Uromastyx

Lizards in the Uromastyx genus are also known as spiny-tailed lizards for one obvious reason: they boast a thick, spicky tail that makes up about one third of their body. The name Uromastyx comes from Ancient Greek words: ourá meaning “tail” and mastigo meaning “whip” or “scourge”.

The Dude - Ornate Uromastyx from moonvalleyreptiles.com
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The Dude - Ornate Uromastyx from moonvalleyreptiles.com
 

Uromastyx lizards are well equipped for the arid regions in which they live. As herbivores, they take advantage of regional vegetation, including seasonal greens, leaves, flowers, buds and seeds, for their vegetarian diet. Uromastyx are distributed throughout North Africa, the Middle East, south-central Asia and India. They are classified in the Agamidae family, which includes Old World & Australasia lizards like bearded dragons, agamas and frilled lizards. This group is a sister family to Iguanidae which includes iguanas and chuckwallas which occupy the New World and Madagascar.

Local names for Uromastyx species are Mastigure and Dabb (or dhab) lizards.

Uromastyx are great pets if you provide appropriate care. There are a surprising number of different species of uros, reflecting the wide range they are native to in the Middle East and Africa.

The most common ones available are Malis (U. maliensis) which are black with greenish yellow on the back. Saharans/Nigerians (U. geryi) are more colorful and have either bright yellow or orange evenly dispersed along their entire body. Ornates are more expensive, with blue, green and yellow coloration, with some variation between individuals. Some Ornate Uromastyx morphs include “white” (hypomelanistic) where the black color is reduced making the other colors more vibrant and red variants. By comparison, Egyptian Uromastyx (Egyptian spiny-tail lizards) can be rather plain looking, but tend to have great personalities and become very tame pets if you spend enough time with them with gentle handling and treats.

In general males are more colorful than females but this is not always the case with every species. Low prices could mean that they are not fully acclimated to captivity. Unfortunately few breed these wonderful lizards and most are wild caught imports. Mali stopped allowing exports, so expect U. maliensis to become more rare and more highly priced. U. geryi are probably the best uros to start with for a beginner.

Uromastyx lizards are predominantly herbivorous reptiles and need an appropriate diet. As herbivores, they are opportunistic feeders and eat leaves, stems, shoots, fruit, flowers and buds of native plants in their environment. They require adequate space, high heat and low humidity but otherwise, Uromastyx are easy to care for.

41 thoughts on “Uromastyx

  1. My Uromastyx lizard dosnt seem to like me holding him. he runs around his cage and hisses at me. im wondering if he will eventually let me hold him without a fight. and also is there anyway he will hurt me such as biting or anything else.?

  2. Some uros do tame down, but not all of them like being handled. Try hand feeding him while he’s in his enclosure and let him get used to your presence. Their main predators in the wild are birds, so they are wired to be freaked out by shadows and threats from above. Don’t do a snatch & grab; try scooping him up slowly once he’s comfortable.

    I have yet to be bitten by a uro, and most are not inclined to bite. They rely mostly on tail-whipping, which can hurt. Mostly, it’s the claws that can rake you while holding them. It depends on the size and temperament of each lizard. Good luck with your uro!

  3. We purchased our ornate uro in 94-95.So I would say he’s about 11 yr old. How long do they live?

  4. It’s hard to say what their wild lifespans are, but it is estimated that most Uromastyx live around 12+ years in captivity, so your uro is probably getting on in years. However, some estimates have suggested they can live for over 20 years, so he’s not necessarily an old man! Good luck with him! :)

  5. I hqve had my uro named Zaebos for a little over 3 months and he hasnt shed or even attempted to shed….whats wrong with him!?

  6. What are your temperatures and humidity levels? What do you feed? How old is your Uromastxy? This all can affect the timing of the shed.

  7. My uro is a foot long but i was told he is most likely around 3-4 yrs old and i feed him spring mix. His temps are pretty high but I don’t know the exact bc i havent a thermometer -____-
    I feed him daily and he glass dances like maybe twice a day and I let him run around of sit on me a few times a day.

  8. Thanks for the info, Kristy. If your uro is an adult, and probably is at 3-4 years, they don’t shed as often as babies and juveniles because they aren’t growing as much. Spring Mix is good for a base diet, but they definitely need a lot more variety. There isn’t a good commercial food for Uromastyx so it’s up to us to come up with a balanced menu with a bunch of different greens, vegetables, beans and seeds. Check out our Uromastyx diet page for a list of what you can and can’t feed them.

    Since uros need really high heat, it’s very important to monitor the temperature. You should provide a basking spot of 130 degrees, and that’s hard to estimate since our skin doesn’t want to be exposed to that to measure it accurately. You also want to make sure you don’t cook them, so you need to know what the cool side of the tank is, typically 85 degrees. So it’s very important to get 2 kinds of thermometers, one to measure the surface temperature, such as a temperature gun, and one to measure the ambient temperature, like a dial reader or a probe.

    He sounds like he’s very active and healthy, but double check the tank and make sure that it’s big enough (40 gallons long minimum), hot enough, and has a variety of hides for him to use whenever he wants to feel secure. Good luck!

  9. Thank you so much for your answers! I will look on your page so I can get a bit more weight on him. He has a little bit of extra skin so I want to get him round lol. I am about to change from sand to aspen shavings and make it like 3 inches high so he can dig and such. I plan on buying more hides and ‘activities’ for his tank so he is never bored when he is alone when i’m away for a little. And I am also going to buy thermometers for him because that is very important. He was more like a surprise gift so it’s still taking a little to get all his stuff together but his tank is about 50 gallons and 5 feet long. Again, thank you for the information, because I was freaking out because he means alot to me since the day I got him. I also have a leopard gecko and he is an adult and he still sheds. But, I just didnt think he shedded because I never saw him do it. (:

  10. Be careful with aspen shavings, it’s possible that he could eat them by mistake. I haven’t heard of any specific problems with it, but I do know some of my uros love tasting things to see if they are edible. Some will eat dried up greens so they might confuse the aspen with their food. Make sure to feed on an elevated surface to keep the aspen out of the bowl, it’s definitely possible he will eat it if it’s mixed in with other food, even if he ignores it on the floor.

    You can provide a natural substrate like mixed sand & peat moss or you can just provide digging material in a separate box. If you keep it slightly damp (not wet), they can use it to regulate their humidity needs. In the wild, they sleep in slightly humid underground burrows so he might enjoy it!

  11. Alright! (: and yes I purchased a little green container for him so he doesnt eat the sand he uses now. lol Silly reptiles are so curious most the time! But, thank you again for your solutions. It helps alot to know someone can help me, even if I can only type to them!

  12. OUR UROMASTYX SEAMS TO BE CONSTIPATED WE HAVE BEEN FEEDING MOSTLY LETTICE ANY SOLUTION.

  13. What kind of substrate do you have? Ingested particles of bark or sand can lead to constipation/impaction. Dehydration also plays a part in impaction because without moisture it’s difficult to pass feces. You’ll want to change your diet and make sure he is getting good nutrition, if he’s stopped eating it could just be lack of food causing him not to have a bowel movement. Try feeding some squash for moisture or try pumpkin, that can sometimes clear blockages. If there is a lump, you can try a mouthful of hair ball laxative for cats once a day for a few days. If the Uromastyx is in poor shape, you need to see a vet for qualified medical advice. Sometimes just guessing and doing the wrong thing will stress them out and is more harmful. Doing nothing will probably not solve the situation either, so we highly recommend a vet visit when your animal appears to have something wrong.

    If your tank isn’t set up right this can lead to several issues. Always make sure the entire tank is lighted during the day, with a hot spot of around 120-140. The cool spot should be around 80-85. There should be several places for him to hide during the day and at night to sleep. Good luck with your uro!

  14. I have a Saharan Uro and I moving him to a 42″ 18″ 18″ Enclosure. He is about 10″ long. I know that they need a lot of light so i’m gonna give him one 2.0 UVB compact bulb and two 10.0 UVB compact bulbs, should that be flipped? Also should I just have like a 150 Watt Ceramic Heater on the hot side is that good enough for heat?

  15. my uro is probaly about 4-6 mnths old and he was a rescue from petco but he is doing much better now and i was wondering after reading previous comments,how do i fatten up my uro and what kind of treats do they like and what can i do to make him be more friendly?please reply

  16. I think having 3 UVB bulbs is a little much. The compact bulbs might not be the best, they have had iffy performance in the past. Tubes are the best in comparison. You should combine UVB with other lighting to make sure the tank is bright and warm with an appropriate heat gradient. You’ll need a probe thermometer and consider a heat gun to measure the basking spot. Make sure the cool end is around 85 and the warm end is around 100, the basking spot should be 120. Good luck!

  17. Green peas and flowers can be good treats that the majority of uros enjoy. Stay away from too much sweet fruit, but cactus fruits, papaya and figs can be used as a great addition to the diet. Flax seeds can be sprinkled over their daily green salad to help them gain some weight. Building trust takes time. Try hand feeding and getting him to walk into your hand instead of scooping him up to hold him. Some uros are friendlier than others just take it slow and you should be able to handle him without him being afraid.

  18. So is a green iguana considered to be a uro? If so I have a few questions about mine. On his front left arm his wrist is swollen some and the swollen part is looking like a patch of skin ready to shed it has nen swollen sense i’ve had him which is about a month. Recently sense it looked like it was starting to shed it seems to gone down should i be concerned? Also he sneezes quite a bit and has snot bubbles out to of one nostril i had to get a warm rag and gently rub off crusted snot this morning he seems better but still is that normal? I feed him plenty of greens such as kale collards n mustard greens n mix it up w strawberries or bananas orange squash even baby food with the calcium powder his temps in the day are 80-90s n 70-80sthe at night i spray him throughout the day and bathe him bout 4timesto a week he seems to have calmed down lets me hold him every day n chills on my shoulder even my head so i guess hes happy any info would be appreciated thank you!!

  19. Green iguanas are a completely different family than Uros and their care is vastly different. Both families are part of the “iguania” along with almost all other lizards so it’s easy to get confused with the taxonomy. You’ll want to find a good iguana care sheet, like the Green Iguana Society’s, because they need to have much more humidity and lower temps than Uromastyx. They have a great feeding guide over at GIS so be sure you are feeding the best mix of greens according to their feeding charts. Good luck with your ig!

  20. I bought my first Uro and I have to say I am in love with him. I got a yellow Nigerian Uromastyx. I own a number of reptiles, but got to say this is hands down one of my favorites. Just like you stated they have their own personality. Mine likes to dig paths and then I move the sand around and he looks at me like all my hard work and you just move it back.

    True you do need to keep the temperature 110-130, but your Uromastyx will love you for it and bask in the light. One thing I love about this is they are pure vegetarians; super cheap to feed (with the occasional cricket or mealworm), but very low maintenance. Mine sleeps on me at night and then I put him back in his tank.

    They do need large tanks, but you can easily find one on Craigslist for cheap. I got a 50 gallon one for $40 :)

  21. Is it normal for a male lizard uromastyx to grab a female uromastyx lizard around in the tank with his mouth? My sister says that the male is mating with the female. I just want a second opinion

  22. I have a friend that owns a male uro that has like a puss like this substance coming out of the pours in the legs not sure what it is, never seen it before got any suggestions? Thanks Chrissy

  23. That substance is a wax that is naturally excreted from the pores of many Uromastyx. Both males and females can produce it and it can almost look like spines or a “comb” coming out of the pores. Yuck! :) It shouldn’t cause any problems but could indicate an influx of hormonal activity that might make the Uro a big grumpy.

  24. Hello, I have had my uryomastyx for about two years now. Just recently, he’s color changed from brown with yellow spots to a bright green (almost lime green). Is that a normal response?

  25. That’s completely normal! Many species of Uromastyx, especially males, develop beautiful blue, green, yellow and sometimes red coloration. Congrats! :)

  26. Hello. Recently I rescued adopted a Uro and added it to our family. It was suffering from tail rot causing it to lose a small portion of its tail through surgery. The tail has been healed for about two months and thus far does not appear to be bothersome to him. Because of the state he was in when we adopted him he is smaller then he should be for his age of approximately 1. He also sleeps for days and then has a day where he is full of life. His appetite is very minimal and he is certainly underweight. His temps are all on que with their requirements and needs. And he has several types of hides yet seems to prefer to not bask and hide in a leave bush. I fear that he may be slightly dehydrated from his lack of eating so I have started to offer water at all times. Is there any foods from the acceptable that seem to be irresistible and an appetite stimuli? I fear after rescuing him he still may not be getting everything he needs and wants. He seems to be very selective in his greens and unwilling to try new stuff. Would,you suggest a bug diet for a few days at this point?

  27. I do not for any reason recommend bugs to Uromastyx. They can become picky eaters, and he may be coming out of brumation which is their Winter mode. They rest and hide for several days and then come out to bask and feed.

    If he’s not basking, the tank could be too hot. Is your tank large enough to have a cool side of 80 degrees Fahrenheit and a warm side of 95 with a basking spot that reaches 120-140? Ideally they should have a hide on the warm and cool sides.

    Taping some paper around the tank so he can’t see people or other movement can help him settle in.

    As for diet, try as many different kinds of greens as you can. Dandelion greens are great, as is escarole/endive. Offering a variety is key. Check out our Uro Diet Guide for what foods you should be feeding. This time of year, our uros are eating a variety of wild greens (aka weeds) and tons of edible flowers. Dandelion blooms, squash blossoms, and flowers from most garden vegetables like lettuce are eaten eagerly. However, do not feed flowers or leaves from tomato, pepper or eggplant as these are the Nightshade family and wild relatives are known to be toxic. Better safe than sorry.

    Hopefully he will settle in and move into Spring mode with a hearty appetite. If you need to force feed him, you can use the Oxbow Critical Care powder mixed with water. It can be hard to get food into them so a vet should show you how to do it safely. The area between their front teeth is where a feeding tube should be inserted, otherwise their jaws are too interlocked to get it though. Try all the other tips first, because force feeding is very stressful for both you and the animal.

    Good luck!

  28. I have a red uromystack and I can’t get him to eat. I was wondering if he may metoblic bone diease. He seems like he has hurt his front leg. Ican get him to eat a bite of hibacus. So whatshould Ido? PLEASE HELP

  29. The best thing to do in this situation is take him to a vet for evaluation. He could have an underlying medical issue that should be diagnosed. In addition, if he is emaciated from lack of food, the vet can help by showing you how to tube feed him. A feeding tube can be inserted at the gap in the front two teeth, and Critical Care (NOT Carnivore Care, a similar product) can be used. Exotic vets may have this product or it can be bought online or specialty pet stores. A vet can also diagnose the leg as either a fracture or as a sign of MBD.

    Not eating can be a sign of stress, either from inadequate housing or too much interaction from humans or tankmates. Make sure you house him alone in a well-lit, well heated tank that is appropriate for his size and age, usually around 75 gallons long or 4′ molded plastic cages with sliding glass doors. You can read more details on our care sheet: http://www.moonvalleyreptiles.com/uromastyx/uromastyx-care-sheet.

    If he’s a new arrival, it can take him a week or two to settle in and start eating. It’s good that he is eating hibiscus flowers. Make sure you are providing a well balanced diet of greens and other plant foods. You shouldn’t feed beans or other dry foods until he is eating well on moist foods like greens. This could dehydrate him.

    Cover the front and sides of his tank so he can’t see movement outside. It also stops him from trying to get to the other side of the glass or “glass dancing”. Uros like to explore so keeping the outside world out of sight can help them feel more content with their enclosure.

    If this is recent behavior and you’ve had him for a while with no problem, it could be a medical problem, in which case a vet should be consulted. There could also be a recent change in his enclosure that is stressing him out. For example we had one of the lights burn out in a uro tank, and they stopped eating and lost weight. They really need bright lights.

    Good luck!

  30. Good day!
    One question… I am interested in getting myself a uro (heard the Mali uro would be awesome. I’m not judging) so I’ve been googling and asking around. Is the mali really the smallest of the species? Additionally, would you say it’s best to just jump in at the deep end and get an adult sized enclosure from the get-go? Or just increase space as they mature.. I would rather place live plants in there, but have no idea what’s poisonous and what may need constant replacing out of pure yumminess. It’ll probably be waaaaay too expensive to import plants native to the Home Land. I think.
    Thank you!

  31. I wouldn’t say Mali would be the smallest, it’s really in the middle. U. Macfadyeni is probably the smallest (8-10 inches), while U. Thomasi (max of 11″) would be in the running for the next. Of course individuals will vary. The ocellated group is probably the smallest clade (sub-grouping within Uromastyx) and this includes the Ornate, U. Ocellata, U. philbyi as well as U. Macfadyeni. U. philbyi or “Arabian Blue Uromastyx” also seems to max out around 10″ or 11″. So if you are looking for small, stick with these species.

    I’d go ahead and get a large enclosure now, just use paper towel or newspaper as substrate. These guys will definitely try to eat plants grown in the enclosure so if you have proper lighting you can try potted hibiscus (you’ll need to rotate them out as they need real sunlight to flower),

    We have a list of native plants and convenient substitutes at http://www.moonvalleyreptiles.com/uromastyx/uromastyx-native-plants. Meant more for a garden than an indoor enclosure, but you might be able to get some of the smaller plants to grow. You can check out our garden list here: http://www.moonvalleyreptiles.com/uncategorized/building-a-uromastyx-garden-part-2-add-plants. Unfortunately, we moved to a new house before the garden got going – heat killed a lot of the plants as well. I’m sure you can find some plants you can grow inside our out in the yard if you have access to some growing space.

    Good luck!

  32. I wouldn’t recommend it as the only terrain but it can be used mixed with dirt (compost, topsoil, etc) or used in between slate tiles to hold them in place. They mostly live in packed gravel/dirt/sand and rocky areas in the wild. Very few creatures live just on only sand so it’s not the best substrate for a terrarium unless it’s used with something else. That being said, people do use it successfully. Just be very careful about food coming in contact with it, use raised feeding platforms or slate tiles underneath the food bowl.

  33. They always seem like they are in a constant state of shedding. It’s quite normal.

  34. I have a 13 year old Uromastyx it was bought as a pet for my son when it was the size of my pinky. It is now bigger than the size of both of my hands put togrther. Being in a cooler climate in Chicago he stays mainly in his 200 gallon tank. Every now and then I put him in a smaller tank and put him in direct sunlight. After about 1/2 an hour in the sunlight he just starts to empty out pooh and pee all over the tank, he even looks wrinkled instead of bloated is this normal? Is there a bulb that is for sale that would imitate sun light to keep him from looking like a small black balloon. Thanks

  35. He could be stressed in the small enclosure in direct sun. It can heat them up very fast if it’s a glass tank. However, it could be that the increased warmth has encouraged him to eliminate. Just watch the temperatures.

    Yes, you will want to get him a bulb that generates UVB wavelengths. This will simulate natural light and allow him to generate vitamin D3 through his skin. The long tube lights historically have been more effective and safer than the compact coils, but the coil bulbs should be ok. Arcadia, Exo Terra and Zoo Med make UVB bulbs, but you might do some additional research to find what best fits your needs. Some emit heat and light, others just light. You’ll want higher amounts of UVB generation for Uromastyx, so get one marked as “desert”. In general, you want the reptile to be able to bask under lights so they are 12-18 inches away from the light for most effective exposure. Good luck!

  36. I am looking to get a Yellow Niger Uro. I wanted to know any opinions or warnings? I’m getting one because I’ve heard they loved to play and are good pets. Is this true? Thanks, Tanner

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