Chuckwallas, scientifically known as Sauromalus, are fascinating reptiles primarily found in northern Mexico and the southwestern United States.
These robust lizards are known for their unique appearance and are becoming increasingly popular as pets due to their manageable size and relatively low maintenance requirements.
Chuckwalla Care Sheet
|Size as Adult||12-18 inches|
|Enclosure Size Requirements||40-gallon terrarium for juveniles, at least 75-100 gallons for adults|
|Enclosure Temperature Requirements||90-100°F (basking area), 75-85°F (cool side)|
|Humidity Requirements||Low to moderate humidity (20-40%)|
Husbandry and Enclosure Requirements
A chuckwalla’s enclosure should be long and wide enough for it to comfortably bask, climb, and hide.
The minimum enclosure size for an adult chuckwalla is 50-75 gallons, but a larger enclosure is always better.
A good rule of thumb is to provide one square foot of enclosure space per inch of the chuckwalla’s length.
The enclosure should also be tall enough for the chuckwalla to climb.
Chuckwallas are excellent climbers and can climb up to 6 feet in height.
It is important to provide your chuckwalla with plenty of opportunities to climb, as this is important for its exercise and overall health.
Chuckwallas need a temperature gradient in their enclosure to allow them to thermoregulate.
The basking spot should be 120-130°F (49-54°C), while the cool side of the enclosure should be 75-85°F (24-29°C).
You can use a thermometer to monitor the temperature in the enclosure and make sure that the temperature gradient is correct.
To provide a basking spot, you can use a rock, slate tile, or other heat-resistant surface.
Place the basking spot under the heat lamp or ceramic heat emitter. You should also provide your chuckwalla with a cool hideaway where it can escape the heat if needed.
Chuckwallas prefer a humidity level of 30-50%.
You can increase humidity in the enclosure by misting it with water regularly.
Be sure to mist the enclosure in the morning and evening, when the humidity is typically lower.
You can also help to increase humidity in the enclosure by adding live plants. Live plants absorb water from the air and release it into the surrounding environment.
Chuckwallas need UVB exposure to synthesize vitamin D. UVB exposure is essential for calcium absorption, which is important for bone health.
You can provide UVB exposure to your chuckwalla by using a UVB fluorescent bulb or a mercury vapor bulb.
The UVB bulb should be placed over the basking spot in the enclosure. The bulb should be replaced every 6-12 months, or sooner if it starts to dim.
In addition to UVB lighting, chuckwallas also need full-spectrum lighting.
Full-spectrum lighting provides your chuckwalla with the same type of light that it would receive in its natural habitat.
Full-spectrum lighting can be provided by using a mercury vapor bulb or a combination of fluorescent bulbs.
Dietary Needs and Feeding Schedule
Chuckwallas are herbivorous reptiles, primarily consuming a diet of leaves, flowers, and occasionally fruits.
Chuckwallas need a diet that is high in calcium and low in phosphorus. A good diet for chuckwallas includes leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits.
Offer a variety of dark, leafy greens such as collard greens, mustard greens, and dandelion greens. Supplement their diet with vegetables like squash, carrots, and bell peppers.
Provide calcium and vitamin supplements to ensure their health. Feed juvenile chuckwallas daily, gradually reducing the frequency as they mature.
Adults can be fed every 2-3 days.
Chuckwallas do not typically drink water from a bowl. Instead, they get most of their hydration from the food they eat. However, you should still provide your chuckwalla with a shallow water dish.
Chuckwallas are relatively hardy lizards, but they can still be susceptible to certain health problems.
Chuckwallas need high levels of UVB exposure to synthesize vitamin D. Without adequate UVB exposure, chuckwallas are at risk of developing metabolic bone disease.
Some common health problems in chuckwallas include:
- Respiratory infections: These can be caused by bacteria or viruses. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, lethargy, and loss of appetite.
- Parasites: Chuckwallas can be infected with a variety of parasites, including mites, ticks, and roundworms. Symptoms can vary depending on the type of parasite.
- Metabolic bone disease: This is a condition caused by a lack of calcium and vitamin D. Symptoms include lethargy, bone deformities, and difficulty walking.
It is important to take your chuckwalla to the veterinarian for regular checkups to detect and treat any health problems early. You can also help to prevent health problems by providing your chuckwalla with a proper diet and habitat.
Things to Consider
Taming and Handling
Chuckwallas are somewhat shy but can be successfully tamed, although they require patience and gentleness.
When handling your chuckwalla, be sure to support the entire lizard and avoid handling it for long periods of time at first. Never grab your lizard by the tail.
Start by building trust with your chuckwalla by offering it food and water from your hand.
Once your chuckwalla is comfortable with you, you can begin to handle it for short periods of time.
Gradually increase the amount of time you handle your chuckwalla as it becomes more comfortable.
Costs and Maintenance
Owning a chuckwalla can be more expensive than owning some other lizard species, due to the specialized enclosure and diet that they require.
The initial cost of setting up an appropriate enclosure with proper heating and lighting can be substantial.
Additionally, factor in ongoing expenses for food and potential veterinary care.
Comparison to Other Species
Chuckwallas are not the right pet for everyone. They are not as cuddly or affectionate as some other pets, and they can be aggressive if they feel threatened.
If you are looking for a pet that is easy to care for and affectionate, you may want to consider another lizard species, such as a bearded dragon, leopard gecko, or crested gecko.
While they are not as commonly kept as bearded dragons or leopard geckos, chuckwallas offer a unique and rewarding reptile-keeping experience due to their distinctive appearance and herbivorous diet.
PetsWithScales.com is an informational website about big lizard pet care. We collect and provide information from different sources across the web on how to keep and care for reptiles as pets. The species we mainly deal with are tegus, monitor lizards, skinks and geckos. Our aim is to provide high quality information to help pet owners make better, more informed decisions about their animal’s diets, health and life.