Thomas is a reptile enthusiast who has cared for several varieties of lizards.
Wild and Captive Zebra-Tailed Lizards
The zebra-tailed lizard is native to the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. In the wild, these beautiful lizards are known as the fastest in the desert. I love to watch them run.
I see this lizard quite often in the pet trade, and, unfortunately, they are often kept in small aquariums and enclosures. The smallest enclosure you should keep this lizard in is a 55-gallon aquarium with a wire top with safety latches. Obviously, they don't get much exercise when kept in a very small container or enclosure.
General Information and Care
Your zebra-tailed lizard will be 7–9 inches in total length when grown. The lizard has a distinct black and white banded tail, which is why it was given the name "zebra." It will have pale orange or yellow markings around its mouth and an orange or yellow spot in the center.
How Do You Tell Males From Females?
- Male zebra-tailed lizards have a pair of black blotches on their side, extending to blue patches on the belly.
- Females don't have blue patches, and the black bars are either very faint or not there at all.
These lizards are very active and alert in all but the hottest weather. During the hottest parts of the day, they appear to do a dance by standing first on two legs and then switching to the other two legs. You will also catch this lizard running for short distances on its hind legs.
In the lizards' native habitat, there are patches of creosote scrub, which is where you will find the highest concentrations of lizards. You will find that they bury themselves into fine sand at night for warmth, and they hide in the shade of bushes in the daytime.
In their native habitat, the female zebra-tailed lizards lay 2–8 eggs in the summer, and the eggs will hatch sometime from July through November. Females will often lay several clutches of eggs throughout the summer, especially if they are healthy and well-fed.
The lizard in the wild eats a variety of insects, moths, bees, ants, and spiders. In captivity, you can feed the lizard on crickets, mealworms, and red worms. About once a month, you should sprinkle calcium powder on the prey you are feeding them.
In the wild, the lizard also feeds on flowers and flower bulbs. You can occasionally offer your lizard a small piece of apple or other fruit, but make sure to keep the piece small. From time to time, you can also offer a few leaves of washed spinach.
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In the wild, the lizard will not often have access to water and usually drinks a few drops of dew or rain from leaves. I like to offer the lizard a small pond of water that I keep clean by running the water out through a filter and then back into the pond. I have some very happy zebra-tailed lizards; I see them quite often in the water, so I know they like it.
Don't make the pond so deep that the lizards can't get out of it. Also, you should put a rock in the center of the small pond for the lizard to climb on.
In the wild, the zebra-tailed lizard lives in the desert, so you should try to replicate its native habitat as near as possible. I do this, but I do add branches for the lizard to climb on and a small pond of water for the lizard to enjoy. As mentioned above, my lizards seem very happy with this arrangement.
In the wild, the lizard's body colors will adapt to its surroundings over time. If you keep zebra-tailed lizards in a container or large enclosure long-term, you will see the same thing happening.
One thing you should be aware of is that, in the wild, the zebra-tailed lizard waves its tail around to distract predators. If a predator grabs the zebra-tailed lizard by the tail, the tail will break off and the lizard will escape. The lizard's tail will grow back. In the wild, I have even seen these lizards with two tails: one long and one short, which means the lizard once lost part of its original tail.
You should use a good broad-spectrum light in your lizard's enclosure. In my opinion, the lights made and sold by Durtest, like their vita light, are good to use. Fix any light inside the enclosure so that the lizard cannot touch it. You should know that, over time, the light will stop producing UVB light, so replace the bulb every six months.
Please Don't Turn Non-Native Snakes or Lizards Loose
This lizard has escaped from the pet trade in Florida, and it is found in several locations where it appears to be breeding and reproducing. Many species of non-native snakes, lizards, and fish have made it from the pet trade to the wilds of Florida. The pythons in south Florida are destroying the native wildlife in the Everglades and are even competing with the alligators for food sources. Recent claims have been made that the pythons are preying on alligators.
So, please, if you have a pet lizard or snake, don't release it. It is now believed that the pythons may spread all over the southeastern United States. If you have a pet snake or lizard that you can't keep, please turn it over to the authorities instead of releasing it.
Good Luck With Your Pet Zebra-Tailed Lizard!
I hope I've given you information that will help you with your zebra-tailed lizard. If you have any comments, questions, or tips, I hope you will post them below. Thanks for reading.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
© 2011 Thomas Byers
Katherine on January 30, 2015:
My Zebra Tailed lizzard gas stopped eating and I'm not sure but don't think he going to be shedding either. What can I do. Its been about a week. His environment is correct. I feed him meal worms and wax worms. He has a small pool. Hbv lighting....is he sick?