What to Know About the Egyptian Uromastyx

Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on November 25, 2022

Egyptian uromastyx, also called Egyptian spiny-tailed lizard, Egyptian mastigure, or Dhub, is a kind of lizard with many names. Its scientific name is Uromastyx aegyptia

It’s mostly found in the Middle East and North Africa — primarily in Egypt, Sudan, Jordan, Syria, Iran, and Iraq as well as in the Arabian Peninsula — and has two subspecies — Uromastyx aegyptia aegyptia and Uromastyx aegyptia microlepis.

An adult Egyptian uromastyx can grow to be up to 75 centimeters — or 30 inches — in length and 99 to 254 pounds in weight. It has a relatively flat and up to 45-centimeter-long body, which is covered in small, almost smooth scales and attached with a large tail covered in ring-shaped spines.

When the body temperature of Egyptian uromastyx lizards increases, their scales also change color from gray-black to white or yellow. The scale color also changes when Egyptian uromastyx scales based on the environmental temperature — it’s light brown to light gray at a high temperature but dark gray to almost black at a low temperature. 

The color also changes throughout the lizard’s lifetime — a juvenile Egyptian uromastyx has five or six crossed yellow bands over a gray-brown body, but when it reaches sexual maturity at the age of around 4 years, the scales may become more colorful.

How do you take care of an Egyptian uromastyx?

For proper Egyptian uromastyx care, you need to recreate their natural habitat and feed them the right diet. 

Egyptian Uromastyx Enclosure Requirements

Egyptian uromastyx lizards are found naturally in sandy areas with compacted soils and rocky terrain, which allow them to easily dig burrows. In captivity, Egyptian uromastyx lizards need a large enclosure that replicates this desert habitat.

While younger Egyptian uromastyx can be kept in smaller enclosures, you can save both time and money by investing in a larger enclosure from the start. An enclosure of around 59 by 35 by 23 inches is recommended, but you can use a larger enclosure if you want.

Enclosures can be made of various kinds of materials, and the most common types include glass aquariums, wooden boxes, and metal stock tanks.

As a substrate (material placed on the floor of the enclosure), you can use a mixture of dirt, sand, and newspaper. You can provide rocks and other large objects to allow your Egyptian uromastyx to climb and bask. If you’re placing heavy items, secure them to the bottom of the enclosure to prevent them from tipping over and hurting your lizard. Make sure you also place hide boxes in the enclosure, where your Egyptian uromastyx can securely hide and sleep. 

Egyptian uromastyx lizards are used to hot conditions, so you should include a basking area that reaches temperatures of 120 degrees Fahrenheit or higher in your enclosure. You can do this by adding an incandescent spotlight in the basking area. The wattage of the bulb you use for the spotlight will depend on the size of your enclosure. Also, include a retreat area with a temperature of 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and reduced to about 65 degrees Fahrenheit during the night. 

Placing thermometers at each end of the enclosure will help you monitor temperatures and ensure that each end remains the required temperature. 

Like most lizards, Egyptian uromastyx lizards need ultraviolet (UV) light to survive, so expose your Egyptian uromastyx to sunlight as much as possible because it’s the best source of UV light. If that’s not possible, place full-spectrum fluorescent light bulbs that emit UV light along with normal light — just like the sun. While how strong these bulbs should be is under debate, evidence has proved their psychological benefits to lizards. 

In the United States, if you keep an Egyptian uromastyx, it must be housed in outdoor enclosures during summer, especially in states where the temperatures rarely fall below 60 degrees Fahrenheit. For this, you can use an outdoor enclosure, which is commonly made of a sheet metal ring, placed 12 inches below the ground and 24 inches above.

Such an outdoor enclosure will need to be secured with a wire top to prevent predators from entering the enclosure and hurting or killing your lizard. 

Being desert species, Egyptian uromastyx lizards often absorb moisture from the food itself, so they can go without a frequent supply of water. Also, leaving water bowls in their enclosure may have a negative effect by increasing enclosure humidity to unbearable levels. 

Egyptian Uromastyx Diet Requirements

Egyptian uromastyx are mostly herbivorous, but they may also eat animal-origin foods, which mainly include insects like grasshoppers, crickets, and worms (e.g., zophobas and mealworms). However, they are highly deficient in calcium and vitamins, like most lizards.

You should feed your Egyptian uromastyx with green food that’s sprinkled with cuttlefish powder every day and with animal food rich in vitamins two times a week. The green food may include high-quality greens — like lamb’s lettuce, arugula, dandelion, or chickweed leaves — and sprouts. You can also try feeding it lentils, cereals (oats, corn, millet, etc.), seeds, dried carrot, or herbs found in the kitchen.

Every Egyptian uromastyx lizard is likely to develop food preferences of its own over time. So keep an eye on how your lizard reacts to the feed every time.

Egyptian uromastyx is a diurnal species, meaning that it’s active during the day and it sleeps throughout the night.

Though it’s a docile lizard that prefers flight over fight, it may use its spiny tail to deliver painful blows to its predators if it feels threatened.

In captivity and with proper care, these lizards can live to be about 20 years old — some have even lived to be up to 30 years old.

In the wild, their lifespan is usually shorter. Today, one of the major threats to the Egyptian uromastyx is developmental events that threaten their grazing habitats and other competition that takes away their ability to graze. Both predators and parasites also affect Egyptian uromastyx lifespan in the wild.

The main predators of Egyptian uromastyx are still unknown, but they’re thought to be wolves, raptors, dogs, snakes, and shrikes.

Adult Egyptian uromastyx lizards hide in burrows when they spot danger, including predators and humans. But because they’re unable to create burrows, juvenile Egyptian uromastyx lizards hide under stones or in shallow places.

Show Sources

anapsid.org: “Care Sheet for the Genus Uromastyx.”
Environmental Agency Abu Dhabi: “Egyptian Spiny-tailed Lizard.”
Mascot Arios: “Egyptian spiny-tailed lizard.”
Virginia Zoological Society: “EGYPTIAN SPINY-TAILED LIZARD.”

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