Egyptian uromastyx (Uromastyx aegyptia) are also known as Egyptian mastigures or Egyptian spiny-tailed lizards. These animals have three subspecies.
They live in Egypt to the east of the Nile and much of the Middle East. They are one of the largest uromastyx with a maximum length of 2 and a half feet long.
Egyptian Uromastyx are large, diurnal animals that are almost exclusively herbivorous. In captivity, these animals require hot temperatures, plenty of light, and a large amount of space.
They can tame down well and make wonderful pets.
This guide will help you learn how to care for this large animal and keep your new pet healthy and happy over the course of its life.
- Handling and Enrichment
- Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the Egyptian Uromastyx’s Natural Habitat?
- How Big Do Egyptian Uromastyx Get?
- Are Egyptian Uromastyx Good Pets?
- How Long Do Egyptian Uromastyx Live?
- What Size Enclosure Does an Egyptian Uromastyx Need?
- Should I Give my Egyptian Uromastyx Water?
- Do Egyptian Uromastyx Like to be Handled?
- Why is my Egyptian Uromastyx Puffing Up?
- Do Egyptian Uromastyx Recognize People?
Uromastyx are very active lizards.
They need large amounts of space. Since they live in very hot deserts, they need high temperatures and low humidity.
They live in rocky areas and can make burrows up to 4 feet deep in the wild. Giving them such deep burrows in captivity isn’t really possible, but you can offer digging areas and artificial burrows to help your pet feel secure.
Enclosure for an Egyptian Uromastyx
Egyptian uromastyx can live in their adult enclosure from a young age.
You can place a young egyptian spiny tailed lizard in a smaller enclosure if yoi need to create the adult enclosure.
If you decide to do a bioactive enclosure and it still needs time to establish, you can house juveniles in enclosures that are at least 4 feet long until they reach about 1 foot long.
This is the largest uromastyx species, adult uromastyx need a minimum of 6 feet by 3 feet by 3 feet.
A front-opening enclosure is best.
PVC is good at holding heat, but you need to watch the humidity. You can go larger and I do highly suggest that.
They will use the space of it is offered. Just be sure the heat is right since it can be hard to heat larger enclosures.
Substrates are very important for your animal. It makes the enclosure easier to clean and makes it more comfortable for your pet.
For uromastyx, the best substrate tends to be a DIY mix of play sand, organic topsoil, and excavator clay.
You can also use sand made for reptiles.
Allowing your uromastyx to dig is a good idea.
You can also go bioactive and grow edible plants in the enclosure so you don’t need to remove all the substrate monthly. Any loose substrate should be at least 6 inches so your uromastyx can dig.
If you can manage it, make the substrate a bit damp. The top inch should stay dry, which makes any burrow humid just like their burrows in the wild.
Paper towel is good for new uromastyx to check their health, but they don’t hold heat. Tile and stone is great for the basking area.
You can use it in the whole enclosure, but you will need to provide hides to replicate a burrow.
Millet or bird seed can be used as a substrate, but your animal will eat it. This can mean that your pet may refuse to eat their greens.
Seeds also have a high fat level, so it isn’t good for your pet to eat too much. If you use seeds for substrate, do not offer any extra. You should also watch your pet’s weight and ensure it still eats its greens.
Unsafe substrates are wood chips, humidity-holding substrates, clay, cat litter, and cedar, pine, or coniferous wood. These are all dangerous for your pet.
Anything that clumps up is dangerous since you uromastyx may eat some substrate as it burrows. Coniferous trees contain toxic substances and no reptile should be on substrates made from their wood.
For a more in-depth look at substrates, checkout my article about uromastyx substrates.
For uromastyx, it is best to use a basking lamp to create a basking spot that is at 120-130 degrees. A 100w halogen bulb with housing should get the right temperature.
Position it about 12 inches away from the highest basking spot. You should create multiple levels to allow you pet to choose from a range of basking temperatures.
You can create spaces in the basking rock to allow your pet to hide and stay warm. Flat pieces of stone or wood with spacers work well to create colder and mild temperatures. This is called a Retes stack.
Make sure this can’t tip over or be dug underneath.
Temperatures for Egyptian Uromastyx Enclosures
The cool side should be around 85 degrees. Your enclosure can drop in temperature at night, but don’t let it go below the mid 70s at night.
Use a ceramic heat emitter or a radiant heat panel if your temperatures drop too much at night.
You should use a temperature gun to monitor the temperature at the surface of the basking spot and plug your heating element into a thermostat to regulate it properly.
Use a digital probe thermometer with the probes in the hides to monitor the ambient temperatures. You will need one for each hide.
Egyptian uromastyx are diurnal animals. They will need visible light and UVB.
If the enclosure is too dim, your uromastyx will be less active and may lack an appetite. You need a T5 HO fixture.
This one includes the bulb and housing. It should cover at least half the enclosure and should be placed on the warm side of the enclosure.
Mount it 8-13 inches away from the basking spot if it is over mesh or 14-20 inches away if there is no mesh between the light and basking spot.
Never put glass or plastic between the UVB and your reptile. Glass and plastic block UVB.
The bulb should be replaced every 6 to 12 months. You can use a UV sensor card to make sure that it is still producing UVB. You will also want a full spectrum light in the 6500K color temperature range.
It needs to be bright and cover most of the enclosure. You can use multiple lamps if you cannot find one long enough. Be sure you put this on a timer to give a day/night cycle.
Shelter and Design
Egyptian uromastyx live in burrows in the wild. No matter what substrate you use, your uromastyx will need hiding places.
First, the basking spot should be stone. You can stack multiple stones with spaces to create tiered basking areas and hiding spots.
Be sure to place this on the bottom of the enclosure if you use loose substrate. Rocks and ledges are great to help replicate their native habitat.
Take a look at pictures of their native habitat so you know what to aim for.
Any large rocks or heavy items should be placed on the bottom and any substrate should be added around it. Your uromastyx will dig, resulting in decorations falling over and harming your pet.
Bioactive setups are great for uromastyx. You can plant edible plants and save yourself from changing the substrate. You will need to scoop out any poop or urate, but it should stay clean.
Bioactive enclosures are also very nice to look at.
If you like, you can also use multiple substrates. While this doesn’t look as nice, it can make it easier for you. You can use a paper towel, tile, or stone on the hot side. Use some hides and a good basking spot.
The middle can be stone or tile. This should have a hide and a space to place the food. You can also put a water dish here or on the cool side.
The cool side should have a deep substrate for digging. You can offer a hide or allow your pet to dig its own. This is a bit easier to clean since you have less substrate to change every month.
You can also do all tile, stone, or paper towels. Be sure to add plenty of hides and decorations. This will help your pet feel more secure.
Fake plants are great, or you can add safe plants in pots. Adding rocks and caves will help your pet feel more secure. Be sure to add at least one humid hide.
Remember, uromastyx burrows tend to stay a bit more humid. Your pet can use the humid hide to help prevent shedding issues.
Your Egyptian spiny-tailed lizard will get most of its water from its food. You can offer a water dish if you like. Be sure it doesn’t raise the humidity too much.
The humidity needs to be low. For Egyptian Uromastyx, you need around 20-30% humidity. Place a probe from a digital hygrometer on the surface of the cool side.
If the humidity gets too high, your pet can suffer from respiratory illness and skin infections.
You can offer a humid hide near shedding time. Any burrow will likely be more humid as well. Sphagnum moss or coconut fiber placed in a hide and made a bit damp works very well for a humid hide.
If you have a bioactive enclosure, you just need to clean the door and scoop out any waste. The clean-up insects and isopods will take care of anything you miss.
You will need to check for any waste daily for a typical enclosure and remove it. Replace any substrate you remove. You should also take the time to check the humidity and temperatures.
If you have a food dish, give it a clean before you offer more food. Once a week, any food dishes or water dishes should be cleaned thoroughly.
Once a month, completely remove any substrate and decorations for cleaning. Turn off any heating and place your uromastyx in a temporary holding enclosure.
You can use its vet carrier or a storage tub with ventilation added. Throw out the old substrate and clean the enclosure. Make sure any glass is cool, and clean the whole enclosure with a reptile-safe sanitizer.
Rinse it and thoroughly dry it. Leave the enclosure open to allow it to air out and dry. Any rocks, tiles, or other decorations should be cleaned and sanitized.
Once everything is dry, you can replace everything and fill it with a new substrate. You can take this time to add new items for enrichment.
Wild Egyptian uromastyx eat primarily plants. …your pet should be fed primarily greens and seeds that you supplement with calcium and a reptile multivitamin.
Some uromastyx will take insects, but they should be kept as a rare treat.
The vast majority of your Uromastyx diet will be greens. Dandelion greens, collard greens, kale, pea shoots, cactus pads, endive, carrot greens, alfalfa, spring mix, arugula, and hibiscus leaves are all great leafy greens to feed.
You can find more safe options at The Tortoise Table under the leafy green section; they will have the same diet. You can also find other safe treats.
The staple diet will be leafy greens. Try to vary what is offered and feed other safe foods at no more than 10% of the diet. More variety is good since each food will have different nutrients.
Seeds like white millet and lentils are important for protein and fat. Breeding adults in particular, need fats and protein to stay healthy. Offer a dish of seeds once a week.
A Juvenile spiny-tailed lizard under 2 years old should be fed daily. Offer as much as your pet will eat. An adult uromastyx will be fed about 4 or 5 times a week. If you notice your pet is gaining too much weight, feed it less frequently.
You should cut back on treats and seeds before you cut back on greens. If you keep your uromastyx on a seed substrate, consider switching to another safe option.
Tile or stone works if your uromastyx eats too much substrate and is impacted.
Treats and Supplements
Uromastyx need supplements to stay healthy. You will want calcium without D3 and a reptile multivitamin. You can use an all-in-one product for herbivorous reptiles like Repashy Superveggie to offer vitamins and calcium in one.
Just follow the directions on the package. Some animals prefer it dry while other may prefer the directions for using it wet as a “salad dressing”. You can also offer bee pollen powder or granules once a week. Many uromastyx love it.
As for treats, you have plenty of options. First, flowers make a great treat. Rose petals, clover, hibiscus, and squash blossoms. Look for edible flowers meant for humans.
Flowers from a florist may have pesticides or other unsafe substances. You can also grow your own if you stick with organic gardening.
You can also offer fruit as a treat. These treats are berries, prickly pear, apples, papaya, and figs. Wash them thoroughly to remove any pesticides or wax, even if you buy organic.
There are plenty of foods your pet shouldn’t eat. First, avoid any food high in oxalates. Oxalates bind calcium and can cause deficiencies in your pet.
Too much phosphorus will also have the same effect on your pet. Foods high in goitrogens will inhibit iodine absorption. Iodine is essential for healthy thyroid function. Inhibited thyroid function can cause damage to many organs.
Here are some foods you should avoid and a brief reason why you should avoid them. Lettuce, particularly iceberg lettuce, is very high in water and has very few nutrients for its size.
All citrus, including lemon, lime, and grapefruit, are highly acidic and should be avoided. Tomatoes are also too acidic to be safe. Beet greens, swede, and Brussel sprouts are all high in goitrogens.
Corn is very high in phosphorus.
Parsley, spinach, and swiss chard are high in oxalates. Soybeans should also be avoided. Feeding a small amount of food high in oxalates, phosphorus, or goitrogens won’t hurt if you do not feed more than once a month.
Some mixed greens may have something like spinach. So long as it is not fed as a staple, your uromastyx will be fine.
All reptiles need to shed. Shedding allows your pet to keep its scales healthy and heal. They must shed to keep growing. Young uromastyx will shed more often than adults.
The shed should come off entirely. You will notice your pet become a bit dull and then it will shed. You should have a humid hide and keep the humidity at the higher end of the range.
Make sure you check that it has shed completely. Check the toes. tail, chin, and head for any signs of leftover shed.
This species should only be soaked if you see a stuck shed. A good treatment is to place some warm, damp paper towels in the bottom of their holding tub.
You put them in this lidded tub when you need to clean or take them to the vet. Close the lid and leave your pet for about 15 minutes. Then try to remove any stuck shed gently.
There are also products to help remove stuck sheds. The stuck shed can cause infections and injuries if left alone. Since a stuck shed will construct over time, it can cause the amputation of toes or the tail if left alone for too long.
Never try to pull off a stuck shed; you may also remove the healthy skin underneath. Your reptile vet can help if you have frequent shedding problems.
Wild uromastyx can become less active during the colder months. In reptiles, this is called brumation. They can still bask and may drink water, but they will not eat since they are too cold to digest.
You do not need to brumate your pet unless you intend to breed it. Only an experienced keeper should try it since it can be hard to manage for a beginner.
Handling and Enrichment
Egyptian uromastyx are fairly easy to handle and have a docile nature.
While these large lizards don’t typically enjoy being held, a tame uromastyx will enjoy hanging out with you or doing enrichment activities outside of their enclosure.
Your pet will be defensive at first. Start by spending quiet time near the enclosure. Read or do another quiet activity nearby.
Once your pet is used to you, you can open the enclosure. Get your pet used to you cleaning or offering treats in the enclosure. Once they aren’t scared, you can take them out for short periods.
Approach from the side and lift your uromastyx confidently. Support the whole body with the large spiny tail. If your pet is scared, you can try lifting them over your head so they feel less threatened or looking away.
Remember, your pet will assume you are a predator until proven otherwise. Keep handling sessions short and positive. Always return the animal when it is calm.
You can also offer treats in puzzles or foraging toys to help give enrichment; they will enjoy it thanks to their intelligent nature. Even something as simple as hiding treats in a dig box or scattered around the enclosure can help.
Uromastyx can also do basic training like target training. This helps keep their minds working and will help prevent boredom. It also helps teach your pet that you offer food amd safety.
Switch up the enclosure once a month or so to give your pet new things to explore.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions you may have. If your question isn’t answered here, please ask it in the comment section below.
Egyptian uromastyx can be very rewarding exotic pets. Make sure you buy a captive-bred animal, and you should have your pets for years to come.
If you have any questions or comments on these dark brown to dark gray lizards, please leave them below.