How to Care for Your Uromastyx
The genus Uromastyx, of which there are about 18 species are medium sized (generally 10-18” with one species reaching 30”), diurnal, terrestrial reptiles native to North Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia. Their habitat is generally considered to be arid, and they spend much of their time basking as well as extensively burrowing. Urmastyx come in a variety of colors including blue, green, tan, pink or red. Males are more brightly colored than females. Both sexes have yellow “ocelli” (i.e. “eye-shaped spots”) on their backs. Uromastyx require specific lighting and heating set-ups as well as a large cage and can be considered as intermediate level pets.
A single small adult Uromastyx may be housed in an enclosure of at least 4’x2’, while a larger adult, one bigger than 15”, needs an enclosure that is 6’x2’. The substrate is often washed play sand or millet seeds, to a depth of at least a few inches, though they can also be housed on a bioactive substrate composed of a mixture of coco fiber and sand. Although Uromastyx are primarily terrestrial, they do bask during the day and are able to climb a low, solid structure to bring them closer to their basking light source. Since they are burrowing reptiles, Uromastyx require a humid hide in which they can dig. This can be made from a large Rubbermaid tub, at least 1 1⁄2 times the length of the Uro, with a side opening or a tube leading to a side opening. The hide substrate should be a mixture of coco fiber, sand, topsoil and/or vermiculite to reduce the chance that the burrows the Uro digs will collapse. Although Uromastyx are not particularly known for drinking from water bowls, one should be provided just in case, as well as a food bowl for their “salad”.
Heating and Lighting
In order to provide the correct temperature gradient as well as a higher temperature basking area, Uromastyx require two kinds of lighting: a source of UVB throughout the cage to provide vitamin D3 for metabolizing calcium, and a focused basking light to provide heat and mimic the desert sun. The recommended UVB light is a full-spectrum 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 florescent light can be combined with other heat sources, such as a ceramic heat emitter, to create a temperature gradient from 80-100 F. The basking light can be an incandescent flood light and should provide a heat level of at least 120 degrees F.
Food and Supplementation
Uromastyx are primarily herbivorous and eat fruit, vegetables and whole and sprouted seeds. The bulk of the plant matter fed to Uromastyx should consist of nutritious leafy greens and orange vegetables such as squash or yams. Lettuce, except for romaine, does not contain a significant amount of nutrients and should not be the main component of the vegetable diet. The most nutritious greens include collard greens, arugula, dandelion greens, carrot and beet tops. Spinach, chard and kale should be provided in limited quantities as these tend to reduce the body's absorption of calcium. Ocasional fruit can be provided as well. Adult Uromastyx can be fed live prey on occasion, if desired, including roaches, crickets, hornworms, silkworms, superworms, butterworms or NutriGrubs (black soldier fly larvae, also known as phoenix worms). Needless to say, Dubia Roaches are a wonderful snack food for Uro’s! Uromastyx 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 Uromastyx, please do additional research to obtain additional information from more detailed care sheets.