Yellow Niger Uromastyx
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Care sheet by John W. of Leavenworth kansas Friend of Reptilesncritters.com.
These are very active, heat loving lizards that thrive in a hot, dry desert environment. A habitat set up that closely resembles their natural environment should be provided. A good rule of thumb is to provide a habitat four times the length equivalent to an adult lizard, and them some. A maximum cage height of two feet is ideal and a cage depth minimum of 2 feet (4X2X2 though 20gL would sufice). This will provide adequate space for a single animal or a pair. Colonies need more space and many keepers of this species custom build enclosures large enough to be considered uro-condos! These lizards cannot get enough space, so go BIG!
The enclosures need good side and top ventilation for airflow. Too much humidity for these desert animals can be harmful, so a well ventilated enclosure is crucial.
HEATING AND LIGHTING:
Uromastyx lizards come from the driest, hottest and most barren parts of the world. They thrive under extreme conditions unsuitable for a lot of other lizard species. A good source of full spectrum UV florescent lighting is important with maximum distance of 18 to 20 inches away from the animal. A source of UV lighting is crucial for vitamin D3 synthesis and a new bulb should be provided and replaced every 6 to 9 months. The new mercury vapor bulbs provide heat, UVA, and UVB. THESE BULBS PROVIDE UVB for 3 years. They are more expensive than the fluorescent bulbs, but well worth it.(In my opinion.)
For heating, a heat element can consist of an incandescent light bulb of 100 to 150 watts, in an aluminum dome utility lamp with a porcelain socket (for high heat sources). This will be the basking site heat. The heat should be a safe distance away from the animal yet have enough wattage to get the basking site to around 110 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. A good digital thermometer should be implemented in place to determine this. An additional thermometer should be placed at the opposite side of the enclosure to determine the temperature at the cooler end. This temperature is ideal in the high 80's degrees Fahrenheit to the low 90's degrees Fahrenheit, which is also a good ambient temperature, or overall cage temperature. A night drop can dip into the upper 70's°F, with light sources turned off.
A daylight period should follow the seasonal changes. Less daylight in winter and longer daylight in the spring and summer months. Never light an animal 24 hours as this will not allow the lizard to recharge for proper metabolism and normal function. If your room temperature dips below 70 degrees at night, an alternate heat source may be supplemented for some warmth, i.e., a red or moonlight light bulb or a thermostatically controlled heat pad allowing temps to stay in the upper 70's°F. During the hot summer months, this is usually not necessary, but more likely needed in the colder winter months, depending on where you live.
SUBSTRATE AND CAGE FURNISHINGS:
There are several good cage substrates as well as some to definitely avoid. For adult animals, play-sand is a good, cheap substrate, but play-sand can impact young. Paper or felt can be used at any life stage. For babies and young lizards, plain cage liner paper or felt is best. These need to be changed weekly, spot cleaned daily. Avoid substrates that can cause impaction and even death. These are walnut shells, cellulose lizard litter, cat litter, etc. Beware of false claims in products stating that they won't impact your animal. When in doubt, don't buy it! Some breeders advocate keeping Uromastyx on bird seed mixtures. The problem with this is that fecal material can soil these mixtures and be eaten accidentally. This is why I don't recommend it.
Sanitary measures need to heed for the health of your lizards. A daily fecal sweep is important. Clean the tank weekly. Clean soiled or fecal smeared cage furnishings as needed. Always wash your hands with a good grade antibacterial soap after you have finished cleaning and also between cages if you have multiple cages.
Cage furnishings can be sparse to elaborate, depending on your tastes. Live plants tend to be destroyed or eaten and generally are just too messy for these active lizards. A large, safe hide box or rock cave on the cooler end is needed for security for the animal. Provide a nice, flat rock (NOT A HEAT ROCK) or ceramic tile under the basking light for the lizard to bask on, as well as logs and bricks and rocks to climb on. Always make sure the furnishings are secure and won't topple over and hurt or kill your animal. Large rocks need to be secured so the lizard cannot burrow underneath and accidentally crush itself to death (personal experience. Heed this warning).
Uromastyx lizards are primarily herbivorous. An occasional insect feeding is ok, even on a weekly basis; however the overfeeding of insects can cause severe health problems, including gout and kidney failure. Insects should be well gut-loaded and dusted with a calcium/vitamin supplement prior to feeding. Stick to a primary vegetarian diet for optimum health. A good varied diet should include turnip greens, dandelion greens, romaine and escarole lettuce, organic spring mixes, edible flowers, red clover and other sprouts, mustard greens, endive, and collards. Cabbages and members of the cabbage families, including broccoli should be avoided, as these are high in oxalates, which bind calcium. Chopped apples and firm blueberries can be an occasional treat.
A dry blend of seeds and legumes need to be provided in a shallow dish and refilled as needed. This is an important source for vegetable protein. A good blend consists of red and green lentils, yellow and green split peas, millet, sesame seed, bee pollen granules, small birdseed blend, organic grain cereal and 15 bean soup mix. Important note: The 15 bean soup mix contains beans that are too large for your lizard to eat as is, so I recommend purchasing an inexpensive coffee grinder to grind the soup mix to a coarse mix, which can then be added to the other seeds and legumes. If you are raising hatchlings or have very small animals, you can grind the entire seed blend to a powder-like mix that can be easily ingested by the smaller lizards.
Generally, if you are providing the above-mentioned foods, your lizards are getting a good amount of calcium from their food sources. A twice monthly multivitamin supplement should be given. Growing lizards should get a calcium supplement twice weekly.
Occasionally giving you uro a bug or two won't hurt it. Overfeeding insects, however, can cause health problems. High quality, gut loaded crickets are fine. Young uromastyx should never be fed superworms, which are difficult to digest. Offer babies one or two small crickets weekly, Adults need only be feed crickets once or twice monthly.
Though I do not recommend a water dish under normal circumstances, Some people do prefer to have a small dish of water available at all times. This is particularly important for young uros, breeding females, and compromised or sick individuals. A shallow soaking dish should be provided. Post egg deposition females will drink gratuitously once they have laid their egg clutches. Healthy uromastyx will get most of the water they need from their diet
Your new uromastyx should be checked for parasites before being introduced to your existing colony and in general for it's own well being. This is done simply by checking a fresh fecal with your veterinarian.
Your lizard should appear plump and well muscled. If you can see ribs or bones of the pelvis, this is cause for alarm. A complete physical should be performed by a reptile veterinarian. Female lizards will slow down or quit eating just before egg deposition.
Retained shed skin on the toes or the tail can also be signs of ill health. These should be gently removed after warm water soaking. If the skin seems compromised in any way, consult your reptile vet.
Caryn - November 30, 2014
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