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Your Guide to Selecting a Lizard

By: Dr. Dawn Ruben

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For people who feel that snakes are just a little too creepy but want a reptile as a pet, lizards fit the bill. But with so many shapes and varieties, which one is right for you? Before getting a lizard, research various species. Know the required husbandry, housing needs and feeding each species needs. The better educated you are, the better choice you can make.

  • Leopard geckos. The leopard gecko is a beautiful, inquisitive and fascinating lizard to care for and can be an excellent pet reptile. However, like other reptiles, it has specific husbandry requirements. The ideal situation is to keep one leopard gecko by himself, since they do not get lonely or require social interaction with their own species. In fact, the healthiest, best looking, and longest-lived specimens are those raised and kept alone.

  • Bearded dragon. Many herpetologists consider bearded dragons one of the better lizards to have as a pet because of their temperament, size and appearance. Bearded dragons are named for their ability to extend and blacken the skin on the underside of the throat creating a beard-like appearance.

  • Brown anole. The brown anole is a readily available, active and fairly hardy lizard that is semi-arboreal. Because it is also very inexpensive – a single anole sells for $2 to $3 each – the brown anole is a principal "starter" lizard for many beginning hobbyists. But it should also be considered a just-to-look-at terrarium pet (much like a goldfish in an aquarium), not as an animal to be handled. They don't enjoy that at all.

  • Green anole. Like the brown anole, the green anole is an attractive, readily available and hardy lizard that is primarily arboreal. It, too is inexpensive and is a principal "starter" lizard for beginning hobbyists. And it should also be considered a just-to-look-at terrarium pet (much like a goldfish in an aquarium), not as an animal to be handled.

  • Green iguana. The green iguana is considered by many to be the most popular pet reptile on the market. This lizard is essentially a leaf-eater by nature and is a master of his environment. This lizard can climb agilely, swim admirably, run swiftly, and leap when necessary. It also bites.

  • Tokay gecko. The tokay gecko is an inexpensive, abundant, hardy but feisty, nocturnal, arboreal lizard. This large tropical Asian lizard grows up to a foot or so in length, making it among the largest of geckos. It is named for its loud territorial call of "toe-kayyyy."

  • Blue-tongued skink. An extraordinarily versatile and diverse family of lizards, skinks make good, easy to keep pets that can live up to 20 years. They come in a great range of colors: gray, red, brown, spotted, striped, banded, and blotched. What they have in common is a striking deep blue tongue that looks as if they've been eating berries, and (for a lizard) a winningly docile personality.

  • Water dragon. The green water dragon is a forest green, moderately sized aquatic and arboreal lizard from Southeast Asia. Although their nervous habits and somewhat complicated housing and feeding needs make them more of a lizard for the advanced or intermediate hobbyist, these are beautiful lizards whose natural grace and agility make them fascinating creatures to watch.

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