Lizards 101: Creating the Perfect Habitat for Your New Scaly Friend
Not all BFF's have fur! Lizards are great apartment pets and all around fabulous, scaly companions. They're often the beginner pet of choice for exotic animal lovers, being hardy and relatively easy to care for. As much as we adore these bug-eyed, goofy critters, there are a few items to consider prior to adding one to your family.
Learn how to set up the perfect lizard habitat and welcome your scaly friend home in style.
There are a few factors to consider when picking out a quality reptile enclosure. Depending on the type of lizard you're hoping to adopt, different habitat needs will be required to give your new pet adequate space to roam. Geckos, for example, do best in aquariums or terrariums, ideally 20 gallons or larger. Chameleons prefer mesh or wire cages with more vertical space to climb.
You'll also want to be aware of how big your pet will grow once he or she reaches adulthood. Some lizards, such as iguanas, can reach up to 7 feet! Make sure your cage is large enough for your scaly friend to grow into or be prepared to replace their "baby cage" and transition them into a new pad.
Two general rules when considering the right reptile enclosure are to ensure the cage is temperature controlled and well insulated to trap heat and also that your habitat is escape proof. Without these two factors, you'll be spending a lot of money on heating and a lot of time trying to find your runaway pet!
Temperature and Lighting
Each species will have its own unique lighting and temperature requirements. The best reference for your pet's ideal environment is to look to their natural habitat. Is your wild thing a tropical lizard or is their idea of a good time sunbathing in a more arid region like the desert?
Whichever side of the spectrum your lizard falls on, a proper habitat requires sufficient UVA and UVB light during the daytime to create the illusion of a natural cycle. Most lizards thrive in warm areas of 90 to 100 degrees, with the cooler end of their cage ranging from 70 to 75 degrees. Divide your pet's habitat to create layers by using rocks, tunnels and caves, branches, and shade. There should be enough space for direct sunbathing as well as cooler areas to catch a break from the heat.
Now that you've got the basics down, it's time to move in the furniture! Give your lizard a variety of places to hide, climb, and relax. Spruce the place up with decorative plants and ornaments. If you decide to collect rocks and go the DIY route, be sure to sanitize them with rubbing alcohol or by boiling them in water prior to adding these rustic accessories to your enclosure.
For substrate, skip the gravel and hamster bedding. Lizards may eat these materials which can result in blockages and digestive problems. Opt for reptile sand, aspen, or shredded butcher paper instead.
Last but not least, be sure your lizard always has access to fresh, clean water. Many species benefit from daily misting treatments for a scaly spa day!
Looking for species specific habitat recommendations? Ask our reptile experts and welcome your new pet home in style.