Pet Lizard Care Guide For Beginners

If you want to adopt a lizard or take care of a lizard that you have welcomed, discover all the basics to take good care of a lizard. In this section, find out how to choose your first lizard and at what price. Learn how to organize and maintain their living space, offer them a suitable diet and make all the arrangements for their health. The handling of the lizard and its body language will also be on the program.

Choosing A Lizard

You have decided to go on the offensive and adopt your first reptile. Passionate about terrariophilia or simply an amateur, is the lizard the right animal for you? The one you want to observe, see grow and support? Some knowledge is essential to take care of it. No fear, however, some species are more suitable for beginners and will delight you. Our advice in these adoption stages.

The character of your future lizard

A lizard is generally alert and reactive. If you adopt one, he will surely be born in captivity. It will, therefore, be docile and easily tame. Unlike lizards captured in the wild, those born in captivity tolerate caresses and manipulations. Certain species of lizards such as iguanas or monitor lizards can attack when they feel threatened.

However, lizard attacks are quite rare. They most often take place during the reproductive period, in the male, between December and March. As such, male lizards must remain in their cage during this period when they defend their territory as never before.

One species at a time

Avoid adopting 2 lizards of 2 different species. Indeed, depending on their biotopes, 2 lizards could lead a completely different life in captivity. As such, 2 lizards of different species could have different needs in photoperiodtemperature, and humidity.

Which one? Carnivorous or vegetarian lizard?

Before adopting your lizard, you need to define what type of food you want to give it. Carnivorous lizards feed mainly on insects, but also on birds. Others, like, the iguana, are vegetarians.

A male or female lizard?

If you want to have small lizards, it is essential to have a male and a female of the same species. In addition, the difference between a male and a female is made in certain species by a different color, by the absence of crest or the size between the 2 sexes.

A lizard born in captivity or captured?

The behavior of your lizard will not be the same depending on where it comes from. If it has been captured in the wild, it will be less docile, even more aggressive. He will also have “precarious” health when he arrives at your home (dehydration, lack of food, an injured person, stress, etc.). Certainly, the price of a lizard born in captivity is more expensive, but the latter will more correspond to your expectations.

Age of adoption?

You will find more young lizards than adults, once tamed too young your lizard could develop hepatic lipidosis and die quickly.

Which species to adopt?

Beginner, 5 species are recommended in connection with their easy education and rapid taming.

The Bearded Dragon

The most well-known bearded dragon in Australia. It is also known as pogona. It measures around forty centimeters. He will be able to fill you wonderfully since he will interact with you, also allowing himself to be handled when not everyone does it. Its dry environment will require a terrarium with a desert biotope. Indoors, the heat should reach the warmest point 40 ° C. Its food consists mainly of insects and vegetables.

Leopard Gecko

The Leopard Gecko is smaller than the Blue Dragon of Australia. It measures 20 to 24 centimeters for the largest males. Reptile gregarious, he likes to have the presence around him. Cohabitation can be done with a female-only. Indeed, 2 male leopards will kill themselves. Its longevity in captivity is 20 years. A nocturnal animal, it will need hiding places in its terrarium, where rocks, branches, and plants will also have to be present. The temperature of the latter should reach 32 ° C for the hot zone and 28 ° C for the cold zone, with a temperature that can drop to 22 ° C at night.

Uromastyx 

The Uromastyx can measure up to 70 cm. Its dominant color is yellow. In nature, it is found mainly on the side of Asia and Africa. Young, it is omnivorous. As an adult, he becomes a vegetarian. Reptile daytime, it will need a hotspot around 37 ° C and a cold spot at 26 ° C.

Blue-tongued Skink

The Blue-tongued Skink is also a diurnal reptile of around 60 cm that can reach 30 years of age. Docile, curious, he can be easily manipulated. Its terrarium should be large enough and include a hot zone at 30-35 ° C and a cold zone at 25 ° C which can drop below 20 ° C at night.

If you already have some experience in this area, you can get other species:

  • Green Anolis
  • The Basilisks
  • The Skinks
  • The Water Dragon
  • The Panther Chameleon
  • The Green Lizard

Finally, for experts, species like the Green Iguana, the Savannah Monitor Lizard, and the Jackson Chameleon are recommended.

How Much Do Lizards cost?

Treat yourself a lizard. However, you are aware that a lizard, like all animals, has a cost. On purchase, where everything depends on its species, size, age, and location. Before adoption, but also after, throughout his life. You still don’t know what budget is allocated monthly to your reptile? No worries, we are here to enlighten you.

Purchase cost

To put it simply, and you can imagine, everything will depend on the species in question. For example, a Leopard Gecko will have an average price of € 35 as a rule. Obviously, this price can double or even triple depending on the place of purchase, its overall condition or simply depending on the person who will sell it to you. So goes the rule, there really isn’t. All breeders are free to charge their prices.

Thus, it is not uncommon to see hundreds of euros requested by breeders or pet stores for lizards of rarer species. What you should know is that a lizard, like the majority of domestic reptiles, will cost you more before and during its purchase than after.

Indeed, thereafter, only the feeding and the maintenance of its terrarium in optimal conditions will be a source of expenses (electricity), just like the regular change of its substrate and the cleaning of its cage.

The Accessories

Before arriving, you will have to manage to find the ideal terrarium. Thus, your lizard will have to evolve in an environment at the same time cordial, neither too big, nor too small. Not obvious, indeed.

Some vivariums are sold with all the necessary accessories. That is to say a hot corner and a cold corner regulated by a thermostat. In addition, several heat sources are available individually, such as heating mats (8-10 €) and ceramic lamps (10-20 €). To this, do not forget to add a fluorescent lamp. Everything will depend on the brand and its power.

You will also think of the substrate to deposit at the bottom of its vivarium. This can be artificial grass, or sand or even wood chips, which are absorbent and not very abrasive.

Your lizard will need a bowl of water to dive into. Count on average from 5 to 10 €, everything will depend on the material chosen. Think of branches of all kinds to bring a little life and cheerfulness in its environment.

When it comes to food, be aware that your adult lizard will eat about every 2 days. If it is herbivorous, it will swallow salad, fruits, and vegetables. The pellets will be given to him in addition. An omnivorous lizard will not hesitate to devour mice, meal worms or crickets with a frequency of 2 meals per week, never more. Finally, there are also strict insectivorous lizards and carnivores. In any case, the cost of food will depend on his diet. This will never exceed thirty euros per month.

Medical costs

The health of your lizard should be watched closely. You will limit worries and diseases by ensuring good living conditions, in a stable, prosperous environment, well lit, heated and at an acceptable humidity level. Unfortunately, it sometimes happens that your lizard suffers from pathologies. In this case, the consultation of a NAC veterinarian is essential.

classic consultation is around thirty euros. But if interventions, such as surgeries, must be added, the bill can quickly add up to larger sums. It is therefore difficult to predict in advance what your reptile will cost you medically.

The place of purchase

Your lizard can be adopted via several different places. It all depends on what you are looking for. Please note that some are much more serious than others.

Pet stores

It is not the most suitable place to buy a lizard. Pet stores are often overwhelmed when it comes to animals, which is their business. Thus, lizards often evolve in places that are too small or with unsatisfactory conditions (poor humidity, too marked a heat source, etc.). Their health is, therefore, more fragile, more precarious. Worse, the purchase price is often higher, because pet stores have to meet higher operating costs.

At a professional breeder

A professional breeder logically guarantees the good behavior of his protégés. They usually are passionate about lizards and they evolve in good conditions. Thus, they were properly tamed, educated. Their health is good. You will have to be wary of charlatans, as there are everywhere. However, it is the safest place to adopt a lizard.

An Individual

Many individuals decide to sell their lizards when they move. Or quite simply, because they can no longer take care of it. So, it is not uncommon to find them to adopt on online sites. The individual has no reason to want to have you. However, never buy online without being on-site. A climate of trust must be established between you and your contact, the seller.

Make Sure It is a Healthy Lizard

Before any acquisition, check the health of your lizard. Take him to a veterinarian to do a health check, blood tests. Check its scales, its skin, its general behavior.

Which Terrarium To Choose For Your Lizard?

Before buying a lizard, you must think about its habitat where it will spend most of its life, apart from a few moments of handling. Thus, the biotopes of these reptiles require very drastic conditions of captivity. Changing a temperature, humidity can be harmful to his health. Our advice for an ideal vivarium.

Your lizard’s vivarium must recreate living conditions in nature. Thus, they will very often be desert, semi-desert or even tropical.

The structure of the vivarium

It is recommended to invest in a side opening terrarium, even if a simple aquarium limits reptile escapes. However, by being fairly serious about opening and closing, a terrarium is perfect for your lizard. It is also suggested to have smooth walls.

If you opt for a wooden cage, you will have to cover it with polyurethane, a waterproof component, to facilitate more complex cleaning with this type of material. For its part, the wire cage must be prohibited. Indeed, it retains no heat and can cause lesions such as dermatitis on the legs of your lizard.

In all cases, it is better to have a side opening, which terrariums offer, rather than an opening above the head of your lizard. This will only make him fearful every time you approach him. In the wild, predators come to grab the lizard from above.

The Size Of The Vivarium

They depend on the species of lizard you have as well as its size. The terrarium must be large enough to have two temperature zones: one warm and one cold. However, it should not be too large either. He must be adapted to his fairly active behavior. It is generally considered that the length must correspond to 3 times the size of the lizard, that its depth must be one and a half times the size of the lizard, as for its height.

What Type of Substrate?

There are several possible substrates for lining the terrarium floor. You can opt for:

  • An inexpensive grass carpet that can be cleaned relatively easily. However, this type of substrate can have a detrimental effect on your lizard’s legs.
  • Of sand needed to lizards that like to dig as desert species. However, maintenance is quite important. You have to go find the droppings then renew the sand every 2 months approximately. In addition, your lizard must not ingest the sand, under penalty of intestinal obstruction and therefore death.
  • The wood chips are absorbent and low abrasion.

The Temperature of The Vivarium

The temperature of the lizard depends on the outside temperature. The temperature of its terrarium will depend on the species of lizard adopted. It will be different depending on its environment of origin. You will also need to set up a thermostat to regulate the temperature according to the needs of your reptile. It will need a hot zone and a cold zone.

Several heat sources are available for purchase in specialized stores:

  • The heating mats to put under the vivarium. Your reptile must not come into contact with this heat source, otherwise, it will burn itself.
  • The ceramic lamps to be placed above the vivarium, often used for the famous hot spot lizard.

Note that temperatures should drop when your lizard is resting and overnight. When your reptile is cracking, it is also important to offer it an artificial light source (fluorescent lamp).

Regulate humidity

In the terrarium of your lizard must be able to easily regulate the hygrometry, or more simply the humidity rate. This varies depending on the air and its ventilation. The humidity depends on the type of species and often varies from 50 to 80 %. Several methods exist to promote humidity, such as placing a bowl of water near the heat source or watering the plants in the vivarium.

The accessories

Your lizard must be able to have several accessories essential to its well-being and its health.

  • large bowl of water in which he can immerse himself. It is therefore recommended that the bowl is large enough but shallow to avoid drowning. The water should be changed regularly to avoid any bacterial infection.
  • Of branches, especially for tree species. They can climb as they please.

How to build a lizard terrarium?

Your lizard, once adopted, must live in very special conditions. They must respect those he would have in his natural environment. Therefore, a terrarium should not be a place where you have to put anything, no matter how. Rules are to be respected in order to preserve the health of your reptile. We give you all the keys for an easy layout.

Choosing the ideal terrarium

You can opt for several types of terrarium. There are those with a side opening, which greatly simplifies the handling of your lizard, even if a more conventional aquarium could prevent it from sneaking away. You can have a glass terrarium or prefer an OSB wooden terrarium, like in snakes.

The most common of all is the PVC terrarium, which is more insulating, more resistant even if it costs a little more. We do not recommend the wire cage, which could injure your lizard at its ends. In all cases, we can only suggest too much a side opening, which allows your protégé to be less afraid of you when you want to approach and touch him.

The terrarium should be both spacious and not too large for your little reptile. You will have to adapt it to its morphology. It does not need to be especially high since your lizard is not a follower of climbing.

The essential elements of the terrarium

The terrarium your lizard should benefit from essential accessories for its well-being to allow him a quiet life and healthy. So, you will need to install:

  • Two hiding places or shelters, depending on your preferred term. Your lizard will be able to rest there throughout the day and night. Place a hiding place at the hottest corner of his terrarium, and the other at the cold corner. Do not hesitate to fill these hiding places with foam, in order to bring them closer to their state in their natural environment.
  • You need to place some decorative elements in the terrarium so that there is a semblance of life. This will make it easier for you to choose branches, roots, and flat or fairly large stones. Do not hesitate to put enough to satisfy the daily life of your reptile, but not too much either so as not to clutter its place of life.
  • The substrate is an essential element of its terrarium. You have the choice between wood chipssand or synthetic grass, but also corn or hemp if you wish. Note that wood chips and sand may not contain your reptile. There is a high risk of occlusion.
  • water bowl must be installed in the terrarium. Most importantly, this water should be changed daily, as it should never be dirty or infected. Remember to pick up your lizard’s droppings every day.

Again, remember that balance is paramount in the arrangement of objects in your pet’s terrarium. There is no question of overloading it, but it should not be empty, at the risk of being sad, even for your lizard.

Heating and lighting

Your lizard’s terrarium should be as close as possible to what it may know in its original environment. Therefore, he will have to live in similar conditions. Whether in terms of air temperature, humidity or sunshine. In order to compensate for the lack of sun, you must install UV lamps so that it can synthesize vitamin D and calcium, essential to its organism. Why you should add vitamins to your reptiles diet.

For heating, you can bring a heating mat to place below the terrarium, or even cables that allow you to better target the places to be heated, even the traditional heating lamp. The latter must be protected so that your lizard does not come there to burn itself on contact. The hot zone must be 32 ° C maximum, and the cold must not drop below 26 ° C.

The location of the terrarium

The terrarium of your lizard should not be installed in a place of passage and even less on the ground. The slightest step would disrupt the life of your reptile which would assimilate this to an approach of a predator. The stress would then be at its peak. Choose a place halfway up, in a quiet room without the risk of drafts.

Feeding Your Lizard

With your Lizard, the most difficult thing will be to know the group to which it belongs. Is it a herbivore, a carnivore or an omnivore? This will depend on his diet, rather simple in all cases. It is simply necessary to respect it to the letter and to allow only a few runway excursions, all controlled.

Each lizard is different. In captivity, there are generally 3 types of lizard: herbivores, carnivores and omnivores. They are therefore not to be fed with the same dishes. They must, however, each time swallow what is recommended. Deviating from a diet can be dangerous for the health of your reptile. On its food will depend its longevity.

The herbivorous lizard

This is, for example, the case of a green iguana. If your lizard is herbivorous, it needs to eat 30% vegetable protein, 5% fat, 60% carbohydrates, and about 20% fiber daily. Thus, their diet will be based on salad, in order to meet his protein and carbohydrate needs, which represent more than three-quarters of his diet. For sugar, count on fruits like figs, mangoes or melons. You can bring her flowers like dandelion or roses. Finally, vegetables are also suitable and should be added to your diet. This will be the case for beans or squash.

It is simply very important to give him healthy and clean food every time. In addition to this human food, granules must be given to give it the essential nutrients and minerals for its good health, and thus avoid any nutritional deficiency.

Carnivorous lizard

Half of his diet is made up of protein. The rest is almost nothing but fat and a few carbohydrates. But very little. Unlike the herbivorous lizard, the carnivore has only a low need for sugar. And among these carnivores, there are 2 categories. Insectivorous lizards and strict carnivorous lizards. The former do not like animal meat and prefer to obtain protein through insects such as crickets, crickets, grasshoppers, butterflies, mealworms.

The latter appreciate small mammals, vertebrates like mice and birds, mealworms and locusts. They can eat everything and do not deprive themselves of it.

Note that it is important to sprinkle calcium carbonate in its power to give your reptile’s dose vitamins A.

The omnivorous lizard

As the name suggests, he eats everything. This is the case of the Bearded Dragon of Australia or the Blue-tongued Skink. Thus, his protein needs to represent a quarter of his diet, just like lipids. He needs 50% carbohydrates in his daily intake. We, therefore, use the same meaty foods as in carnivores (mice, birds, mealworms …) but also greenery such as lettuce, flowers, vegetables, and fruits (quite sweet). Everything must be supplemented with a supply of minerals and vitamins.

Water requirements of the lizard

Like all reptiles, your lizard drinks little. However, the presence of water in your terrarium is essential for more than one reason. How to integrate water into your living space? Why does a lizard need water? What is it for if not to hydrate? We answer all of these questions.

Your lizard is an animal, a living being, which needs water to make its organism function. Even if it is a cold-blooded reptile, water must never leave its body, otherwise, it will damage all of its vital organs.

Water to hydrate

He may not drink very much, but your lizard needs a small container to hydrate regularly. You may never see him dip his head in it, and yet rest assured, he is drinking well. As such, we recommend a small bowl of water and not a large container as you can put in snakes. Indeed, your reptile could drown inside.

Water for swimming

Your lizard could be soaked in its bowl of water. However, as we have explained to you, it should not be too deep to prevent it from drowning. Above all, the water will have to be replaced daily. Indeed, by diving into it, your reptile will be tempted to do its needs inside. Worse, dirty water promotes the appearance of bacteria which can subsequently take up residence on their skin or even in their body.

Water for humidity

This is essential data for the good life of your captive lizard. Its humidity level should be included between different data depending on the species. This humidity level offers him satisfactory living conditions, as he could find them in his natural environment. Thus, the water present in its terrarium allows the humidity to regulate itself. It often varies between 50 and 80%. Water can be placed near the heat source to help it evaporate. You can, in addition, water the plants present inside its habitat. As such, the branches and greenery favor the increase in humidity when they are wet.

Beware of dehydration

In case your lizard is exposed to a heat source for too long, it could suffer from dehydration. In this case, you will observe an amorphous animal. By taking it in your hands, you will feel its warmth. It is therefore advisable to immerse it in freshwater and avoid exposing it to other sources of heat. Also, do not hesitate to take him urgently to your veterinarian, who will be the best able to treat him.

body language of the lizard

Talking lizards don’t exist. It’s good for movies or cartoons. The rest is just literature. However, you should understand their language when you are lucky enough to have one. Is that your case? So, be attentive to his movements, his postures, his attitudes. The body is the most effective way of good communication between you and yourself. Our advice should help you.

Communication is essential in a couple. It is even more so when one of the 2 partners cannot express himself like the other. This is the case between a human, you, and a reptile-like the lizard. Verbal communication is to be forgotten. Your lizard will not take care of your orders or directives. He will act as he sees fit. In reality, it will be up to you to adapt to his moods, his desires, his desires. All while deciphering his behavior. His body language.

A lizard can hide

Among its usual behaviors, your lizard will sometimes tend to hide. In reality, this is normal behavior. No, your reptile is not afraid of you. He is also not fearful. In reality, it is simply in a place that suits its biological rhythm. The lizard is a nocturnal animal. He, therefore, appreciates dark corners during the day, so as not to be too exposed to the sun or light.

Once the evening arrives, it must normally leave its hiding place and browse its terrarium, or simply bask in a heat source.

However, you may be worried when your reptile never leaves its hiding place (s). He can hide an illness or simply point out to you that the temperature of his habitat is not the right one, or even that the rate of hygrometry hardly suits him.

A lizard can climb

Climbing is one of the favorite activities of lizards. Finally, especially domestic lizards. Indeed, they do not necessarily understand what glass is. So they can try, by any means possible, to want to get out of a place that he sometimes deems unsuitable. Climbing the walls of the terrarium can, in addition to being normal, mean a too narrow space or an environment that does not please your lizard. But it is in his process since he is not familiar with this unusual habitat.

Focus on the lizard’s tail

Your lizard’s preferred mode of communication is its tail. He uses it in particular in his communication with his fellows. Thus, it can wag its tail more or less slowly. Each movement has its meaning. Your lizard can show its excitement to be in the presence of females, or simply mean that it is present. That we should pay attention to him.

When it feels threatened, your lizard will lower its body and lift its tail slightly. He goes on the defensive. Thus, we advise you not to grab your animal if it does so. You are likely to get bitten. This happens especially if the relationship between you and your lizard is very recent. You have to let him get used to your presence. It will gradually drop its guard and you can, later, seize it without fear.

2 lizards can also bite their tails. It is a classic behavior to show its domination, especially before a mating phase. In this case, you must separate them. Because it’s the start of a fight that can wreak havoc. It is generally not recommended to place 2 males together.

Mouth and tongue

The body includes the head and therefore the mouth. Thus, your lizard uses only 2 means of communication through its oral cavity. He may sometimes cry out to express his fear or surprise. He can also stick out his tongue. Not to taunt you, but simply to detect objects in their environment, a bit like snakes. This allows them to familiarize themselves with their habitat.

How to handle a lizard?

Can you be bitten when handling your lizard? How to avoid these bites? How to catch your lizard without hurting it? How to handle it afterward? We provide answers to all these questions and give you the best advice for smooth and safe handling.

Some lizards are easy to manipulate, others are not. So, when buying your lizard, you will have to make sure that it meets your desires: observe it, yes, handle it too. Sometimes it is simply mandatory to handle it. This is the case when cleaning his cage or during quarantine following an illness for example.

These reptiles, even captive, keep their own survival instincts. So, you should never:

  • Attempt to grab your lizard from above. They will tend to be aggressive for fear of seeing a predator emerge.
  • Grab your lizard by its tail. Even more so in an iguana, where the tail may break.

Grabbing your lizard

Several techniques exist to grab your lizard. One is particularly to be preferred. The others bring too much stress. Also, it is important never to tighten it so that it does not feel oppressed and even less in danger.

So you can:

  • Gently stroke the back of your lizard. The consequence will be that he will bulge his back.
  • So, you can gently slide your hand or a few fingers under her belly so as to gently lift her. It will fit on your hand, flat, to your liking.

Handling your lizard

Once on your hand, your lizard can wander as it pleases. Be careful not to move too much or stand too high in the event of a fall. You can join your other hand, flat next to the first, to provide more space for your reptile to move.

Also do not hesitate to keep his tail horizontal so that it does not fall into the void, without squeezing it.

Outside of outings due to cage cleaning, your lizard will have little taste for the outside environment, which is often not conducive to its ideal biotype (desert, semi-desert, tropical environment). Thus, his best place is in his terrarium. However, some lizards appreciate interaction more than others with humans. This is, for example, the case of the leopard gecko.

The latter bought quite young, can quickly be tamed.

  • First, let him discover his new environment.
  • Then speak to him in a soft voice. Do not make any sudden gestures. He must not be afraid of you. The gecko, like many lizards, is active at night or at the end of the day (daytime species).
  • For the first contact, put your hand inside its habitat. He will come and lick your fingers, feel your hand. If your hand is hot, it may settle there.
  • Do not remove your hand if your lizard is trying to lick you.

It is important to remember to wash your hands before handling, including afterward.

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