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Saharan Spiny-Tailed Lizard

Uromastyx geyri

  • 11 - 14 inches in adult size

  • Lives 20+ years

  • Not for beginners

  • Adult needs 50 gallon terrarium

  • Kept at 85° to 95° F

  • Need basking spot of 120° to 130° F

  • UV lighting is necessary

  • Primarily vegetarian

  • Docile and shy

  • Diurnal (awake during the day)

Uromastyx geyri

General

The care information provided on this page is applicable to most species of uromastyx or Spiny-tailed lizards, but specifically the Saharan Spiny-tailed lizard. The Saharan uromastyx is found in rocky, semi-arid habitats in North Africa, its range includes parts of Algeria, Mali and Niger. Uromastyx species in general should not be considered a pet for beginner reptile keepers due to their rather complex dietary and environmental requirements. Though their popularity has increased since they were first introduced to the pet trade, many specimens found in pet shops will be wild caught and may take time and effort to acclimate to life in captivity. It is possible to find captive bred uromastyx, but most of these will come from experienced breeders. When kept properly, uromastyx lizards can make beautiful and fascinating pets. Unlike many other reptiles, uros are diurnal.

Temperament

Uromastyx tend to be rather shy lizards who will spend much of their time hidden away in a burrow or provided shelter. Though fairly docile and easy to handle, they will sometimes thrash about when picked up and very young animals may be quite skittish. Frequent handling will make for a more tame pet, but in general, spiny-tailed lizards do not seem to enjoy human interaction and should be thought of as more of a display animal to be handled when necessary. Though biting is very rare, uromastyx can and will do so if they feel threatened or unable to escape an uncomfortable situation. Spiky tails and sharp claws will also be used for defense.

Housing

Ground space is more important than height in a uromastyx enclosure. Custom built terrariums or glass aquariums both work well for housing your pet and since the uromastyx does not club, screen tops are really not necessary. Hatchlings can live in groups in 20 - 30 gallon terrariums, but as they grow, they will need to be separated and housed in larger 50+ gallon terrariums for one or two adults. Never keep two adult males in the same enclosure. Substrate can be sand, granulated cork bark, crushed walnut or a similar substrate. Newspaper also works well and is very easy to clean. Be sure to spot clean your uromastyx enclosure frequently. Rocks and driftwood are recommended for interior decor and a hide box or cave of some sort should be provided to ensure that your pet feels safe and comfortable.

Heating & Lighting

Like most uromastyx species, the Saharan uromastyx comes from a very hot environment and in order to have a happy, healthy pet, you will need to replicate this environment as closely as possible in their enclosure. All Spiny-tailed lizards requite UV lighting absorb vitamin D and make use of the other minerals and vitamins in their diet. A 10% UVB fluorescent bulb is recommended. Your pet will also need a basking spot provided by some rocks or driftwood placed under a heat lamp. The temperature of this basking area should reach between 120° - 130° Fahrenheit and the cooler end should be approximately 85° - 95°. Lights should be can be turned off at night provided the enclosure temperature does not drop below 70°. Humidity levels must be kept very low.

Feeding

All uromastyx lizards are primarily herbivores and should be fed a diet of chopped up leafy greens and seeds. Collard greens, endive, alfalfa, cactus pad and dandelion greens should be considered staple foods, but other fruits and vegetables will also be accepted and can be offered in moderation. Spinach, beet greens, Swiss chard, cabbage, broccoli and kale should be avoided as these have been know to cause metabolic problems. Various types of small bird seed such as finch food will also be readily accepted. Though there is much debate over the benefit of occasional insects in the diet of spiny-tailed lizards, many keepers will offer crickets once a month. Too many insects will eventually be fatal to your pet as they are unable to process large amounts of protein. Be sure to sprinkle foods with vitamin and calcium powders. Unless your pet is ill or dehydrated, water is not needed. Uromastyx are will get all of the moisture they require from their food.

Additional Information

Even if you do not plan to breed your uromastyx, brumation (a form of hibernation) may still happen, during the winter months when your pet can sense a change in their usual photo period. Brumation may last from one to three months and though your uromastyx will be awake during this time, they will be far less active than usual and will consume very little or no food. This is completely normal behaviour and when ready, your pet will come out of brumation on its own. Try not to disturb them during this period of rest.

Similar Species

Moroccan Spiny-Tailed Lizard (Mali Uromastyx), Egyptian Spiny-Tailed Lizard (Uromastyx aegyptia), Ebony Spiny-Tailed Lizard (Uromastyx alfredschmidti), Seistan Spiny-Tailed Lizard (Uromastyx asmuss), Bent's Spiny-Tailed Lizards (Uromastyx benti), Sudanese Spiny-Tailed Lizard (Uromastyx dispar), Hardwick's Spiny-Tailed Lizard (Uromastyx hardwickii), Ocellated Spiny-Tailed Lizard (Uromastyx ocellata), Ornate Spiny-Tailed Lizard (Uromastyx ornata), Giant Spiny-Tailed Lizard (Uromastyx occidentalis), Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps).


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