Uromastyx FAQ part 1

by: Michael L. Fagre
with the help of: Randall L. Gray, Philippe de Vosjoli,
Matthew Moyle, and the readers of The Uromastyx Home Page.

Q:       Approximately how long, on a consistent diet, does it take for a Uromastyx to reach full grown size? How fast do they usually grow? At what age does a Uromastyx reach sexual maturity?
A:       Currently there is no way to determine how long it takes for a Uromastyx to reach full size. The only difference I have seen in ages (besides size) is the amount of sleep they get. A juvenile may play all day long, whereas an adult may only come out to play a few hours a day, stopping to take naps every so often. As for age of sexual maturity, this depends on species: ornates 2 years, aegyptius 3-5 years, acanthinurus 2-3 years.

Q:       When my Uromastyx reaches full size, do we get him a new terrarium, or just keep him in the one he has right now?
A:       This depends on how big the terrarium is to begin with. If the lizard is 2' long and 6" wide then the cage should be about 8' by 2'. That is 4 times its length and width. Of course you can always give them a bigger terrarium (which they appreciate), especially if you have more than one lizard.

Q:       How do you tell how old they are and what is their life span????
A:       Currently there is no way to determine exactly how old a Uromastyx is. It can be guessed by their size but this isn't accurate because they grow at different rates. This also hinders us in knowing how long they can live. It is known that they can live at least 10 to 15 years but it has been guessed that they can live up to 35 years with proper nutrition and care.

Q:       I have seen lots of different temp ranges for Uromastyx - which ones are correct?
A:       Here are the ranges I have seen most often, and this is what I go by:
                  Night: 60 to 82 F (general temp inside cage)
                  Basking: 110 to 130 F (measured at their daytime basking site)
                  Retreat: 80 to 90 F (measured at the opposite side of the cage)

Q:       Is it important to vary their temperature at night and on a regular basis?
A:       Yes, it's very important. If a Uromastyx is kept too warm and active during the winter months, it can develop a goiter-like enlargement in the thyroid area which can gradually worsen over several years. To prevent this problem you should drop the temperature of their cage at night. You should also vary your light schedule in the winter, trying to keep it as close to the natural day length as possible.

Q:       How important are heat lamps? Can I use a hot rock and fluorescent bulbs instead?
A:       Without proper lighting Uromastyx, like other reptiles, won't be able to extract the nutrients they need from their food. The difference between adequate lighting and proper lighting is the difference between a skinny, OK lizard and a fat healthy lizard. Simply put, if a Uromastyx has a high concentrated UVA/UVB light and a hot desert like cage (with cooler night temps), the only reason it wouldn't gain weight is probably because of internal parasites.

Q:       My Uromastyx ornatus has been getting lump formations on his body. Why does this happen and is it dangerous?
A:       Lump formations on ornatus is a condition caused by the animal trying to save calcium in a very efficient manner until it has enough vitamin D to metabolize it properly. These lumps don't kill the lizard but a lack of available calcium does. Even with a body full of calcium, without vitamin D they can't metabolize it. These lizards come from a desert that is lacking in calcium, they have evolved techniques to store any calcium as it is ingested. In nature there is plenty of vitamin D, so there is no metabolism problem. In captivity they need very little calcium and a great amount of vitamin D.

Q:       My adult Uromastyx will not accept any protein like crickets, meal worms, tofu or cheese. Is a strictly vegetarian diet OK?
A:       Many of the Uromastyx (specifically ornates and acanthinurus) eat a lot of insects in the wild and without this source of protein they will not grow properly. Uromastyx aegyptius is the only species that generally does not eat crickets or worms. A good way to get a finicky Uromastyx to eat protein is to trick it: if you chop tofu into very small pieces and mix it with their favorite greens, they will eat at least some of it by accident. With any luck they might develop a taste for it.

Q:       My Uromastyx is eating about three times more than it used to and also appears to be 'shedding' some skin. Could the two be related?
A:       Yes, and it is a good sign. This means that your Uromastyx is getting what it needs out of it's diet to grow. The only thing that could be a problem is the amount it was eating before. If it went from eating one cup to four cups of food, I would say that this is too much and you should bring it to the Vet. It could be a sign of internal parasites.

Q:       When we got our Uromastyx, he was pretty dark and didn't move or eat much. Now he is very light in color and active (mostly at night), and eats a big handful of salad a day. We keep him at a constant 90 degrees. Is this OK?
A:       It sounds like he is healthy, but you're not letting the temperature vary as it should. This is apparent by him being active mostly at night. If you give them higher temps during the day and cooler temps at night, he should start playing during the day.

Q:       Though I was told my Uromastyx was healthy, he appears dehydrated and has runny stools later in evening. What should I do?
A:       This may be sign of parasites - take him to Vet immediately!

Q:       I heard that feeding live waxworms or superworms could hurt my lizard. Is this true?
A:       I don't believe you should be too concerned about the superworm hurting your lizard - they chew them pretty good. Besides, you would be hard pressed to get your Uromastyx to eat a dead superworm.

Q:       My Uromastyx seem to be as big as the description of aegyptius in the texts, but they are colorful and change colors with temperature. It doesn't say in the texts whether this species does this. The male is usually brown and becomes bright yellow when warm, and the female is black and becomes white. Do you know if my Uromastyx are really aegyptius or not?
A:       Yes they are. I agree that I have never seen this observation about color changes in any documentation.

Q:       Some mornings when my Uromastyx wakes up there is white around his nostril or nostrils, and after a little while it goes away. Someone said that it could be shedding but it happens often. Can you help?
A:       This is common and occurs as a natural way for the lizard to get rid of extra salt. Humans also release excess salt. We do it most noticeably when we sweat, which usually leaves a white line or ring. Consider this lizard sweat.

Q:       How can you sex a Uromastyx?
A:       The simplest answer to this question is that males usually have wider jowls, a wider tail base, and have more pronounced femoral pores (found on the inside of the upper thigh). This may not help you much if you don't have anything to compare it to. I would recommend looking at the pictures in Philippe de Vosjoli's book "Basic Care of Uromastyx".

Q:       We haven't given our Uromastyx any water per se, but he does get some in his food, and is a voracious eater, so we feel that he might be getting enough moister in his diet. I was wondering if there is any merit in soaking him occasionally. We have read in several publications that soaking him once a month is helpful, but aren't sure if we should adopt this practice. What do you think?
A:       If you think that it gets enough water in its food, then no I would not bother soaking it. If you should see signs of dehydration or if the lizard is having trouble shedding, then go ahead and soak it. Things that may lead to dehydration are eating a lot of rabbit pellets, bird seed, or dried fruit. Another way to give them water is to always rinse their vegetables and feed it to them without shaking the water off.

Q:       I heard that misting is a good way to replicate the dew that Uromastyx get in their natural habitat. Is this correct, and if so, how do I do it?
A:       No one really knows how much water these lizards get in their natural habitat. Also one species may require no water whereas another may require it daily. Unfortunately, this question still remains unanswered. If I had a dehydrated Uromastyx, I would generally soak it instead of misting it. If you think that misting is the best way then try using a fine mist spray and spraying the water above them instead of at them. Never do this on any substrate other than rocks or sand.

Q:       The store that sold me my Uromastyx said they dewormed him. How can I tell if they did or not?
A:       They might have wormed the lizard but it takes three or four treatments with panacure and/or Flagyl. If you suspect that your lizard might have worms, take a fecal sample to your veterinarian and have him check it.

Q:       What type of foods should a Uromastyx eat?
A:       I would feed them a variety of: turnip/collard greens (calcium & protein), kale, mustard greens, Euryops petals (perennial daisy), dandelion greens, cilantro, parsley, peas, corn, lentils, broccoli, lettuce (not iceberg), lollo rosso, tango, tat soi, red oak, mizuna, raddichio, escarole, endive, wheat, garbanzo and alfalfa (rabbit pellet). But you can also try: squash (summer and winter), red peppers, banana peels, iceplant flowers, carrots, sweet potatoes, large bird seed, iguana food, chopped dried fruits (apricots, raisins, cranberries, etc.) and nuts (walnut, filberts, almond, sunflower).

Q:       Our Uromastyx is still not too fond of us picking him up, and I'm not sure if this is going to get any better or not. Also, I tried to take him outside on a leash and he started hissing and whipping his tail at me. Is this normal?
A:       Your animal is showing typical behavior common to a lot of Uromastyx. These are not tame creatures. Some have very docile personalities whereas others seem aggressive. Even a docile animal placed outside in natural sunlight can become very defensive and aggressive. Also, these lizards are not as easily tamed as an Iguana.

Q:       I try to feed my Uromastyx bird seed but they end up scattering it in their substrate before eating it. Is there anything I can do about this?
A:       I have found that Uromastyx like dried fruit, nuts, and seeds, but do tend to make a mess with them. An easy solution to this problem is to buy Parrot or Cockatiel "treat sticks". They usually have a combination of large bird seed, dried fruits, and supplements in honey base on a stick. I use EightInOne's Fruit or Honey Sticks ($2.00 at Kmart) because it easy to remove the twist tie before putting it in the Uromastyx cage.