7 Things to Know Before Getting A Lizard
If you’re thinking about buying a pet lizard, just know that it *can* be hard work. In some aspects they’re a lot easier than the typical cat or dog pet, but in some regards, owning them can be a bit more difficult. There’s a lot to know before you become a lizard owner, so we’ve put some of the most important points together for you! Here’s what you should know before owning a lizard.
Do your research
First off you need to do your research on whichever type of lizard you’re getting. For example, you can’t just go to the shop and buy a bag of lizard food, in the same way you can for cats and dogs. There’s many species of lizards, and their food needs vary between them.
Things to take note of are your lizard's lifespan - for example if you’ve got fish you may be used to 1 to 5 year life spans, similar with smaller pets like hamsters and hedgehogs, whereas your lizards can live from 10 to 30 years! If you’re only wanting a pet for the next few years, don’t go for a lizard pet.
You also need to know which kind of food they need, if their food needs dusting with minerals, whether they require live food or not and what treats you can and can’t feed them. Tank requirements are a must to know, as things like temperature and UV light range a fair bit with different lizards. You also need to know about tank humidity and what it should be for them to easily shed their skin. A final point to consider is their adult size - some stay small, whereas some iguanas can grow to be over 6 feet long and will need a fairly substantial living area.
If you’re brand new to lizard keeping, stick with one of the better known species that are easy to care for, such as leopard geckos, crested geckos or blue-tongued skinks.
Weigh up the costs
You’re going to need food and equipment to care for your new lizard. Food can set you back a fair bit - look into the types of food your lizard requires and check the prices on them. Obviously a large iguana will cost substantially more to keep than a crested gecko, but with treats included, this can add up.
You’re going to need a home for them, and large vivariums can set you back a fair bit too, though this should be a one off price to pay. We’d suggest going with a wooden vivarium for them, as they’re cheaper to buy and will store in any heat and humidity better than glass. You’ll also need equipment for inside the vivarium too.
You’re going to obviously need decorations for them to interact with and explore. You’ll need hides for them too, up to three of them. You’ll need a hide for the warm area, a hide in the cooler area, and potentially a third hide with moss in that’s regularly misted - to help with humidity and aid shedding.
Speaking of heat, you’ll need a heat mat too to keep their tank warm, with a heat probe so that you can monitor the heat. Needless to say, all of this can set you back a fair bit of money.
Next up is safety, for them and you!
Always opt for a captive bred lizard. They’re less stressed in captivity and more tame, as well as being less prone to disease as a result of being more comfortable and they’re unlikely to bring in any diseases from the wild. If you’ve got a young child or children, you particularly don’t want an aggressive lizard around.
You should also know that lizards carry salmonella - this can make the people in your home sick if you aren’t safe around your lizard. Make sure to wash your hands with soap AFTER handling your lizard - don't introduce any chemicals to your pet as it can harm their skin and make them ill.
Vets can be difficult
All reptiles are classed as exotic pets - so locate the closest vet that deals with exotic animals and read reviews on them to see if they’re good. If you don’t have one close by, then chances are that some issues with some lizards won’t be easy to get treated. A good option is to network with local reptile enthusiasts - their expertise probably stretches to the health and care of them too, and they may be able to help and offer advice if you can’t get to a vet. There are also online communities - there’s probably some on Facebook that you can join for help and advice too!
Like all animals, lizards need to be handled with care. Never pick them up by the tail, it’s uncomfortable for them and could break their tail. If you’re buying a lizard for your child then teach them proper handling by placing your child’s hands under the lizards belly. Supervise your child with the lizard and ensure they’re always handling your lizard safely.
Brumation and hibernation are difficult and often not recommended
Brumation is a type of hibernation that reptiles go through when the weather turns cold. It helps them to survive by preserving energy while there's harsh weather and less food to live on. Obviously, these aren’t issues they’d find in captivity and so it’s not recommended you allow them to go through this process, and with a regular schedule of food and maintained warmth, they won’t do it. It’s not recommended that you try this with your lizards unless you plan to breed them, which is a topic for a whole article. You should research this in depth before you attempt it and should have a fair bit of lizard keeping experience before you attempt it.
Part ways humanely
We think this goes without saying, but please don’t release your lizard into the wild when you get bored of them! Firstly, they’re used to being captive and given food and shelter - they probably won’t be able to track this down on their own. They’re also used to higher temperatures, and are likely to become ill fairly quickly if you release them into the wild.
If or when you decide you can’t keep your lizard any more, put them up for adoption or take it to a pet rescue that accepts lizards. These are the humane solutions to parting ways with your lizard.