How to Choose the Best Lizard For a Beginner (Includes Videos)
Lizards make amazing pets, but there are so many choices it can be difficult to decide which one is right for you. Thats why I a going to make life easier and straight up tell you what I believe is the best, and why.
What is the best Lizard for a beginner? In my opinion, it's the Crested Gecko, closely followed by the Water dragon and Uromastyx.
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Obviously my choices are subjective, so let me explain, using a detailed comparison, why I have come to this conclusion, read on.
What Makes a Good Beginner Lizard?
The best lizard for beginners is one that is relatively easy to care for, relatively hardy to handle, and one that you will enjoy. With that in mind, it makes sense to learn the basics about a few different types of lizards so you can decide which one is right for you.
What things should you consider for your lizard?
Before purchasing a lizard there are several things you should consider. Your lizard will spend the vast majority of his day in his habitat, so it needs to be made for him.
Some lizards, like Water Dragons, are relatively easy to care for, but they do require a larger tank than a small lizard. This means spending more money for the tank and materials initially, and it also means spending more to clean and replace the substrate when cleaning.
It also means the tank will take up more room. You need to be sure you have a proper area to keep the size tank you are considering.
Another consideration when getting a lizard is its dietary needs. Many lizards require live food, such as crickets or mealworms, as part of their diet.
If this is not something you want to deal with, get a lizard whose diet does not require these. Trying to keep an omnivore healthy and happy solely on a commercial diet is difficult and not fair to the lizard. Fortunately, there are many varieties of lizards that do well on a vegetable-only diet.
If you want to really interact and handle your lizard, you will want one that is normally active during the day. You can enjoy nocturnal lizards, they typically get active around dusk, but if you want something to interact with throughout the day, it makes sense to select a lizard that operates on the same schedule as you.
On the other hand, if you are a night owl, you may enjoy a lizard who is just starting his day around the time you are winding down.
Once you have decided what lizard you want, but before you purchase it, it is important to set up its habitat. It can be tempting to try to do this all at once, but that will stress both you and your new pet.
Instead, get the materials needed to set up the habitat, arrange it how you like, and make sure it fits where you have it planned in your home. Once you have the lighting in place, check the temperature several times during the daytime and nigh time hours to be sure you have everything adjusted correctly. Only then are you ready to bring your lizard home.
My Top 3 Choices
My three popular choices for beginners are:
- The Water Dragon
- The Crested Gecko
Each of these lizards makes delightful pets and you really cannot go wrong with any of them.
Some things to think about are how much interaction you want with your lizard, how comfortable you are feeding a live diet, and how much room you have for a habitat.
This may seem like a lot to consider before heading out to purchase your lizard, but these are things worth thinking about.
Lizards can live 10 or more years, so it is important to take the time to select the species that will fit in best with your needs and abilities. Lizards are fun pets, and you will get a lot of enjoyment from seeing it thrive in its new home.
Why Did I Select These Choices?
There are benefits and drawbacks to each, but by learning a bit about each one you can make the best choice for your situation.
Are diurnal, or more active during the day, they make a good choice as a pet, as it is easy to enjoy them. Water dragons are social and large enough to handle easily, without being so large they require a hard to manage habitat.
Water dragons have been kept as pets for a good while, and are readily available. Because they are relatively common pets we understand how best to feed and care for them.
This makes it easier for a beginner just starting out. Some less common reptile species come with a variety of conflicting opinions on feeding and habitat, which can be stressful for the new pet owner.
The fact that Water Dragons are relatively common also means that you have your choice of places to make your purchase and will have no trouble finding one once you get your habitat set up.
This lizard makes a good choice for beginners for several reasons. They are small, staying under five inches long at maturity, gentle natured, and easy to feed. They are timid, and their small size and propensity for shedding their tail means they should be closely supervised when being handled by children.
Crested Geckos were once thought to be extinct, but through careful breeding, they have flourished. More experienced caretakers that are involved in breeding have bred for various characteristics, such as different colors and patterns.
Crested Geckos are easy to feed and flourish in typical household conditions. For someone intimidated by the thought of setting up a specialized habitat with a tightly controlled temperature gradiant and specialized basking spot, the Crested Gecko is the perfect choice.
is also active during the day. They do well on a diet of vegetables and commercial supplementation, so make a good choice for individuals who want to avoid live feedings.
They have a docile and friendly nature, which makes them a good choice for someone new to reptiles. They are also large enough that they can tolerate inexperienced handling.
They do require a larger habitat than other beginner-friendly reptiles. They can also be difficult to source, which may be drawbacks to the beginner reptile owner.
They are only beginning to gain popularity as pets, so they are not as widely available as many other types of reptiles. There can also be a bit of conflicting information on their care, as they have not been kept as pets for as long as many other reptile species.
Water Dragon Facts
The scientific name for the Water Dragon is Physignathus cocincinus. It is also known as the Chinese Water Dragon, Asian Water Dragon, and Thai Water Dragon.
Where is the Water Dragon from (natural habitat)?
Water Dragons are native to the forested areas of China and India. In their natural habitat, they enjoy a semi-aquatic life and are found along the banks of freshwater bodies of water. In the wild, they typically spend their days relaxing in trees and plants close to the water.
There they can sunbathe and catch prey. If they sense danger, they drop from their sunning spot into the water. Once in the water, they may swim away or dive under the surface. They can remain underwater for up to 25 minutes.
How big is a water dragon?
Water Dragons can grow up to three feet long from nose to tail. Females are smaller than males and mature to about two feet. The tail of the dragon is about 70 percent of his length. Because the tail makes up so much of the Water Dragon's total length, they are not that heavy for their relative size.
What is their behavior like?
Water dragons are one of the friendliest lizards, which is one reason it makes a good choice for beginners. They are social and enjoy being handled. They thrive on attention, which means they are not necessarily the best choice if your schedule doesn’t permit regular interaction. You can get around this problem by getting more than one Water Dragon, so they can keep each other company.
If they feel threatened, the Water Dragon may attack. They do this by whipping their tail back and forth or biting at you. However, they are generally gentle creatures who like to avoid conflict.
Water Dragons are what are known as arboreal lizards. This means they love to climb. Their environment should have rocks and plants for them to climb on.
They are also excellent swimmers and benefit from an environment that allows this. It is unlikely that you will be able to create the perfect environment of a slow mooving stream beside trees for your Water Dragon, but even a large dish of fresh water will be appreciated.
Once you get to know each other better and he is comfortable being handled, you may find he enjoys visits to the bath for swimming sessions.
One thing to consider is that Water Dragons are community animals, and do best when kept with at least one other companion. It is important to note however, that two male Water Dragons should not be housed together.
Setting up a home that resembles the Water Dragon's natural habitat allows him to hold on to many of his instinctive behaviors. His tank should be at least 40 gallons to provide him with the room he needs to move around.
Arrange branches and rocks in a way that he has several hiding spots and basking areas available. His tank should be maintained at between 60 and 80 percent humidity at all times. You can keep the humidity level high by misting the inside of the tank with water daily.
Like most reptiles, the Water Dragon requires a range of temperatures in his enclosure to stay comfortable. The cool end should be around 70 degrees and the warm end should be 100 degrees.
A ceramic heater or incandescent bulb make an adequate heating source. Water Dragons require 10 to 12 hours of UVB rays from a full spectrum light daily.
Why is the Water Dragon good for beginners?
The Water Dragon makes a good pet for a beginner for a variety of reasons. It is a social creature and enjoys being handled. This is rewarding and, as long as you are gentle, it doesn’t require any special skill.
It is not aggressive, so you don’t have to be overly concerned that it will bite or strike with its tail when you are handling it. It is also active during the day, which makes it easier to enjoy than nocturnal reptiles.
Water dragons do need to climb, so your tank will need to at least five feet tall. It should be at least four feet long as well. Given what you know about their climbing and swimming instincts, it is easy to see how setting up the habitat for the Water Dragon requires a good deal of preparation.
The large tank size and needed materials can make set up more expensive than what some beginners have in mind.
Water Dragons are relatively common lizards, which makes them easy to find at pet stores and online. This makes them affordable. The major expense most beginners will encounter will be in setting up the habitat.
They do have specific requirements for materials in their tank as well as lighting. For someone who has never had reptiles before, it can be intimidating to set up the habitat required for a Water Dragon.
Crested Gecko Facts
The scientific name for the Crested Gecko is Rhacodactylus ciliates. It is also known as the new Caldonian Crested Gecko, the eyelash gecko, and Guichenot’s giant gecko. Crested Geckos are available in a wide range of colors and patterns.
Where is the Crested Gecko from (natural habitat)?
Crested geckos are originally from a group of islands between Fiji and Australia known as New Caledonia. In the wild, they spend most of their life in trees.
Crested Geckos are nocturnal and will spend most of their day hiding. They move from branch to branch by leaping, and can leap as well as frogs, something to remember when handling them.
They need a plastic or glass tank with a well-fitted cover. Because they love to leap and climb, it is more important to have a tall enclosure rather than a long one. Include plenty of branches for climbing and hiding.
They like a humid environment, which you can create by misting the tank daily. Unlike many reptiles, they are comfortable in the same housing conditions as most humans.
They will be content with daytime temperatures between 75 and 82 degrees, and nighttime temperatures between 68 and 75 degrees. If housing more than one Crested Gecko, make sure only one male is in the group.
What is their behavior like?
Young Crested Geckos can be nervous and hard to handle. It is best to let them settle into their new environment for a few weeks before you begin handling them.
Once they have settled in and are eating good, you can begin acclimating them to your touch. They are typically gentle but may nip if frightened. Their bites don’t amount to much, however.
Why is the Crested Gecko good for beginners?
The Crested Gecko makes an excellent choice for beginners. They are probably the easiest and least expensive reptile to keep as a pet. They don’t require a sophisticated heating and lighting system, and, in fact, do better in temperatures below 80 degrees.
They eat a simple diet, available as a powder you simply mix with water, so there is no need to keep live insects or feed a varied diet. They quickly become accustomed to being handled and tolerate it well as long as you are gentle. Because they are small, they are happy in a 20-gallon tank. Their simple diet requirements and small tank needs make the Crested Gecko a very affordable choice.
Overall, the Crested Gecko is probably the least expensive lizard for beginners. They do well in a small habitat and some climbing areas, either natural or artificial.
They will probably be fine without added heat just from the ambient temperature of your home, and their diet is not expensive.
They are relatively common and easy to find at pet stores and online, which keeps their cost down. The one drawback pricewise is that they do enjoy companionship, so you may find yourself adding to your collection.
Uromastyx sp. is the genus name for a group of reptiles that include 18 species. They come from the same family that includes frilled and bearded dragons, clown agamas and many of the more familiar lizards.
They are also called uros, spiny-tailed gamids, spinytails, mastiguires, or dabb lizards. The spinytail name comes from the rings of spiked scales that cover the top of the uro’s tail.
Where is the Uromastyx from (natural habitat)?
Uro lizards can be found in a sprawling area from India, through south-central Asia, parts of the Middle East, and North Africa. Their range is north of the Equator and spreads over 5,000 miles. They thrive in areas at sea level up to an elevation of 3,000 feet.
How big is a Uromastyx?
The majority of Uromastyx mature to between 10 and 18 inches. There are exceptions, and the Egyptian Uromastyx can reach 30 inches in length.
What is their behavior like?
Uromastyx are generally docile and it is extremely unlikely they will bite a human. They may use their tails as a defense if startled or cornered. As long as they know you are there, however, it is unlikely they will attack. They generally enjoy being handled once they get to know you.
One thing that helps is having an enclosure that opens on the side, rather than the top.
If your tank opens from the top, make sure your uro knows you are there before you reach down. Being grabbed suddenly from above is startling, and he may mistake you for a predator.
Why is the Uromastyx Lizard good for beginners?
The Uromastyx is active during the day, which makes it a rewarding pet. It is incredibly docile and enjoys human companionship, which makes it a rewarding pet for a beginner. The Uromastyx does require special lighting in order to stay healthy, so keep that in mind when making your selection.
The easiest and most effective way to do this is by setting up a long tank, with one main lighting source that runs the length of the tank and another incandescent bulb at one end of the tank for a basking zone.
Most homes will be warm enough to allow all lights to be turned off overnight, but daytime temperatures must reach 120 degrees in the basking zone for your Uromastyx to thrive.
Cost-wise, the uro probably won't be the least expensive choice. While they don't require as extensive of an environment as the Water Dragon, they are highly dependent on strong lighting as heat sources. These bulbs will need to be replaced on a regular basis, at least every six months.
Since he doesn't require live food (click here to 3 lizards that don't need live food), his diet will not be overly expensive. The initial cost of the uro will probably be higher than either the Water Dragon or the Crested Gecko, simply because they are less common. On the other hand, Uromastyx do quite well on their own, so you won't feel compelled to acquire more than one.
Which one is best (Water Dragon, Crested Gecko or Uromastyx)?
As I stated at the beginning, the Crested Gecko is the best in my opinion. However, the best lizard for you depends on your lifestyle, budget, and preference.
The Water Dragon, Crested Gecko, and Uromastyx can all be good choices, and there are also drawbacks to each one. The Water Dragon requires a larger enclosure for its size than some other lizards and needs access to both climbing materials and a swimming area to be happy.
The Crested Gecko has easy to meet habitat needs, but its small size means it is more fragile to handling than larger lizards. The Uromastyx is very docile and easy to feed but will be extremely reliant on you to be sure the temperature in his habitat is warm enough to allow for digestion and other basic functions.
Where can I buy these lizards? There are many choices available when you are ready to buy your lizard. Large pet stores are certainly one option, but they aren’t the only one.
You may be able to find a small, locally owned reptile store within a reasonable distance to your home. The employees at these stores are likely to have better training and be more informed about the reptiles in their care than at larger pet stores.
You can also order reptiles online. The disadvantage here is that you will not see and interact with the lizard before you own it, but as long as you purchase from a reputable online store that should not be a problem. Purchasing online allows you to find lizards that may not be available locally.
You can also purchase everything you need for your lizard's habitat either online or locally, or a combination of each. If you are having trouble finding what you need locally, don't hesitate to get online. There are many resources available to set up the perfect habitat to keep your lizard safe and healthy, there is no reason to compromise.
Does It matter Where I get it from? One thing that you want to know about your lizard, regardless of where you buy it, is where it came from. Your first choice should be for a reptile that was born and raised in captivity. There are several reasons for that. The first is that the reptile that has been born into domestication doesn't know anything else, and will acclimate better than a wild one to his new environment.
Moving to a new habitat is stressful for any reptile, even if he is going from one domesticated habitat to another. Going from being caught in the wild, to a holding facility, on to his final home is much more stressful. He will take much longer to recover and the stress may make him ill.
The other reason that domestically born reptiles are preferred to wild caught ones is that the wild reptiles are much more likely to have parasites that will eventually make them sick than domestic lizards.
Buying a reptile that is sourced domestically allows you to have a lizard that is familiar with humans, that you know how old it is, and is healthy and should transition well in his new home.
I hope you found this article enjoyable and informative. Lizards make interesting and fun pets. Taking the time to select the right one for you and your family allows you to enjoy him more fully, without the worry that you aren’t or cannot provide proper care, for example I wouldn't recommend a Garden Lizard.
I would love to hear what you thought of this article. I hope it answered any questions you had, and I would welcome any feedback. If you found this article beneficial, I hope you will share it with others.