Mali Uromastyx (Uromastyx dispar maliensis) are true desert lizards that spend a large proportion of their day basking in the sun. They originate from Mali and southern Algeria, establishing themselves in hilly, rocky areas with good shelter and accessible vegetation. Like many reptiles, these lizards’ colours change according to the temperature; during cool weather they appear dull and dark but the colours become lighter in warm weather, especially when basking; the darker pigmentation allows their skin to absorb sunlight more effectively.
Uromastyx make great pets, as they are inquisitive and good natured. They grow from 26 to 40cm long and develop lovely colours, from yellows to reds although juveniles start off grey. Uromastyx are herbivorous, making them a great choice if you aren’t keen on offering live insects. Uromastyx are active lizards so require plenty of room. A 48x24x24″ vivarium would be suitable, as it gives them plenty of floor space. They love to bask on rocks, but make sure the rocks are very secure and placed on the floor of the vivarium not the substrate as they will dig under them! Provide them with plenty of different hides so they are always close to a secure hiding place; this will make them feel more confident, and you should see them more often. It is a good idea to fill one of the hides with the substrate so they have to dig their way in.
Uromastyx require a temperature range of up to 50°C in the basking area, down to approximately 35°C in the cooler area. This will provide the lizard with a temperature gradient across the vivarium, allowing them to choose the most suitable temperature at all times. At night the temperature can be allowed to drop as low as 20°C.
The daytime temperatures can be achieved by using a halogen basking light (the heat is more focused than a regular light) fitted to a dimming thermostat. Using fans to increase ventilation can be a good idea as this helps keep the rest of the vivarium cooler.
As they are a true desert dweller, Uromastyx need a high level of available UVB. This can be provided with a 12% T5 tube, which should be on a 12 hour on/12 hour off cycle. The stronger 14% tubes can be used, but only if the vivarium is tall enough.
We tend to use one of the soil based substrates that can be kept slightly damper below the surface. There are also clay mixes available that can provide a deep, hardened substrate that the uromastyx can burrow into. Only offer water once a week as it is not usually taken and increased humidity can cause a few issues. They receive most of their water from their food.
Uromastyx are herbivorous. Plants that can be offered include: lollo rossa, endive, radicchio, corn salad (lambs lettuce), rocket, finely shredded carrot, watercress, dandelion, clover, plantain, convolvulus, polygonum(russian vine), chick weed, radish, lentils, soya, wheat, dry seeds, parakeet mix, chopped hay, hibiscus flowers, or gazania flowers. DO NOT feed spinach, cabbage, iceberg lettuce and buttercup. Try to offer a variety to keep a balanced diet. Regular use of vitamin/mineral supplements is very important to prevent problems such as metabolic bone disease, which is a calcium deficiency. This is a serious condition and can occur very rapidly in young lizards that are growing quickly.
Uromastyx will also take a few insects, morio and mealworms being the preferred although not strictly required. Too many insects will make your uromastyx sick, although the occasional treat helps to make friends with your lizard.
If you love lizards but not the live insects then these are the lizards you have been looking for!