Most Uromastyx species currently in the U.S. seem to have fairly similar
requirements so I'll lump them together for the purposes
of this care sheet. Please look at care sheets posted at The Uromastyx Home Page2 (http://web2.airmail.net/troyj/) for more
detailed information on a variety of Uromastyx issues. Also check out the Uromastyx listserv (to subscribe: send the command:
subscribe uromastyx-digest in the body of a message to "email@example.com"). This is an excellent forum for posting
questions/sharing information concerning Uromastyx.
Lighting/Heat: First and foremost, Uromastyx are heat lovers, the ultimate
heat lovers! They must have a basking site that
reaches between 100F and 120F (air temp, not rock temp which will be higher yet). No, that's not a typo, one hundred to one
hundred and twenty F! This is actually easy to produce with a Zoo-Med or comparable reptile backing bulb shining over a
smooth piece of slate or other suitable rock. Just make sure the light is placed high enough to prevent the animals from
accessing it. Do NOT use hot rocks or similar "in-cage" electric underbelly heaters. These will not suffice and can cause serious
injury to your animals. An under-the-tank heating pad is ok but only for supplemental heat, the basking site is still essential. The
area farthest from the basking site should be in the mid 80's F, permitting your animals to self-regulate their body temperature.
Night temps should be much cooler, typical of their desert homes. Most people shoot for the low 70's in the summer, the mid 60's
in the winter. In reality, their desert burrows probably get down into the mid to high 50'sF much of the year. I suspect the
difference in nightly lows isn't critical as long as the cage reaches the preferred daytime highs. Along with the basking lights, we
recommend installing a UVB producing bulb such as Zoo-Med's Reptisun 5.0's. The usefulness of these bulbs is debatable and
some breeders feel they are a waste of money ($20 to $30 ea.). UVB initiates the conversion of vit. D3 precursor into active
vitamin D3, and in theory these bulbs produce enough UVB to stimulate this reaction. Some breeders choose to simply add vit.
D3 to the diet and dispense with the bulbs. We prefer to avoid synthetic vit D3 as it has been implicated in increasing metabolic
problems in Uromastyx (unproven, but suspicious correlation). Thus we use the UVB bulbs. These must be mounted within a
few feet (some say one foot) of the basking animal to be effective. We've sunburned pineapple plants from 18" with new bulbs,
so that's the distance we shoot for in the breeding pens. These bulbs gradually loose the ability to produce UVB with use and
should be replaced annually to biannually (look for a change from bluish white to a clearer white glow with age, blue = good,
white = shot).
Bedding: Uromastyx are burrowers by design and must be provided with
some form of low shelter. In our ground breeding pens,
we use 1/4 height cement blocks. In the upper cages and hatchling tanks, we build plywood platforms. The goal is to produce a
shelter just high enough so that the Uro's can feel the top of the shelter while standing inside it. For bedding, the opinions vary.
If you use sand, make sure it is a natural sand (rounded edges) like beach sand or washed playground sand. Man made sand
(from crushing gravel)has jagged edges which interlock, leading to gut impactions in animals that swallow it. We personally
don't like sand and restrict it's use to the egg laying boxes. We've tried bark, which the Uros loved but the dust produced was
unacceptable and picking out fecal pellets was far too difficult. We then switched to rabbit pellets which are still our bedding of
choice for hatchlings. It tends to break down too quickly in the adult's cages, so we are now experimenting with bird seed
(millet/sorghum seed with the sunflower seeds sifted out to ease cage cleaning). This seems reasonable so far but the Uro's
definitely have more difficulty moving around on the less stable surface it provides. On the plus side, if the Uros drag damp
sand into the bedding or pile bedding in the nest box, the seeds sprout, unlike rabbit pellets, which mold. We considered using
calcium carbonate sand (Calci-sand, T-Rex), but other Uro keepers have told us the dust produced is too great to be acceptable
Housing: Uromastyx are generally non-social. Two mature males may not
be kept together! Sooner or later one will attack the
other, possibly causing serious injury. We've even had yearlings do this. Females vary greatly in temperament. Most get along
fine with a male, but we've had a few exceptions (note: Moroccans in particular tend to be exceptions to this rule). Some also
tolerate other females in the cage, but many of ours have become very belligerent towards all other Uros, male or female, once
they are bred and begin seeking a nesting site. Most are very moody the first few days post-laying and may need to be
separately housed for the remainder of the season. The aggression can be subtle and easily missed if you're not around the
animals throughout the day. Periodically examine your animals, noting their weight and the condition of the skin along their
flanks. Individuals intimidated by others tend to gradually loose weight. Aggressive animals tend to bite others along the flanks,
leading to distinct thickening of this area. If allowed to continue, this can lead to significant tissue damage, even if the biter
never directly breaks the skin.
If you wish to try to house several together, introduce them to a new
cage simultaneously. Uros are by nature territorial, and
even calm animals tend to attack new individuals place in their cage. Speaking of cage size, the larger the better. Our ground
pens run 4' long by 3'deep by 2' high and house trios to 1.3 (number of males to number of females). We use Vision brand 3'
cages for housing single individuals and compatible female pairs. Vision 5' cages are used for our primary stud males to which
we cycle several females in and out of throughout the breeding season. Hatchlings are kept 5 per cage in all glass 2' square
tanks, 12" high. Uros are active creatures and like to run around. Shoot for as large a cage as you have space for.
Diet: Uromastyx are primarily herbivores, with a taste for insects on
the side. Our primary diet is composed of Collard greens,
Kale, Dandelion greens and flowers, frozen mixed vegies (peas, cut green beans, carrots, corn, lima beans - all thawed before
feeding of course). We supply other flowers when in season (cats claw to hatchlings (a late-season dandelion-mimic),
nasturtium, rose, pumpkin/squash). We the vegies once per week with Miner-Al -O mineral supplement (no vitamins added, just
various minerals, primarily calcium). We feed a different food item each day, alternating from the above group, rather than mixing
the whole lot together and feeding the same feed daily. We also don't pre-chop the food. We tear it fresh into each cage into
chucks several inches square and let the Uros bite off the size chunk they wish. We do this with hatchlings as well -so far no
problems. Uros like to snack throughout the day, and we found that finely cut vegies just dried out too fast. Fresh carrots and
green beans are another matter however. These tend to be too large and tough for some Uros to bite off a chunk, and so must be
chopped. As far as vitamin additives, we general avoid them although others use them regularly with no problems. We've heard
of too many Uros with metabolic problems that "seem" to be associated with vitamin supplements, especially D3. We do
however offer a dish of "Pretty Bird" brand finch pellets to our Uros at all times. This is a synthetic bird seed which has multiple
vitamins added and is much better digested than most bird seed (check your fecal pellets, you'll find a lot of undigested bird
seed in it if you really look). Hopefully if the Uros main diet is lacking in some nutrient, they can make up for it as needed by
eating the finch "seed". When available, we also try to keep some cactus pads in each cage (Opuntia sp, commercially produced
as human grade food, de-spined at the store). These last for days, allowing for periodic nibbling at will.
We also offer an occasional cricket and weekly superworms (Zophoba sp.).
These are a great way to tame your Uros. Most are
addicted to superworms and will go to great lengths to procure them. Conventional wisdom suggests gravid females fed a
slightly higher than normal amount of insect matter produce better clutches, but the sample sizes are still pretty small. Remember
insects are excessively high in phosphorous which causes the body to excrete calcium into the feces. Be careful to supplement
w/ calcium whenever you feed many insects and never feed too many at one sitting.
We don't normally offer water to our Uros. The exception is for newly
acquired animals or individuals which haven't kept up a
large gut mass of digesting food (their natural source for water). Under no circumstances should you put a water bowl in their
cage. Take the individual to a tub filled with approximately 1" of warm-to-the touch- water. Some will drink on their own, others
can be enticed by dripping water on their snout. Leave the undisturbed for a few minutes after drinking to avoid them
regurgitating any water. Truly dehydrated animals may need to be tubed with an electrolyte solution. See your vet if you are
unfamiliar with this procedure
Breeding: Most breeders believe Uro's need to be put through some form
of winter in order to sufficiently cycle to induce
breeding and fertile egg production. We tried a short winter of the low 70's in 1995-6. We got breeding activity , but no egg
production from our ornates (the only species we attempted to breed that year). We then switched to consistent temps in the
mid to lower 60's and successfully produced 5 clutches of ornates that year but lost several animals immediately
post-hibernation. Last year we went for a constant 55 F thinking that maybe we had overwintered too warm, causing our
mortality problems. Yet we still lost most of our breeding age ornates and our only pair of Sudanese! Our two 2-year-old CB
ornates bred but nether of our surviving older females have bred yet (one does however appear to be cycling and she was late
last year as well). Our Mali's were all pre-conditioned in Mali last winter, so their breeding for us this year was not due to
anything we did. This coming winter we'll probably shoot for the low 60's F for every one except this years hatchlings but try to
warm up to the mid to upper 70'd most days. We'll keep several of our best individuals back at warmer temps just to be safe!
For egg laying, we use 5 to 10 gal. tupperware tubs, lids intact. We
cut a 3"x 2" tall oblong hole approximately 2 " up and away
from one corner. The insides are half filled with a 50:50 mix of peatmoss and playground-grade sand moistened just enough to
allow it to hold a tunnel. Our long-term established wild-caught animals and captive-breds use this setup without hesitation.
Most of the newly imported Mali's have balked and buried their eggs in the rabbit pellets heaped up in a corner of the cage. We
remove the eggs as soon as they are detected and place them in slightly damp sand. If the eggs are slightly flaccid, we dampen
the sand to a greater degree, then repack the eggs in drier sand in a day or two. The term "damp" is overly vague - we strive to
add enough water to change the color of the sand, but not let it really feel wet. Grey suggests 4 parts vermiculite to one part
water by weight (Vivarium, 1997,8:6). Uro eggs mold easily, so excessive water is to be avoided at all costs. Within a few days,
the eggs seem to seal and become very tolerant of dry conditions. The trick is to get to that stage. As a side note, be sure to trim
the toenails of your gravid females a few weeks before they lay. They are notorious for nicking their eggs while burying them.
Uro eggs relay their fertility and viability status very clearly. Fertile
eggs have a distinct red circle (the developing embryo)
clearly visible at the time the eggs are laid. We orient our eggs so as to position the embryo at the top of the egg, but it's highly
unlikely that this is necessary. Fresh eggs are somewhat water-ballon-like when laid, but good eggs usually firm up and whiten
within a day or two at most. Eggs which are distinctly yellow or in which you can see the contents moving around inside in a
two-toned pattern (milky yellow in a clearer yellow) are already in the early stages of disintegration and will not hatch. Dud eggs
will begin to smell almost immediately and are often easy to detect in the incubator within 3 to 4 days. Duds also often keep a
faintly oily look to them and rarely firm up.
We incubate in sealed tupperware-type containers with the eggs completely
buried in the sand. This seems to help avoid mold
problems. By sealing the containers, we also avoid the need to keep checking the mixture for proper dampness. Last season we
incubated at 88F but had quite a few embryos die just prior to hatching. While it may well have been due to some dietary
problem (vit A and D3 are the likely culprits) rather than temps, this year we are incubating at 85F just to see it's impact. Since
Uros likely bury their eggs fairly deep in the desert to avoid their drying out prior to hatching, 88F seems a bit high. We incubate
our veiled chameleons (which come from a similar habitat) at 82 F and most veiled breeders still consider this too high. We'll see
Hatching occurs in about 60 to 70 days. The hatchlings are quite vigorous
and ready to feed within a day or two. Treat them as
you would adults, but slightly cooler. Watch for signs of aggression. Dominant animals will significant repress the growth of the
other hatchlings housed with them.