European Green Lizard

Lacerta viridis

European Green Lizard Care

The European green lizard (Lacerta viridis) is a medium sized lizard distributed across European mid-latitudes from Slovenia and eastern Austria to as far east as the Black Sea coasts of Ukraine and Turkey. A colony was (illegally) started in the south of the UK, and is apparently thriving near Bournemouth! Wherever in the world they are found, they are often seen sunning on rocks or lawns, or sheltering amongst bushes.


As the name suggests, the base colour of both sexes in this species is green. Males have a fine pattern of black speckles as they mature, with a blue throat during the breeding season; females range from plain green to green with a complex black pattern across their backs. Males develop a larger head than females, and as adults it’s very obvious which sex is which, although they are harder to sex as juveniles. They can be kept in groups, but always make sure that there is only one male with several females. More than one male will fight, and because the losing male has nowhere to go he will be killed by the dominant animal.


One of the advantages of this species lies in the fact that they can be housed outdoors in the UK. If you choose to go this route, a greenhouse works very well, either with UV lighting and a basking spot installed, or with a basking spot and UV-lucent panels in the roof – just as you would for a Mediterranean tortoise.


More typically, they are kept indoors in a traditional wooden vivarium. As they are a medium sized lizard (13 to 15cm snout to vent length, with a tail up to twice that), they need a reasonable amount of space; as with most lizards, bigger is always better, so buy the largest vivarium available. They are very active, and will use every part of their environment – sometimes at speed! As a guide, the minimum should be 90 x 45 x 45cm (36 x 18 x 18”) for a single animal.


For this species a substantial temperature gradient is required, with an ambient temperature of 25ºc to 30ºc, with a basking spot of up to 40ºc. At night the temperature can go as low as 15ºc, which does mean that in all but the coldest houses night time heating will not be needed. They do appreciate a winter cool down period, when the temperature can be allowed to drop to between 5º and 10ºc.


They require a good level of UVB, which is best provided by a 10% T5 UV strip light, and a halogen basking bulb to give as wide a possible area to bask in. UV bulbs should be replaced every 6 to 12 months, depending on the brand. For a diurnal lizard that likes to bask, compact UV bulbs are never strong enough – use a good quality fluorescent strip. They like an arid habitat, and will appreciate a brief spray in the morning to replicate dew; obviously, a small water bowl should always be provided. They do quite like to dig, so a soil based substrate is an excellent choice for this species.


Although they do not climb like chameleons, they do need branches and rocks within their home in order to give them something to scramble over. Give youngsters plenty of cover; lots of plants – real or plastic – will do the job very well. Live plants might suffer as the lizard grows, but they are fine to use with babies. They are a predominantly insectivorous lizard but do appreciate some greenery in the diet. Try edible flowers when they are in season, and offer leafy greens on a daily basis. Offer a variety of gut loaded and dusted insects, but crickets and locusts should be used as the main foods as they are lower in fat than wax worms and easier to digest than mealworms. 

Animal Information

Common Name: European green lizard

Scientific Name: Lacerta viridis

Location: Southwestern Europe

Habitat (wild): Arid woodland edge, scrub

Captive environment: Tropical desert vivarium

Preferred temperature range: daytime hot spot of 40ºC under the basking light, background ambient of 30ºC, cool end of 25ºC. Temperature can drop to 15ºC at night.

UVB Lighting: 10% or 12% UVB strip lamp – 12 -14 hours a day 

Ferguson Zone: Zone 3

Substrate: Soil/sand based

Lifespan: 10 to 12 years, up to 15 with good care