Home | Breeding | Lizard Breeding Made Easy – the Live-Bearing Swifts or Spiny Lizards – Part 2

Lizard Breeding Made Easy – the Live-Bearing Swifts or Spiny Lizards – Part 2

Sceloporus serriferKeeping live-bearing lizards does away with one of the biggest stumbling blocks to success in reptile breeding – egg incubation.  The 90+ species of Swifts (also known as Spiny or Fence Lizards, genus Sceloporus) that dwell in North and Central America are particularly good choices for both beginning and advanced reptile breeders.  All are beautiful, active and interesting, and many bear their young alive.  Please see Part 1 of this article for additional information on getting started with these fascinating dynamos.

Caring for the Young

Swifts are born at the relatively large size of 2-2.6 inches, and so are fairly easy to feed.  A varied diet that includes wild-caught grasshoppers, isopods, beetles and other invertebrates is absolutely essential, as are high levels of UVA and UVB.  Please check out our extensive line of UVA/UVB bulbs, and write in for specific information regarding your particular terrarium or enclosure if you would like some product suggestions.

I powder most meals with supplements, alternating among Reptivite with D3Reptile Calcium and ReptoCal.  I use supplements only 2-3 times weekly, however, when feeding diets comprised largely of wild-caught invertebrates.

Sexual maturity is reached by age 5-7 months, but males may begin to fight before that time, so watch their behavior carefully.

Hardy and Delicate Swifts

Sceloporus magisterIn addition to the Yarrow’s Swift mentioned in Part 1 of this article, a number of other species that appear in the trade are live-bearers.  My favorites include the Blue Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus cyanogenys) and the Crevice Spiny Lizard (S. poinsetti).

The Emerald Swift (S. malachticus), a gorgeous live-bearer from the southern portion of the group’s range (Mexico to Panama), sometimes appears for sale.  Unfortunately, it is fairly delicate, and seems adapted to lower temperatures and moister conditions than are most of its relatives.  It certainly deserves more attention from experienced lizard-keepers and zoos.

Egg-Laying Swifts

Several of the more popular Swifts produce eggs.  Included among these are the Eastern Fence Lizard (S. undulatus), the Western Fence Lizard (S. occidentalis) and the Desert Spiny Lizard (S. magister).  Please write in if you would like information on these and other oviparous species.

Further Reading

Interesting article on the Florida-endemic Florida Scrub Lizard.




  1. avatar

    This was helpful. We have 6 spiney lizards we think are breeding; 4 females and 2 males.

    • avatar

      Hello Kimberly, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for the kind words. Very glad you are breeding – not many are working with them; Please let me know how all goes, any details would be appreciated when you have time.

      Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  2. avatar

    Hey, great page! Not much info on these animals on the web, just bought what I think are a mating pair of Emeralds, was wondering how long after mating I should expect to see little baby Emeralds? Didn’t take my two long to ‘break in’ their new tank lol

    • avatar

      Hi Ami,

      Thanks for the kind words. Congrats!…they are not often bred, be sure to take notes.

      It’s difficult to predict…we’re finding that many lizards store sperm, and also can delay or alter the timing of the birth if conditions are not right. She should swell, and the youngsters can sometimes be seen moving about below the skin as they grow. Best to disturb as little as possible and make sure there is plenty of cover available. Probably a good idea to remove the male once you are sure she is carrying young. Watch her condition (lethargy, straining etc., as with an egg-laying species). Dehydration and calcium depletion will inhibit her ability to give birth – spray the tank heavily and provide a water dish as well (many will not use a dish, but give option) and supplement all meals with calcium/D3; ample UVB is impt., esp. as young re growing within, and using up her calcium reserves. Basking sites should be within 6-12 inches of bulb if a florescent is being used. Please let me know if you need more info. Enjoy, and please keep me posted, we have much to learn about this species.

      Best, Frank

  3. avatar

    very interesting article.I recently purchased 3 sceloporus poinsettia 2 females 1 male.
    my question is how do you tell the difference between male and female as I am not convinced I have 2 females and 1 male although I would expect if there were 2 males they would be fighting.
    also as they are to quick to catch I cannot check to see if there are any femoral pores.

    • avatar

      Hi Phil,

      Thanks for the kind words. They can be hard to differentiate \before sexual maturity, or when out of breeding condition. Males will brighten in color as they enter breeding season, and the pores along rear legs and near the cloaca will enlarge. they are visible at other times, but may not be distinct. males tails are thicker at base (due to hemipenes within) but again not until adulthood and there’s individual variation. males may get along until they become sexually active, so keep an eye on them. Not sure if you saw photo of male in this article (different species, but similar).

      Best not to handle etc…they never take well to this, just watch for breeding activity and be prepared to separate. They need high levels of UVB exposure and a varied diet..please see this article and let me know if you need more info. please keep me posted, enjoy, frank.

About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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