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The Best Diet for Uromastyx Lizards – a Herpetologist’s Thoughts

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. Bulldog-like faces, calm dispositions, and fascinating behaviors – not to mention the stunning colors of many species – place Uromastyx Lizards high on the “must have” lists of serious lizard fans and zoos alike. Also known as Dab Lizards or Spiny-Tailed Mastiguerres, North African and Egyptian Uromastyx Lizards (Uromastyx acanthinura and U. aegypticus) first arrived on the US pet scene in the early 1990’s. I’d had some prior experience with these and several others through my work with the Bronx Zoo, but our ability to successfully keep and breed them was limited. Today we have learned much about their unique nutritional requirements, and several of the 15 described species are regularly bred by hobbyists. The following information regarding the best diet for Uromastyx may be applied to Egyptian, Indian, Ornate, Sudanese, Mali, Moroccan and most other varieties; please post below for detailed advice on individual species.

Don’t “Kill them with Kindness”!

Mali Uromastyx

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Nadja Pöllath

Uromastyx Lizards dwell in harsh habitats, and have evolved to consume a diet that is high in fiber and relatively low in nutrients. In the wild, they feed mainly upon tough grasses and herbaceous plants. A diet that is too rich (i.e. high in fruit or insects) can kill them as quickly as will one lacking essential nutrients. As I’ve learned from caring for animals as diverse as giant anteaters and proboscis monkeys, one must feed specialists carefully…they will not thrive on a diet that might be perfect for closely-related species from different habitats.

The Ideal Diet

A wide variety of nutritious plants should form the bulk of the diet of all Uromastyx species.  Approximately 80% of their food intake should be a mix of collared, mustard and turnip greens, kale, endive, escarole, cilantro, dandelion, bok choy, romaine and other dark green produce, along with a small amount of squash and green beans. Spine-free prickly pear cactus (Opuntia) pads, sold for human consumption, should be offered when available. Avoid cabbage and spinach, and limit broccoli, as these may react with some nutrients in a way that renders them unavailable to the lizards. Grassland Tortoise Pellets, dried split peas, dried lentils and other beans, almonds and other nuts, and parakeet seed mix should be added to the salad. Adults can be fed 5-7 times weekly, juveniles daily.

Flowers, Grasses and Other Plants

Flowers such as hibiscus, honeysuckle, Rose of Sharon, rose and dandelion, and various clovers, weeds, grasses and other native plants, are also readily accepted, and can provide important dietary variety; please post below for information on suitable wild plants and toxic species.

Insects

Ornate Uromastyx

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Mickey Samuni-Blank

Insects should be used only as a rare treat, or perhaps to induce a reluctant feeder or habituate a shy individual to your presence. Any insects that are offered should be small in size, as Uromastyx Lizards seem especially prone to intestinal blockages. Although all young and many adult Uromastyx Lizards favor insects, their frequent inclusion in the diet has been linked to health problems. Hopefully we will learn more in time; until then, please post your thoughts and observations below.

Supplements

All meals should be powdered with Zoo Med ReptiCalcium or a similar product. A vitamin supplement such as ReptiVite should be provided to well-nourished individuals once weekly.

Water

Highly adapted to arid habitats, properly-fed Uromastyx Lizards usually obtain sufficient water from their diet. As a safety measure, the terrarium should be misted twice daily, so that water may be lapped from rocks and other surfaces. A shallow bowl can be offered as well, but it should be removed after an hour or so to reduce spillage. Newly-imported and poorly-nourished individuals are prone to dehydration; please post below for further information.

Saharan Uromastyx

Uploaded to Wikipedia by en:User:Webwheeler

Please check out my posts on Twitter and Facebook. Each day, I highlight breaking research, conservation news and interesting stories concerning just about every type of animal imaginable. I look forward to hearing about your interests and experiences as well, and will use them in articles when possible. Please also post your questions and comments below…I’ll be sure to respond quickly.

Thanks, until next time,

Frank Indiviglio.

Further Reading

Uromastyx Care

Gardening for Reptiles

4 comments

  1. avatar

    We’ve a small Mali in our collection, 5 years old now. Has been doing wonderfully on the advise you’ve given. Many times, we will feed it chopped stalks of the above greens as well, much higher in fiber and calcium (along with some other nutrients as well) than the florets and leaves. A good mix has served us well, with an insect once per week as a treat. Thanks for all the great posts!

  2. avatar

    Hi Jared,

    Nice to hear from you, I hope all is well. Thanks for the kind words and the useful info…stalks are very worthwhile foods for Uromastyx and certain tortoises that need similar diets. Enjoy, good luck, Frank

  3. avatar

    i have a uromastix can i feed it mushrooms

  4. avatar

    Hello,

    I’ve not tried mushrooms…they have very specialized digestive systems, and do best on a diet as described in the article – fibrous greens, seeds, etc.

    Best, Frank

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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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