Uromastyx Care Sheet Provided by Reptifiles
Uromastyx (Uromastyx spp.)
Uromastyx (also known as spiny-tailed lizards or dhabs) are a group of heat-loving, diurnal lizards native to North Africa and the Middle East. They have round heads with bulging cheeks, round bodies, and heavily-spiked tails, with strong limbs ending in large claws.
These lizards are diurnal, which means that they are the most active during the day. They love bright sunlight and basking in hot weather — in fact, they are one of the few wild reptiles that can be found out and about during the hottest part of the day, rather than hiding in the shade.
Although most people think of lizards as eating bugs, Uromastyx lizards are entirely herbivorous. Wild Uromastyx have evolved to thrive on a very low protein diet, and depend on a variety of greens, flowers, and seeds for both nutrition and hydration.
Uromastyx range in size from about 10” long to 36” long, depending on species. They can live for up to 25 years in captivity.
There are 20 different Uromastyx species and subspecies:
- aegyptia aegyptia
- aegyptia leptieni
- aegyptia microlepsis
- dispar dispar
- dispar flavifasciata
- dispar maliensis
- ornata ornata
- ornata philbyi
- dispar maliensis, U. geyri,and U. ornata ornata are the most common in the U.S. pet trade. Others are also available, but they are more likely to be wild-caught.
Most Uromastyx make fairly tame, entertaining pets.
- 4’x2’x2’ Zen Habitats Reptile Enclosure with Wood Panels
- 5” dome heat lamp with a ceramic socket
- very high-wattage PAR38 halogen flood bulb, white light
- digital thermometer with probe
- infrared thermometer
- 22-24” T5 HO desert UVB bulb and fixture
- 36” 6500K T5 HO or LED plant light
- light timer(s)
- basking surface (ex: flagstone)
- hides (caves), x2
- decorations (logs, branches, rocks, etc.)
- food dish
- calcium supplement without vitamin D3
- multivitamin supplement
- bee pollen
Keep reading for specifics on the supplies that you will need!
Although Uromastyx lizards can vary widely in size, most will be comfortable in a 120 gallon (48”x24”x24”)enclosure. The only exception is Egyptian Uromastyx (U. aegyptia ssp.), which is a much larger species that needs much more space — at least 6’x2’x2’, although a longer and especially taller enclosure than would be even better.
The enclosure should be front-opening for easy access, preferably with a screen top for ventilation.
Can 2 Uromastyx be housed together?
Most species of Uromastyx can be housed in pairs or small harems. They are known to live in small groups in the wild, as living in groups helps them secure regular access to food by defending a certain territory. So in theory, they can share the same enclosure as long as they don’t have to compete for basking areas, burrows, or food.
On the downside, housing a male together with one or more females will most likely result in eggs, which exact a significant toll on a female Uromastyx’s body. Housing two or more female Uromastyx risks them not getting along and one or both becoming sick or injured. Housing two or more male Uromastyx together is even more likely to produce territorial conflicts and severe injuries. And of course, housing multiple Uromastyx requires a much larger enclosure than simply housing one.
Bottom line: Don’t put multiple Uromastyx lizards together, especially not different species. Your pet will be just fine without having to share its space with a roommate, and won’t get lonely without one. Housing Uromastyx together may be more possible than with other types of lizards (ex: bearded dragons), but it’s still risky and best left to experienced reptile keepers.
Uromastyx are diurnal, which means that they are active during the day. As sun-lovers, they need light — and LOTS of it. They need both strong UVB and a bright daylight fluorescent or LED fixture as part of their habitat setup.
Having plenty of strong, bright “daylight” in their enclosure is important to keeping your Uromastyx active and mentally healthy. Look for a 6000-7000K T5 HO fluorescent or LED plant light long enough to span about 3/4 of the enclosure’s length. The Arcadia LED Bar is an excellent, powerfully bright lamp. Alternatively, you can use two 6400K T5 HO fluorescent “daylight” bulbs in a reflective fixture.
The Zoo Med ReptiSun 10.0 T5 HO or Arcadia Desert 12%are fluorescent bulbs that provides the right amount of UVB for Uromastyx. These bulbs must be replaced every 12 months to remain effective. For best results, install the bulb in a reflective fixture like the Zoo Med Reptisun T5 HO Terrarium Hood, placed on the inside of the enclosure under the mesh. Bulb and fixture should span 1/2 of the enclosure’s length.
When it comes to UVB, brand matters and you get what you pay for. Don’t cheap out on UVB, or your Uromastyx will likely suffer.
Unlike humans, Uromastyx are cold-blooded, which means that they need external heat for their bodies to work properly. Like most reptiles, Uromastyx can utilize heat most effectively when it comes from an overhead heat source that mimics the sun, like a halogen heat lamp.
Uromastyx require a basking surface temperature of 120-130°F. The cool end of the enclosure (opposite from the basking area) should go down to about 85 degrees, and things can get as cool as 68°F at night.
The wattage it will take to accomplish this varies according to room temperature and distance between the lamp and the basking spot, but a 175w PAR38 Philips Halogen Flood Heat Bulb or similar should do the trick for a 24” tall enclosure.
It also helps to build a raised basking platform to bring the lizard closer to the heat lamp, which also enables you to achieve this super-hot basking temperature without making the rest of the enclosure too hot.
How do you make sure you’re doing it right? Don’t get a cheap gauge-type stick-on thermometer — these aren’t very accurate. Instead, use an infrared thermometer like the Etekcity 774 to measure surface temperature. Using a digital probe thermometer like the Zoo Med Digital Thermometer is also a good way to track your basking temperature when the probe is placed on the basking surface.
NOTE:U. aegyptia ssp. require higher surface basking temps of at least 130°F.
Uromastyx require such low humidity levels that they make bearded dragons seem tropical by comparison: just 20-30%! Measure these humidity levels with a digital probe hygrometer, with the probe placed on the cool end of the enclosure.
Excessively high ambient humidity can cause a variety of health problems, so it’s important to make sure your enclosure is well ventilated and has the right basking temperature — both of these factors play a major role in determining healthy humidity levels.
That being said, humidity levels naturally rise at night, so don’t be alarmed when you see humidity levels rise to around 50% after the lights turn off.
Uromastyx also benefit from having access to some kind of humid “burrow” in their enclosure. This is usually a burrow they’ve dug out for themselves in the substrate, so it’s advisable to periodically add water to the substrate to help prevent burrows from collapsing and make sure the burrows maintain healthy humidity levels. The top 1” or so of substrate should always be dry, however.
NOTE: Certain coastal Uromastyx species prefer more humid conditions than average.U. yemenensis needs an average humidity of around 50%, andU. macfadyeni needs it to be around 30-35%. Occasional nighttime misting may be appreciated by these species.
Uromastyx LOVE to dig, and can spend a good amount of their time underground, so it’s important to provide plenty of substrate that will allow them to satisfy this instinct. The substrate layer should be no shallower than 4”, and preferably 6” deep or more.
Uromastyx tend to do best on naturalistic substrates such as the following:
- Washed play sand
- 60-40 mixture of plain topsoil and play sand
- Arid bioactive mix
Avoid unnatural solid and loose substrates, such as paper towel, tile, calcium sand, coconut fiber, ground walnut shell, ground corncob, millet, wood shavings, and wood chips.
Feeding Your Uromastyx
Juvenile (young and growing) Uromastyx should be fed daily, as much as they can eat.
Adult Uromastyx should be fed 4-5x/week.
Uromastyx are one of the few groups of lizards that are truly herbivorous. Too much protein in their diet can cause problems for their kidneys and liver, so it’s important to give them a strictly plant-based diet. Variety is the key to providing a healthy diet for pet reptiles, so make sure your pet Uromastyx gets a wide variety of nutritious greens and vegetables. Here are a few of the best to get you started:
- Cactus pad
- Dandelion greens
- Spring mix
Add a small amount of other vegetables for variety. Make sure they are cut into manageable pieces.
- Bell pepper
- Green beans
Interestingly, Uromastyx also need seeds as a regular part of their diet. These provide an important source of protein and fat. Seeds can be used as regular treats, roughly once a week.
- White millet
Edible flowers like dandelions, rose petals, clover, hibiscus, and squash blossoms make great treats. Fruits like papaya, figs, apple, prickly pear, berries, or cherries can also be offered as a rare treat. Make sure that flowers are free of pesticides before feeding.
NOTE:U. nigriventris regularly eats animal food like locusts and crickets in the wild, and is likely to benefit from an occasional (1x/week or every other week) insect treat.
Uromastyx are lizards that have adapted to living in perpetual drought conditions, and need very little water to survive. Instead of drinking it, they generally get the water that they need from their plant-based diet.
That being said, juveniles of most species are likely to benefit from access to a small, shallow water bowl 1-2x/week. Adults of U. macfadyeni, U. thomasis, and U. yemenensis should also have access to a water bowl 2-3x/week.
To ensure that your Uromastyx is getting all the vitamins and minerals they need, you need calcium powder, multivitamin powder, and bee pollen. Take care not to use too much of these, as too much vitamins can be just as deadly as too little.
Use a small amount of Miner-ALL Outdoor and Herptivite mixed 50/50 at every feeding, with bee pollen powder added once a week. You may skip a feeding every once in a while to help prevent oversupplementation.
When you first bring your Uromastyx home, resist the temptation to immediately start cuddling it. You’re huge compared to them, and s/he needs time to figure out that you’re not going to eat them. Let your new pet settle in for at least 2 weeks before you start handling.
Once your Uromastyx has established confidence in his/her new home, you can introduce yourself. Let him/her get comfortable with your scent by placing an old, used shirt in the terrarium. Let your hand rest in the terrarium and allow the lizard to familiarize itself with your hand.
After your pet has stopped running away from your hand and seems calm in your presence, you can handle him/her. But just because you have reached this step does not mean they trust you yet. Trust and friendship (as far as it goes for lizards) takes time and daily handling.
- Support all four feet. If one foot is left out, s/he will feel off balance and start to thrash to regain it.
- Use slow movements. Large, fast movements remind them of predators. Small, quick movements remind them of prey. Either way, it’s distracting.
- Petting is tolerated and sometimes even appreciated, but do so gently. Never tug, pull, or tap. Also resist rubbing against the direction of his/her scales.
- If your lizard is shedding, resist pulling at loose skin. You may pull off scales that haven’t completely detached yet.
Care information courtesy of ReptiFiles.