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How to Care* for Your Chuckwalla

How to Care* for Your Chuckwalla

(photo credit MojaveBrad)


Chuckwallas (Sauromalus obesus) are medium-sized  (14-20”), diurnal, very heavy-bodied reptiles native to the Mojave desert of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. Chuckwallas are generally dull gray, black, and cream-colored though juveniles and some adults may have some yellow or orange coloration.  They are considered to be intermediate level pets due to their cage size and heating needs. 



A single Chuckwalla can be kept in a 4’x2’x2’ enclosure.  Since these lizards like to climb to get close to the heat source when basking, they require sturdy branches that will hold their weight and not topple when they sit on them. Recommended substrates include bark mulch or sand to allow the Chuckwalla to dig.  They can also be kept in a bioactive environment.  Shade shelter should be provided in the form of a container large enough for the Chuckwalla to use as a hide.  There is generally no need for a water bowl since Chuckwallas obtain their moisture from their diet.  Some keepers bathe their Chuckwallas weekly and may also mist the enclosure periodically.  It’s important to keep the enclosure clean and to remove feces as soon as they are detected.


Heating and Lighting

Chuckwallas require a basking area with temperatures of at least 100 degrees F.  Basking lamps are often placed toward the top of the enclosure with a shelf or branch that would allow the lizard to be about 12” below the light when basking.  In addition, a full spectrum light is required to provide the lizard with UV.  The air temperature in the remainder of the enclosure should be 80-85F during the day, and in the upper 60’s to low 70’s at night.  In some climates, Chuckwallas may require supplemental heat in the winter, which can be provided with a heat pad or heat cable attached to the outside of the enclosure.

Food and Supplementation

Chuckwallas are almost entirely fruit and vegetable eaters and rarely eat insects or worms, though large crickets or Dubia Roaches can be given occasionally as a treat.  Their diet should consist primarily of healthy green leafy vegetables (not lettuce) and other vegetables such as squash, peppers, green beans, and flowers such as dandelions.  Spinach, which binds calcium, should be provided only occasionally. Fruit is also appreciated but should be a relatively minor component of the diet.  Food should be dusted with calcium and vitamin D3. 


*This care sheet contains only very basic information.  If you are new to Chuckwallas, please do additional research to obtain additional information from more detailed care sheets.

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