Curly-tailed Lizards as Pets

Curly-tailed Lizards are alert, engaging lizards , and have long been pet trade favorites. If given the room that their active lifestyle demands, a pair or single-male group of Curly-Tails will provide a non-stop show of interesting behaviors and interactions.

Haitian Curly-Tails are sometimes captured in Florida (where they are introduced) and sold; a vet-exam is mandatory for such individuals. Several similar species are sold under the same trade name, so be sure to check the identity of those you have carefully, as the care of each differs a bit.


The Curly-tailed Lizards are classified in the family Leiocephalidae.

Range and Habitat

The Northern Curly-tailed Lizard is a lizard species from the family of Curly-tailed lizards (Leiocephalidae). It is native to the Bahama Islands, the Cayman Islands and Cuba but was released intentionally in Palm Beach, Florida in the 1940s.

Because this lizard exists in an established invasive population in Florida, this is one of the rare cases where buying wild-caught lizards (from Florida) is not a conservation problem. Populations in the Bahamas are in danger of over-collection and from unchecked development, and may in fact not be legal to export. However, the Florida population would be a good source of ecological-impact-free pets.

Appearance and Temperament

Curly tails are extremely active diurnal (day-active) foragers on forest floor, dune scrub, and other upland habitats.

In the Turks & Caicos Islands, these lizards are called "bugwally" or "happy-tails." The latter name, and their common English name, comes from the vertical coil on the tail, which in young lizards moves like a cartoon spring! These same tails are designed to distract predators from the head, and can detach easily of the lizards are caught. Regrown tails do not have the attractive colors or the springy look of the original tails. Keep handling to a minimum, these are definitely display pets, not cuddly pets. They don't get big enough to do much damage with a bite, but the bites can be painful.

Curly-tailed Lizard Housing

Curly-tailed Lizards need a 55-gallon or 50-breeder sizes aquarium (or larger), with a substrate of dead leaves over newspaper or even sand. Provide ample retreats and hiding places, and they'll be more confident. They need only a small water container and will rarely drink. Keep the terrarium warm by keeping the ambient temperature warm and provide a basking light, as they do love to bask.

Curly-tailed Lizards are best kept at 85-90F during the day, and at 78-82F at night. This mimics their natural habitat's temperature gradient, although Northern Curly-tail Lizards can tolerate temperatures well down into the 40's F, seasonally.

Curly-tailed Lizard Diet

In the wild, Curly-tailed Lizards regularly eat grubs and caterpillars.

In captivity, Curly-tailed Lizards need a varied diet. Mealworms and superworms, along with waxworms, are ideal. Gut-loaded crickets will also be relished -- feed twice a week with insects, or offer them free-choice in a terrarium with dead leaf substrate so they can find the crickets themselves. They also love small fruit like grapes and berries.