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How to Take Care of a Lizard (Care Sheet & Guide 2021)

Kristin Hitchcock

Lizards can make great pets. However, they require a lot of unique care. They are absolutely not cats and dogs. On top of feeding them and ensuring they have enough water, you also have to design their aquarium to match their needs. Many also have special dietary requirements, which can be a bit strange for someone who isn’t used to their needs.

There are many types of lizards, and most of them require specific care. Some need to eat some veggies, while others are completely carnivores. Chinese Water Dragons need water to thrive, as they live in swampy areas. However, Bearded Dragons live in the desert and need a completely different tank set up.

We’ll do our best to look at these differences in this article. However, we recommend doing your own research on your particular lizard breed.

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Lizard Facts

There are many different types of lizards that can be kept as pets. Bearded dragons are some of the most common. They are docile and friendly, which is why they make good pets. Their tanks are also easy to set up, and they don’t require much-specialized care.

Geckos are very popular, as they don’t do much. They sleep during the day and are nocturnal. Their feeding needs are pretty simple, and they can like up to 20 years.

There are a few species that are not suitable for beginners. For instance, Anoles are beautiful, breed lizards, but they aren’t as tamable as others. They will bite and drop their tails – often more than other breeds. Iguanas are a bit temperamental and can be equally as complicated to take care of. Males can be particularly aggressive. Chinese Water Dragons need specific habitat adjustments, such as very high humidity. For this reason, they are a lot more work than other lizards.

bearded dragon in the woods
Image Credit: PublicDomainPictures, Pixabay

Are Lizards Good Pets?

They can be. Many lizard species are pretty tamable, which means they will act friendly around humans and can be held. They are not affectionate in the traditional sense. However, they can make decent pets in some cases.

You just can’t expect them to act the same as a cat or a dog, as they have a completely different behavior pattern. Some are more affectionate than others.

Lizards don’t take up much space, so they can be great if you don’t have room for a cat or a dog. However, they often take a lot of care, so don’t get one if you’re expecting an easy pet. They are not easy pets by any means due to their specialized needs. Many require regular tank cleanings, a specialized diet, and careful handling.

Where Can I Get a Lizard?

Lizards are available from all sorts of places. You can get them from chain pet stores. However, these don’t always take care of their lizards, and you won’t have the chance to discuss the baby with the breeder. Often, the store won’t even have the contact for the breeder. They may not even know the exact age of the lizard.

Smaller pet stores often have a local supplier and may be able to provide their contact. They usually have lizards themselves, so they are quite knowledgeable.

You can also find rescues that specialize in lizards. These are usually adult lizards, and sometimes they have health problems. However, this is a solid option if you’re just looking for a lizard. There are usually several rescues in every area, so you should be able to find plenty near you.

How Much Does It Cost to Own a Lizard?

Usually, the actual lizard doesn’t cost too much. Lizards are quite inexpensive – around $15 to $150. Rarer lizards cost more. The “usual” pet lizards are quite inexpensive, though.

However, the things you have to purchase for your lizard can be quite expensive. The habitat itself will usually cost a few hundred dollars. Some will cost more than others, depending on the lizard’s needs. For instance, Chinese Water Dragons will require a bigger setup since they require water, climbing structures, and other items.

Bearded Dragons require less stuff. They live in the desert naturally, so they usually just require sandpaper flooring (that is made for them), some bowls for food and water, and a hiding area. You can add extra climbing structures and such as they get older.

white throated monitor lizard in wild_Dirk M. de Boer_Shutterstock
Image Credit: Dirk M. de Boer, Shutterstock

What Kind of Home Does My Lizard Need?

The needs of lizards differ depending on their needs. Chinese Water Dragons need a decently tall tank – preferably not made of glass. This can get quite expensive. They need an area to swim, and the air should be kept at pretty high humidity. However, Bearded Dragons need a short but long container since they don’t do much climbing.

The heat each lizard needs will depend. Since they are cold-blooded, most will need a heating lamp of some sort. This can get expensive, as heating lights are a bit costly. You will need to change the bulb often. Most will need a UVB bulb as well as a heating bulb. Usually, lizards cannot see red, so most heating lights are red to prevent interrupting the lizard’s sleep.

Some lizards require climbing structures, though others hardly climb at all. It just depends on the lizard’s particular needs.

What Should I Feed My Lizards?

Lizards are typically very particular about what they eat. For instance, some can only eat certain bugs. They have to be the right size to prevent choking.

Many are also omnivores. They need a decent amount of plant matter, but only certain kinds. Each kind of lizard is different in its diet. Some need more meat. Others need less. It depends on the species.

Lizards are a bit complicated when it comes to their food. Most need fresh food, which means you’ll be feeding them things like crickets and mealworms. Many require a very specific diet that may change as they get older. We recommend doing plenty of research on what your particular lizard needs to thrive.

lizard eating a bug
Image Credit: lanur, Pixabay

How Do I Take Care of My Lizard?

Most lizards need to be fed daily, though some can go longer when they reach adulthood. This is because adults grow less than babies and therefore need fewer calories. You should handle your lizard frequently, but not so much that it stresses them out.

Shedding is common for many lizards. However, most can do this without any assistance. Usually, their owners do not need to interfere. In some cases, the humidity needs to be high enough, or the lizard will not shed properly. If it doesn’t shed properly, their toes may end up falling off.

Their habitat will often need cleaning, but most lizards don’t actually need baths themselves.

How Do I Know If My Lizard is Sick?

Lizards can be affected by all different kinds of diseases. Metabolic bone disorder is quite common in lizards and is caused by a lack of calcium. In captivity, this must be supplemented. This is a completely preventable disease with the correct supplement and diet. Sadly, many owners do not take care of their lizards properly, making this one of the most common diseases affecting most species of lizards.

Mouth rot is common in some lizards. This is characterized by sores around the mouth that seem to literally rot away. This can become quite serious and has led to some lizards using a bit chunk of their jaw. Typically, this is caused by a mouth injury that becomes infected. Chinese Water Dragons are particularly prone to this problem if they are kept in a glass tank, as they tend to run into it.

There are a few viruses that lizards can develop. However, since lizards are usually kept alone, this isn’t as much of a problem as it is with other animals. Newly purchased lizards should be kept alone to ensure that they are not sick before being introduced with other lizards (if they’re being introduced at all). Cleanliness is important. Don’t pick up a newly adopted lizard, and then go cuddle your other lizard.

Viruses are mostly a problem for lizards kept by breeders since they usually have multiple breeding pairs at a time. Lizards at pet stores can also be affected, as they are usually kept together.

Fungal infections aren’t completely unheard of, though they are more common in lizards that require damp conditions. Their skin typically becomes damp and damaged for seemingly no reason. Luckily, these conditions are generally pretty easy to treat with an anti-fungal spray.

External parasites can also occur. Usually, these are mites that live on your lizard’s skin. It’s similar to fleas in dogs or lice in people. They usually appear as red or black dots. They aren’t typically dangerous, but they can be very annoying to the lizard.

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Conclusion

Lizards come in all shapes and sizes. How you care for one is not the same across all species. Some require a full-meat diet and high-humidity conditions. Others eat a large portion of vegetables and prefer drier environments. Some need a lot of tank setup and space. Some prefer very little and would rather bask on the ground than play with toys.


Featured Image Credit: InspiredImages, Pixabay

Kristin Hitchcock

Kristin is passionate about helping pet parents create a fulfilling life with their pets by informing them on the latest scientific research and helping them choose the best products for their pets. She currently resides in Tennessee with four dogs, three cats, two fish, and a lizard, though she has dreams of owning chickens one-day!