Uromastyx Care

Species Overview

Scientific Name: Uromastyx geyri

Uromastyx is a genus of African and Asian lizards in the family Agamidae. Member species are commonly called spiny-tailed lizards, uromastyces, mastigures, or dabb lizards. Lizards in the genus Uromastyx are primarily herbivorous, but occasionally eat insects and other small animals, especially young lizards. They spend most of their waking hours basking in the sun, hiding in underground chambers at daytime or when danger appears. They tend to establish themselves in hilly, rocky areas with good shelter and accessible vegetation (Wikipedia).

Uromastyx lizards, or dab lizards, are spiny-tailed lizards native to Northern Africa. They have made it to the pet trade just recently and are doing great! Reptile enthusiasts adore them for their low-maintenance care, amiable personalities, and striking appearances. Plus, they’re in it for the long haul and also learn to recognize you over time.

If you’re thinking about expanding your reptile crew, the uromastyx should be at the top of your list. But before you make that commitment, make sure you’re ready for it! Uromastyx parenting involves mimicking their natural habitat, serving up their favorite snacks, keeping an eye on their health, and more.

But don’t worry; we’ve got your back with a complete uromastyx care guide right here.

uromastyx care guide

Colors & Appearance

Uros are large lizards with round heads and bellies, puffy cheeks, and muscular legs. They have thick and sharp claws to keep up with their love for digging. The most fascinating physical feature of these desert-dwelling lizards is their long, heavily-spiked tails. Their tails make up one-third of their overall size. And, of course, the vibrant colored bodies with interesting patterns and markings are a sight to behold.

Average Size & Weight

A neonate uromastyx is only 2 inches from its snout to tail and weighs a mere 4-6 grams. A fully grown adult uromastyx can range from 10 to 16 inches in length and tip the scales at 4.5 to 5 lbs. The age and species play a great role in how large and heavy a Uro will turn out. Egyptian Uros are the longest, reaching 36 inches overall. Males are bigger and heavier than females.

Lifespan

A healthy and happy uromastyx can live for 10 to 30 years in captivity. Some species live longer than others. But their lifespan majorly depends on the temperature and humidity in their enclosures and the food you offer. In the wild, on the other hand, the spiny-tailed lizards max out at 15 years. They either lose the battle against extreme temperatures, get preyed upon by an animal, or become human meals.

More About Uromastyx

Anyone who’s interested in adopting a uromastyx lizard must first know where it comes from, what it looks like when healthy, its size, and its lifespan.

uromastyx care sheet

Uromastyx Habitat

The uromastyx species is native to the hot and dry regions of Northern Africa and a few parts of the Middle East. They have a liking for rocky soil and hilly terrains, whether it’s at sea level or 3000 ft. of elevation.

In their natural homes, Uros spend most of their time climbing rocks and basking in the sun’s sweet warmth. If they need a break from the sun or feel threatened by a predator, they’ll burrow into the rocks. Although predominantly terrestrial, uromastyx lizards love climbing too.

Types of Uromastyx

There are 14 different types of uromastyces. However, only a few are common as household pets.

Ornate Uromastyx

These are style divas of all uromastyx, coming from Israel, Yemen, and Egypt. They boast a beautiful blue or green base patterned with bright horizontal bands in the shades of yellow, orange, and white. Males are more vibrant than females and can grow up to 12-14 inches.

Egyptian Uromastyx

Egyptian Uros are sweethearts that are super easy to tame and handle. They are mainly from Egypt but can also be spotted in Israel, Libya, and Palestine. These lizards are typically light brown or tan with no markings. They stand out with their large size.

Moroccan Uromastyx

The Moroccan uromastyx inhabits Morocco’s dry scrublands. They have black eye-shaped markings on their typically red or yellow bodies and prominently long spiky tails. And so, these lizards are also popular as “eye” lizards and spiny-tailed lizards. These aggressive guys are biters. If you’re getting one, be careful while handling it.

Mali Uromastyx

As the name suggests, this species is from the dry and rocky scrublands of Mali. They are exclusively black and yellow with patterns varying from dots, lines, and honeycomb-like designs. Mali uromastyx lizards are small-sized and docile. They’re also comparatively cheaper than other types.

Uromastyx Predators

Uromastyx lizards attract a lot of natural predators because of their vibrant coloring. Raptors, wolves, dogs, and birds of prey all want a piece of these terrestrial lizards. But they are not an easy catch. 

These lizards know how to put up a fight. They’ll hiss, lash out with their tails, or even bite if they sense danger. If they feel too threatened, they’ll look for rocky outcrops to hide in, making it challenging for predators to reach them.

predators of uromastyx

What Makes Uromastyx sp. Lizards Good Pets

  • Easy to Care: Uros aren’t demanding at all. They only need a comfortable, warm enclosure with low humidity levels and a few hiding spots. Perfect for beginner reptile owners.

  • Stunning Reptiles: Uromastyx lizards are a treat for the eyes. Whether you have a greenish-blue lizard with orange markings or a yellow one with black spots, they all look exotic.

  • Docile and Friendly: These heat-loving lizards enjoy human affection. They don’t bite or hiss at their owners unless you have a Moroccan. The best part? They even start recognizing you by your voice.

  • Easy to Feed: Uros aren’t fussy eaters. They like their greens and veggies and are happy with a few occasional insect treats. You can even hand-feed them to build a bond.

  • Long Lifespan: Heartbreak from losing a pet is never easy. With uromastyx lizards, you don’t have to worry for at least 10 years. If provided with proper care, they’ll outlive your cat or dog.

uromastyx make good pets

Uromastyx Care Sheet

Uromastyx lizards are generally easygoing. However, when it comes to lighting conditions, temperature, food, and humidity, they are incredibly particular. Get these essentials right, and your pet reptile will stick around for 20 (might even reach 60) years.

The uromastyx care sheet below has all the details you need to know to provide your Uro with a proper and healthy environment.

Environment and Housing

A uromastyx is a free-roaming lizard that’s best kept in a glass tank with enough room for it to crawl and burrow. We’ve found a 10-gallon tank to be sufficient for lizards under 10 inches and a 20-gallon one for those that hit 15 inches. If you have an Egyptian uromastyx, you’ll need a 40-gallon tank.

The uromastyx caging should also be layered with a dry substrate like a reptile carpet or paper towels. Sand, aspen, and crushed walnut shells are risky as they can cause impaction, choking accidents, and corneal scratches.

uromastyx enclosure

Temperature and Humidity

Uromastyx lizards like it hot and dry in their tanks. Since the warmth from the sun helps them digest their food and stay active, it’s crucial for their well-being. Plus, like all other reptiles, uromastyx can’t control their body temperature. They depend on the environment you provide.

There should be a basking area in the tank with temperatures around 120° F. A UVB lamp will help you achieve it. Also, place a few rocks in the zone so your pet lizard can lay on them while basking. The rest of the tank should be kept slightly cooler, between 80-90° F. As for the nighttime temperature, make sure it doesn’t drop below 60° F. Your lizard’s hiding spot should be way away from the toasty area so it can take a break from the intense heat when it gets too much.

Humidity levels in a Uro’s enclosure must never exceed 25%. If it reaches 30%, your uromastyx could suffer upper respiratory infections or other ailments like tail rot.

Uromastyx Food and Diet

Uromastyx lizards enjoy a varied diet – they are omnivores. They’ll chomp on collard greens and munch on crickets. However, experts at WebMD recommend that at least 70-85% of a uromastyx’s diet should be made of vegetables like kale, cabbage, mustard greens, and the like. The remaining can include insects like wax worms, mealworms, and crickets. A growing uromastyx needs more protein than an adult, so feed them insects 3 to 4 times a week.

The feeding schedules remain the same for juvenile and adult uromastyces; they need to eat daily. Sprinkle their food with calcium powder or multivitamin supplements every now and then to prevent MBD.

uromastyx diet

Hydration

Most uromastyx species get water from their food. They also lap up dew from the rocks in their tanks. So, mist their tank with a humidifier on alternate days to ensure there’s enough water for them. You can add a shallow water dish for an occasional sip.

Breeding, sick, or baby uromastyx lizards might need more water than healthy adults do.

Behavior and Temperament

Generally, uromastyces are sweet and gentle creatures that enjoy human interaction. They are most active during the day, and their most enjoyed activity is relaxing on their favorite rock and soaking up the heat from the UV lamp. Digging in the substrate and lounging in their cool hides are common behaviors, too. However, it takes time for them to adjust to their new environment. A new pet Uro can be slightly skittish and spend time hiding.

Males are territorial and don’t bond well with other males. If you house two of them together, there will be fights and injuries. Females are calmer and can coexist with other males and females, both.

uromastyx temperament

Uromastyx Shedding

Uromastyces are lizards, and lizards shed their skin to make room for growth. Young Uros shed once in 5 to 6 weeks, whereas adults lose their skin every 3 to 5 months. The timelines are different because of the difference in growth rate.

A shedding lizard will have dull grayish skin, cloudy eyes, and low energy levels. You might also spot bits of skin flaking off in their enclosure. Don’t peel skin that doesn’t come off easily; it can hurt your spiny-tailed lizard.

To help them shed comfortably, soak them in shallow water daily for a few minutes until their skin is soft. Also, raise the humidity levels to 30% and let them be.

Courtship And Egg-Laying​​

A Uro reaches sexual maturity between the second and third year of its life. If you want to breed your uromastyces, keep them in the tank together. The male will attract the female by doing pushups and displaying bright colors. When the female is ready, she’ll let the male know by raising her tail. The male will then bite her neck to hold her in position and insert his hemipenes. It can get violent.

After 4-5 weeks of the mating session, your female will lay between 2 and 30 eggs. The eggs take 70 days to hatch.

female uromastyx laying eggs

Health Complications

Metabolic bone disease is one of the most common health risks in a uromastyx lizard. It is caused by calcium and vitamin D deficiency. If you notice your pet’s limbs are malformed, the bones have a rubbery texture, or it moves with effort, take it to a vet.

Other common health issues include respiratory infections, tail rot, mouth rot, flukes infestation, and impaction caused by swallowing sandy or rocky substrate.

Interaction and Enrichment

Uromastyces are easy to tame and handle. If they trust you, they’ll let you hold them without being aggressive. However, be gentle with your touch. Sudden, jerky movements and loud noises can startle them. Hand-feeding is a great way to strengthen your bond with your pet reptile. Be ready for some tickling, though. Uros can lick your hand during the feeding session, and it tickles.

Although hiding spots and basking rocks are enough to keep your uromastyx happy, you can boost their mental and physical well-being by adding enrichment items like tunnels and branches. Offering foods with different textures and colors also keeps them interested and engaged.

handling a uromastyx

Bring Home a Uromastyx, We Got You!

Uromastyx lizards are amazing. They are friendly, live long lives, and look gorgeous – everything you need in your pet reptile. They are also pretty easy to care for. You only need to give them a tank large enough for them to roam, maintain the temperature and humidity in their enclosure, and feed them a balanced diet. If you think you’re ready to take on the responsibility, bring one home now! We’ll help you raise one of the spikiest, cutest lizards ever!

If you want more information on these colorful lizards, go through our articles on uromastyx. We’re sure you’ll find all that you need to know there.