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Butterfly Agama

Nicole Cosgrove

The Butterfly Agama is native to Southeast Asia. They are commonly found in the forests and agricultural lands of Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. Little is known about this lizard in the wild.

Also known as the Common Butterfly Lizard, this species can reach up to 20 inches in length and has a gray or olive-green base color on the back. Their sides vary from yellow to red with black stripes. Juvenile Butterfly Agama are striped and have a reddish-colored tail.

divider-reptileQuick Facts about Butterfly Agama

Species Name: Leiolepis Belliana
Common Name: Butterfly Agama Lizard, Common Butterfly Lizard
Care Level: Intermediate
Lifespan: 8-12 years
Adult Size: 12-15 inches
Diet: Insects, fruit, vegetables
Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallon
Temperature & Humidity 75-85F ambient, 95-100F basking

Do Butterfly Agamas Make Good Pets?

The Butterfly Agama are starting to become more popular as pets. This is not a particularly well-known lizard in the wild and scientists have observed very little of their natural behavior in their native land.

As pets, Butterfly Agama can be a bit skittish toward their human owners. This is not unusual for some lizard species. You will want to handle your lizard frequently so that it becomes accustomed to human handling, but not so much that it becomes stressed.

As an owner of a Butterfly Agama, you will need to ensure their habitat within your home can closely replicate the open warm, arid regions of their natural environment. They are recommended for more experienced lizard owners due to their finicky eating habits and troubles with hydration.

Appearance

The overall body color is gray to olive green with light yellow to red spotting along the sides. Males and females have black striping down the flanks, however, males during mating season are bright red and black. Males tend to be stockier than females.

This species ranges anywhere from 12 to 20 inches in length, including the tail. They have smooth scales all over the body and their head is rounded with a small, barely distinguishable snout. Juvenile lizards are easily recognized by their reddish-colored tail.

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How to Take Care of Butterfly Agama

Habitat, Tank Conditions & Setup

As mentioned above, Butterfly Agamas are found in open, dry, warm environments in Southeast Asia. You will want to have their enclosure set up to replicate their natural habitat as closely as possible.

Tank

You will want to opt for a glass vivarium no smaller than 20 gallons, complete with a screen lid for a more aerated environment. These lizards are active and used to open areas to explore. They aren’t the smallest lizards either, they need plenty of space to move around freely. You will need to provide a basking rock, hides, logs, and deep substrate for burrowing.

Lighting

It’s very important to have proper lighting for the health of a Butterfly Agama. Full-spectrum UV lighting should be provided for the entire length of the tank. LED lights or other low-wattage bulbs can help maintain ambient temperatures.

Heating (Temperature & Humidity)

It is recommended to use either an infrared heater or a ceramic heat emitter to maintain the proper heat within the tank. These heaters put heat off but no light. LED lights or low-wattage light bulbs work best for maintaining ambient temperatures. The Butterfly Agama requires ambient temperatures of 75-85F and a basking area that reaches 95F. They live in arid environments and do not require humid conditions.

Butterfly Agama_Saichol Campan, Shutterstock
Image Credit: Saichol Campan, Shutterstock

Substrate

You can utilize a variety of substrates for the Butterfly Agama. Some popular choices for this lizard are Aspen bedding, coconut husk, reptile safe sand, and bark. You need to make sure your substrate is deep enough for the lizard to comfortably burrow.

Tank Recommendations

Tank Type 20+ gallon glass vivarium
Lighting LED, UV
Heating  LED bulb, infrared, ceramic
Best Substrate Aspen bedding, coconut husk, reptile safe sand, bark

Feeding Your Butterfly Agama

The Butterfly Agama is an insectivore, although they will occasionally eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and leafy greens. Feeding a varied diet of crickets and mealworms dusted with supplemental vitamin D and calcium twice a week will keep your pet healthy.

Freshwater will need to be provided daily and cleaned as needed. Below is a list of common insects that can be fed to your pet Butterfly Agama. Be sure to consult a veterinarian regarding dietary needs for their optimum health.

Insects
  • Crickets
  • Dubia Roaches
  • Meal Worms
  • Fruitflies
  • Wax Worms
  • Superworms

Diet Summary

Fruits 5% of diet
Insects 5% of diet
Meat 90% of diet- insects
Supplements Required Calcium, Vitamin D (consult veterinarian)

Keeping Your Butterfly Agama Healthy

Very little is known about this species in the wild and more time and research is necessary to have a full understanding of the Butterfly Agama. Owners of pet Butterfly Agamas have noted some common themes among this species regarding health.

You will need to locate a veterinarian that is experienced with lizards. It may be difficult finding one that is familiar with this species.

Butterfly Agama above the rock_Konjaunt, Shutterstock
Image Credit: Konjaunt, Shutterstock

Common Health Issues

It has been observed that pet Butterfly Agamas can be finicky eaters and can exhibit anorexia. They also have shown tendencies to avoid drinking, which causes hydration issues. For this reason, it’s recommended that only experienced lizard owners take on this species until more information is available.

Lifespan

Butterfly Agamas have been known to live up to 10 years in captivity with proper care. Due to a lack of research and knowledge of this species, scientists do not have a definitive lifespan for wild populations.

Breeding

Again, with little research available for the Butterfly Agama, not much is known about their breeding habits. It is believed that the Butterfly Agama is a monogamous species but more research is needed to determine this.

Are Butterfly Agamas Friendly? Our Handling Advice

Butterfly Agamas tend to be jumpy and skittish with their human companions. It’s best to avoid this species as a beginner and opt for a more handleable species.

An owner will need to take time out for handling to tame their Butterfly Agama. Too frequent handling can cause them undue stress so it’s best to handle it for a short period every few days until your lizard is more comfortable with you.

Shedding: What to Expect

As with snakes, lizards shed their skins as they grow. Unlike snakes though, lizards shed their skin in patches. You will notice the skin flaking off periodically making room for new skin as they grow and develop.

Butterfly Agama on the sand_Anant Kasetsinsombut_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Anant Kasetsinsombut, Shutterstock

How Much Do Butterfly Agama Cost?

You can expect to pay anywhere from $15 to $25 for a pet Butterfly Agama. They are not an incredibly popular species of lizard in the pet trade as of yet and may be harder to locate.

You will want to factor in that due to their lack of popularity, you may have to travel to the breeder or have the animal shipped to you.

Keep in mind that shipping can be much more costly than the lizard itself and is a stressful experience for them. If you opt to have your animal shipped, you will need to have their new habitat ready and will want to avoid handling for several days after arrival so they can acclimate.

Care Guide Summary

Pros
  • Makes for a unique pet
  • Inquisitive and exploratory
  • A simple diet of insects
  • Low cost
  • Can live up to 10 years
Cons
  • Jumpy and skittish with humans
  • Needs time to adjust to a new environment
  • Can be very finicky eaters/drinkers
  • Difficult to find breeders, may need to be shipped
  • Not a lot known about the species

divider-reptileConclusion

The Butterfly Agama is a unique lizard hailing from arid, open areas of Southeast Asia. Growing to an average of 15 inches in length, they live up to 10 years in captivity if properly cared for. They are not expensive but may be difficult to acquire.

Not a lot is known about this species in the wild. As pets, they can be skittish, jumpy, and quick when handled. They are known to be very picky eaters and have even been noted to avoid drinking water, resulting in hydration issues.

They are beautiful animals that will do best in homes with experienced lizard handlers until more information is available about the species.


Featured Image Credit: Konjaunt, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.