Uromastyx, Dabb and Spiny-Tailed Lizards as Pets

Once rarely seen even in zoos, interest in Uromastyx Lizards has exploded in recent years. Valued for their calm dispositions, unusual appearances and fascinating behaviors, several species are now regularly bred by hobbyists. Although not recommended for beginners, if provided with appropriately-high temperatures and ample access to UVB light, these unique desert-dwellers can make interesting, long-lived pets.


The 15 Uromastyx Lizard species are classified in the family Agamidae and the subfamily Uromastycinae. Among the most popular in the pet trade are the Egyptian Uromastyx, Uromastyx aegyptia, the Mali Uromastyx, U. maliensis and the Ornate Uromastyx, U. ornata.

Range and Habitat

Uromastyx Lizards are found from Morocco through North Africa and the Middle East to Iran.

Active during the hottest parts of the day, they occupy rock-studded deserts and arid, rocky hillsides, and dig deep burrows in which to shelter.

Appearance and Temperament

The stoutly-built Uromastyx Lizards possess somewhat flattened bodies and squared-off, “toad-like” heads. Their thick tails, covered in rings of spines, are swung at attackers and used to block burrow entrances.

At 10 inches in length, Macfadyen’s Uromastyx, U. macfadyeni, is the group’s smallest member. The largest, the popular Egyptian Uromastyx, reaches 3 feet in length.

Uromastyx Housing

Uromastyx will not thrive unless provided with suitably high temperatures (basking sites should be kept at 110-120 F) and abundant natural or artificial UVB exposure. A large terrarium is essential if a healthful temperature gradient (areas of hot and cooler temperatures) is to be established.

Uromastyx Diet

Uromastyx Lizards feed largely upon the flowers, seeds, and leaves of desert plants; the young of some species take ants, beetles, spiders and other invertebrates as well.

As pets, Uromastyx need a wide variety of fibrous greens and small amounts of root vegetables, supplemented with powdered calcium and vitamins, for proper nutrition. In contrast to nearly all other lizards, most also relish bird seed, split peas and dried lentils.