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.
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.