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”!
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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
i have a uromastix can i feed it mushrooms
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.
I have a juvenile yellow uromastyx probably under a year old , I bought him at a reptile show. I’ve had him about 5 weeks now and he never has been a good eater. He had completely stopped eating and I had to take him to the vet. After getting checked out we find that he has mouth rot , so we are injecting him with batril every other day and feeding him stage one baby food peas & pear with a syringe and he is barely eating that . So now after he has been on meds for 6 days we tried some greens today and he ate a few pieces. So my question is what would be the best greens to give him to get his weight up and keep him nourished . Thank you
I don’t know of any specific food that would be preferable to use for a recovering animal, other than the standard diet; try as many of the items listed in the article as possible, keeping the general principles in mind. be sure heat and UVB are in the right range also…critical to digestion, health in general. No need to worry about adding weight quickly etc…once animal is feeding, it will self-regulate intake. I hope all goes well, please keep me posted, Frank
Thanks for responding so quickly , not much has changed , still not eating much just a syringe full of baby food maybe once a day, I do try sevaral times to feed but not much luck. Being that he is small I’m not sure how much and how often I should be trying , it involves handling him more frequent so I worry that I’m bothering him ?thanks again Trish
Your welcome, Trish.
No need to feed daily…slow metabolisms, esp. now…and as you suggest frequent handling may suppress the animal from feeding on its own. maybe try every-other-day for next 2 feedings, then cut back, skipping 2-3 days., then leave for a longer period, etc. Hard to starve a lizard, they are very effective at utilizing food, esp. species from harsh habitats. Best, Frank
I’m still not having much success with my uromastyx, he is so thin and can barely walk, he has had 5 doses of antibiotics so far and still won’t eat. I’m starting to think he is not going to pull through this . I’m not sure what else I can do to try to save him.
Unfortunately the infection and meds play havoc with its system, esp true for delicate species such as this. You’re doing what can be done, I hope all goes well, Frank.
Not sure how it’s possible but this poor little uromastyx is still barely hanging on to life. I’ve been soaking him every other day to try to keep him hydrated and still trying to give baby food which he barely eats any maybe about 3 swallows.we still have about 6 doses of batril to go but at this point I’m not sure that he can recover. Do you recommend the soaking and how long should I be soaking at a time ?and how often? Am I just causing him to suffer by prolonging his life?my boyfriend thinks it’s time to stop feeding all together , I’m just not sure?
Thanks for listening… Trish
Sorry to hear…probably no need to soak, but check with your vet…baby food, even a little, has more water in it than they usually get from food, and I’m not sure if they absorb much via skin. Food needs will not be much either, and given it’s condition it is not likely digesting much . Perhaps finish off meds but do not soak/feed…very had to turn them around, unfortunately, best, Frank
As hard as I tried I just couldn’t save my uromastyx, he died about 2 weeks ago. Thanks for listening and for the advice. I just bought a baby bearded dragon I’m hoping to have better luck with this one. I made sure I did plenty of research before buying him..
Sorry to hear; unfortunately, a tough species with which to begin. Please let me know if you need any info on the bearded dragon, enjoy, Frank
We do not recommend repeated injections of baytril (enrofloxicin) as it is very painful unless given intravenously of made into a liquid. It is a good drug but often overused in reptiles so there is often a resistance to the drug because of this. I am grateful to this site for the expertise of a specialist on diets. Thank you.
Thanks for the kind words and note re Baytril. Best regards, Frank
I would like to know what and how often I can feed my Uro fruit? He loves apple with the skin on of course for the vitamins. I was told that grapes are fine to feed him (without the seeds) but I have only read that in one place. I just wish that there is a list of what to feed and how often they can have it and what to NOT feed. I know about most things and he is a very happy and healthy boy. I just want to give him the best of what he likes and what is best for him.
I have always based diets on the foods listed in the article. Fruit, other than prickly pear and related species, should not be given except, if you wish, as a very rare treat. Grapes should be avoided entirely – eagerly accepted, I know, but not a suitable food item for this and related species. Best regards, Frank
Thank you for responding.
I have bought him prickly pears, but was afraid to give them to him because of all the seeds. All the talk of biding them up with things smaller than those seeds. Should I not worry about it or should I put the prickly pear in a nutabullet and fully blend it smooth so that the seeds will not bother them?
I want the very best for my little buddy. He is so very sweet and lovable. ( and my Daughter would be distraught)
By the way he is very healthy and in no way sick or anything I just really want to make sure that I am always feeding the things that he needs for the best health results I can give him.
Hi is jicama ok to give my uro ??
Jicama leaves are successfully fed to various tortoises but I have no experience with their use as food for Uromastyx spp. Best, Frank
Hi there, I just got a uro and I have him in an aquarium. It is definitely big enough but he is glass dancing a lot and I am wondering if I should be worried
Please send some details on tank/animal size, set -up (shelters, etc) , ambient temperature, basking temperature and UVB exposure, as all can effect behavior, best, Frank
I think it might be worth mentioning that at least in my case thinly sliced or grated carrots have always been popular and could help convince my uro to eat greens that would not normally be his favourite which lately has been a problem as the old man (20 years there about) had gone off feeding and has recently had an emergency vet visit.
(Any opinion on the oxbow brand assisted feeding products?)
While I have not personally used any of Oxbow’s assist feeding products, I have read a several accounts of keepers using the product successfully with Uromastyx. They are a very good company, and the ingredient profile of their herbivore critical care looks to be in alignment with a Uro’s diet.
I hope that works out for you,
For anyone having difficulty keeping an Uromastyx healthy, it is vitally important that it has sufficient heat and a heat gradient so it can thermoregulate – this is probably more important than getting the diet exactly right. It needs a basking zone that gets to about 120 degrees Fahrenheit and a cooler zone of 80-100. The best way to check the temperature is with a temperature gun. If it does not have a hot enough basking spot it may enter brumation (like hibernation, but for lizards) and not eat – it certainly will not be able to digest its food properly.
Glass dancing may be a sign that your Uro doesn’t have a hot enough or cool enough area, but they may also have social needs and we have one that does it so we will take him out and pet him and let him climb around on us. Also, some species are very active and even a large container does not come close to the territory they would have in the wild, so they may be looking for ways out to explore a larger range. Several Uro species (ocellata, yemenesis, ornata, and philbyi) are at least semi-arboreal, so adding some branches for climbing both increases the effective area usable by the lizard and also allows it to get closer to UV and heating fixtures.