The uromastyx, also known as the Spiny-Tailed lizard, Dabb lizard or Mastigure, is not always seen at pet stores and reptile shows but is loved by the people who have owned them. Their requirements may surprise you but it is important to provide the proper environment to help them thrive and be happy. For the highest success rate, check out this uromastyx care sheet.
The typical description of a uromastyx reminds me of that dinosaur that would swing it's huge tail that had a spiky-ball on the end of it at predators (any dinosaur experts in the house?). But the truth is uro's aren't nearly that aggressive even though their name is derived from Ancient Greek and breaks down into two words meaning "tail" and "whip" or "scourge."
The uromastyx varies in size depending on the species being kept as a pet but different species can grow to be about 10 to 36 inches long. The ones commonly seen as pets in the U.S. are under 14 inches in length. Uromastyx are found in the wild in parts of Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and India. There are six species that are kept as pets in the U.S. but about 13 total species in the world. They are herbivores and natural burrowers, living in burrows up to 10 feet in length in the wild.
Uromastyx Heating and Lighting
For years Uromastyx were considered difficult to keep in captivity but now that we know more about their diet and environmental requirements we are better able to care for them appropriately. With that being said, it is vital to the health of your uro that you provide UVB exposure and a hot basking area.
UVB lighting can be provided (most commonly) in the form of a fluorescent or mercury vapor bulb. Unless you have a large enclosure, such as a small room, for your uromastyx, a fluorescent UVB light is probably your best option. These can be found online or at your local pet store. Be sure to purchase one with high UVB output, such as one with an 8-10% or higher UVB output. Place it about 10-12 inches away from where your Uromastyx will bask. Too close and you can cause thermal burns and blindness. Too far away and it won't do any good. Mesh screens block a good portion of these invisible rays and reflectors on the inside of the fluorescent fixtures help to maximize the bulb's effectiveness. Replace fluorescent bulbs every 6 months, even if the light is still working. The UVB rays run out before the light burns out. Keep this bulb on a 12 hour cycle to mimic the sun.
Heating sources are best delivered using heat bulbs. Whether ceramic, or a blue, red or white heat light, use enough wattage to create a thermal gradient. A basking area should be about 120 degrees fahrenheit and the cooler end can get into the low 90's. At night it can go into the 70's.
Uromastyx burrow by nature. Ideally a bedding material that allows burrowing, such as calci-sand, should be used. Keep in mind any bedding that can fit in your uro's mouth has a possibility of causing an impaction. To avoid this, always feed your lizard on something else such as a plate or lid. If you want to avoid an impaction all together and don't mind a not-so-native bedding option try felt, paper towels, or repti-carpet.
Uromastyx Cage Furnishings
Provide something for your uromastyx to hide in, climb on, and eat on. A water dish is not necessary as uromastyx get their water from their food. Some veterinarians will recommend providing a shallow dish to allow soaking or sickly uro's water if they want it but most keepers don't have one in their cages and they do fine.
Uromastyx are herbivores. Too much animal protein in their diet will cause serious kidney issues therefore their diet should consist of a variety of dark leafy greens. Escarole, dandelion greens, endive, collard greens, mustard greens, and spring mixes can make up the majority of the diet. Lentils, split peas, beans, and some seeds, like millet, should also be provided for some vegetable protein. Gut-loaded insects are best avoided but a rare treat is alright. Stay away from superworms at all times.
Healthy adult uromastyx who get a varied diet of veggies with a proper calcium to phosphorous ratio shouldn't need a calcium supplement but many veterinarians still recommend supplementing a couple of times a week.
Spine-free cacti can also be offered along with an occasional blueberry or chopped apple piece but overall, the daily meal should be a mixture of the dark leafy greens with the beans and seeds mixed in and calcium dusted on top.