Last updated 18 September 2003: updated Tokay Gecko, Berber Skink, Plated Lizard and Lacertid and Wall Lizard section, and added Ocellated Skink section.


LEVEL 1: Good for beginners, easy to learn lizard-keeping with.

Leopard Gecko (Eublepharis macularius)

This is now one of the most common reptile pets in the world, for good reason. Leopard Geckos are hardy captives, but also interesting and often amusing. Being from a moderately desert-like environment, they do not require high temperatures or high humidity. They also breed readily. Adult leopard geckos grow to about 8-10" long, making them an ideal-sized pet if you don't have a lot of space.

See also Leopard Geckos and Gecko Page.

Tokay Gecko (Gekko gecko) and relatives

This gecko is another popular and hardy captive, slightly more demanding than the leopard as it requires a humid tank with plants (artificial or real) to thrive. It eats readily, almost gluttonously. Tokays are attractive blue and red-spotted lizards, and one of the few species to have vocal sacs. Their main disadvantages, from the owner's point of view, is that they are nocturnal (not a problem if you use a red light, which they can't detect but which shows them up), and that they bite hard at the slightest provocation. Average adult size is about 12". A more docile version and also attractive species is the Tokay's relative, the White-Lined or Skunk Gecko (so called because of its coloration, not its smell!), Gekko vittatus. This can be kept much like the Tokay. They have become more popular in recent years.

See also Gecko Page and Tokay Gecko page.

Berber Skinks (Novoeumeces schneideri)

Unlike some skinks which are very small and therefore easy to lose sight of (or even to lose), Berbers grow to about 12" and are therefore a reasonable size. Coming from North Africa, they require a simple desert setup with a few plastic or clay pipes sunk under the substrate to use as burrows. They are also considerably cheaper than their larger antipodean cousins, the Pink-Tongues and Blue-Tongues.

Bearded Dragons (Pogona vitticeps)

Another massively popular reptile pet in recent years, to the point where the price of what was once a moderately expensive lizard has tumbled, at least in the USA. These are slightly more demanding in that they need the high heat of the Australian desert in their tank, 100 degrees F. or so. However, they are omnivorous, eat well and are reasonably low maintenance. Perhaps most attractively, they become tame very quickly and will sit on their owner's hand or shoulder (but don't let them get cold). Beardeds grow to about 18-24", so a larger tank is essential.

Click here for a very good source of information on the care of Bearded Dragons and links to other BD sites.

Sudan Plated Lizards (Gerrhosaurus major) and relatives

Some people have suggested that there are difficulties with these lizards, but I have found Sudan Plated Lizards to be relatively trouble-free once they are set up correctly. The first thing to consider is that this species grows to about 18-24", so you should allow for a tank at least 4x2ft. The other is that most plated lizards are caught from the wild, so may come with internal parasites that will require a veterinary visit. They do not have high humidity or temperature requirements and grow tame very quickly, having a liking for sitting on a human shoulder. They are also omnivorous and seem to breed easily, although incubating the eggs is harder. Gerrhosaurus major is the most common, and in my experience most "pet-like", of the Gerrhosaurus family and can easily be distinguished by its overall brown colour and regularly arranged square scales: some may have dark-edged scales or thin black stripes. There are other Gerrhosaurus species which are also sometimes available, most notably the Yellow-Throated Plated Lizard Gerrhosaurus flavigularis, which looks like a yellow scaled-down version of G. major. It can be flighty but also has a reputation for becoming a good pet. Gerrhosaurus nigrolineatus is similar to G. flavigularis in appearance but slightly bigger: the two can be hard to distinguish. Gerrhosaurus validus, the Giant Plated Lizard, is the biggest of the family. It is not often seen and is not as docile as the other species. The smaller plateds are insectivorous and take the standard fare: the larger members, G. major and G. validus, will also take some fruit and veg and the occasional pinkie (do not overfeed with this last item).

See also Plated Lizards ; Gerrhosauridae

Blue-Tongued Skinks (Tiliqua spp)

The Blue-Tongued Skinks are one of the larger-sized species of skink, and come from Down Under (Australia and New Guinea). Despite Australia's ban on exports of her native wildlife there seem to be enough Blue-Tongues about, although this restriction usually means a high price tag or a long wait. They are superb lizards, being medium-sized, tameable, and reasonably easy to look after. Their biggest requirement is perhaps space, since being 18-24" and fairly rounded long they will need a fair amount of floor space: a terrarium of 4' by 3' is probably the practical minimum. However, apart from the related Pink-Tongued Skink, none of them are really climbers and so the terrarium need not be high. They also have a varied diet of insects, pinkies and vegetable matter, plus any mollusks (ie snails) you can feed them, provided you can be sure the latter aren't carrying pesticides. With the difficulty in obtaining Blue-Tongues from their native lands, captive breeding should be a priority.

Lacertids and Wall Lizards (Lacerta spp and Podarcis spp)

These are the European members of the lizard order, although some lacertids can be found in North Africa and Asia. European lacertids are an attractive green, often with blue markings (depending on species and sex). The larger ones grow up to 2ft. Wall lizards (members of the Podarcis genus) are normally smaller (up to 10-12" at most) and less brightly coloured, but obviously require less space. Perhaps the biggest disadvantage is the size of some lacertids and the lack of ready information, as there does not appear to be any books dedicated solely to these creatures. The species most commonly kept (and which we recommend because of this) are Lacerta lepida, the Eyed/Jewelled/Ocellated Lizard; Lacerta viridis, the Green Lizard; Podarcis muralis, the Wall Lizard; and Podarcis sicula, the Ruins Lizard. Most need a dry tank setup with plenty of hiding places, especially the Podarcis species which can be quite flighty, and UV is absolutely essential. Some of the Podarcis species are hard to distinguish from one another, so I would advise buying any from a trusted shop or dealer. Germans, Dutch and some British breed these fairly regularly.

See also Eyed Lizards

Ocellated Skink, Chalcides ocellatus

This is a smallish (not more than 12" total length) but hardy skink that can be easily kept and bred in fairly basic conditions. Ocellated skinks are attractive creatures that initially burrow deeply into the substrate but after a few weeks become accustomed to their owners and learn to rush to the front of the cage in the hope of food. I give mine UV light as most live in sunny microhabitats, but equally important is a reasonable depth of substrate (calcium sand or sterile potting soil are probably best, I use the first) into which the skinks can dig. An undertank heat mat is probably more beneficial than an overhead heat source, especially if the room temperature is warm enough. Other than that, a few flat stones or rocks and maybe a piece of cork bark are all that is necessary to furnish the cage. The skinks drink infrequently, preferring to lick water, but a small receptacle of water should be provided nevertheless. They feed on small crickets (up to 2nd instar) and fruitflies, and it may be worth trying a small dish of pureed babyfood occasionally for adults. Chalcides ocellatus are livebearers and seem to produce up to 3 litters in the first half of the year without any prodding from their owners. The only caution here is that obviously you need to think what you will do with the young when you get them, as prices are very low for this species.

See also Experiences and Observations of Ocellated Skinks

Scheltopusik/European Glass Lizard, Pseudopus [Ophidosaurus] apodus

This is a largish legless lizard found in parts of southern and eastern Europe and the Ukraine. Some people prefer their lizards to have legs, but if you don't mind the idea of a legless lizard then this species makes an excellent pet. It is hardy, easy to maintain and furthermore seems to learn to know its keeper and become quite tame with handling. They are also long-lived, 20 years or more not being uncommon. They are offered in the trade more regularly than other so-called "glass lizards" (legless species). The Scheltopusik can easily be distinguished from a snake by its eyelids and external ear openings.

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