Arpingstone [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Arpingstone [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Uromastyx spp.Order: Squamata

Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

  • In daytime, need a basking spot of 100 - 110 degrees and a cooler area around 80 degrees. Nighttime temp around 70 degrees. Daily light water mist helps with shedding. We give ours a 100 watt basking bulb with a sturdy pile of rocks beneath it in a V433 Vision cage. - Natural Encounters Department, Houston Zoo

Diet Requirements

  • In the wild, uromastyx are mostly herbivorous, eating various greens and flowers. Because they live in a desert, they will get most of the needed moisture from the food they eat. Some sources state this species is actually omnivorous, and will take insect prey.
  • In captivity, they are fed herbivore salad.

Veterinary Concerns

  • Females may become egg bound.
  • Philadelphia Zoo uromastyx lizards had repeated problems with bladder stones and edema. It is unclear if it is just this group of animals or a larger trend with this species. All of the lizards at PZG were related.

Notes on Enrichment & Training

  • Be careful with or do not give dried alfalfa or hay. Ours will gorge on it.
  • May enjoy browse items such as mulberry or hackberry, or dandelion greens and flowers (untreated).

Programmatic Information

Tips on Presentation

Tips on Handling

  • Can be active when handling so it's good to have a container to put them down in if needed during a presentation. In general, our uromastyx seeks interaction with keepers and rarely appears stressed during presentations.
  • Houston Zoo, Natural Encounters Department: We allow guests to touch our uromastyx on her back with her face turned away and her tail controlled, always followed by hand sanitizer.

Potential Messaging

  • Desert species have specific adaptations for the temperature and water availability in their natural habitat and may not be able to adjust to the drying effects of climate change. Drought conditions kill the plants that hold the soil in place and occasional extreme rain events wash that soil away preventing them from growing back in a process called desertification. Greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels contribute to climate change by trapping heat in the atmosphere. Please ask guests to walk, bike, or take public transportation when possible and to reduce their use of fossil fuels when they do drive by buying a fuel economic car, carpooling, combining errands, and keeping vehicles properly tuned up and their tires properly inflated. At home and work, purchase Energy Star appliances, turn off lights when they are not in use, and use heaters and air conditioners sparingly. The principles of reduce, reuse, and recycle will also help by decreasing greenhouse gas emissions involved with the manufacture and disposal of unnecessary goods.
  • Encourage responsible pet ownership. Most animals seen at the zoo do not make good pets. They have specialized needs that are difficult or impossible for even dedicated pet owners to meet. Birds, fish, and reptiles have specialized needs, are frequently wild-caught, and damage the local environment if released; guests should educate themselves and proceed with caution.

Acquisition Information

There is a group on Facebook called "Uromastyx Club" which has a breeder list in the group files. Can find breeders for many of the various spp. here.

Comments from the Rating System

  • Downtown Aquarium, Denver: Very good for anyone to handle, a little more exotic than bearded dragons. A favorite among staff! More of a touching animal, not as clear messaging.

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat

Uromastyx maliensis are indigenous to the deserts of Mali, Africa but other species of uromastyx lizard can be found in desert habitats of Africa and Asia.

Physical Description

Male uromastyx maliensis can easily be distinguished from females: males have yellow backs and black heads, legs, and tails. Females, on the other hand, are uniformly yellowish-brown. Often, males can also be identified by the presence of large femoral pores with waxy protuberance and hemipene bulges.
These lizards can reach up to 16 inches in length and weigh up to a pound.

Life Cycle

Four to six weeks after mating, females will lay 5 to 40 eggs (the number varies depending on her size.) The eggs will hatch 2 to 3 months later. Uromastyx can live 8 to 10 years in captivity.


Uromastyx lizards are territorial, especially towards those of the same sex. Males will often actively patrol an area and keep out all other adult males. Females will behave similarly towards other females - and even towards males.
They will dig burrows in the sand; these burrows are used for shelter, to escape from predators, and to cool down during the day.

Threats and Conservation Status

Uromastyx maliensis are listed on CITES Appendix II.

Did you know…

  • Their well-armored tails are used as a defensive weapon; uromastyx can block its borrow entrance with the tail, thus deterring predators from entering.


Ashley presenting Morocco.jpg
Uromastyx presentation at Natural Encounters, Houston Zoo.

Contributors and Citations

  • The Philadelphia Zoo
  • Natural Encounters Department, Houston Zoo