Ornate Uromastyx Care

Ornate Uromastyx (Uromastyx ornata ), in the Spiny-tail Lizard family

Popularity: Make good house pets. They are probably the most popular Uromastyx species because they are so ornate and have the calmest, most laid-back personalities of the group. Most of them enjoy being handled, so they are usually friendly and outgoing.

Origin: Egypt, Israel


Native habitat: desert

Size: 10-14 inches

Lifespan: most Spiny-tails are reported to live up to 20 years or more

Appearance: Males usually have varying shades of blue from sky blue to deep cobalt blue and/or green that ranges from lime to deep forest green. They also have large yellow spotting that decorates the upper back. Some pink to orange washes over the center of the back. Females typically have much paler colors, and the background colors lean toward tans with occasional blue or green highlights. The bright yellow spotting is about the same.

Diet: herbivore

Misc characteristics: The most common complaint about Ornates’ is that as adults, they can become somewhat sedentary. They can be difficult to pair.



The Ornate Uromastyx is a ground dweller and an active digger, so it needs a wide enclosure (at least 4-feet wide, but more is better) with a screened top. Spiny-tails should live by themselves. Plants are not recommended, and other delicate furnishings may become the victim of the tail or the digging. Flat, thin rocks for hiding and basking are better furnishings. Fasten rocks to the surface of the enclosure rather than setting them on the substrate. The latter can tip over and harm the reptile while it is digging. Timothy pellets are a good substrate for this lizard, as it allows them to burrow.


Spiny-tails don’t need much humidity, so never mist the enclosure. For youngsters, a bowl of chlorine-free water can be placed in an enclosure for drinking, but don’t leave it for very long because it will raise the humidity level. Adults get all the water they need from their food as long as they are not sick, injured or breeding. Too much humidity causes respiratory problems for them.


It is important to keep the lizard’s environment hot. Daytime ambient temperatures throughout the enclosure should range from the mid 80s to low 90s F, and the low 70s at night. They need a basking area with a temperature around 120ยบ degrees F. Maintain the heat with lamps. Make sure the Spiny-tail has hides (rocks to hide around or under) in both temperature extremes.


When you keep this lizard in your home, it does not get the sunlight it needs to process important vitamins and minerals. You can fix that with UVB lighting. Fluorescent tubes that emit UVB light are good choices. Keep the light behind wire or mesh covers rather than glass because glass (and acrylic) blocks the necessary light rays. The light should be within 12-20 inches of the reptile. It needs 12 hours of light daily, but no more.


The Spiny-tail is primarily an herbivore, but it will occasionally eat crickets. Only offer these to adults every couple of weeks — weekly for adolescents. A high protein diet is harmful to them. The staples should be greens like turnip greens, dandelion greens, as well as endive, and romaine lettuce. Most other vegetables are good choices, too: particularly alfalfa, carrots, parsnips, and squash. They also like and need legumes, lentils, seeds and millet. Feed them daily and let them eat as much as they want. Remove uneaten food after a day — two hours for insects.

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