Uromastyx Care Sheet

The Basic Care Regiment for All Species of Uromastyx

OUTLINE

1. Food

2. Housing

3. Substrate

4. Decor

5. Temperature

6. Brumation

7. Lighting

8. Humidity

Overview

 

Uromastyx have a very large distribution and range that spans across Central and Northern Africa to the Middle East.

Note, correlations between topography and distribution is relevant. There is usually a direct relation between topographical landform boundaries and species type. These boundaries naturally aid in the development of different colors, patterns and scalation markers between species and subspecies.

This ideology is present most notably in U. thomasi. Oman is closed from importation currently. And within the country, the species U. thomasi is highly protected. There is little natural threats to these reptiles, and little human influence on their environment compared to other species of Uromastyx.

Thomasi come from two main locations along coastal Oman, with mountainous formations separating them. On one side, green thomasi are found, while on the other side, blue thomasi are found.

Mountain formations, deserts, dunes, rivers and water formations are natural divides for the species Uromastyx.

        Map correlates to land formations and provides in depth look at landform boundaries

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Uromastyx aegyptia : Libya, Egypt (east of the Nile), Israel, North Saudi Arabia, Oman, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Jordan
Uromastyx dispar dispar : Mauritania, Sudan, Chad (Tibesti and Ennendi mountains)
Uromastyx dispar flavifasciata : Western Sahara south of the 28-degree N-latitude, Mauritania,

South West Algeria, and Dakar of Senegal
Uromastyx dispar maliensis : North West Mali (40-degrees SE of Gao), North West Algeria
Uromastyx acanthinura : Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania, Libya
Uromastyx nigriventris : Morocco, West Algeria
Uromastyx yemenensis : South West Arabia, South West Sudan

Uromastyx thomasi: Coastal Oman
Uromastyx ornata philbyi : Western Saudi Arabia, North Western Yemen (between the mountains and Rub al Khali,

Saudi Arabia)
Uromastyx ornata ornata : Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia
Uromastyx ocellata : North West Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, North Sudan, South East Egypt, and Ethiopia

(near the Somali boarder)
Uromastyx macfadyeni : North Western Somalia; more specifically Berbera and British Somaliland

Saara loricata: Iraq, and South West Iran

FOOD

 

For a complete list of foods, click here.

 

HOUSING

 

As a general rule of thumb, your animal should take up no more than 10% of the floor of the cage at any size.

 

The following chart is a rough guide. Each animal is different, and some hatchlings can be placed in their permanent adult cages, while some sick or old Uromastyx need to be placed in a smaller cage where food and basking is most-easily accessed. They will tell you when they need a larger cage (ex. cage dancing). They will also tell you when they are getting lost in their larger cage and would prefer to have something smaller (ex. if they stopped eating and hide a lot).

This is a very general guide

Size

 

 

1"-2" SVL

 

 

3"-5" SVL

 

 

6"-9" SVL

 

 

10" + SVL

Climbers

LxDxH

 

3' x16" x12"

 

 

3' x2' x2'

 

 

4' x2' x2'

 

 

5' x'2' x3'

Burrowers

LxDxH

 

3' x2" x12"

 

 

4' x2' x17"

 

 

6' x2' x2'

 

 

6' x3' x2'

These cage sizes are only a minimum requirement. Especially for Egyptian Uromastyx, which flourishes in as much space as you can provide for them. 

Cohabitation with Uromastyx can be difficult. There are many factors to consider when you are thinking of putting more than one lizard together.

1. Keep it same species, same subspecies

2. Keep it relatively same size, same weight

3. Do not put two males together

4. Pay attention to aggression and dominance

Each genus of Uromastyx has a different personality type, even if it is subtle. This is due to the environment they come from. Moroccans, Egyptians and Banded can be pretty mean to humans, and to each other. They tend to have more natural predators in their natural environments. Their breeding rituals can be highly aggressive. These species tend to have a hard time pairing up. That would be even worse if you put a large aggressive breeder with one of the more delicate species.

Knowing the sex of your Uromastyx is highly recommended. Uromastyx can be tricky to sex with some of the species. Some females have false bulges and can male-mimic near perfectly; coloration alone is not a guarantee.

 

There is no guarantee that a pair of Uromastyx from the same genus will like each other. Uromastyx each have their own personalities. I have had highly aggressive females, which have to be housed alone because they attack any Uromastyx they are placed with. Even if a pair looks like they get along when placed together, you must continually monitor their interactions. Uromastyx can switch once they feel acclimated to a new environment and that can take a week or a month to happen after first introduction.

 

It is guaranteed that one of the Uromastyx in a group or pair setting will become dominant. The aggression levels displayed matter more than dominance.

 

On the topic of aggression and dominance, there is more than one way it is displayed in Uromastyx. The most easily recognized is biting. Dominance can also be a Uromastyx hissing and whipping about their tail. Circling each other and flaring their backs at an angle to look larger is also pretty common. Less recognized is the assertion of the body on top of another Uromastyx, especially while basking. Taking food out of another Uromastyx mouth. Sleeping alone in the most prime cave/crevice.

 

Even these subtle aggressive and dominant actions can cause a cage mate to spiral downwards, become sick, and possibly die if under  these stressful conditions.

 

To be safe, for the average hobbyist, Uromastyx do perfectly fine alone.

Substrate

 

Dry substrate is your goal; e.g. Timothy hay, Bermuda grass, slate rocks or excavation clay mixed with gravel or soil. Stay away from anything that’s loose like commercial sands or small particle loose dirt by itself because it will get in their food, go in their mouth, and become ingested; which leads to intestine impactions and death when left untreated.

 

Type

 

Aspen Shavings (large particle)

 

 

 

Timothy Grasses/Hay or Bermuda Grasses/Hay

 

 

 

Slate Rocks

 

 

 

 

Excavation Clay mixed with Gravel or Soil

 

 

 

Millet (or any small seeds)

 

 

 

 

Newspaper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paper Towels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Washed Play Sand

 

 

Calci Sand

 

 

 

Repti-bark ( or any other type of bark products )

 

Con ( Against )

 

-Can be dusty. If used without newspaper/paper towel taped down under the shavings, your Uromastyx will most likely be sleeping directly on the glass (does not apply to melamine cages). Doesn't look "natural". Wood-based substrate issues

 

-If water is present in the cage (which for a Uromastyx it should not), it will promote mold growth. If used without a layer of newspaper/paper towel under, your Uromastyx will most likely be sleeping directly on the glass (does not apply to melamine cages). Doesn't look "natural". Depending on the season, dry grasses can be dusty

 

- The slate rocks run extremes (either really hot or really cold). Does not promote digging of any kind. Not an absorbent substrate so it needs to be cleaned more regularly (spot cleaning).

 

- Any dirt will breed bacteria, clean it out or change it out regularly. Extreme digger will most likely kick up the substrate into their food. Excavator clay has been known to be very dusty and into their sinus'. If it's become too much, take it out. After prolonged use, cave collapses have been noted.

 

- Not the best traction and does not promote muscle growth. Most Uromastyx shun their nutritious greens in favor of gorging themselves on the seeds. Not only that; the seeds are a substrate, so they will defecate on them and most likely eat the dirty seeds, promoting bacteria growth throughout the digestive tract.

 

- At the high temperatures a Uromastyx enjoys, the ink melts off the newspaper and could possibly stain your Uromastyx. It does not give them the option to burrow down. Newspaper is not all that absorbent and the feces usually sits atop they newspaper which can breed bacteria.

 

 

- Not a permanent substrate. Does not look "natural". Does not give the opportunity to burrow. It has to be changed on a weekly basis.

 

 

 

 

 

- When ingested, there is a chance of impaction. Loose sand does not promote muscle growth due to instability. Is easily moved around, kicking into food dishes.

 

- Marketed as digestible, it leads to a number of long and short term health issues. One of the main reasons is impaction can still occur. Secondly, boasting to provide a number of key minerals and vitamins, there is no way to regulate intake of these key nutrients, which can cause stones to form in the digestive system.

 

- Wood based substrate can cause a number of lesions across the body of your Uromastyx. This promotes infections. Wood particles and splinters can get in the eyes, throat and nose. Wood dust causes the same issues. It is highly absorbent, which also means it absorbs bacteria and air contaminants and fecal residue.

Pro ( For )

 

- Dry; cheap; easy to clean up.

 

 

 

- Uro's don't gorge themselves on the hay; easy to clean; promotes burrowing; stays dry; insulator, holds form.

 

 

 

- Easy to clean; absorbs and magnifies the heat; Is aesthetically pleasing; Rocks and stones will wear down your uromastyx nails.

 

 

- Looks very natural; promotes burrowing; insulated; can be spot cleaned.

 

 

 

 

- Edible and digestible; cheap; easy to change out.

 

 

 

 

-Easy to change out; cheap; usually something you already have around the house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

- Highly recommended for hatchlings under 3 months, sick, or quarantined Uromastyx; Absorbent (depending on the brand); easy to change out; does not get kicked into food dishes or accidentally ingested (usually).

 

 

- aesthetically pleasing and easy to clean

 

 

- This needs to be taken off of the market

 

- Do not use under any circumstances.

 

Personal substrate recommendation:

50% slate rock basking side with a 50% bio-active dirt and gravel mixture digging area

A thick Bermuda Grass layer

 

DECOR

 

All Uromastyx need a basking area that heats up an area the size of their entire body (Tip of their nose to the tip of their tail!). If you are having trouble getting the later stated temperatures, add in dark stone decor basking areas to better absorb the heat, or add branches and logs that bring your uromastyx closer to the heat. It should be mentioned that some Uromastyx prefer to dig and burrow in comparison to other species. Some Uromastyx prefer to climb about and use their tail in a prehensile manor. These species like branches and taller enclosure in comparison.

 

Hides are also another necessity. One Uromastyx needs one hide; two Uromastyx, two hides and so forth as a minimum. Usually I recommend at least two hides-- one on the hot side and one on the cool side for a single animal.

With any type of decor, remember sanitation steps. Sand substrate can be baked. Wooden branches can be cured. Hides and tile can be washed, etcetera.

TEMPERATURES AND LIGHTING

 

Daytime gradients are key in keeping Uromastyx. They thrive under such extreme temperatures. Artificially, this is established by having Optimal Hot and Optimal Cool areas during their photoperiod. The basking area has a surface temperature of 120°F-130°F directly under the lamps with an air temperature around 85°F. The farthest corner from that basking area should have a surface temperature of 70°F. Without this gradient, long-term and short-term complications arise.

Nighttime temperatures should not drop below 65°F.

For the most efficient use of heat lights, bulbs should be set up in a way that fully bathes the basking area in even heat. Do Not have a very focused or small area heated. This causes burns. A 120°F basking area should be, per square inch, the size of your animal. (Think of ants under a magnifying glass)

Infrared Temperature Guns are very beneficial in keeping a healthy enclosure; they read the momentary surface and air temperatures. I highly recommend you invest in one.

UVB is vital to a Uromastyx fitness and overall wellness. As with any baby Uromastyx, they metabolize UVB at a higher rate than adults, growing and building muscle mass. With a lack of UVB, we see MBD; which leads to deformation, cellular damage, tremors, and other internal organ weakness. Although we see more damage and visible long term issues with baby Uromastyx who are lacking UVB, Vitamin D3 and calcium, adults need these key elements just as much.

Arcadia D3 + 12% T5 HO florescent bulbs are recommended for Uromastyx (It is also available as 14%)

Efficient use of these florescent bulbs from basking area should be at a distance from 12 inches, and are completely ineffective over 18 inches. Make sure that the UV lights say they provide both D3 and that they are a high output bulb. Above 10% is ideal and will work, but 12%-14% is really best.

BRUMATION

Brumation should not be attempted unless by experienced keepers. Not every species of Uromastyx will truely brumate. Uromastyx are unforgiving to sudden drops in temperature if you are unfamiliar with the technique. Many complications can surface. There are no long-term studies indicating health issues coming about when one does not brumate their Uromastyx. Brumation should be left to breeding situations, and is species specific.

The following species do not do well in prolonged brumation:

U. o. ornata
U. o. philbyi
U. ocellata
U. yemenensis
U. thomasi

U. macfadyeni

It should be noted that there is a distinct difference between brumation and hibernation.

Hibernation is an event that happens to mammals, their body begin to shut down as temperature cues are read in the atmosphere. Hormones are found to release in the body also, to help them hibernate in colder temperatures. On the other hand, Brumation is an event that occurs to cold blooded animals. It is where the body slows down because there is no outside source causing it to heat and burn calories. On this topic, studies have shown that Uromastyx which brumate were found to produce vitamin C in preparation. But no evidence shows a hormonal change during this time.

 

(Study link)

Brumation must not be thought of as a complete shutdown of the system either. When a warm blooded animal is in hibernation, they do not wake for any reasons. If there is an uncharacteristically hot day, the mammal will stay down. This is different than a cold blooded animal brumating. In fact, you will notice that even if it is cold, a reptile will bask on a sunny day to warm their core. These reptiles tend to brumate near the surface, or in an area which heats up quickly due to rock formations. In fact, during brumation, Uromastyx will come up as long as their is sunshine to warm up their core, even if it is a little.

This is why most keepers say there is no evidence finding that Uromastyx have to brumate in order to live and thrive. This is mainly true for most reptiles.

Then why, exactly do people brumate their animals? Well, there are a couple reasons. First off, the gradual cooling and warming is an environmental cue to reproduce so eggs can be laid at the optimal time of year, and babies can hatch when the environment can most-easily support them. The second reason is that cool periods promote the health of sperm. During extremely hot periods, sperm may warm in the body and become weak or die completely. But do not mistake the sperm dying for the gonads suffering long term harm.

That is why brumation should only be left to experienced keepers who understand the nuance of brumating, not hibernating a reptile.

It should further be noted that while brumation is not necessary, many wild caught Uromastyx will try and brumate their first season with new owners (or continue to try and brumate in the years after). It is common, and sometimes hardwired into imported animals. If this happens, manage weight and activity levels. If they are sleeping in a hide on the cold side, there should be no issue. Gradually, maybe it will take a month or two, they will begin to become more active. It is best to leave them to their devices as long as the environment is healthy. If you were to forcefully pull them out and place them under heat, then issues may arise. Uromastyx mentally shut down in this period, so mentally they will be looking to cool off. But, if their body is burning calories, weight loss and dehydration occur.

HUMIDITY

 

Coastal, mountainous, lowland, and plateau regions all have different humidity levels and soil compositions. Each species of Uromastyx utilizes humidity differently; it is hard to say that a specific humidity level is accurate across the species, though as a general notion, having your enclosure fluctuate from 10%-40% humidity is beneficial. Note, Fluctuation is a key factor in healthy individuals.

 

We will start with the largest species in size and regional distribution, aegyptia. Egyptians tend to be the most sensitive to high humidity. Usually, Egyptians thrive in levels that are between 10%-30%.

This number is based on personal observations taken in activity level and ease with which the animal sheds. Thermostats and general air quality updates were recorded. The most activity was recorded during a period of days, which were 18% air humidity. Personal observation for the last 7 years has shown that the Egyptians shed in August, where air humidity is around 8%-10%. If the number is above this 10%, the animals in question will take longer to shed and may still retain shed into September and October. This is also when the females lay for me, burying the eggs in a mix of hay and urine under shade and under their hides.

Humidity that reaches above this 60% for extended periods of time leads to health related issues.

 

Maliensis, dispar, flavifasciata, nigriventris and acanthinura have similar statistical percentages to the Egyptians, though it should be noted they are less sensitive to higher humanities than the Egyptians. Ideally, 10%-30%.

Personal observations taken in activity level and shed habits are as follows; higher activity was recorded on days with a humidity level recorded at 20%-25%. Eating and breeding usually occurs, prolonged basking and searching the enclosure were recorded. Shed habits tend to land on a week that is around 10% humidity. Fastest recorded full body shed occurred over four days with a humidity reading around 8%. Laying occurs in July and August, but humid areas are presented. The females will prefer to lay in the humid boxes when given the opportunity, but prefer to bask their bellies in dry areas. Laying days seem to correlate more with the temperature and frequency with which they were checked, preferring to have been left alone the day of laying.

Humidity, which reaches above 65% for prolonged periods of activity lead to health related issues.

 

Ocellata, ornata, philbyi, and yemeneisis tend to be the trickiest when balancing healthy levels of humidity, and sanitary environments. They are notoriously known for being the most delicate of the species, because when they have any kind of health related issue, the effect snowballs and they can crash in as little as a week.

A large issue with keeping these species of Uromastyx in captivity has to do with having an appropriate level of intracellular and extracellular hydration in their bodies. Some people implement a year round humid hide for them, and they are actively noted to use it. It should be noted that there is a key correlation between the addition of humidity and the promotion of bacteria growth. Humid hides must stay sanitary. Organic material should not be allowed in their humid hides. Others offer extra hydration through their vegetation and diet alone.

Personal observations in shed habits and activity level are as follows; shed habits usually fall mid-summer, from June to July. Humidity is recorded around 30%. It should also be noted that morning dew is seen, adding a light mist to the cage. This morning mist is burned off of the substrate by 10:00AM, around the time they become active and eat. Shed has been seen to completely separate from the body in as little as 3 days for a sub-adult or younger. Adults have been seen to shed completely in as little as 5 days.

Activity level is seen to be the highest during spring when morning dew is most predominant. This is also when breeding activity is noted. Humidity is recorded as high as 50%. Note, this is in a well ventilated setup.

Humidity levels higher than 70% for an extended period of time will cause health related issues.

 

HEALTH RELATED ISSUES FROM HUMIDITY

  1. Respiratory Infections (RI)

  2. Fungal and rot of key points of the skin (mouth, contact points, tail. etc)

  3. Blood infection

  4. Retention of shed

 

1. Respiratory infections are the most common issue with Uromastyx in high humidity environments, and will lead to death if untreated with harsh antibiotics. These respiratory infections are cause by bacteria in the enclosure that clings to the water molecules in the air. The Uromastyx breathes these particles in, and the bacteria take hold in the lungs.

In other more rare cases, a respiratory infection is cause by viruses or even parasites.

2. Mouth rot and tail rot are extremely common in Uromastyx. You will note that the most common theme with humidity related issues are some form of bacterial infection.

In this case, a bacterial infection in the mouth will lead to mouth rot. This happens for two main reasons. During breeding or aggressive fights between Uromastyx, biting will not only cause damage to the bitee, but also the biter. Bacteria sitting atop the skin, when bitten, gets ground into the gums of a Uromastyx. The bacteria is then aggravated by a high percentage of humidity in the air, humidity which helps this bacteria flourish.

Comparatively, a bacterial infection which settles into a partially shed tail leads to tail rot. Humid air particles can carry a plethora of bacteria between shed, causing it to fester.

Fungal infections will occur across points of contact across the belly, feet, and underside of the tail. These occur much like bedsores. Bacteria pressed against the skin of a sedentary animal will slowly fester.

3. Blood infections are possibly one of the more difficult infections to get rid of. Treatment is invasive and harsh. This occurs when a Uromastyx is injured. Aggression between two Uromastyx, or an injury sustained from some outside source (i.e glassious rocks or splintering wood), should be cleaned and checked as soon as possible. In an open wound which is bleeding, bacteria is easily introduced into the blood stream.

4. High amounts of humidity lead shed to soften around an animal, causing shed retention. Many long lasting damaging bacterial issues are then able to flourish. This is currently the opposite thinking of many keepers and hobbyists; low humidity aids in the healthy shedding of Uromastyx. Referencing back to the humidity number stated earlier, animals under my care tend to shed in the hottest and driest parts of the year. This is due to the shed drying up on the animal, and pealing away. In some cases, the shed will almost burst.

It must be noted that skin under the shed is damp to the touch, while shed remains dry and brittle. This causes a clear separation. The layer of dampness under the shed creates a pocket before it bursts off in large chunks, usually beginning near joints. If there is aggression or breeding activity between two Uromastyx, these tears and separations will form at bite sites.

This dampness that is inherently on their skin under fresh sheds is due to healthy hydration levels in Uromastyx. Alert and fresh faced, this layer of moisture almost seems like sweat. You will not find this on dehydrated animals; instead you find leathery dry skin below. If you pull on this shed on a dehydrated animal, worst-case scenario may be actual dermal tearing, leading to further infection sites.

Under no circumstances do we promote baths as a way to help a Uromastyx shed. If your Uromastyx needs a bath, it should only be under the guise of a disinfectant bath to treat topical dermatitis'. In most scenarios, it is key to hold the tail out of the water, unless that is the area that is affected. Another tactic is to towel dry your Uromastyx and the tail whorls thoroughly before reintroducing them to their environments.

 

We do not promote the use of baths

If your animal is dehydrated, look at the environment first; look at their stool for parasites. My Uromastyx have only drank open water for the following reasons; a female just finished laying eggs (Small water dish), an old female could not eat the volume of food she used to and was dehydrated (small water dish she was led to), a Uromastyx loaded with parasites was starved and dehydrated (medicinal bath was administered, holding the tail)

** I must clarify that the Uromastyx, which was given a bath for a dermal infection, was not in shed. After her bath, she was towel dried and put under the sun.

KEEPING UROMASTYX OUTDOORS

 

There are really only a few places in the US were Uromastyx can be comfortably housed outside year round.

 

If you have frost in the mornings, it will not work. Issues don't arise instantaneously from this, but over time you see a gradual decline in energy and health. I don't get below 30F at night for the coldest night. On record, I think our coldest day is in the mid to upper 40's for just a couple days. Even on days where we experience rain, our days stay relatively warm (But I also have specific techniques to prevent rainy-day issues). We get sunlight 95%-97% of the year (which means they can bask even on freezing days). The biggest thing is, if your nights are under 60F, I find that the only way Uromastyx will survive and thrive is if they can bask that same afternoon. Ideally, if any animal, not only Uromastyx, get very cold, they need to be able to warm up their core temperature within a 24 hour period.

I keep Banded, Mali's, Moroccan and Egyptians outside year round without any additional heat. I have specifically catered burrow boxes for them, which are double walled with a layer of Styrofoam between the double layer for added insulation. This keeps the chill off of them at night, and also holds in the daytime heat. In the winter, I also arrange my enclosures to get first light. I don't even attempt any other species. Once it gets below 60F at night, I have indoor enclosures for the ornata, yemenensis, philbyi, and ocellata.

 

I find that for these more delicate species, it is not too stressful to bring them in and out daily during winter (we still get sunlight). Most of my animals seem to enjoy and realize that being carried in the morning means going outside, possibly getting a dandelion on the way to their outdoor enclosures. If you notice stress is an issue, combating that is relatively easy. Create a burrow box outdoors with a closeable door. Close the door up at night when they are going to bed, grab the box, and bring it inside, into their indoor enclosures. It gets tedious. Currently, I have 27 uromastyx I am taking and and out every day. It takes me about 40 minutes just to get everyone situated. But, I don't mind.

 

1. It's better for them. You don't have to worry about UVB lights slowly degrading in output

2. They enjoy the sunlight way more than their indoor cages and artificial UVB

3. the change in scenery is environmental enrichment

4. You save by not using all of that electricity

5. Natural light brings out the best colors in Uromastyx

 

In addition to the weather, other factors to consider are predators, parasites and air contaminants. You need to make sure your enclosure is firmly attached with a lid. The lid has to be screen. The screen has to be a strong, wire based, and weight bearing. The wires have to be relatively close knit, but they can't be so tightly woven that it blocks UVA and UVB. There is a fine line between secure and sun-blocking. Small enough a rat's head can't fit through is a general guide.

 

Fire ants are a big issue, along with rats, raccoons, foxes, and anything that may fly above and poop into your enclosure. Other parasites could cause possibly issues (fleas and ticks and mites and other farm-based insects). Air contamination can be from humidity, or living by a sewage dump, living in a dusty area or pesticide drift.

 

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