So many of our valued community members swear by keeping lizards as pets. Not only can they provide very rewarding companionship, once they are correctly set up and cared for, they can actually be much more low maintenance than most people realise.
There are many types of lizards to keep as a pet, with the most common being the Blue Tongue and the Bearded Dragon. Most lizards have a long lifespan with Blue Tongues living close to 20 years. As lizards are a protected animal in Australia, licenses are required (except for Blue Tongue Lizards), so seek your state’s legal requirements. If you are a Point Cook local or currently residing in Victoria, you can check out your licencing requirements right here ~ https://www.vic.gov.au/private-wildlife-licences. It is illegal to remove lizards from the wild, with hefty fines applicable.
Domestic lizards live in vivariums, that come ready-built in various sizes. When choosing a vivarium for your lizard, ensure that it is large enough to have a warm and cool end, and make sure it is escape and draft proof. Your vivarium should be heat and moisture resistant too. Keep in mind that you’ll absolutely have to fit your vivarium with both heating and lighting. Lizards require heat in order for them to digest their food and to stay active. Having a thermal gradient throughout your vivarium, for example, where one end is warm and the other is cooler, is ideal. This can be achieved with either under tank heaters, ceramic heaters, or basking bulbs. A good idea is to place a thermometer at either end of the vivariums to keep an eye on the temperatures.
Creature Comforts ~
Your lizard will love to camouflage itself, so ornaments like plants, rocks, and branches will allow your reptile to feel at home. Provide sheltered areas within your vivarium to help your lizard develop a sense of security and safety. When it comes to flooring, reptile carpets are a good clean option, while shredded bark and sand are visually pleasing. Keep in mind that most lizards are visual feeders and will potentially swallow anything they see move. This includes flooring substrate. You should ensure that any substate you use is too large to be swallowed, or you may risk your pet developing an obstruction of the intestinal tract.
Your vivarium will require cleaning once a week, while your lizards water and food bowls will need to be cleaned daily. Lizards are susceptible to parasites and microorganisms within their space, so cleaning is vital. We recommend investing in some F10 disinfectant as it is a vet grade cleaning product that will keep you and your lizard happy and healthy.
Lizards are relatively cheap to feed; however they do need to be provided with nutritional food in order to grow healthy and to help avoid any health problems. Most lizards are omnivores so they will need a variety or meat and vegetable-based foods in their diet. As young growing animals, they will need more of the live insect type foods like live crickets, snails or cockroaches, and as they age and become adults, you can offer them more fruit and veggies. All food should have Calcium powder added. We do not recommend meal worms as they are not very nutritional and can bite your lizard causing injury. Fresh water should of course always be provided and be changed daily. For more advice feeding your lizard, ask one of our reptile experienced staff.
Lizards will shed their skin regularly in order to grow. Make sure old skins are removed from the vivarium, and check closely on the feet for any bits of old skin that hasn’t fallen off and remove it. Spotting health problems with a lizard is much harder than a more conventional pet. You need to keep a very close eye on your lizard, ensure the vivarium is kept hygienically clean, and keeping to a nutritional diet. Lizards can pass diseases like bacterial infections onto their keepers, so make sure your hands are always washed before and after handling, cleaning or feeding.
All lizards should be checked for parasites regularly. When introducing another lizard, make sure it has been quarantined and is similar in size before introducing your pair. Watch out for aggression when adding in a new lizard to the vivarium.
Metabolic Bone Disease is very common and unfortunately quite serious. This can result from not enough calcium in the diet or insufficient exposure to ultraviolet light. Pliable bones, distorted tail, weakness, difficulty in lifting itself up, and tremors or seizures are all signs of Metabolic Bone Disease. If you notice any of these signs, take your lizard to the vet immediately. To minimise the risk of Metabolic Bone Disease, UV globes should be changed every 6-12 months and food should have calcium added, by either dusting fruit and veggies and gut loading insects.
Some lizards are more aggressive than others and will bite more frequently. Before handling a lizard, make sure you understand your lizard’s behaviour and breed. Never pick up a lizard by its tail as it can cause discomfort and some breeds of lizard’s (like skinks for example) will have their tails fall off. These will eventually grow back; however they will not be as long.
Lizards can make amazing pets for all walks of life, young and old. They are incredible to watch grow, and their regular shedding can be kept as a reminder of how healthy you pet is as they get bigger each year. Please keep in mind their extensive lifespan before you bring home any reptile on a whim – like any pet, you will have to be ready to commit to the long haul in providing them with a safe environment, nutritious food and sanitary conditions. If you are contemplating bringing home your first lizard, or would like some advice on how to best care for your new addition, give us a call on 03 9369 1822 or book your appointment here.