Facts & General Information


Uromastyx is a genus of agamid lizards that closely resemble iguanas. They originate from arid deserts in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and India. Uromastyx can be found in Morocco, Tunisia, Sudan, Mauritania, Niger, Egypt, Yemen, Iran, and several other countries.

The name uromastyx is derived from the Ancient Greek words for "tail" and "whip". It refers to the short thick-spiked tail typical of all uromastyx species. Uromastyx are commonly known as spiny-tailed lizards, dabb lizards, or simply uros.

There are at least 16 different uro species and many subspecies and varieties. Two of the most commonly kept species are the Mali uromastyx (U. dispar) and the Saharan uromastyx (U. geyri). Other species popular in the pet trade are the ornate (U. ornata), Egyptian (U. aegyptia), and Moroccan uromastyx (U. acanthinura).

Facts & General Information


Although uromastyx come in many shapes and sizes, all species have several traits in common: their bulky bodies, triangular-shaped heads, and iconic spiny tails with 10-30 rows of spiked scales.

Adult uromastyx are usually 25-45 cm (10-18″) long. The Egyptian uromastyx is larger than other species and can exceed 75 cm (30″) in length. Hatchlings measure 7-10 cm (3-4”).

Saharan uros are orange or bright yellow, whle ornate uros boast deep blue or bright green colors. Egyptian uromastyx has a tan-like dull coloration, but it is compensated by its great personality and being quite easily tamed.

Uromastyx live between 15 and 20 years. The longevity depends on the size and variety of the lizard. The Egyptian uromastyx is the longest-lived species with a lifespan of up to 30 years.

Uromastyx are mild-tempered and docile creatures. They very rarely attack, although they are capable of biting and whipping their tails in defense. Male lizards may act aggressively due to their territorial nature, so keeping one male per group or housing it alone is highly recommended.

Most uromastyx are shy in captivity and will hide when you try to handle them. Gentle handling and slow movements are very important when taking care of a uromastyx. It can take some time to get your uromastyx to trust you. It is best to give it some time to adjust to the new environment before trying to handle it. Hand-feeding is an excellent way to get it used to your presence. Remember that uromastyx should never be held by the tail, you should support it's full body.

Health & Husbandry


Uromastyx need to be kept in an enclosure that replicates the arid and hot environment they naturally inhabit. Uromastyx are a diurnal species. They are active during the day, basking in temperatures of over 50 °C (120 °F). During the night, they rest and sleep in burrows in lower temperatures.

Uromastyx control their body temperature through thermoregulation. It is crucial, therefore, that their housing provides enough options for them to burrow and cool off.

A sufficiently large enclosure with separate cool and warm parts will provide various temperature gradients in which your uro will thrive.


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.

Health & Husbandry


Experts often disagree on what is the best substrate option for uromastyx. Spiny-tailed lizards are diggers by nature, and they ideally need ample bedding material to burrow, replicating their behavior in the wild.


Given that the uromastyx are desert-dwelling reptiles, the natural choice may seem to be sand. Sand-type substrates are indeed widely popular.


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.

Other Substrates

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.

Heating & Lighting


Maintaining high daytime temperatures in your uromastyx enclosure is essential. The ambient temperature should be around 38°C (100°F) at the hot end and around 26°C (80°F) at the cool end of the cage.

The basking spot temperature can be anywhere between 48°C and 60°C (120-140°F). At night, the enclosure temperature can drop to around 23°C (75°F) to replicate the lizard’s natural desert environment.

Uromastyx enclosures are best heated with ceramic heat lamps or heat bulbs.


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.

Heating & Lighting


Uromastyx require two different forms of UV lighting in order to be able to thrive in captivity. UVA rays help promote the natural behavior and stimulate appetite.

UVB rays are needed for absorbing calcium from the diet and ensuring good bone health. Without adequate levels of UVB, uromastyx can get seriously ill.

UVB light can be provided through fluorescent lights specifically designed for reptiles and mercury vapor bulbs with a minimum 8-10% UVB output.


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.

Some great options for UVB Bulbs include: Zoo Med T5 ReptiSun 10.0 UVB or alternatively the Zoo Med T8 ReptiSun UVB.

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.

Uromastyx Diet

Feeding and Nutrition

Uromastyx thrive on an almost exclusively vegetarian diet, which makes them very easy pets to feed. Young uromastyx need to be fed daily and adults every 1-3 days.

Offer as much food as your pet can eat per feeding and bring food early in the morning. Try to provide a wide variety of foods every day. Uromastyx can be picky eaters, especially when it comes to new foods.

Their appetite also depends on the season and they will usually eat the most during the spring months.

Offering the salad in a large food dish will help keep it out of the chosen uromastyx substrate.


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.

Uromastyx Diet

Vitamins and Supplements

Although healthy lizards who are fed a varied vegetarian diet do not usually need a calcium supplement, veterinarians often encourage giving calcium to your pet.

Sprinkle the food with calcium carbonate or calcium gluconate supplement 3-4 times weekly for young uromastyx and 2-3 times weekly for adults.

There are many different brands of calcium supplements on the market, such as Fluker’s, Exo-Terra, and Repashy.

You may also want to offer a weekly vitamin and mineral supplement to promote your uro’s healthy body functions.


Repashy specializes in multivitamins supplements for reptiles. SuperVeggie - an "all in one" calcium supplement with added vitamins can be sprinkled on the food with each feeding. It is important not to overdose vitamin supplements, especially A and D vitamins, as this can be harmful to uromastyx.

Uromastyx Diet

Water and Humidity

Uromastyx have extremely low humidity and water requirements. Too much humidity can make your pet susceptible to respiratory infections, which will require a visit to the veterinarian and use of medications.

The ideal humidity level in the enclosure is between 10% and 35%. In order to simulate the humid burrows where uromastyx take shelter in the wild, the dig box can contain slightly damp sand, peat moss, or Zoo Med Excavator Clay mixes. The humidity in this part of the enclosure can reach 40-45%. The box provides a localized higher-humidity area without increasing the overall ambient humidity.

You can also lightly mist the sides of the tank once a week, while making sure not to exceed the maximal recommended humidity levels over long periods of time.


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.

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