Taxonomy and Locality of Uromastyx
Class Reptilia; Order Squamata; Suborder Lacertilia (Sauria); Family Agamidae (53 genera, 300 species); Species Uromastyx
15 subspecies of Uromastyx including U. acanthanura acanthanura (BELL 1825); U. acanthanura dispar (HEYDEN 1827); U. acanthanura geyri (MULLER 1922); U. aegyptius aaegyptius (FORSKAL 1775); U. aegyptius microlepis (BLANFORD 1874); U. asmussi (STRAUCH 1863); U. benti (ANDERSON 1894); U. hardwicki (GRAY 1827); U. loricata (BLANFORD 1874); U. ocellata ocellata (LICHTENSTEIN 1823); U. ocellata ornata (HEYDEN 1827); U. ocellata macfadyeni (PARKER 1932); U. ocellata philbyi (PARKER 1938); U. maliensis (Jogger 1998); U. princeps (O`SHAUGNESSY 1880); U. thomasi (PARKER 1930)
Most commonly found in captivity are U. maliensis, U. acanthanura acanthanura, U. benti, U. hardwicki, U. aegyptius aegyptius, U. aegyptius microlepsis, U. ocellata ocellata, U. ocellata ornata
Uromastyx are found in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania, Lybia, Sudan, Tchad, Mali, Niger, Egypt, Israel, Arab Peninsular, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, India, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, and Oman.
Background of U. Maliensis in captivity in U.S.
Importation for pet trade begins around 1992 imports before that were to educational facilities and zoo collections. These were imported as U. acanthanurus until Jogger’s definition of U. maliensis was accepted in 1998. Little information was known about the husbandry and breeding habits of U. maliensis at that time. This was due to no studies being done on the species in their native habitat. Many animals died during the first few years in captivity. Many herpotoculturists relied on information culled from keepers and breeders of U. a. aegyptius which have been kept in captivity since the early 1970’s. The husbandry for these two subspecies are very similar with the exception of enclosure requirements. However, there were still many fatalities. These were due mainly to lack of husbandry information and large amounts of parasitic infestations in wild caught animals.
General Description of U. maliensis
U. maliensis are reptiles ranging from 12” to 18” in length. They have a turtle like head, strong jaws with molar like teeth situated far back in the mouth and a series of teeth in the front of the mouth, a squat body, strong legs with sharp claws for climbing and digging and a large, meaty, spiny scaled tail. The coloration of U. maliensis consists of a black or sand colored base color, yellow occellated spots and black head, tail, and legs. Some female U. maliensis are rather drab in coloration compared with males. There are, however, some “male-mimic” females who exhibit the male coloration.
General Husbandry of U. maliensis
Being from an arid environment these animals require high heat and low humidity. They also require a moderate amount of space in their enclosures. As U. maliensis have a maximum adult length of around 18” the enclosure for this species should be no smaller than a 55 gallon aquarium or equivalent enclosure. It must be constructed with the ability to maintain high heat and low humidity in it’s design. Insulating materials are definitely a benefit. If your animals are to be “showcased” then glass should be used instead of plexiglass as the latter scratches more easily. Uros should be housed either separately or in breeding pairs. Care should be taken when housing in pairs and if aggression is observed you should separate the animals. Males should not be housed together as aggression or intimidation will be a factor.
The issue of substrate is controversial at best. Many different types of substrates are available. All substrates have advantages and disadvantages. I am not trying to place more emphasis on any type as a lot of the selection process depends on individual likes and dislikes. Play sand is the type of substrate that we currently use but others include alfalfa pellets, calci-sand, river sand, indoor/outdoor carpeting, newsprint or birdseed. Play sand is cheap, clean, and easily cleaned. Play sand should be placed in the enclosure approximately 3 – 4 “ deep as Uros tend to burrow. Alfalfa pellets are adequate for substrate and have the added benefit of being somewhat digestible. Alfalfa pellets do tend to mold if moisture is presented to the enclosure. Calci-sand is marketed as a calcium supplemented substrate and is purported to be digestible by the manufacturer. There have been some concerns as to digestibility as there have been some instances of blockages in animals kept on Calci-sand. There are also some concerns in the herp community that the animal may ingest too much calcium this way and develop overdoses of calcium that can cause calcification of certain internal organs. River sand is a good alternative in that it is easily available and cheap. However, if some of the larger pebbles are ingested it may, in fact, cause intestinal blockages. Indoor/outdoor carpeting and newsprint are adequate substrates and easily cleaned. These, however, prevent the animals from their natural behavior of burrowing and should be used in quarantine enclosures or hospitalization enclosures as these substrates make obtaining fecal specimens easier. Birdseed (also known in Uro-circles as Jeff Fisher’s Urostrate) is a new idea for a substrate. As the name implies, Jeff Fisher has been researching this substrate and using it for his animals for the last year or two with no harmful effects. Jeff simply uses commercial wild bird seed that he places in his freezer for 4 to 6 hours in order to kill off any moth eggs or larvae.
Lighting and Heating:
Lighting is a very important aspect of husbandry of Uromastyx. It is generally well known to experienced herpers that two types of lighting are needed for healthy animals. One is for heating requirements while the other concerns providing ultraviolet “B” which is necessary for the metabolism of Calcium. Let’s take the issue of UVB first. The most common sources of UVB lighting is with fluorescent light fixtures. There are many different types of fluorescent bulbs with varying degrees of UVB output. Many hobbyist believe that most reptiles do fine with anywhere between 2.5% and 7% UVB output. Uromastyx fall into this category but in my experience most Uro owners tend to lean towards the higher end of the spectrum. Unfortunately, these bulbs are quite expensive and they do degrade quite quickly. We suggest that you only keep your UVB lighting for a maximum of 6 months before you change out the bulbs. This will maximize the amount of UVB that is available to your animals. There are some incandescent bulbs
on the market that claim to be “full spectrum”. These bulbs are usually only radiating through the UV “A” spectrum and lack in or are severely depressed in their UV “B” output. Always be sure to check the labeling for the output. You can also contact the manufacturer for more information UVB lighting that is provided by some type of bulb
should be no higher than 18” from the animal. You may also wish to provide your Uromastyx with natural sunlight during the hotter summer months. Be advised though that this will most likely be a stressful experience for you animal. We believe that this is due to the amount of birds and other animals that are present and in view of the Uro.
Birds are one of the primary predators of Uromastyx and therefore the site of strange birds are stressful. Uromastyx who have been exposed to natural sunlight often revert to a near wild state and behave accordingly by hiding and fleeing from you until they once again feel safe. One other solution has been presented by Audrey Vanderlinden by using a product from G.E. This would be their Sunshine Full Spectrum Lighting fluorescent bulb. This product does not list a spectrum analysis and to this date I have not had one performed. However, Audrey has used this bulb for a number of years with no evidence of MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease) or other calcium deficiency related disorders. As it is much cheaper than standard “reptile” bulbs it may be the best solution.
Now for some words on heating. Since Uromastyx are ectothermic animals
they need to self-regulate their heating requirements. This is most easily
done in a manner which simulates their native environment. By providing
a basking spot, a couple of hiding caves and a thermal gradient in the
enclosure you can simulate an environment very similar to the natural one.
We do not recommend the usage of any of the commercially available hot
rocks or any variation thereof. These devices have been notorious for causing
burns on the animals that they are intended to be used on. There have been
many article written on the horror stories of damage done to various animals
that have been caused by a faulty hot rock device. We feel that heat provided
from above greatly simulates natural heating from the sun. We also feel
that this is the way that the animal is able to absorb heating more efficiently.
Heating is provided by the use of either incandescent bulbs of high
wattage or by the use of Ceramic Heating Elements (CHE). Temperatures at the basking spot should be somewhere in the range of 110 – 150 degrees F. for U. maliensis. Other sub-species of Uromastyx have differing maximum heating requirements but almost all of them are within this temperature range to some degree. The ambient temperature
should be between 80 and 95 degrees F during the daylight hours. Temperatures in the hiding cave can be somewhat cooler during the daylight hours. Night time temperatures should drop no lower than 65 degrees F (although there have been some reports of lower temperatures in the native environment). Heating is an important aspect of Uro husbandry. Being an ectothermic animal, Uros need heat to properly perform the digestion process. Too much heat for a long duration of time can be harmful to your animal and this is the reason behind the temperature gradient. Uros are quite adept at self-regulating their body temps.
Uromastyx are predominantly vegetarian in nature. The main ingredient of their diets are greens, seeds, beans and the occasional insect. Greens are extremely important aspect of the Uromastyx diet. Water requirements are met through the absorption of moisture
from the various greens and flowers that are ingested. As water is scarce in the natural habitat of Uromastyx it is important to provide fresh greens. Beans and bird seed are also prime components of the diet as they provide many nutrients that may or may not be found within the makeup of various greens. Beans and seeds also provide a level of roughage that is also needed for a well balanced diet. There is currently some debate on the amount (if any) of insect matter that is ingested by Uromastyx. Some researchers of U. ornata have not observed any predation of insects in the wild. This leads us to believe that the insect component of the Uromastyx may in fact be incidental. We do know that too much insect matter can cause an over-abundance of protein in the diet which in turn causes gout. All greens, beans, and seeds should be cleansed completely to remove any pesticides and insecticides. It is acceptable to leave the drops of water on the food to provide a larger
amount of water and to simulate dew deposition. Do not leave an open water source in the enclosure as this will raise humidity levels and may cause respiratory disorders to occur in your animals.
Common Medications and Home Remedies:
Common medications and their uses are as follows:
Fenbendazole (Panacur or Safe-T-Guard, always check the label for the active ingredient) – used for eliminating nemotodes and roundworms – orally either through paste or granules then again 2 weeks later – diagnose by checking fecals for small worms
Droncit – used for eliminating Tapeworms but must be prescribed by vet – injection into front thigh muscle, dosage is a ratio of med to weight. Pills used for dogs are ok if proportioned to weight (pers. Com. Doug Dix), dose once and clean cage – diagnosed by examining fecals and observing rice-like particles
Metronidazol (Flagyl) – for treatment of diarrhea caused by common flagellated
amoebas - very watery stools often very poorly formed to no real definition at all, may be clear or may be brown, but not maroon. Often a distinct strong odor is present (most healthy Uro stool don't smell much). Rapid weight loss, tail bones become very
prominent (mostly from dehydration as well as fat loss). - Dosing usually daily
for first two to three days, then every other day. Clean cage out completely
daily. Must continue dosing a few days AFTER the diarrhea is gone.
Albon – for treatment of coccidia - Symptoms are similar to protozoan infections but often has blood in the stool (makes stool maroon, is best observed by placing a fresh fecal pellet in alcohol to dissolve the blood. The alcohol will turn dark red. Dose similarly to Flagyl. Dose regimen should last at least 7 days. Common problem in Bearded Dragons but less so in Uromastyx.
Baytril – Used for swollen tissues, joints (soft swelling), other general infections not associated with Metabolic Bone Disease or not easily cultured. – Generally given in association with Flagyl as they work synergistically. – Dosage same as in coccidia. Do under supervision of a veterinarian.
Tri-optics S Crème – for eye infections – used as directed by veterinarian
Bactracin – for minor skin abrasions and occasionally for eye infections – used as directed by veterinarian.
Lotrimen – for fungal infections
Silvadine Crème – for fungal and skin infections
Pedialyte – used to re-hydrate animals and stimulate appetite – dose by dropper method or tubing. Offer as much as animal will ingest as long as fecals do not become runny.
Neo Calglucon – used to boost calcium levels quickly as in animals with MBD or gravid females – Dose by dropper method or by tubing. Dosage 1 cc per 1 kg or .1 cc per 100 g
Breeding of U. maliensis:
The breeding of U. maliensis in captivity has proven to be problematic at best. Most breeders and herpetoculturists agree that for the highest chance of success you must provide some sort of brumation period for your animal. To brumate U. maliensis we recommend reducing lighting and heating gradually to simulate cyclical changes in it’s natural environment. We also feel that food should also be reduced during this time as this will simulate naturally reduced food sources in the wild and will effectively reduce the amount of food particles in the hind gut. There have been occurrences of death in subject animals that may in fact be due to the presence of food in the hind gut during brumation. This food has been allowed to effectively rot in the hind gut providing a rich source of nutrition for bacterial infestations which can cause the demise of affected animals. This has been most noted in animals that have been allowed to enter a deep brumation period. By mid-December we try to reduce the time of lighting to around 8 hours per day with mid-day basking spot temps in the 110 - 115 degree F range. We do not do a deep brumation method with our animals but prefer what we term as a “passive” brumation. By this I mean that we reduce time, temp and food to a level that is lower than norm but is by no means as low as is reported by Randall Gray to be necessary for successful breeding. It has been proven (by Audrey Vanderlinden and others) that deep brumation is not entirely necessary to facilitate mating behavior. We prefer to lower these factors to an extent that the animal is able to slow down the intake of food and behavior and to choose to bask on occasion and even eat lightly if needed. We believe (according to recent reports given through the listserv on wild populations of U. ornata by Troy Jones) that not only Ornates exhibit this behavior but most likely Maliensis also do this. We base this assumption on the fact that the temps in the region of Mali sometimes are high enough to promote basking behavior. We also had some limited breeding behavior with our smallest female after allowing a brief “passive” brumation period. She laid 6 eggs of which 4 were fertile. Unfortunately we lost those 4 eggs to fungal growth. Most experts agree that some form of brumation is necessary for U. maliensis. Brumation typically lasts 6 to 8 weeks under normal conditions. Care should be taken during brumation and the animal should be checked periodically but not unduly disturbed. Upon removal from brumation it is recommended that you bring up the animals temperature to normal levels in a quick fashion. During this period the animal should progressively be brought up to a natural regimen of diet and basking temps. If there is any abnormal behavior during this re-habitation period seek medical attention immediately.
Breeding should take place around March through April and possibly even into May. Males should exhibit familiar mating rituals such as head bobbing, side nipping of females and agression towards other males. Supplemental calcium can be given at this time to help with egg formation in females. Use of Neo Calglucon with female specimens is recommended. Males should be mounting females around this time. If a female is non-receptive she will display this by rolling onto her back thereby preventing insemination by the male. If the male is able to inseminate her she may become aggressive towards the male. If this happens you should separate the animals until long after egg deposition. Some breeders recommend separation of the two genders and only introducing them to each other during breeding season/attempts. Egg deposition should occur around 1 month after insemination of the female. Incubation of the eggs should be in a medium of sand, vermiculite, or other such substrate with a 7 to 3 ratio of substrate to water. The eggs will need to be incubated in a small container with a few pinholes in the lid (to retain humidity levels) at 90 to 92 degrees F for 85 to 95 days. After deposition of the eggs the female is extremely dehydrated and week. She needs to be hydrated with pedialyte and neo calglucon. Offer as much of these as she will take and continue this treatment for a few days. Also be sure to offer a regular diet of greens, seeds, and beans. It is not uncommon, however, if the females do not eat right away. The eggs must be removed as soon as possible and placed into the nesting material (if the female has not laid them in it already). There are differing thoughts on whether the eggs need to be buried, partially buried or just placed on top of the substrate. There have been both successes and failures using both methods. As stated above, hatching should occur somewhere after 85 days and before 95 days (there have been reports of hatchings after 110 days though). Hatchlings should be around 2” STL and weigh in at 6 to 8 grams. The diet for hatchlings is the same as the adults being careful to finely shred all greens and finely grind beans. Given the proper diet hatchlings should grow fairly quickly for the first couple of years before a general slow down of growth is noticed.
There are numerous online resources available now that Uromastyx have received so much publicity in the pet arena. As more captive husbandry is experienced you can expect it to be reflected in the online arena. Most sites dealing with husbandry can be found utilizing any good search engine so I will not list all of the sites that I am aware of. I will, however, list two of the sites that I consider to be most inclusive and helpful. These are the Uromastyx Home Page by Troy Jones at http://www.kingsnake.com/uromastyx/index.html and the address to the Uromastyx Mailing List subscription site at
http://www.icomm.ca/dragon/urolist.htm This site is maintained by Tricia Power and is a great resource for both novice and experienced Uromastyx Hobbyists.
I would like to thank the following people and sources for the information I have gathered in the last few years concerning Uromastyx; Randall Gray, Audrey Vanderlinden, Dr. Doug Dix, Jeff Fisher, John Castellanos, Troy Jones, Zane Jones, Pete Koplos DVM, Mike Malawy, Wade Pluff, Darrell Senneke, Darryl Deyerle, Dustin Porter, Jason Creager, Eric Sorin, Kenny Utz, Robert DuWors and the many other people on the Uromastyx Listserv that I am inadvertently omitting. It is through the compilation of the many conversations both direct and indirectly with these individuals that have brought us to the level of expertise that we have attained to date. The level of dedication and and love that these people have for this wonderful species of animal purely transcends the differences of individuals to make this a solid community. Thanks to all for the tips, hints, experiences, and admissions of mistakes that has been compiled in order to make Uromastyx husbandry more successful than it was 10 years ago.