Keeping Lizards as Pets
There are loads of different types of lizards to choose from if you fancy the idea of keeping one of these fascinating reptiles as a pet. Those kept as exotic pets include chameleons, dragons, geckos, skinks and monitor lizards. As with any exotic pet, it’s important to find out as much as you can about the species you’re interested in before you buy any kind of lizard, as some are harder to care for than others.
It’s advisable to handle your pet lizard with care. Firstly, lizards can lose their tails if they think they’re being attacked, which may cause you to drop your pet in surprise, plus the tail won’t look as impressive when it grow back. Secondly, your lizard could injure you with its sharp claws, teeth or tail.
In the wild, most lizards are very active, so in captivity they need a spacious tank to keep them as healthy and happy as possible. What you put on the floor depends on your animal’s natural habitat. For example, you’d use sand for a lizard from the desert, soil or bark chippings for a forest living one. You should furnish the tank with appropriate items depending on whether your lizard is naturally land or tree dwelling, and always provide a bowl of water.
Most lizards kept as pets come from warm places in the wild, so will require some form of heating, from a heat mat or ceramic heater. They also need a UV light to keep them healthy.
As most lizards are carnivores, they can be fed on a varied diet (depending on their size) consisting of live crickets, locusts and worms, as well as slugs and other bugs collected from the garden. Supplements can also be used to provide optimum nutrition. Find out what diet is recommended for a particular lizard as part of your research before you buy a new pet.
This group include several lizards that are popular to keep as exotic pets, such as bearded dragons and iguanas.
Bearded dragons originate from Australia. They get the name “bearded” from the spines on their throats that in the wild they can make stand up as a defensive measure when threatened. In captivity, they are inquisitive and friendly and enjoy being handled. They can live around 10 years and grow up to 60cm long.
Iguanas can be tricky to care for, having specific requirements. It’s essential to provide optimum living conditions and feed a varied, nutrient rich diet to avoid illness. They can also grow from small baby lizards up to 180cm long. Iguanas are better for experienced exotic pet keepers than novices.
Geckos are friendly, small lizards that can make good pets for those new to keeping reptiles, although it’s worth knowing they can live for over 20 years in captivity. They come in a range of colours and sizes. The leopard gecko is commonly kept as a pet as it’s easy to look after and has a docile nature. Some others available from exotic pet shops include crested, African clawed and flat-tailed house geckos.
Skinks can make good pets for those keeping a reptile for the first time. They are gentle natured and like to be handled. They are also active and fun to observe. The Berber skink is one of the most popular. It can live up to 20 years and grow up to 40cm long. The blue tongue skink is another lizard commonly kept as a pet and grows up to 50cm long.
There are several types of chameleons kept as exotic pets, including Jacksons, panther and veiled chameleons. As they have very specialised needs, they are best kept only by experienced exotic pet enthusiasts. They don’t like to be handled but can make interesting pets to watch. Chameleons have unusual features, such as very long, strong tongues used to catch prey and they are able to change colour. Some are more hardy than others. Since chameleons can be susceptible to stress, it’s important to know how to care for them properly.
Monitors can be kept as pets. However, they are high maintenance and have special requirements that must be met to keep them in good health. Monitors are best kept only by experienced exotic pet owners willing to put in the time and money to care for them properly. They grow very quickly from small hatchlings to over 120cm in just the first year, so they need custom made housing. They can also be aggressive and dangerous when fully grown.