Uromastyx Husbandry and Preventative Healthcare
INTRODUCTION: Uromastyx are native to northern Africa and the Middle East and there are numerous different species. Lifespan is roughly 15 years and adults can grow up to 30 inches in length, depending on the species. These animals are often wild caught and a wellness exam is important to determine health status and how well they are adjusting to captivity.
HOUSING: It is generally recommended to house uromastyx singly throughout their lives. Although not usually recommended, with the proper setup, it may be possible to keep them in breeding pairs, or in groups with one male and two or more females.
– Cage – A 30-gallon aquarium/terrarium with a secure, fine mesh screen top is a good cage to start with for most young uromastyx. The enclosure should be strong enough to hold the appropriate substrate and cage “furniture,” as well as tolerate the necessary high temperatures and provide adequate ventilation. As your uromastyx grows, depending on the species, a larger enclosure will be necessary. In general, a cage that is at least 4 times the length of the animal is recommended.
– Bedding/Substrate – Newspapers/paper towels are safest and easiest to replace/clean. Vinyl tile (from hardware store) or Repti-Carpet can also be used. If a paper pulp material (Carefresh) is used, you should feed your pet in a separate enclosure to prevent ingestion. Replace bedding/substrate or clean the surface every 1-2 days to prevent exposure to waste. Many uromastyx breeders have good success with 1-inch of washed play sand as substrate, however, in our experience, caution must be given if this is implemented. **GRAVEL, MULCH/BARK, AND OTHER NATURAL SUBSTRATES SHOULD NOT BE USED DUE TO DIFFICULTY CLEANING, RISK OF GASTROINTESTINAL ISSUES IF EATEN, AND PROBLEMS WITH IRRITATION OF EYES/MOUTH.
– Cage “furniture” – Uromastyx necessitate low, dark, warm ‘burrow’ boxes in order for them to feel secure. This can be accomplished by using an opaque plastic box (Rubbermaid) that is approximately 2-3 times the length of the lizard with a substrate-mixture that is able to be kept moist (sphagnum moss, organic topsoil, and/or fine vermiculite). Branches, driftwood, cork bark and/or large rocks can be provided for climbing. **HEATED ROCKS SHOULD NEVER BE USED DUE TO RISK OF THERMAL BURNS.**
– Temperature/heating – A temperature gradient should be created in the enclosure, with a warm side and a cool side. This allows the uromastyx to regulate its temperature by changing location. Provide a daytime focal basking area of 100-110°F on the warm side of the enclosure (use incandescent bulb, ceramic heating element, or red/other bulb; under tank heating pad can also be used if needed). Daytime temperatures on the cooler side of the enclosure should be 70-80°F. Use multiple digital thermometers with probes to ensure appropriate temperatures are maintained. Dial thermometers are often inaccurate. Provide a nighttime temperature range of approximately 70°F throughout the enclosure. If needed, a safe under tank heating pad, ceramic heating element, or red bulb can help in maintaining recommended temperatures. Due to risk of burn injuries, always use appropriate rheostats/thermostats if using the commonly available ZooMed heating pads, Ultratherm Heat Pads (beanfarm.com), and Cobra T-Rex Heat Pads (available from many pet stores).
– Lighting – Provide an ultraviolet B (10.0 UVB) light over the basking area (within 18 inches, no glass/acrylic in between) for 12-14 hours in summer and 10-12 hours in winter. UVB is necessary for vitamin D production and appropriate absorption of calcium from the gastrointestinal system. Replace this bulb approximately every 6 months, as UVB production decreases with time.
– Vegetables (approximately 99% of diet) – Feed variety of dark leafy vegetables, such as romaine lettuce, green/red leaf lettuce, collard greens, dandelion greens, mustard and turnip greens, radicchio, escarole kale, endive, parsley, and bok choy. Limited amounts of other vegetables (carrots, squash, peas, beans) can be offered. Chop/shred greens, spray with water, and offer in bowl or on plate ONCE OR TWICE DAILY.
– Insects – Not a necessary addition for most species to an appropriately supplemented uromastyx diet but may be offered in limited quantities (once per month or less) as treats. Offer appropriately sized gut-loaded insects. Crickets should be no longer than width of uromastyx head. To properly gut load, provide insects with a complete diet, such as rodent chow, greens and fresh foods, or bird pellets. Insects should primarily be crickets. Mealworms and giant mealworms should be offered only in small amounts. To prevent injury to your uromastyx, remove uneaten crickets immediately.
– Vitamin supplements – Dust salad and insects with a high quality calcium/vitamin D3 supplement (with NO phosphorous added) 3-4 times a week. Dust insects with a high quality multi-vitamin (with a vitamin A source that is NOT beta carotene) once a week.
– Other foods – Commercial iguana, bearded dragon, or tortoise diets (moistened with water) should also be offered, but should not make up more than 50% of the diet. Due to higher vitamin and mineral content, uromastyx eating mainly a commercial diet may need to have their multi-vitamin and calcium supplementation reduced.
– Water bowl – Provide clean, fresh water in a dish/bowl into which your uromastyx can easily climb (small/low for juveniles). Change water daily.
– Soaking – Soak your pet 1-2 times a week in warm, shallow water for 15-20 minutes to encourage drinking, improve hydration, and help with shedding.
SIGNS OF ILLNESS: We highly recommend that your pet be seen for an annual physical examination and fecal analysis with an experienced reptile veterinarian. Please consult a reptile veterinarian should you notice any of the following signs: weight loss, decreased appetite/thirst, abnormal stools, twitching/tremors/seizures, swelling of the limbs, inability to close the mouth properly, discharge from eyes and/or mouth, difficulty breathing, distension of the abdomen in non-breeding animals, masses/lumps, or wounds/cuts/scrapes.
UVB necessary, High focal basking site temperature, appropriate calcium and multivitamin supplementation needed
Visit A Veterinarian
Healthy annual examinations, not eating/defecating, diarrhea, swollen digits/limbs, lethargy