Ornate Uromastyx

The Ornate Uromastyx (U. ornata) was one of the first uro species to be established in the US reptile trade, along with the much larger Egyptian Uro species. The deep blues and greens, combined with bright yellows and dark black, makes the stunning Ornate Uromastyx a beautiful lizard to have as a pet. They are also quite docile and have unique personalities.

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

Size & Coloration

Ornates are hard to miss. They are a very striking reptile, and different morphs are being developed, such as enhancing the usually muted red coloration or developing deep green instead of blue. Hypomelanistic or “white” Ornate Uromastyx where the black color is reduced making the other colors more vibrant. The opposite of these are (hyper) melanistic animals with thicker black markings and overall darker pigmentation.

They generally reach about a foot long in length, making them a midsize model of Uromastyx.


While Ornate Uromastyx are generally not shy and are accepting of human handling, they can become skittish if not allowed to properly settle into their enclosures. Approaching from above can make them very nervous and inclined to hide instead of eating and basking. Be sure to let your uro settle into their new surroundings. Covering part of the tank with paper so they can adjust slowly to your presence can help, and placing their food early in the morning before they’re awake can get them eating more quickly.

While friendly to humans, ornates are generally intolerant of cagemates. Males, even at a young age, can chase each other and fight. Ornate females can be particularly hard to pair up with a male breeding partner if she’s used to growing up alone. Raising a sexed male/female pair together is suggested. Trios are often difficult to breed as females are very territorial about their nest sites and eggs. If you are not intending to breed, your lizard may be happier living solo in his or her own enclosure. They are not as active as adults, so if you’ve had other uros, you’ll notice they tend to be lazy.


Ornate Uromastyx don’t vary much form basic Uromastyx care. A juvenile uro under 6 inches can be housed in a 20 gallon long tank, but adults should be housed in much larger enclosures. A 40 gallon is a bare minimum, but if you can’t get the max and minimum temps you need a bigger tank. 4′ x 2′ is perfect and can house an individual or pair.

Bright light, high heat and low humidity are all extremely important, and more information on husbandry, including substrate choices, can be found in our basic Uromastyx Care Sheet.

Their diet includes greens, veggies, flowers, beans and seeds; see our extensive Uromastyx diet page for full details!

Classification & Phylogeny

The species in captivity is generally described as U. ornata, easily recognized throughout the pet trade by its small to medium size and specialized coloration. Scientifically, this species can be classified, according to the 2009 paper by Thomas Wilms, within the Ocellata clade of closely related Uromastyx species, including U. ocellata, U. ornata, U. philbyi, U. yemenensis, U. shobraki and U. benti). Within this clade, Ornates and the very closely related U. philbyi form a poly-typic species, with the two being sub-species within this taxa. The genetic difference between ornata and philbyi is only 0.7 %. The common name for the philbyi subspecies is Arabian Blue Uromastyx.

24 thoughts on “Ornate Uromastyx

  1. We have a uro that we’ve had about two months. She’s supposed to be around a year old. She rarely eats (even though we feed her every morning) and she very rarely moves through out her tank. We live in a smaller town and don’t have a vet that specializes in reptiles. I’m starting to wonder if she’s sick..

  2. I’m going to be getting the housing, lighting supplies first & gradually. When I have everything & am ready to purchase my uromastyk where do you suggest I look?

    • I recommend Arcadia bulbs for UVB lights if you go in that direction. They’re some of the better lights. I’m only familiar with their tube lights, but they also have Mercury Vapor Bulbs. You can find all your lighting needs at LightYourReptiles.com.

      For regular basking lights, getting 75 watt floodlight bulbs at your local hardware store is the most cost-effective option. They are usually around $10. Just make sure to get a dome light fixture that can handle the high wattage. Many have a mount made of plastic that can melt, you want one with a ceramic piece that holds the bulb in place as it can handle the heat.

      The lighting and enclosure itself will be your biggest expense for setup. Good luck!

  3. I have 2 adult almost gonna die lepard geckos a big tank 1 uro a heat lamp night lamp a ery low temp heat rock on cold side desert sence and a rock for the uro with the uro bedding that looks like fish food any adive lizard pros i want a beatiful uro and dnt have heart to kill to geckos for no reason

    • We don’t recommend mixing reptiles unless they have the same requirements AND you have at least a few years experience with each genus/species. Uromastyx like it much hotter than a leopard gecko. The easy answer to your question is to put the leopard gecko in his own tank. I don’t know what type of bedding you are describing. For either animal, you can use slate or ceramic tile on the floor of the tank, it’s easy to clean and it retains heat. Good luck with your lizards!

  4. I’m considering getting a Uromastyx in the future, but obviously I need to do a LOT of research. As far as the lighting, is it generally the same type of lighting needed for most lizards? I understand that temperatures will be different, but otherwise is it about the same?

    • A quality UVB bulb is recommended, so the ones available for bearded dragons are the same ones you’d use for Uromastyx. However you may need to add an extra heat source to get to the temperatures needed. You should have it set up so that the lizard can bask for heat and be exposed to UVB at the same time. This makes it more likely they will get UVB (necessary for vitamin D production if you are not supplementing it in the diet) throughout the day and not just when they are basking.

  5. i have 3 different types of uros mixed in one 40 gallon and dont seem to have any problems and have had others in there that i have recently let go. ive never encountered any unusual behavior. One female black mali a male egyptian and a yellow nigerian all inbetween 7 and 9 inches

    • Some Uromastyx are more amiable than others. We mostly haven’t had a problem with pairs but males of the same species will definitely fight! We’ve had that happen with ornates and Egyptians when we thought we had male/female pairs that turned out to be two boys. A lot of the aggression is not directly witnessed; one will eat less than the other, bask less often, etc. Wounds can also be more hidden, especially bites on the legs. We don’t recommend it, but that’s not to say it’s never been done. It’s just an unpredictable situation.

  6. I have had my orante uro for about a year now she’s just a little bit older than that always been a very healthy active baby but out of nowhere I found blister blister looking things on her back and neck vet says more than likely a burn like her tank is too hot we really don’t have the money to take her in to be treated and I’m not sure what to do she is my baby, have you ever heard of anything like this

    • What species is she? Some uros develop pattern on their backs as they grow, but they should not be raised like blisters, they should be the same texture as the rest of their skin.

      If the blister is yellow or orange, it could be an infection – either bacterial or fungal. Is the tank damp?

      How close is the heat lamp? Do you have a way to measure how hot the tank gets, in the cool side, warm side and the basking spot? Do you use UVB bulbs? You should place a UVB bulb 10-18 inches away – depending on the guidelines of the particular bulb. Is the tank well-lit? If a tank is dark everywhere except the basking spot, uros might decide to only sit under the lamp, getting burned.

      Many ailments can be avoided with proper husbandry, but sometimes a trip to the vet is required to get appropriate treatment when things go wrong. Good luck with your uro!

    • Uros need strong lighting as well as heat, so bulbs of some kind are necessary. They seek out heat and light to bask; without a heat bulb I would suspect they would spend more time sticking to the area with a heat pad rather than eating and basking, which are their natural summer activities. A heat pad is great near the hide/burrow overnight and during winter so they don’t get cold. But main heat should be from bright, overhead lighting and basking areas, in my experience.

    • A mali is usually the best to start out with. Ornates can be a little more temperamental and sensitive to husbandry issues but individuals always vary.

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