Spiny-tailed lizards are extremely active creatures and need plenty of floor space to move around. The ideal enclosure for uros is either a large terrarium or a spacious fish tank. The enclosure size depends on the size of your pet. As a general rule, the tank’s length should be 4 to 5 times the length of the lizard’s body and the width about twice its body length. For an adult, we recommend a 48"x24"x24" enclosure. Hatchlings can be housed in a smaller enclosure, although they will quickly require more space.
Custom-made reptile cages approximately 4ft long are among the best enclosure alternatives for uromastyx. The cage should have a sliding front door so that you avoid having to pick your uro up from above. As most of the uros’ predators are birds, any shadows and overhead movement can cause panic, especially in the beginning.
No matter what type of enclosure you choose, make sure that it is sturdy and escape-proof. It also needs to withstand intense heat. Furthermore, it should include a basking area and several hiding, climbing, and eating spots.
A dig box placed at the cooler end of the cage will give your pet lizard a place to burrow. Decorate the tank with branches, rocks, cork, Mopani wood, and reptile hides to give it a natural feel. Make sure that all climbing surfaces are secured. You can secure enclosures with aquarium silicone glue. Plants might be difficult to maintain inside the enclosure due to high heat and low humidity levels.
In their natural habitat, however, uromastyx are mostly found on rocky and clay-based soils, and they don’t always do best on sand. In some instances sand may not be the best fit for your uromastyx.
If you choose sand substrates, it is important to avoid sharp-edged sand, which can be abrasive and harmful to the reptile. Processed non-silica based sands are a better choice because they are relatively dust-free, minimizing the risk of foreign body ingestion.
You may want to try washed play sand such as it is completely free of fertilizers and pesticides which can be harmful to the reptiles. Other substrates to consider include the Zoo Med Sand, Excavator Clay Burrowing Substrate, or a mix of ReptiSand and Eco Earth.
Never feed your lizard on the sand—it can pick it up as it tries to get to the food. It is important to provide an elevated feeding stand and scoop any leftover food out of the substrate. Hatchlings should not be kept on the sand for fear of ingestion and possible impaction.
Newspapers, Paper Towels & Tile
Some uromastyx owners prefer using newspapers, tile, and paper towels as substrates. These are safe, inexpensive, and easy to keep clean and change regularly. For hatchlings, you should always use paper towels, newspaper or tile. As they grow and become accustomed to the enclosure, you can switch to sand.
Many uromastyx owners like using white or red millet grains as substrate. This common birdseed can serve as a snack as well as bedding and is particularly suitable for juvenile or adult uromastyx.
Substrates to avoid are wood shavings, bark, crushed walnut shells, and calcium carbonate sands, all of which can pose a choking hazard or cause intestinal blockage in your reptile.
It is important to have different temperature zones throughout your enclosure to ensure your uromastyx can get warmed up and cooled down as it would in the wild.
A temperature gun such as the Zoo Med ReptiTemp or small digital thermometers like the Zoo Med Digital Thermometer are a must for accurate temperature readings. One thermometer should be placed 2,5 cm (1”) above the substrate on the cool end of the enclosure, another one at the warmer end, and one on the basking site.
It is important to keep in mind that all UVB bulbs provide UVA, but not all UVA bulbs will provide UVB. Both types of bulbs can be purchased from your local pet store.
Always place the light source about 25-30 cm (10-12”) away from the basking spot. Placing it any closer can cause burns and blindness in your pet. Additionally, keep the bulb on a 12-hour cycle in order to replicate the daily light cycle. Fluorescent bulbs should be replaced every six months.
Uromastyx also largely benefit from a direct sun exposure. On warm summer days with temperatures over 30°C (85°F°), your pet will appreciate being able to bask in a supervised secure area outside. A tortoise house with a mesh screen lid and a shaded sleeping area, such as the Zoo Med Tortoise House, is an excellent option. It is particularly suitable for young or smaller uromastyx. This kind of enclosure, nevertheless, does not offer enough space and is not to be used as a permanent uromastyx housing.
Dark, leafy greens such as bok choy and spring salad mix should account for around 70% of uro’s diet. Supplement salad greens with vegetables like corn, squash, carrots, sweet potato, cucumber, zucchini, and green peppers. Varying the vegetables is essential, and a single item should not make up more than 20% of the diet. Chop up and mix the vegetables before presenting them on a shallow plate so that uro can easily see them.
Birdseed, dried lentils, and split peas are excellent protein sources and are among uros’ favorite foods. As an occasional treat, you can offer fruit, berries, flowers, and hibiscus or mulberry leaves. However, these should not total more than 10% of the daily food intake. Try out Zoo Med Lizard Flower Food Topper for some extra fiber, minerals and vitamins.
For most uromastyx species, insects should not be part of the diet. They are not only unnecessary but can also be dangerous. Eating too much animal protein can cause these herbivores distress, often leading to serious kidney issues.
Healthy uro adults usually don’t need a water bowl, as they get a sufficient amount of water from the food. You may want to spritz the vegetables with some water before feeding your pet.
You can, however, introduce a water dish once a week as a relief from the heat. Just be sure not to leave the water in the enclosure for more than an hour or so. With high heat levels, it will evaporate quickly and raise the ambient humidity.
There are a few exceptions, and in certain cases you will need to give your uromastyx some water. Egg-laying females, for example, tend to drink from a shallow bowl if offered in the enclosure. Malnourished or sick spiny-tailed lizards will occasionally want to take a sip of water. Be careful as your uromastyx can asphyxiate on the water if it gets overly enthusiastic and inhales it into its lungs.