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Moroccan Uromastyx

Moroccan Uromastyx
Uromastyx acanthinura nigriventris

The Moroccan Uromastyx is a medium to large herbivorous species reaching an adult length of 35-40cm. As adults, they can have striking colours ranging in yellow to orange bodies.

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What does the Moroccan Uromastyx look like?

The Moroccan Uromastyx, also known as the Moroccan Dabb or Spiny-tailed Lizard, is a medium sized herbivorous species, growing to an average length of 45cm. They have a somewhat prehistoric appearance, with broad spiky tails making up to a little over a third of their total length. These tails are fully articulated, enabling the lizard to use it defensively to both protest against predators and rivals to their territory. They have Uromastyx-like heads which are perfectly shaped for eating vegetation, with strong muscular jaws and short sharp teeth, they can bite through the toughest of plants and defend themselves if necessary. Colouration is hugely variable between individuals, ranging from various shades of Orange, Yellow/Gold, Dark Red with the typical black oscillations down their backs. Males are generally larger, with broader heads and distinctive jowls, with slightly larger, more pronounced femoral pores. Most will live 15-20 years on average.

Where are Moroccan Uromastyxs from?

Uromastyx geographic range includes the Saharan desert Morocco, Tunisia the middle east, Algeria, Egypts and into India. 

The Moroccan Uromastyx will roam around the semi arid scrub where they live, often searching for food and to bask in the early morning sun. They create burrows amongst rocky outcrops and bushes, these can often be up to four feet deep. Perfect for evading predators and when temperatures soar at midday. By late afternoon when the peak of the heat has passed, they will oftenbe most active continuing their search for food.

How do I keep a Moroccan Uromastyx?

First and foremost, Uromastyx must be housed alone to avoid becoming territorial and/or over breeding of females. They do not require companionship, wild Uromastyx can sometimes be seen in the same area but they have the space to establish territories and move away from each other during conflict. 

Large enclosures are best for Uromastyx so they can maintain their body temperature through thermoregulation. As a rough guideline, we recommend an absolute minimum of 120x60x60cm (4x2x2ft) sized vivarium for housing.

This species requires an exceptionally hot, isolated surface basking area with a daytime temperature between 40-50C. Plenty of elevation within the basking area and a deep substrate helps to simulate the multiple temperature gradients in their natural environment. Surrounding the basking area with Cork Bark can help to create a ‘pocket’ of heat (cork naturally prevents heat transfer) and helps to keep the cool end of the vivarium, cooler. This should be in the range of 26-30C (80-85F). Again, the larger the vivarium, the easier it is to achieve a suitable thermogradient. A thermostat ensures that the temperature your animal requires is kept constant, with no risk of over/under heating. This is to be attached to the heat source/s (often this species does best with multiple heat sources to achieve optimum temperatures) Basking bulbs, Halogens and Deep Heat Projectors are the most popular methods of heating. During the night the temperature should drop no lower than 16C (60F), most house temperatures don’t drop below this, but if yours does, you can use a ceramic bulb or deep heat projector on a thermostat on the warm side of the vivarium. There must be no visible light at night to ensure their circadian rhythm is not disrupted, contrary to popular belief, red lights are NOT recommended at nighttime as reptiles can still see this wavelength - to the point that it can actually affect their ability to see the colour spectrum as they should.

UVB light is vital in providing Uromastyx with the Vitamin D-3 they require, this aids the absorption of Calcium and keeps the animal healthy. We advise using a high output T5 UVB tube, within the parameters of Ferguson Zone 4, simulating the levels of sunlight they have access to from their home in the wild. The lighting is recommended to be on for 12 hours during the day and switched off at night to allow for a natural night time light and temperature drop.

For substrate we would recommend a soil and sand based bedding, one designed to replicate the arid habitats where Uromastyxs are from. The substrate should hold its shape should the lizard choose to dig, but must also remain dry to replicate their environment perfectly - allowing the Uromastyx to dig down and burrow as they would in the wild. 

Décor is important for this species, and worth noting that Uromastyx need multi layered decor such as cork bark or rocks to climb over and plenty of plants to graze on as they would in the wild. This is why they do incredibly well in naturalistic, bio-active environments; edible desert plants and grasses can be planted within the vivarium, which looks nice aesthetically and also provides environmental enrichment for the Uromastyx, essential for its physical and mental wellbeing.

Uromastyxs require very little water as they get what they need from the plants and vegetation which they feed upon. The subject causes debate amongst many keepers, arguing that water bowls should/should not be added. From our point of view, a small water dish in a large enclosure will not affect humidity levels to any noticeable degree. We believe that all desert animals should have access to water, should they choose to drink. 

In the wild, Uromastyxs diet mainly consists of herbaceous and succulent vegetation including grasses, cacti and flowers, seeds and grains. We strongly urge you to forage for a good variety of the available reptile safe edible plants for your Uromastyx. By doing so, you will be providing your pet with the best nutritional balance that nature has to offer. Juveniles should be fed daily and adults 4-5 times a week.

While plant and vegetable matter provides a good source of fibre and should form the bulk of the diet, seeds provide a major calorie source. Finch and Budgie seed mixes are popular as they contain a mix of red and white Millet, Chia seeds, Flaxseed, Buckwheat, Sesame seeds, Split peas and Lentils are also readily enjoyed. Most seeds will also be relished if offered as freshly sprouted; simply place them on a dampened paper towel and wait a few days - much like growing cress as a child!

Uromastyx natural wild diet consists of thousands of different plant species, each containing unique vitamins and minerals which contribute to the overall health of the Uromastyx. Therefore it is vital that you supplement the diet of your Uromastyx with calcium and vitamins to ensure they are getting the perfect balance.  You can simply sprinkle the supplements over the top of the food you provide your Uromastyx- think of it as lightly seasoning the food! This is essential for all reptiles and helps to prevent a number of preventable conditions such as metabolic bone disease (soft, deformed bones) Runny eyes, kidney and liver problems. 

Providing that their care requirements are met, Uromastyx make wonderful pets. With time and patience they can become docile and tame, to the point that they will readily feed from your hands. They are a perfect choice for anyone who loves lizards, but does not want to deal with live foods!

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