  • When their body temperature cools, their color darkens; when they warm up, their color brightens
  • They have large, triangular-shaped heads, thick bodies and dinosaur-like tails with 10-30 rows of spiked scales on top. When threatened, they use their tails as whips to fight off predators
  • Males and females are the same size
  • They can dig down several feet to burrow
  • Although they are terrestrial and love to dig, they can also climb low branches
  • To conserve water, they have a special gland near their nose that secretes salt, which may appear as white crusty deposits around their nostrils
  • These lizards are generally docile and tolerate handling from a pet parent
  • They are in the same family as bearded dragons

 

Characteristics

Care Difficulty Intermediate
Average Life Span Up to 15-20 years with proper care
Average Adult Size 10-14 inches long
Diet Herbivore
Minimum Habitat Size 30-gallon tank for a juvenile;
40-gallon tank for one adult

 

Habitat

 

Habitat size

Provide appropriate size habitat to accommodate normal behavior and exercise. Minimum size habitat is 30 –gallons for a juvenile and 40 gallons for an adult. As a general rule, the habitat should be at least 4 times the length of the lizard, but it’s best to provide as large a habitat as possible. Uromastyx need a large temperature gradient in their habitats. Enclosures should have a securely fitting mesh top to prevent escape and allow adequate ventilation. If the climate permits, uromastyx can be housed outside in custom-made habitats approximately 5 to 6 feet long, 2 feet wide and 2 feet tall for a single adult. Adults reach full size by 4 years of age.

 

Building your habitat

  • Décor - Provide a commercially available, dark, shallow “dig box” filled with moist substrate into which they can burrow and hide to feel secure. Large rocks, branches, driftwood and cork bark should be offered for basking and climbing
  • Humidity – Uromastyx live in dry, hot climates and will thrive in low humidity levels. Maintain habitat humidity between 10-35%, with humidity at 40-45% in the moist dig box. 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. Increase ventilation to decrease humidity. While most uromastyx get all the water they need from eating vegetables, reproductively active females may also drink—an open shallow water bowl should be provided
  • Substrate - Provide commercially available substrate or reptile carpet. Gravel, wood chips, sand and walnut shells are not recommended, as they are indigestible if swallowed. Pelleted, paper-based substrate is ideal, as it is digestible and it allows them to dig and burrow. If using a particulate-matter bedding such as calci-sand, feed your reptile from a dish or in a separate feeding tank—ingestion of this type of substrate can cause a potentially life-threatening gastrointestinal tract obstruction
  • Temperature - Provide a temperature gradient during the daytime ranging from 80°F in the cool zone to 100°F, with a basking spot at 110-120°F. Nighttime temperatures should not fall lower than 65°F. Monitor temperature with at least two thermometers—one in the cool zone and the other in the basking zone. Heat may be provided by an incandescent bulb or ceramic heat bulb. Heat sources should be attached to thermostats to regulate temperatures. Hot rocks can burn reptiles and should not be used as a heat source. Reptiles not kept in the appropriate temperature ranges are more likely to become immunosuppressed and get sick
  • Lighting - Provide full-spectrum ultraviolet (UV) lighting for 10 to 12 hours a day to expose uromastyx to UVB rays, which helps enable them to make vitamin D in their skin so that they can absorb dietary calcium. UV bulbs should be 12-24" away from lizards and should be turned off at night to establish a clear day-night cycle. Change UV bulbs every six months, as their potency wanes. Uromastyx can be housed outside in warm climates with exposure to direct sunlight if they have spots for hiding and shade

 

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 adding new substrate and placing the lizard back in the habitat

 

Feeding

A well-balanced uromastyx diet includes:

  • A variety of dark green, leafy vegetables, such as romaine lettuce, red- and green-leaf lettuce, collard greens, dandelion greens, mustard greens, escarole, endive, kale, bok choy and parsley. Smaller amounts of other vegetables, such as carrots, squash, peas and beans also may be offered
  • Uromastyx also enjoy dry or sprouted lentils, along with millet seed
  • Commercially available bearded dragon, tortoise or iguana pellets soaked in water may be given 1-2 times a week but should not be the bulk of the diet
  • Insects such as mealworms and crickets may be offered once a month as a treat

 

Things to remember when feeding your uromastyx:

  • Fresh, clean water should be available at all times
  • Vegetables should be chopped or shredded and sprayed with water before feeding
  • Uromastyx should be fed daily
  • If feeding insects, be sure to offer gut-loaded (recently fed) insects that are no bigger than the space between the lizard’s eyes. Never offer more insects at one time than your lizard can consume, and insects not consumed should be removed, as they can chew on and damage lizards’ skin
  • Fresh produce not eaten within 10 hours should be discarded to prevent it from spoiling
  • Sprinkle food with a calcium supplement containing vitamin D3 every day for juveniles and every other day for adults; sprinkle food with a multivitamin once a week

 

Care

Uromastyx lizards regularly shed their skin; ensure humidity of habitat is at appropriate level to allow proper shedding. To facilitate shedding, provide a moist dig box—a hide box with moist sphagnum moss—that will aid in shedding.

 

Where to buy a Saharan uromastyx

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

 

Supplies

 

Habitat mates

Uromastyx usually do best when housed individually

  • Adult male uromastyx may become territorial and should be housed separately
  • Two females may be housed together but must be monitored and separated if fighting

Do not house different reptile species together

 

Health

Signs of a healthy uromastyx

  • 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 food 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 or 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 IssueGastrointestinal 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; 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; ensure habitat has proper temperature, humidity and lighting.

 

FAQs

  • What do uromastyx eat? A variety of dark green, leafy vegetables, including romaine lettuce, red- and green-leaf lettuce, collard greens, dandelion greens, mustard greens, escarole, endive, kale, bok choy and parsley. Smaller amounts of other vegetables, such as carrots, squash, peas and beans also may be offered. Uromastyx also enjoy dry or sprouted lentils, along with millet seed. Commercially available bearded dragon, tortoise or iguana pellets soaked in water may be given 1-2 times a week but should not be the bulk of their diet. Insects such as mealworms and crickets may be offered once a month as a treat.
  • How big do Saharan uromastyx get? They grow to 10-14 inches long with proper care.
  • Where can you buy a uromastyx? Saharan uromastyx are available at your local Petco. Call ahead to check availability.

 

Additional care sheets

Notes and sources

Ask a Pet Care Center partner 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, 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 having a pet other than a reptile.

Go to cdc.gov/healthypets for more information about reptiles and disease.

 

The information on this care sheet is not a substitute for veterinary care. If your pet is sick or you need additional information, please contact your veterinarian as appropriate.