Collared Lizards as Pets

Collared Lizards are brilliantly-colored, very active, willing to breed, and extremely interesting to observe – no wonder that interest has soared in recent years! When provided with ample space, high temperatures and plenty of UVB light, these beautiful insect-eaters make wonderful, hard-to-top pets.


The 9 Collared Lizard species are classified in the family Crotaphytidae. The Common Collared Lizard (Crotaphytus collaris), is widely bred by hobbyists, and other species are also gaining in popularity. Less often seen in captivity are the 3 other species in the Collared Lizard family, the Leopard Lizards (Gambelia spp.).

Range and Habitat

Collared Lizards range from the central and western USA (Oregon to Missouri) south to southern Baja California and central Mexico.

They inhabit deserts, rocky scrub, brushy grasslands and sparsely-vegetated mountainsides. Rock piles are used as basking sites, retreats and lookouts from which to spot prey.

Appearance and Temperament

Collared Lizards have noticeably large heads and wide mouths, and are colored in various shades of greenish-tan to reddish-brown. The black collar about the neck lends them their common name (as you may have guessed!). A number of beautiful color morphs have been produced by breeders.

Male Collared Lizards develop bright areas of yellow to orange coloration about the chest during the breeding season; females may sport pinkish hues at this time. The sturdy rear limbs are twice as long as the front legs, allowing Collared Lizards to race about on their hind legs like tiny, colorful T-Rexes! The various species average 8-18 inches in length.

Captive bred Collared Lizards are easy to tame. Their natural tendency when threatened is to run and dive under the substrate or into rock crevices to hide, but if cornered, they can give a nasty bite. They don’t lose their tails because the tails add to their balance when they run. Collared Lizards are one of the fastest runners in the Iguanid family, sprinting on their hind legs. When about to strike on prey, they tend to wave their tails like mammals.

Collared Lizard Housing

Collared Lizards make long-lived, easily-handled pets if they are provided with suitably high temperatures (basking sites should be kept at 95-100 F) and abundant UVB exposure. A large terrarium is essential if a healthful temperature gradient (areas of hot and cooler temperatures) is to be established.

The best cage for the Collared Lizard is at least 20 gallons equipped with large roots and stable piles of stones or rocks for climbing and hiding. Bigger lizards require more spacious cages for running around. The substrate should be at least 4 inches deep to allow digging. Artificial or drought-resistant plants in pots are recommended for retreats and humidity. A small water container should be provided and refreshed daily.

Collared Lizards are best kept as pairs or in groups with only one male, which are territorial and aggressive against other males. The cage must be misted several times a week, especially if the lizards refuse to drink from the water bowl.

Collared Lizard Diet

In the wild, Collard Lizards use their unusually powerful jaws to consume scorpions, spiders, locusts and other large invertebrates, along with a fair number of smaller lizards. Nestling rodents may also be taken on occasion. The flowers, leaves, and fruits of desert plants are sometimes added to the diet.

In captivity, Collared Lizards need a wide variety of calcium and vitamin-supplemented invertebrates, including crickets, roaches, hornworms and other insects, along with fibrous greens and vegetables, for proper nutrition. An occasional pink mouse will help to meet their higher-than-average calcium requirements.