Lizard

Lizard as a pet

  • Frequently asked questions about lizards
  • Lizard facts you need to know
  • Which type of lizard?

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:

  • View our Bearded Dragon Care Advice section to learn more
  • View our Geckos Care Advice section to learn more

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.    

  • View our Reptile products for a wide range of heat mats, lamps and heating equipment.
  • Never grab your lizard by the tail as their tail may drop off (which is a natural defence against predators).
  • Visit our lizard Health Advice to learn more their tails
  • As your lizard grows it will shed parts of its skin.  You will know when your lizard is preparing to shed because their colours will get duller.  Lizards shed their skin in stages rather than all in one go as snakes do.
  • Lizards must have UVB lighting in their vivariums or they will develop bone deformities.
  • View our lizard Lighting advice to learn more
  • Visit our lizard Health advice to learn more about shedding
  • All reptiles carry salmonella and therefore hygiene is very important when keeping a lizard as a pet.  Always wash your hands immediately after feeding or handling your lizard and after any contact with their equipment.  We do not recommend that children under 5 handle lizards and older children should always be supervised when with the lizard.  
  • View our Reptile products for a range of hygiene and cleaning products

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.)

  • Zebra Tailed Lizards are diurnal (active during the day) and are one of the fastest lizards in America!  As they enjoy running about they need a vivarium with plenty of space for them to exercise.
  • They are grey to sandy brown in colour, usually with series of paired dark gray spots down the back.  They get their name from the black and white bands on their tails!
  • Zebra Tailed Lizards only eat insects and bugs.  They can live up to 5 years and are between 7 - 9 inches (18 – 22 cm) in size.

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.

  • Cuban Knight Anoles are diurnal (active during the day) and are mostly green coloured although there are some brown varieties.  They are often incorrectly called American Chameleons or Geckos.
  • Cuban Knight Anoles eat insects, bugs and mice.  They can live up to 5 years and are 13- 20 inches (33 - 51 cm) in size when fully grown.

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Getting Started

  • Check List
  • Settling in your lizard
  • Daily maintenance
  • Monthly maintenance

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

  • Vivarium (housing)
  • Heat mat / heat bulbs or ceramic bulb
  • Thermostat
  • 2 thermometers
  • UVB Lighting
  • Lighting guard or hood
  • Substrate (material for the floor of the vivarium)
  • 2 hides
  • Décor  (branches, rocks etc)
  • Shallow water bowl
  • Live insects for food
  • Cricket keeper
  • Gut loading products for live food
  • Calcium and Multi-Vitamin supplements
  • Hygrometer (measures levels of humidity)
  • Reptile-safe cleaning products
  • Visit our reptile Products range for a selection of lizard housing and equipment

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.

  • Check the temperature and humidity of the vivarium on a daily basis.
  • Spot clean faecal matter.
  • Change the water in the lizard's bowl with fresh clean water.
  • Check the condition of your lizard.
  • View our lizard Housing Advice to learn more about humidity
  • View our lizard Healthcare to learn more about keeping your lizard healthy

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.  

  • View our Reptile products for a range of hygiene and cleaning products

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Feeding your Lizard

  • What should I feed my lizard?
  • How much do I feed my lizard?
  • How often should I feed my lizard?
  • Water

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.

  • As insects are eaten whole the general rule is that you should not feed any insect that are bigger than the width of your lizard's head to prevent them from choking and impaction.  
  • The insects should be gut loaded 24 hours prior to feeding.  Gut loading means that the insects have been fed a nutritious diet that will benefit your lizard when it eats them.

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.

  • Our staff in store will be happy to advise you on the correct food for your lizard.
  • Visit our reptile products for a selection of lizard foods

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

Keeping your Lizard Healthy

  • Shedding
  • Metabolic bone disease
  • Tail loss
  • Mites
  • Respiratory Infections

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.

  • If possible remove its skin from the vivarium after shedding.  
  • Check your lizard to ensure that the shed skin has successfully been removed.   
  • If necessary bathe your lizard and remove any patches of skin that have not been shed with a warm towel or tweezers, to avoid infection.
  • Visit our reptile Products for a range of hides and hydrometers

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.

  • MBD can result in thin bones that affect your lizard's ability to walk and climb, broken bones, swollen joints, deformities, paralysis, stunted growth, tremors, constipation, inability to eat and death.  
  • If you think your lizard is suffering from MBD contact your reptile vet immediately.
  • View our lizard Feeding advice to learn more about supplements
  • View our lizard Lighting advice to find out about UVB lighting

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.

  • Visit our reptile Products for a selection of health and hygiene treatments

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.  

  • A common cause of respiratory infections in lizards is poor vivarium conditions, low temperatures or too much humidity.
  • If your lizard shows signs of respiratory illness increase temperatures on the warm side / basking area by a few degrees. If the symptoms persist take your  lizard to your reptile vet immediately.​

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Heating your Vivarium 

  • Thermo-regulation
  • Ideal temperatures for lizards
  • Heat mats
  • Heat lamps / bulbs
  • Ceramic heat emitters

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.

  • View our Reptile products for a wide range of heat mats, lamps and heating equipment.

Ideal temperatures for lizards

The ideal temperatures for lizards commonly kept as pets are:

Zebra Tailed Lizard

  • Daytime Temperature:  Basking Spot 40° with a gradient to about 30°C
  • Night Temperature: Around 18°C - 20°C 

Anoles

  • Daytime Temperature:  Basking Spot 32° with a gradient to about 24°C
  • Night Temperature: Around 18°C - 24°C 

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.

  • View our Reptile products for a wide range of heat mats, lamps and heating equipment.

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.

  • View our Reptile products for a wide range of heat mats, lamps and heating equipment.

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.

  • View our Reptile products for a wide range of heat mats, lamps and heating equipment.​

Housing your Lizard

  • The vivarium
  • Habitat
  • Substrate
  • Humidity
  • Water
  • Hygiene

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).

  • Our staff in store will be happy to give you advice on the right sized vivarium for your particular lizard  
  • The minimum height depends on whether your lizard is a terrestrial or arboreal (tree climbing) species.  

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.

  • View our lizard Heating section to learn more

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Habitat

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

  • where your lizard would live in the wild
  • what your lizard's habits are

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.  

  • Visit our reptile Products section for a selection of vivarium ornaments

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.

  • View our lizard Healthcare section to learn more.

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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.   

  • Visit our reptile Products for a range of substrates and reptile specific cleaning products

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.

  • Visit our reptile products section for a range of vivarium equipment and accessories
  • View our lizard Healthcare section to learn more.

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.

  • All reptiles carry salmonella and therefore hygiene is very important when keeping a lizard as a pet.  Always wash your hands immediately after feeding or handling your lizard and after any contact with their equipment.  
  • View our Reptile products for a range of hygiene and cleaning products

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Lighting your Vivarium​

  • Ultraviolet light
  • Metabolic Bone Disease

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.

  • UVB lights are usually run the length of the vivarium, but be sure they overlap your lizard's basking area. UVB basking lamps and bulbs are also available.
  • Your lizard should be able to get within 12 inches of the UVB lights to benefit from the UVB emitted.
  • The amount of UVB produced by lighting decreases over time so the lights need to be replaced every 6 – 12 months.
  • It is important that UVB producing lights be directed through a screen top rather than glass so the UVB rays can reach your lizard.
  • The UBV lighting will need to be on between 10 – 12 hours a day and you can use a timer to turn the vivarium lighting off at night.  
  • Light can give off heat so it is always advisable to check the temperature in the vivarium with a thermometer in case your lighting is making it too hot.  
  • View our reptile Products range for a selection of UBV lighting for lizards
     

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.  

  • MBD can result in thin bones that affect your lizard's ability to walk and climb, broken bones, swollen joints, deformities, paralysis, stunted growth, tremors, constipation, inability to eat and death.  
  • If you think your lizard is suffering from MBD contact your reptile vet immediately.