By: Jill M. Patt, DVM
What are they & Natural Environment:
A heat loving spiny tailed lizard from the genus Uromastyx that includes many species 0ccurring in various arid environments from North Africa to India. The various species show many colors and forms but all have a thick armored tail. In general these lizards are reported as a docile pet speces with bites occurring less frequently then some other types of lizards, however the temperament will vary greatly with the species.
Long! Documented age ranges in the teens but they are thought to be able to live from 25-35 years with proper care and feeding.
Sexual Maturity: Varies with the species but ranges from 2-5 years. Males are reported to fight and will need large enclosures or separate caging. Females will often be housed together but fighting may also occur. If caged together observe closely and inspect the tails for bite injuries.
A winter cooling is thought to be needed prior to uros breeding and the temperature and length with vary with the species.
A good outline to ready your uros for breeding is offered by Deer Fern Farms
Uros are egg layers: a den must be provided for the females and Troy Jones has a nice care sheet on reproduction – a simple nest can be created using a plastic tub and drainage pipe as shown.
Sexing: Males have large femoral pores, the presence of hemipene bulges and are more brightly colored with larger face as adults.
Incubation at 90-93F for 55-65 days.
An aquarium, Vision cage, or rubber tub can be used, but must be of adequate size as your little hatchling will growth into a thick bodied adult lizard. A larger environment is always recommended as this will enable you to provide a thermal gradient for your lizard (from hot to cool side) and many sources recommend at least 4x the lizards length as a minimal enclosure size. For my hatchlings I’ve found 40 gallons to be a nice size allowing adequate hides and a good gradient.
I’ve found that the safest substrate (bedding) is millet seeds. These can be purchased at pet shops and feeds stores and are typically sold as parakeet or finch food. The millet is placed deeply throughout the enclosure and they uros will bury in it and also eat the seeds.
Hides are essential part of the uro enclosure as they allow the uro to regulate their body temperature as well as provide a feeling of safety and security thus reducing stress on the inhabitants. Many lizard hides are available at pet shops but a rule of thumb is that uros like a snug hide that will allow their whole body to be covered but that is low rather then domed. At least one hide should be offered for each individual and extra are encouraged. Various hides can be used including stacked wide flat rocks (ensure secure), drift wood, stacked flagstone (epoxy together), drainage piping, 1/2 pcv piping, fragmented pots and many more. Just ensure that all structures are secured to prevent the uro from getting injured or trapped by falling debris. Another option for the indoor enclosure is Zoo Med’s Excavator Clay which is mixed with water and then can be formed into various structures. I’ve used this product and find it well accepted by the uros.
I’ve recently starting housing my uros in an outdoor aviary and have found improved color, activity and growth rates. If you live in the desert southwest you may consider this as an option. For the build be sure to dig in foots are the uros will easily dig under many structures. For our build we used cinder block footers and built a wooden frame over this. The frame was covered in 1/2 inch hardware cloth (wire) and all seams were joined with U or J clips. The doors had to be built to a tight fit and insulation was applied around them to prevent escapes. Within our enclosure we have a gradient from a hot (Arizona – full sun) to a cool tree shaded area. The enclosure is planted with hibiscus as well as leafy herbs and grass ensuring that some areas are unplanted sand. In our enclosure we have placed 4 Mali Uros (from Deer Fern Farms) with the existing pair of box turtles and a variety of hatchling tortoises and some button quail. The enclosure is very large and has many micro-environments to allow housing these species together. Thus far we have seen no fighting among the uros and they co-exist with these other species peacefully. Various hides have been estaplished in the enclosure but we’ve found that the uros prefer to be on or close to the ground and have never been found climbing up the wire. Their preferred hide is a cluster of cinder blocks with a hollow section in the middle. The blocks have been stacked and the uros like to hide in the center of the blocks.
HOT! These lizards are heat lovers and their basking area should reach a temperature of 120F. At night the enclosure can cool to 60F at lowest but during the day a gradient should be established form 85-90 up to the basking spot of 120F. A temperature gun is a must have item and should be used frequently to ensure adequate heat (lllreptile)
LOW! Should be kept very low for these species and generally I recommend 10% although reports as high at 40% do occur.
Full spectrum UVB lighting is needed and 10.0 desert fluorescent bulbs should be used. Mercury vapor (lllreptile) bulbs have been used successfully but beware of the danger of light shattering or animal burns if too close to the light.
Feeding: These guys are herbivores and eat plants unlike many other lizards that eat insects.
As mentioned millet seeds should be kept available as bedding or in a small dish. Leafy spring greens should be offered daily and a wide variety are accepted by Uros. Dried lentils should be available and for my hatchlings I use a coffee grinder tp crush the lentils and then offer in a small dish. The lentils provide an excellent source of protein for the uros and can also be mixed with phosphorus free calcium powder and a multivitamin or just dusted over the greens a couple of times a week. Insects will be accepted by the uros should not be a regular part of their diet.
Uros are acclimated to arid desert environments and are able to get all their water requirements from their fresh leafy greens so many owners advocate not placing any water within their enclosure, while others report that water is needed with hatchlings or for improved shed. I’ve kept hatchling without a water source other then their fresh daily greens and they have done well and thrived. My yearling outdoors do have access to water but are never seen in or around it.
Similar to all reptiles – a phosphorus free calcium powder and multivitamin dusted over greens as well as ground lentils for protein. Many sources recommend bee pollen as a good vitamin and protein source and Deer Fern farms markets a uromastyx dust that is readily accepted over greens.
Deer Fern Farms is an excellent source of healthy reptiles and also offeres a page on essential uromastyx supplies here.
Melissa Kaplan at anapsid.org
Proexotics – housing
Uro and Chuck Forum
Kingsnake Uro Forum