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How to Care for Your Emerald Swift

How to Care for Your Emerald Swift

(photo credit Reptile Facts)


Emerald Swifts (Sceloporus malachiticus) are small to medium-sized (6-8”), diurnal, arboreal lizards native to Central America and southern Mexico. Their habitat is the temperate mountain forest and woodland, featuring high humidity and moderate (65-85F) temperatures. Male Emerald Swifts are bright emerald green with bright to pale blue coloring on their sides and undersides. Females are a more drab-colored green-brown. They are largely display animals and do not tolerate handling. For this reason, Emerald Swifts should be considered as an intermediate level pet.



Emerald Swifts are active, largely arboreal lizards who enjoy both climbing and burrowing. The minimum size enclosure for 1-2 adult Emerald Swifts is a 20 gallon long (30”x12”x12”high) though a larger, and especially taller enclosure is better. They appreciate an enclosure with a variety of perches and branches for them to climb on, a basking spot, and substrate such as eco earth that they can burrow in. They will thrive in a planted enclosure. A hide can be placed at the bottom of the enclosure for their use if desired. Cage “furniture” should also include a water dish for hydration and to help maintain humidity.


Heating and Lighting

Emerald Swifts should be kept at an ambient temperature, averaging 75F. Additional heat can be supplied if necessary by placing a heat pad or heat cable on the back wall of the enclosure. They require full-spectrum lighting in order to receive adequate UVA and UVB, as well as a basking spot that should average 95F. The best way to achieve this is to use a full-spectrum 5.0 or 10.0 florescent bulb that runs most of the length of the enclosure. The fixture can be placed inside the cage underneath the cover or on top of a mesh cover. If the fixture is placed on top of the cage, a glass cage cover should not be used, since the UVB will not penetrate through the glass. Florescent bulbs decrease in the amount of UVB emitted with time. It’s safest to replace the bulb every 6 months, though a more accurate schedule can be determined if a UV meter is purchased and used to check UV levels. The basking light can be a flood light or LED light and should provide a heat level of approximately 95 degrees F when the Swift is on a branch or perch set below it. Humidity should average 65%, which is accomplished by misting the enclosure once or twice daily.



Food and Supplementation

Emerald Swifts are insectivorous (insect-eating). They are generally attracted only to live food. Emerald Swifts thrive on a variety of bugs and worms, including mealworms, superworms, hornworms, silkworms, locusts, crickets, and Dubia Roaches. Being arboreal, they may have more success hunting bugs than worms, which would tend to bury themselves in the substrate. Care should be taken to feed appropriate sized prey and not to leave prey in the enclosure for long periods of time. Adult Emerald Swifts will do well with the large-sized crickets and medium-sized Dubia Roaches. Emerald Swifts require calcium to build strong bones, vitamin D3 to metabolize the calcium and a variety of other vitamins and minerals. It’s generally recommended to dust their prey with calcium, vitamin D3 and other vitamins using a commercially available product at every feeding


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




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