Eyed Lizard Care
The eyed lizard (also known as the jewelled lizard) is Europe’s largest lacertid – which is the group of species that include our own native species of lizard. They are active, intelligent, and can become very tame; their appearance can be spectacular, and they are often to be found as captive-bred youngsters within the pet trade. They are simple to care for, and have a lifespan similar to that of the popular Bearded Dragon.
They are native to southwestern Europe throughout the Iberian peninsula (Spain, Portugal), and are patchily distributed in southern France and extreme north-western Italy.
Unlike many pet lizards, a sexed male/female pair will cohabit quite happily – however, never try to keep females together! The girls are much more competitive, and one will eventually stress the other to the point where her health suffers. Although they can be shy as youngsters, gentle, regular handling encourages them to become more tame, and in time they can become as friendly as bearded dragons. Big males do appear to be especially laid back!
One of the advantages of this species lies in the fact that they can be housed outdoors. 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 fairly large lizards (30 to 60cm, at least two thirds of which is tail – but big males have been recorded at up to 90cm!) they need a reasonable amount of space; as with most lizards, bigger is always better, so buy the largest vivarium available. As a guide, the minimum should be 1200 x 600 x 600mm (48 x 24 x 24”) 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.