|Care Guide for the Genus|
We've included a detailed care sheet for the most common Uromastyx species following this introduction into our Uromastyx breeding program. Please take the time to read it before purchasing your Uromastyx. Don't take anything we say as the gospel from which you can not vary. We've merely put down our experiences for you to use as a reference point. Our availability of specific species is sporadic, so please e-mail or call us (360 435-2679) if you're looking for Uromastyx for companion animals or breeders. We keep a "Wanted" list and fill it as specimens become available. Please see "Deer Fern Farms Ordering / Policies" for ordering information.
History of Uromastyx at Deer Fern Farms: We take our Uromastyx very seriously. Of all the reptiles we've worked with over the years, none can compare to the Uromastyx as a companion / pet species. They are our favorites, hands down. When we first encountered Uromastyx in the early 90's, only Egyptians and Ornate's were readily available. We fell in love with Ornates and were one of the first in the U.S. to successfully breed and hatch this species in captivity (Douglas Dix, Randal Gray, and Audrey Vanderlander each successfully reproduced Ornates for the 1st time in North American in 1994). Before then only a few Moroccan Uromastyx had ever been successfully bred in North America - by Randal Gray and Matt Moyle circa 1990). Sudanese then became available in limited numbers and we acquired and had some limited success with a few pairs of that remarkable species as well. Shortly thereafter, the first Mali Uromastyx entered the U.S. and soon the importation floodgates opened for Mali Uromastyx, followed by the Saharan Uromastyx just as the importation of the other species effectively closed.
The mass importation of Mali's has been both good and bad for Uromastyx herpetoculture. Up to that point only very limited success with the captive propagation of Uromastyx had occurred. No reliable information was available on husbandry or breeding/incubation requirements and most people had dismal luck. Prospects looked dim for the establishment of the rarer species as we didn't have the numbers to work out the proper rearing techniques. The ready availability of Mali's thus served to allow us to gain knowledge, through trial and error, on just what it takes to acclimate, cycle for breeding, incubate and rear Uromastyx in captivity. We have a long way to go to fine tune the process, but each year various cooperating breeders have shared their successes and failures and gradually increased everyone's success rates. On the down side, these mass importations caused the price of wild collected specimens to become artificially low. This seems to have discouraged many breeders from working with Uromastyx in general, as some seem to relate "cost" with "desirability". It also makes it harder for those putting the effort into breeding and establishing Uromastyx in captivity to compete with the flood of imports. The mass selling of unacclimated wild-collected specimens by brokers also has led many novices to believe Uromastyx are delicate and hard to keep. The opposite is in fact true, but only for captive bred or well acclimated wild collected specimens. Unfortunately most brokers/dealers are unable (or chose not) to put the time into acclimating their specimens before releasing them to the public.
In 1992 we decided to focus our breeding efforts on the various members of the genus Uromastyx. The question then became one of how best to accomplish this task. Most species only entered the country in extremely limited numbers and even with Mali's, most specimens available through normal channels were mediocre or badly stressed from poor handling. It was clear we needed a better means of insuring we had access to the best potentially available. After a lot of ground work, we setup the contacts we needed to start screening the import shipments for those few premium Uromastyx we knew were out there, as well as for the sporadic availability of the uncommon species. After literally thousands of hours (and dollars) invested into breeding stock and Uromastyx-specific facilities, we finally put together an outstanding group of breeding Uromastyx. Over the years we have worked with essentially every species that has entered the U.S., including Arabian Blues, Algerian, Banded (Highland, Mainland and Lowland races), Ebony, Indian, Mali, Moroccan, Ornate, Orange benti, Rainbow, Saharan, Somali, and Sudanese Uromastyx and even had an Omani for awhile. We arguably put together the largest, most diverse collection of foundation breeder-quality Uromastyx in the United States. We have since cut back our breeding efforts to focus on those Uromastyx species which both do especially well for us as breeders and as importantly, do reliable well for our customers. Thus our primary breeding focus for Uromastyx is currently centered on the 3 races of Banded Uromastyx as well as the Moroccan Uromastyx. We still work with other species, most notably the Arabian Blue and Rainbows as well as Mali's, but our numbers are far less on those than we use to keep. We also diversified our species interests so a significant amount of our breeding space is now devoted to various similar care species such as Chuckwallas as well as Golden Greek and Indian Star tortoises.
|Handpicking Uromastyx just in from Yemen||Main Breeding / Rearing Room|
|(L to R = Douglas Dix, Lindsay Pike, Mike Ellard) circa 2001|
Our "For Sale" Specimens: We offer both captive-produced Uromastyx as well as field-collected specimens. In addition to our working relationships with other breeders, we have arrangements with several of the largest Uromastyx importers to notify us on most major importations of the rarer species so that we can pull premium specimens before they get lost into the pet trade. We pay more per specimen for the privilege, but this insures we can obtain and offer the best specimens possible. We hold all our specimens until well acclimated (readily consuming the normal food-items available to the average care giver and steadily gaining weight, the biggest keys to success with wild-collected specimens) before releasing any to our customers.
We are strong supporters of captive propagation efforts and are always looking to purchase additional healthy clutches produced by other breeders for resale to our customers. These are an excellent choice for pet and breeder specimens. They tend to be a little more expensive than wild collected specimens, but if we don't support these efforts, the day will come when most Uromastyx species will be unavailable to future Uro-philes. In our opinion, funneling a reasonable portion of wild-collected specimens into potential captive breeding programs is also one of the few legitimate justifications for collecting specimens from wild populations. Captive breeding also eventually reduces the demand for wild-collected specimens, easing pressures on wild populations. The extra cost is thus well justified. We constantly consult with other breeders to insure the specimens produced are as healthy and vigorous as possible. Thus if your goals are similar to ours -wanting truly the best specimens available with the best potential to thrive for you, please consider some of our Uromastyx, either wild-collected or captive-produced, for your breeders or pets.
General Husbandry / Breeding
Most Uromastyx species currently in the U.S. seem to have fairly similar requirements so I'll lump them together for the purposes of this care sheet. Where the various species differ in their care requirements, I'll so note in the text. Please also look at care sheets posted at The Uromastyx Home Page (http://www.kingsnake.com/uromastyx/) for additional information on a variety of Uromastyx issues. Also check out The Uromastyx Forums (http://www.kingsnake.com/uromastyx/). These are useful forums for posting questions and sharing information concerning Uromastyx. Be careful taking advice posted on forums as a fair amount of inaccurate information gets posted by well meaning but inexperienced individuals. Use your common sense and get more than one opinion before making any major changes in how you keep your animals.
Lighting/Heat: First and foremost, Uromastyx are heat lovers, the ultimate heat lovers! They must have a basking site that reaches between 110F and 120F (surface temp). No, that's not a typo, one hundred and ten to one hundred and twenty F! This is actually easy to produce with a Zoo-Med or comparable reptile basking bulb (reflector or flood type bulb) shining over a smooth piece of slate or other suitable rock. Adjust the height of the basking light so that it heats an area at least as large as the whole body of a basking Uromastyx and make sure the light is placed high enough to prevent the animals from accessing it. Do NOT use hot rocks or similar "in-cage" electric underbelly heaters. These will not suffice and can cause serious injury to your animals. An under-the-tank heating pad is ok but only for supplemental heat. The overhead basking light is still essential. You're aiming for a general background floor temperature around 95F in the warm end of the cage, and the mid 80'sF in the coolest end of the cage. This permits your animals to self-regulate their body temperature. Night temps should be much cooler, typical of their desert homes. Most people shoot for the mid 70's year round (5F to 10F cooler in the winter if you plan on breeding them). While many if not most sites still recommend the use of a UVB producing Mercury Vapor basking bulb, after many years of trials, we no longer feel these are a good choice for your reptile. UVB initiates the conversion of vit. D3 precursor into active vitamin D3, and in theory these bulbs produce enough UVB to stimulate this reaction. However we have been measuring output from about every bulb ever put on the market over the years and the vast majority put out far too little UVB to be useful in this process. Additionally both ourselves, colleagues and several Zoo's have noticed adverse effects form using these bulbs including basking avoidance to eye and skin issues. Many of us now choose to simply add vit. D3 to the diet and dispense with the bulbs. We spend 4 years rearing half each year's offspring under UVB lights and half on non-UV lights but with D3 supplementation in the food and tracked their growth rates. Those without exposure to UV bulbs did every bit as well as those reared under Mercury Vapor bulbs. When we noticed our Chuckwallas in particular consistently refused to bask under the Mercury Vapor bulbs in 2009, we decided to finally pull all the UV bulbs in the building and replace them with high quality (yet inexpensive) clear white Infra-Red bulbs. We've had no signs of hypo or hyper D3 issues and have been happy with the decision. All that said, if you can give your Uromastyx access to true unfiltered sunlight, it is beneficial. Uromastyx do detect the difference between normal "man made" light and sunlight and are unmistakably attracted to sunlight. All things being equal, Uromastyx raised outdoors in unfiltered sunlight tend to be brighter pigmented and sunlight is no doubt the best and safest UV source.
For most of the year, we are looking to produce a 13 hour day and 11 hour night time period for all species of Uromastyx. You can shorten this by a few hours during the winter, but only if you don't mind the possibility of them cycling and going through breeding behaviors in the spring. This is NOT an option if you have multiple specimens of the same sex housed together. Going through a yearly full brumation cycle does not appear to be essential to the long term health of most Uromastyx. Seasonal variation in day length and background temperatures is probably a good idea, but for most pet owners, don't go below a 10 hour day during the winter or 68 F night time low temperatures.
Bedding: Opinions vary on the ideal bedding. It's a common misconception that Uromastyx prefer sand and come from a sandy environment. In fact they tend to avoid overly sandy locales in the wild, preferring clay/sand or gravelly-loam (caliche) mixes, rocky outcrops or other soils better suited to holding a burrow without collapsing. If you use sand, make sure it is a natural sand (rounded edges) like beach sand or washed playground sand. Man made sand (from crushing gravel) has jagged edges which easily interlock, leading to gut impactions in animals that swallow it. We personally don't like sand and restrict it's use to only in the nest boxes and only as part of a mix of other soils.
We've tried bark, which the Uros enjoyed but the excessive dust produced was unacceptable and picking out fecal pellets was far too labor intensive. We then tried rabbit pellets (alfalfa), but the problems were essentially the same as bark but with much more odor and eventually mold issues. We finally switched to high quality wild bird seed (predominately millet) in the mid 90's and have been extremely pleased with the results. The Uro's can snack on the seed throughout the day, it's generally dust and odor free. Seeds which the Uro's crack before swallowing are digested while uncracked seeds pass whole, acting as much needed roughage. Fecal pellets can be quickly sifted out of the cage with a 1/4" mesh hardware wire sieve (easy to make from a cat litter scoop), allowing us to easily maintain a large number of Uromastyx without needing additional hired help. The seed is good for several months per cage, then with one final cleaning, can be fed to our other livestock (sheep, ducks) or wild birds. If the Uros drag damp sand into the bedding or pile bedding in the nest box, the seeds sprout. As a side note, we've also looked into using calcium carbonate sand (Calci-sand, T-Rex), but other Uro keepers have told us the dust produced is too great to be acceptable bedding. The fine dust also has a tendency to get into the eyes, potentially causing significant irritation/injury. It is particularly dangerous to use around hatchlings and juveniles, getting into the lungs and causing severe desiccation. It tends to clump when damp and form semi-hard masses which potentially could lead to intestinal blockages. There is also some concern calcium-based sands act like giant anti-acid tablets, upsetting the digestion process. Ground walnut shell has also been suggested as a good bedding and is advertised as an attractive, digestible, odor free, safe bedding by the manufacturers. While we agree it's quite attractive, it is otherwise a nightmare of a product. Walnut shell is composed primarily of lignin which in fact is not digestible by vertebrates, and the crushing process basically leaves most the resulting pieces with jagged edges. These edges have been indicated in the deaths of several Uromastyx - necropsies revealing their stomachs had been extensively lacerated by ingested bedding. All in all, we strongly suggest avoiding it. Similarly, ground corn-cob is too dangerous to use. While it has smooth edges, it's extremely hydrophilic and if swallowed absorbs water from the gut and expands. This can easily lead to fatal impactions and as Uromastyx don't normally drink water, even small amounts inadvertently ingested can easily dehydrate smaller specimens. Bed-a-Beast (shredded coconut husks) are used by some with good success, but again fecal pellets have to be removed one by one by hand and it tends to be quite dusty. We've tried it in our nest boxes but it readily molds and attracts gnat flies which can harm newly laid eggs, so we've had to eliminate it. The chucky version of it works well as bedding for our Agamas and Tortoises and at least for them is an attractive, low dust, no odor bedding.
Note for all these bedding, make the depth very shallow -say 1/4 inch max. For most situations, making the bedding deep enough to burrow in greatly complicates their care. Use artificial burrows or hide boxes to satisfy your Uro's desire to burrow. For hatchlings or juveniles under 4 inches total length we recommend bare tank bottoms or butcher's paper. Hatchlings are much more sensitive to ingesting dry, hard material so it's best to avoid the problem.
Shelters: Uromastyx are burrowers by nature and must be provided with some form of low shelter. In most of our breeding pens, we use patio blocks (8"x16" red cement bricks) and solid plastic boards (1/2" thick x 8"x18") glued onto 2"x2" boards to give a ground clearance of approx. 2". The goal is to produce a shelter just high enough so that the Uro's can feel the top of the shelter while standing inside it. It's best not to place these directly under the basking area unless you also place a second one elsewhere in the cage. For most cages we also add a nest box to simulate a burrow/sleeping chamber and the naturally higher humidity contained there-in. This is usually made from a Rubbermaid "Roughneck" brand 3.3 gal. or larger soft plastic tub. We then insert a piece of 4" diameter flexible plastic drain-pipe into the upper side of the box to act as the "burrow" leading to the nest/sleeping "chamber". The tube then extends approx. 18" from the side of the tub with the end touching the ground, preferably along the back wall of the cage. We prefer soft ABS drainage pipe as it's flexible, cheap and ribbed for easy footing. Fill the tub with only very slightly damp 50/50 sand/peatmoss. Adding a little Excavator Soil (Zoo-Med) gives it better texture.
___ 4' "Vision" Brand Cage ___
Housing: Uromastyx tend to have a low tolerance for cohabitating with other Uromastyx unless reared together. Under most circumstances, two mature males may not be placed together in a tank. Sooner or later one will likely attack the other, possibly causing serious injury. While females of most species are more variable in this regard, many females also are intolerant of same-sex housing unless reared together. That said, many Uromastyx will tolerate and even prefer being housed with a member of the opposite sex or even the same sex when reared together from a young age. We rear all our Uromastyx in colonies from hatchling to near adulthood, gradually reducing the numbers per pen with time until we are down to one breeding pair or more rarely as trios. You can sometimes also introduced to strange Uromastyx to each other if placed into a new cage simultaneously. This works well for introducing juveniles to each other but becomes more problematic with older individuals. Rearing an individual by itself to near adulthood then trying to pair it up rarely goes well. If you cycle your Uro's for breeding, then only opposite sex pairs are safe. Breeding males almost never tolerate other males in the same pen. Females of most species also tend to become belligerent towards all other Uros, male or female, once they are bred and begin preparing a nesting site. Most are very moody the first few weeks pre-and post-laying and may need to be separately housed for several weeks or even months. The aggression can be subtle and easily missed if you're not around the animals throughout the day. Periodically examine your animals, noting their weight and the condition of the skin along their flanks. Individuals intimidated by others tend to gradually loose weight. Aggressive animals tend to bite others along the flanks, leading to distinct thickening of this area. If allowed to continue, this can lead to significant tissue damage or even death, even if the aggressor never directly breaks the skin.
If you wish to try to house a sexual pair or trio together, first setup the cage so that each individual will have access to multiple basking, sleeping and feeding sites. Then introduce them to the new cage simultaneously. Uros are by nature territorial, and even calm animals tend to attack new individuals placed in their cage. A notable exception occurs between individuals of vastly differing size. In particular, large adults are very tolerant of sharing their cage with small juveniles. Note trios generally only work if you don't cycle them for breeding. Bred females are rarely tolerant of a second female living in the same cage.
As far as cage size, the larger the better for all but hatchlings. Our ground breeder pens run approx. 4' long by 2 1/2'deep by 2' high and house mostly pairs with just a few select trios. We primarily use Vision and Showcase brand 4' cages for housing single individuals or breeding pairs off the ground. If you wish to use a standard aquarium or terrarium as a cage, we'd strongly suggest not going smaller than a 40 gal. "Critter Keeper" style long tank for young adults and no smaller than a 20 gal. (long version) for hatchlings. You should cover the back glass with some background (dessert scene or whatever) and at least initially, the lower 1/4 of the two sides as well, leaving only the front completely clear glass. This will help prevent the Uros from excessively clawing at the glass or running face-first into the sides of the tank if spooked. Placing cage ornaments (logs etc.) along the edges will also help in this regard. A better option would be to build your own cage out of A-grade plywood sealed with non-toxic polyurethane to produce a cage at least 4' long, 24" wide, 18" tall for an adult pair of Uromastyx. Many breeders maintain their Uros in large steel or plastic livestock water tanks. This is an inexpensive means of housing them but the aesthetics are somewhat problematical for "in the home" housing! Uros are active creatures and like to run around. Shoot for as large a cage as you have space for.
We keep our hatchlings 8 to 10 per cage in 4' Vision cages (4' long, 24" wide, 14" to 18" tall). Larger than that and they tend to have more trouble finding the food or regulating their temperatures. Note hatchlings of some species such as Moroccans tend to get very territorial after about 4 weeks of age and must have separate shelters throughout the cage. The more aggressive individuals may need to be housed separately (or at least moved in with much larger individuals) as soon as they start showing aggression.
___ Pok Choy ___
Diet: Uromastyx are primarily herbivores, with a taste for insects on the side. Our primary diet is composed of two main fractions. The first is fresh leafy greens. We use Earthbound brand "SpringMix" as our base diet as we can buy it in bulk and it needs no further chopping etc. to be used. It comes in 1 pound clear plastic resealable tubs and for the most part contains a good mix of nutritious greens. It is a bit too high in leaf lettuces so we mix it 50/50 with some other non-salad type leaf green (ex: Endive, Pok Choy, Collard Greens). We rinse it all in cold water, shake off the excess moisture then dust it very lightly with one of two supplements. On Odd numbered days we use SuperVeggie Dust, a vitamin supplement produced by Repashy Foods (with feedback from us) specifically tweaked for use by vegetarian reptiles. On even numbered days we dust instead with either Miner-Al (I) mineral supplement or Repashy HyD calcium mineral supplement. Once or twice week we also dust the food with ground up Mazuri Tortoise pellets. (Please see our separate web page "Essential Supplies" to purchases these supplementation products). For specimens 3 months or older we also add a handful of warmed up frozen mixed veggies (peas, carrots, corn, cut green beans) to the mix once or twice per week. During the winter and early spring, this is our primary daily diet. During the summer and early fall, we harvest home grown leafy greens and blooms and use that to replace about 50% of the Spring Mix. The greens/blooms we primarily use are dandelion greens/ blooms, clover greens /blooms, Rose of Sharon hibiscus blooms, nasturtium blooms, cats claw blooms (a late-season dandelion-mimic), viola (Johnny jump ups blooms), rose blooms, and fresh (not dried) alfalfa leaves / blooms (please see our separate web page "Photo Guide to Edible Wild Plants and Flowers" for nutritional data and feeding information on the best plant species to use as food for Uromastyx). We try to feed a slightly different mixture of food items each day, alternating what greens we add to the base diet. The primary store-purchased greens we add are endive first and foremost, followed by Pok Choy, mustard greens, grated yellow squash, and collards. Spring mix is already very high in romaine and oak leaf lettuces so while those are fine as lesser food items, we don't want to add any more of those to the spring mix. We do not pre-chop the added leaves for hatchlings but simply tear it fresh into chucks for everyone. When available, we also periodically place cactus pads in each cage (Opuntia sp, commercially produced as human grade food, de-spined at the store). These last for days, allowing for periodic nibbling at will. Most of our Uro's don't really care for them but other people swear theirs love them.
If you house your Uros on anything other than bird seed, you can partially replace the Mazuri pellets with a dish of dry "Pretty Bird" brand finch pellets or T-Rex tortoise pellets or Juvenile Iguana pellets (Uros housed on seed tend to ignore these pellets). These are a synthetic "seed" which has multiple vitamins added and is much better digested than most bird seed. Hopefully if the Uros main diet is lacking in some minor nutrient, snacking on this will make up for it. Some breeders also like to add ground dried bean mixes to the diet. This mix is generally comprised of various soup beans to which low levels of a multi vitamin-mineral supplement is added then run through a coffee grinder. The final mix is offered to the Uros in a shallow dish left in the cage. Lentils in particular are relished by UIromastyx.
It's wise to highly limit spinach, beet greens, Swiss chard, or true cabbage in the diet, and go easy on broccoli, kale and collard greens (the exception being the blossoms of these). These leaves either bind important nutrients or tend to induce metabolic problems over time. Peas have their faults as well but if you supplement with a balanced mineral supplement (especially ones containing zinc, manganese, magnesium along with the more common additive calcium), the benefits out-weigh the potential harm as long as you use them sparingly in the diet. In our experience, it's very difficult to reliably acclimate wild-collected specimens or underweight long term specimens without adding peas to the diet. In particular, we don't consider Sudanese or Orange or Rainbow benti to be successfully acclimated until they are eating peas. Insist on this when buying these 3 species, it will greatly improve your success potential with them.
While most Uros consume the occasional insect in the wild, these generally cause more problems than they are worth in domestic specimens. On very rare occasion, we may offer an occasional superworm (Zoophobia sp.) to individuals that are slow to settle in. These are a great way to tame your Uros. Many are easily addicted to superworms and will go to great lengths to procure them. Conventional wisdom suggests gravid females fed a slightly higher than normal amount of insect matter produce better clutches, but we have not found that to hold true. Most commercially available insects are excessively high in phosphorous which causes the body to excrete calcium into the feces. Be careful to supplement w/ calcium whenever you feed insects and never feed more than just a couple per sitting and only a few per week. Hatchlings in particular easily develop metabolic problems if fed too many insects. All in all, we strongly suggest you avoid insects in the diet except under special circumstances (for example for individuals that are refusing to eat or refusing to tame down).
Water: Opportunities to drink are a rare occurrence in the wild for most species of Uromastyx. Uromastyx solve this problem by producing metabolic water from their digesting food. As long as their bellies are relatively full, most are making more than enough water to meet all their needs. Thus we don't normally offer water to our healthy Uros. The exceptions are for newly acquired/shipped animals, individuals which haven't kept up a reasonable gut mass of digesting food, females which are near term-gravid or have just laid their clutch, and for fresh hatchlings. Individuals with near empty bellies MUST be offered drinking water on a regular basis. If a Uromastyx goes off-feed, their bellies slowly empty. As this progresses, their bodies tend to dehydrate. As they dehydrate, appetite is often further suppressed, resulting in a spiral down towards death. (Note: dehydrated animals have limited abilities to process proteins so don't offer insects or dry bean mixes to an overly thin, dehydrated Uromastyx. The burden on the kidneys and livers may prove fatal months down the road). Despite all I've stated above, there are still very few circumstances when it is acceptable to put a water bowl in a Uromastyxs' cage. If you feel an individual needs water, take him or her to a tub filled with approximately 1/2" of bath-water hot (100F) water . It must be as warm as you can safely make it so that the individual stays near their optimum body temperature (103F). Some will drink on their own, others can be enticed by dripping water on their snout. (Note: Saharan Uromastyx are prone to aspirating water into the lungs so be very careful when soaking them. Put them very slowly into the tub and keep the water very shallow (1/4" max.) Other Uro species seem much less likely to have this problem). Many unacclimated individuals will not drink while being watched. You must leave their line of sight. It's also wise to leave them undisturbed for a few minutes after drinking to avoid them regurgitating. Truly dehydrated animals may need to be tubed with a warmed electrolyte solution. See your vet if you are unfamiliar with this procedure. Using Pedialtye or even Gatorade or similar product instead of water for the soak is one way to supply these electrolytes. Just make sure to rinse the solution off them and dry them well afterwards. The hindgut is also capable of absorbing water, so use of dilute electrolyte/vitamin enemas may also be useful for seriously dehydrated individuals. Individuals with intestinal problems (parasites or bacterial infections) may not be able to absorb water through the gut and will need to be taken to a Vet for injections of a saline/glucose and sterile water mixture (even ratio of each is usually best). Note it's easiest to give this injection under the front arm pits - if placed just right, you hit what appears to be a lymph duct and you can easily inject several cc's of fluid without any backwash out of the injection site. If you tube them orally, juveniles usually will hold down 1 to 2 cc, medium adults 5 cc, large adults 7 to 10 cc's of fluid. While it's easy to give more than this, they will often regurgitate larger amounts a few minutes to hours later. If given rectally, reduce these doses by about 1/3.
An alternative method to offer water is to take a small jar lid (approx. 1/4" deep) early in the morning, fill it with water and place it in the cage (along a wall in a corner). Most Uro's have a higher tendency to drink in the morning, perhaps being programmed to seek potential dew at this time. This small amount of water should evaporate off during the day, causing no harm. We routinely have a lid of water in our hatchling tanks, but stop this practice once they go though the first sheds (when 8 to 12 weeks old). Note if you feed ground bean mixes, especially to hatchlings, a water dish can cause significant health problems. The Uro's tend to constantly walk through their water dishes. If they then walk through their bean dish, they essentially glue the powder to their bellies and toes. This can result in significant skin infections/lesions which can take months to clear up. Note feeding soft fruits can cause the same problem - the material easily glues itself to their bellies as they walk through it, resulting in significant infections if repeatedly left unattended.
A species exception to the no water rule are the benti and Saharan Uromastyx. While most Uromastyx species will commonly refuse offered water, both species of benti and Saharans will often accept the offering and drink heartily. While they can do fine without water as long as they keep a belly full of digesting food, since they readily drink, we offer them soaks more often than the other species. Note, we still don't keep a water bowl in their cages, we just offer more opportunities to soak in the tub. Please be sure to dry them off afterwards as dampness will eventually lead to health problems.
___ Nest Box ___
Most breeders believe
Uromastyx need to be put through some form of winter in order to sufficiently cycle to induce breeding and fertile egg production. The various species vary over how "severe" a winter they need, with
Bandeds, Moroccans, Mali's, and Egyptians needing the coldest/longest winters, Ornates,
Saharans and benti needing moderate/mild winters, and Sudanese needing the bare minimum of seasonal differences to successfully cycle. We've tried numerous approaches to wintering or "brumating" our Uromastyx, with widely variable results. Too warm or too short a "winter" and most species won't cycle, too cold or too long and mortality becomes a problem. The best solution for us has been as follows:
First, stop feeding Bandeds, Mali's, Moroccans, and Egyptians about 2 weeks prior to the start of your "winter". Cut severely back on the amounts but continue to feed Arabians, Ornates, both benti species, Saharans and Sudanese Uromastyx. We mostly offer Romaine and endive at this time primarily for their high water content. Avoid peas, beans, and any high protein foods. At the same time cut your day length to 10 hours of light but leave the cage temperatures close to normal during the day, while trying to keep no hotter than 70F at night. After the first week, we drop day length down to 9 hours per day. All else stays the same. At the end of week 2, we drop day length to 8 hours per day, eac hweek, lossing onehour of daylength till down to 4 to 6 hours per day. Try to maintain the cage temperatures around 60F to 65F for at least 20 hours per day. Then for at least 4 hours per day, we turn on the basking lights so that the cage temperature hits at least 80's F, preferably 85F, for at least 2 full hours. The goal here is to stimulate the immune system to kick in and gut function to reactivate for at least 2 hours each day. Failure to do this will significantly increase your mortality rate, especially for Ornates, Sudanese, and the benti. If you haven't cleared the guts of your Mali's, etc, they too risk suffering from gut paralysis and eventual necrosis. During this time we still offer limited food to the Arabians, etc but generally restrict food for the Banded, Moroxcan groups. Note we still have bird seed in the cage as bedding, so some feeding might be occurring, but except for the benti and Saharans, most Uromastyx will not seek food at this time. We continue this to produce a "winter" of approx. 6 to 8 weeks. We then reverse the process, bumping the cage day temp by an hour each week. At thesametime we are slowly get back up to normal summer day and night temperatures. During this "spring" buildup time , we try to keep our night temps near 70'F. Most our Uro's will be up and basking by the end of "spring" week three and eating lightly by week four. By the time you are back to 10 hour days most should be back to their normal activity levels. This system has worked well for us for many years running now and several other breeders use a very similar system with good success as well.
For egg laying, we use 3.3 gal. or 10 gal. Rubbermaid "Roughneck" soft plastic tubs, lids intact. We cut a 4" round hole in the upper corner of the long side of the tub, and insert a 2' to 3' section of 4" diameter drainage pipe (flexible, ribbed plastic, see photo above). We then cut a hole in the side of the pipe so that the Uro's have easy access out of the pipe and into the nest chamber. The insides of the nest boxes are 3/4's filled with a 45% mix of playground-grade sand, 45% peat moss with the final 10% being Zoo Med Excavator soil. This is moistened just enough to allow it to hold a tunnel. Our long-term established wild-collected animals and captive-breds use this setup without hesitation. Only newly imported Uromastyx seem to balk and bury their eggs in the bird seed, often under the basking spot. Nest boxes are best put in w/ the females PRIOR to the onset of the breeding season so that they can become accustomed to moving in and out of them and digging preliminary tunnels. As a side note, be sure to trim the toenails of your gravid females a few weeks before they lay. They are notorious for nicking their eggs while burying them.
We remove the eggs as soon as they are detected and place them on their sides in a modified bedding of "HatchRite" incubation material in small plastic trays (Please see our separate web page "Essential Supplies" to see our incubation kit). These trays are then placed in our incubator at 92F.
Uromastyx eggs relay their fertility and viability status very clearly. Fertile eggs have a faint red circle (the developing embryo) clearly visible on one side of the egg at the time the eggs are laid. Freshly deposited eggs are slightly translucent and water-balloon-like, but viable eggs usually firm up and whiten within a day or two at most. Eggs which are distinctly yellow or in which you can see the contents moving around inside in a two-toned pattern (milky yellow in a clearer yellow) are already in the early stages of disintegration and will not hatch. Dud eggs will begin to smell almost immediately and are often easy to detect in the incubator within 3 to 4 days. Duds also tend to develop a faintly oily look to them and rarely firm up. Mold growing on the shells has been a common problem in the past but if you use HatchRite with the modifications we suggest, mold is rarely an issue.
In the past, we've incubated at temperatures ranging from 85F to 88F with so so success. This results in hatchlings in about 80 to as long as 120 days. Initial thoughts from various other reptiles breeders suggested that we were incubating too high. However field data for Ornate Uromastyx suggested we actually were incubating too low. Several of us thus tried 92F to 94F in the late 90's with excellent results. Thus while you may still see others list the lower temperatures as correct, we've permanently change our temperatures to 92F ±1F.
At 92F, incubation for most Uromastyx species should range closer to 55 to 65 days. The hatchlings are quite vigorous and ready to feed within a day or two. Treat them as you would adults, but slightly cooler and periodically offer water. Watch for signs of aggression. Dominant animals will significantly repress the growth of the other hatchlings housed with them. Siblings usually get along with each other (with one individual per clutch almost always being an exception). However intermixing already established clutches almost always leads to fighting. Sudanese and the benti Uromastyx must have drinking water available as described earlier until the first or second shed have been past. The other species do well with or without this extra water, as long as they keep their bellies full. Note hatchlings should be offered fresh fecal pellets from a healthy adult Uromastyx during the first few days post hatching. They need this in order to properly inoculate their guts and grow normally. Failure to do this will can stunt their growth and increase their potential to suffer gut impactions early in life. The drive for them to eat this material wanes quickly, so you must do this as soon as possible. Crumble fresh fecal pellets into their normal food and watch to make sure each individual eats at least some of the fecal mass. Don't use a fecal pellet from an adult whom you've recently wormed or treated with antibiotics. Pick an individual that is obviously thriving and is free from an excessive load of parasites (not a lot of "rice"-like particles in the fecal pellet), but it doesn't have to be parasite-free. Parasite-free may not even be desirable - they jury is still out on that one. By parasites, we're strictly referring to nematodes (pinworms). Other parasites such as coccidia etc. are undesirable at any levels.
Try not to offer hatchlings any dry foods for the first month or two. They easily get gut impactions from overly dry food lodging in the intestines. If you feel a hard mass in their bellies, try to induce drinking and later GENTLY massaging the mass to try to break it up. A warm water enema may prove necessary to hydrate the mass from both sides to free it up and allow passage. If you feed only moist foods and occasionally mist their foods, impactions should not be a problem. Hatchlings are also much more prone to metabolic bone disease from insufficient vit. D3 and calcium/trace mineral imbalances in the diet (or from excessive insect consumption). Avoid the temptation to feed insects, you are probably not doing them a favor. Getting your hatchlings off to a good fast start significantly lowers the incidence of problems down the line, especially for impactions.
Hopefully this covers the basic's you'll need to successfully keep and potentially breed your Uromastyx. Enjoy!
Copyright © 1992-2012 by Douglas Dix. All rights reserved for all photos and text