Guide to Owning the Uromastyx Spiny Tailed Lizard

The spiny-tailed lizard or also known as the mastigure, uromastyces, or dabb lizard, is not an ordinary pet. This is because of tight trade regulations, and only a few countries permit the export of this reptile, which is why it is hard to acquire. If you are lucky to find one, then you have to know both the care and temperament of this lizard. The spiny-tailed lizard is a herbivore that needs lower maintenance compared to its cricket-eating cousin. However, low maintenance or not, any reptile pet still needs a careful caretaker to make sure they stay healthy.

  • Scientific Name: Uromastyx
  • Average lifespan: 15 years
  • Size: 10 to 18 inches, head to tail

Spiny-Tailed Lizard Behavior

The spiny-tailed lizard is like a small and gentle dinosaur because it sports a specially-designed tail that helps them fight off predators in defense. Its name was derived from an ancient Greek word which means whip, scourge, or tail. Spiny-tail lizards can be usually found in the Middle East, India, Asia, and certain parts of Africa. Spiny-tail lizards are natural burrowers and herbivores. In fact, they live in deep burrows that have 10 feet in length. Spiny-tail lizards are like hermits, which is why they are a bit shy when they are in captivity. They will try to hide when you handle them. However, there are a few spiny-tailed lizards that can tolerate gentle handling. In fact, some owners said that it eats straight out of their hands. Keep in mind that these reptiles are territorial, especially the male spiny-tailed lizard, which is why they may act aggressively towards other males. Therefore, if you are planning to keep a spiny-tailed lizard as a pet, make sure that you only keep one male per group to avoid any nasty fights.

Housing the Spiny-Tailed Lizard

You will need a large terrarium or a fish tank to house a spiny-tailed lizard. This cold-blooded reptile often needs to warm itself. Still, after that, they need to move to a more bearable temperature for them to maintain homeostasis. Housing them in a large tank will give them different temperature gradients to sustenance this behavior. They will also need a basking rock and different sizeable climbing, hiding, and eating spots. You can also give them securely stacked stone as their basking spot and a commercial reptile shelter. Keep in mind that you have to give your spiny-tailed lizard enough options for cooling itself and burrowing.

As we mentioned, spiny-tailed lizards often need to warm themselves, which is why you should give them heating through the use of heat lamps. You can use a ceramic light, a white, red, or blue heat light, but whatever you choose, make sure that the lamp that you are going to use has the correct wattage to create a thermal gradient in the tank. The basking area of a spiny-tailed lizard should be around 120 Fahrenheit, and the cool side of the tank should always have a temperature that’s near 90 Fahrenheit.


Spiny-tailed lizards require enough UVB exposure, and you need a fluorescent or mercury vapor bulb in order to provide this. All you have to do is place the light for about 10 to 12 inches away from where the spiny-tailed lizard basks. Remember not to place it too close to them because it can result in thermal burns as well as blindness to your pet. However, if you put it too far away, it averts your lizard from getting enough UVB rays, which is crucial for their health. Remember to replace the fluorescent bulbs every after six months even if the build still produces white light, this is because the strength and quality of the invisible UVB tend to run out even before the light fails.

Food and Water

Remember to not give your spiny-tailed lizard too much animal protein because it can cause them distress, which leads to serious kidney issues. That is why a spiny-tail lizard’s diet should have different variety of dark leafy greens such as dandelion greens, collard greens, endive, mustard greens, along with spring mixes. You should also add split peas, lentils, beans, and individual grains such as millet, to add a little more plant-based protein to your spiny-tailed lizard’s diet. It would help if you did not feed them gut-loaded insects, but they can be a rare treat for them from time to time. Remember to know to give them any kind of super worms altogether. If you happen to feed your spiny-tailed lizard a variety of veggies, then they shouldn’t need any calcium supplement. However, several veterinarians still recommend giving one to pet lizards several times a week.

You do not need to provide them any water dish either because spiny-tailed lizards get their water from their food source. Instead, you can give them a shallow bowl for them to soak in so that they can take a break from the blistering heat.