Lizard

 

 

Lizard as a pet

There are nearly 4000 different types of lizards in the world, all with varied characteristics and attributes.  This makes it difficult to generalise about them, so we will focus on the ones that are most popular as pets – especially for those people starting off with their first lizard.  

Lizards are one of the most favourite reptiles to be kept by beginners.   These unusual and fascinating creatures are low maintenance, quiet and don't need exercising, which can make them ideal pets for today's busy lifestyle.  Lizards make great pets for people with allergies and don't require much space.  Petstop sell two small and interesting species that make good starter pets:  the Zebra Tailed Lizard and Cuban Knight Anoles.  

Bearded Dragons and Geckos are also types of lizards:

 

Frequently asked questions about pet lizards:

How long will my lizard live?  Some lizards can live for 5 years.

How big will my lizard get? Most pet lizards commonly available reach 4 – 12 inches (10 - 30cm) in size but some can grow larger depending on the species and living environment.  Before you buy a specific lizard check what size it might grow to.

What do I feed my lizard? Lizards mainly eat insects, bugs, greens and mice. 

Will my lizard need company?  Lizards can live quite happily on their own or in small groups.  Males are territorial and may display and fight with one another, so a group is best composed of females with no more than one male.

What sort of housing will my lizard need?  Lizards can be housed in vivariums which are indoor glass fronted enclosures that allow you to recreate the lizard's habitat on a smaller scale under controlled environmental conditions.   There are a wide variety of vivariums available to choose from and some are oak panelled with a transparent front, others are made of glass or tough acrylic.  There are also stands, cabinets and vivariums that come with rock backgrounds.   

What sort of heating, humidity and lighting will my lizard need?  Depending on the type of lizard you have as a pet you will need to set the heat, light and humidity in their vivarium to their requirements. Lizards need special UVB lighting for their vivariums.  Our staff in store will be happy to advise you of the correct settings for your lizard's environment.

Does my vet cover reptiles?  Not all vets cover reptiles.

Lizard facts you need to know

Lizards are cold blooded which means that they are unable to regulate their body temperature by generating heat themselves.  They warm themselves by basking in the sun or on hot rocks that hold their heat.  When the temperature is too hot they seek shelter in the shade.  This process of shifting from one temperature to another is known as thermoregulation.    

Which type of lizard?

Lizards come from temperate and hot climates all over the world – the only place you won't find a lizard is Antarctica!  There are close to 4,000 different species worldwide and smaller lizards can range in size from 0.5 - 12 inches (1.6 – 60 cm).  Lizards come in various patterns and are among the most colourful lizards in the world – although some are not brightly coloured at all.  

Zebra Tailed Lizard - ground dwelling lizards that live in the hot, dry desert flats of the South Western USA and Mexico (the Mojave and Colorado deserts through to the Sierra Nevada and range into Baja, Mexico and Arizona.)

Cuban Knight Anoles – mostly arboreal (lives in bushes and small trees) lizards that live in the sub-tropical forests of Cuba and the South Eastern USA.

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Getting Started

We have a great guide to help you make bringing your lizard home stress free and smooth with some handy tips for you to help settle your lizard in to their new life happily. Our check list below will ensure that you have everything for your new lizard's arrival. View our Lizards As Pets Advice  to learn more about keeping lizards as pets.

Check list

 

Settling in your lizard

Once you have arrived home place your lizard into the vivarium, make sure the lid is secure and leave your lizard alone for 24 hours. Lizards can easily get stressed moving from one place to another and they need time to adjust to their new living situation.

Daily maintenance

Lizards are not demanding creatures to keep but daily maintenance keeps them in good shape and allows you to spot potential problems early.

 

Monthly maintenance

At least once a month all the substrate should be removed and disposed of and the entire vivarium cleaned and disinfected before new substrate is placed inside.  All reptiles carry salmonella and therefore hygiene is very important when keeping a reptile as a pet.  Always wash your hands immediately after feeding or handling your lizard and after any contact with their equipment.  

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Feeding your Lizard

Lizards can be either insectivores (meaning they eat insects) or omnivores (meaning they eat meat and plants).  Generally they are omnivores.

 

What should I feed my lizard?

Live Insects and gut loading

Insects can be fed live to your lizard as they tend to refuse dead prey.  Any uneaten insects should be removed from the vivarium.

Calcium and Multi-Vitamins

Your lizard will need Calcium and multi-vitamin supplements. If they are lacking in Vitamin D-3 and Calcium then they could be prone to metabolic bone diseases, which can be fatal. The supplement is a powder base so it is easy to coat food with it.

 

How much should I feed my lizard?

How much you should feed your lizard depends on how old they are and what type of lizard you have as a pet, for example Glass Lizards will eat 6 – 8 crickets.  

Adult lizards can be fed an assortment of crickets, meal worms, small locusts and the occasional wax worm. Two or three insects are usually enough for an adult lizard.  Our staff in store will be happy to advise you about your lizard's feeding requirements.

Visit our reptile products for a selection of lizard foods

 

How often should I feed my lizard?

How often you should feed your lizard varies as it depends on how old your lizard is and what type of lizard you have as a pet.  Juvenile Glass Lizards should be fed three times a day and adults twice a day.  Our staff in store will be happy to advise you on how often you should feed your particular type of lizard. 

 

Water

A shallow dish of fresh water should be provided daily.  However some lizards, such as anoles do not lap water from a dish so it is important to mist the vivarium regularly to provide droplets on the plants / décor that the anoles can lick off. This will also help to maintain the humidity levels in the tank. Your anoles should be kept at a humidity level of 60 – 70% and you can measure the level with a hydrometer.

Visit our reptile products for a range of hydrometers and water bowls for lizards

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Keeping your Lizard Healthy

 

Shedding

All lizards shed their outer layer of skin throughout their lives as they grow and young lizards will shed more frequently than adults.

Pre-ecdysis

Pre-ecysis is the name given to the changes your lizard will go through whilst preparing to shed its skin. As your lizard grows it will shed its skin around once a month.  You will know when your lizard is preparing to shed because their colours will get duller, and then they will turn whitish immediately before the shed.

Raising the humidity in the vivarium can help your lizard to loosen its skin. You can help the process by misting the vivarium with water and adding a damp hide (a hide filled with damp sphagnum moss). 

Ecdysis

Ecdysis is the name given to the act of shedding, which is usually started by your lizard rubbing it's head on rocks or branches to loosen the skin around its head.

Metabolic Bone Disease

Metabolic Bone Disease (MTB) can be caused by insufficient UBV light and Calcium and Vitamin D-3 deficiencies.  Without UBV light your lizard can not digest Calcium properly.  Calcium is very important in the building of bones and muscles, as well as the functioning of nerve endings.  Calcium and Multi-Vitamin supplements are available which you can add to your lizard's food and you should always light your vivarium with UVB lighting equipment.

Tail loss

If your lizard is frightened, threatened or distressed their tail will drop off (which is a natural defence against predators).   Lizards use their tails as fat reserves and the loss of their tail leaves them vulnerable.  If your lizard drops their tail keep them warm, fed and watered regularly.  In most cases the tail will grow back but the new tail will not look the same as the old one as it will be shorter and fatter than the original.

 

Mites

Mites are little parasites that can live on your lizard and feed on their blood. Your lizard will seem lethargic and may go off its food during a mite infestation. 

Treatment for mites involves treating the lizard with a special powder or spray to kill the mites, and also a thorough cleaning of the vivarium and contents with a reptile specific disinfectant.

Respiratory Infections

Lizards can suffer from respiratory (breathing) infections and symptoms include signs of mucus around the nose or mouth, sneezing, open-mouth breathing, and wheezing.  

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Heating your Vivarium 

Your pet lizard will need heating for their vivarium and it depends on the type of lizard as to what temperatures they like to live at.  Our staff in store are available to advise you on the best temperature for your type of lizard.

 

Thermo-regulation

Lizards are cold blooded which means that they are unable to regulate their body temperature by generating heat themselves.  They warm themselves by basking in the sun or on hot rocks that hold their heat.  When the temperature is too hot they seek shelter in the shade.  This process of shifting from one temperature to another is known as thermo-regulation. 

As your lizard needs to regulate its temperature you will need to provide a hotter part and a cooler part of the vivarium at each end.  This is called a thermal gradient.  Your lizard moves from one part of the vivarium to the other – if it is too hot it will move to the colder end to cool down and vice versa.  You should have 2 thermometers on each end of the vivarium to check the temperature.

Ideal temperatures for lizards

The ideal temperatures for lizards commonly kept as pets are:

Zebra Tailed Lizard

Anoles

Heat mats

Heat mats are a popular way to provide a thermal gradient in your vivarium.  They   should only cover between a third and a half of the floor space to allow your lizard to thermo-regulate. This heat mat should be regulated by a thermostat to ensure that it does not overheat.  Heat mats work very well for ground dwelling types of lizard but if you have an arboreal type (tree dwelling) heat mats are not as effective.

Heat lamps / bulbs

An alternative to a heat mat is to place a heat light or bulb (with a dimming stat) on the roof at one end of your vivarium to provide a basking spot for your lizard.  Make sure you have a guard for any heat source so your lizard doesn't get too close and burn itself.  You will need a thermostat to make sure the tank temperature is not too hot or cold.  Our in store staff will be happy to advise you of the range available.

Ceramic Heat Emitters

Ceramic Heat Emitters are heating elements produce no light and very intense heat. They require a special porcelain socket to absorb the heat. Because they get so hot it is very dangerous to use them directly in a lizard's vivarium.

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Housing your Lizard

 

The Vivarium

A vivarium is an indoor glass fronted enclosure for housing your lizard.  It allows you to recreate the lizard's habitat on a smaller scale under controlled environmental conditions.   There are a wide variety of vivariums available to choose from and some are oak panelled with a transparent front, others are made of glass or tough acrylic.  There are also stands, cabinets and vivariums that come with rock backgrounds.  
 
Whatever type of vivarium you choose must be escape proof, ventilated and large enough for your lizard to live in comfortably.

What size vivarium should I have?

The size of your vivarium depends on the adult size of your fully grown lizard.  Your lizard must have enough space to thermo-regulate (regulate their body temperature by moving from the hotter part of the vivarium to the cooler).

Where is the best location for the vivarium?

The vivarium should be in a quiet, draught free spot away from direct sunlight and hot radiators as the vivarium can heat up quickly during the day.  Don't forget to have an electric socket point nearby to plug your heating and lighting equipment into without trailing cables.

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Habitat

Deciding what habitat to set up for your lizard depends on:

Your lizard will need places to hide, rest, climb and bask, so provide things such as rocks and logs and branches that are clean and have had their bark removed.    Petstop supply a wide range of vivarium accessories and ornaments which will help you to create an environment for your lizard to live happily in.  

Your vivarium should have 2 hide boxes for your lizard to retreat into, one for the hot end and one for the cooler end of the vivarium.  The hides should be large enough for your lizard to fit into whilst still touching the sides.   You may also have to provide a damp hide box and a rough stone to help your lizard shed its skin.

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Substrate

Substrate is the material that lines the bottom of the vivarium.  Depending on your lizard's habitat in the wild substrates can range from specially treated and safe soils, sands, moss or bark, beech chips or coconut fibre.  Our staff will be happy to advise you on the correct substrate for your lizard in store.   

Humidity

Some types of lizard need a higher level of humidity than others and our staff in store will be able to advise you of the best level of humidity for your lizard.  Humidity is important when your lizard is shedding its skin.  Normally a damp hide box should be sufficient.  You can also mist an area of your vivarium with a water spray to help them to shed. Hygrometers are available that measure humidity should you need to check.

Water

All lizards should have a shallow bowl of clean water for bathing and drinking.  Ideally the dish should be bottom heavy to prevent tipping or flipping over.  

Hygiene

Substrate should be replaced with fresh as soon as it is soiled.  At least once a month all the substrate should be removed and disposed of, and the entire vivarium cleaned and disinfected before new substrate is placed inside.

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Lighting your Vivarium​

Ultraviolet Light

Ultraviolet light (UVB) is essential for your lizard as it provides Vitamin D-3.  Without Vitamin D-3 your lizard will develop deformities and become ill.  Specialist UVB lighting is available in store and our staff will be happy to advise you on the best types and sizes for your vivarium.

Metabolic Bone Disease

Metabolic Bone Disease (MTB) is caused by insufficient UBV light.  Without UBV light your lizard can not digest Calcium properly.  Calcium is very important in the building of bones and muscles, as well as the functioning of nerve endings.  

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