Caring for Collared Lizards – October 2013

By Anthony Neubauer

Introduction

The Eastern Collared Lizard, Crotaphytus collaris, is a hardy, medium sized lizard native to the deserts of the Southern United States. They are common in Arizona and Texas, but also range into neighboring states. They are a very active species that spend much of their day running, jumping, and digging throughout the terrarium. Captive bred specimens can be very tame and relaxed, and make much better captives than wild caught specimens. If you’re looking for something different to put in a desert setup that will tolerate occasional handling and make for an entertaining captive, look no further. Collared lizards are for you.

Housing

Collared Lizards are extremely active. Keep this in mind when selecting an enclosure. A tank measuring 12″ long x 12″ deep x 30″ wide can house up to 3 babies for the first 6-8 months of life, and could house a single baby for up to a year.

Once they reach adulthood at around a year to a year and a half, it’s time to upgrade to a minimum of a 16″ x 16″ x 36″ sized enclosure.

This allows for adequate space to run around, as well as some height for offering a deep layer of substrate to burrow in and sticks and rocks to climb on.

Collared Lizards will readily use any space given, so if more space can be provided, your lizards will appreciate it. Glass tanks manufactured by Creative Habitat and Exo Terra are preferable, as they provide adequate light and ventilation for this desert reptile.

Environment

When setting up an enclosure, the first decision you must make is to go naturalistic or simplistic. You could very easily throw in a dry bedding such as Sani-Chips, a couple rocks and or sticks, and a water bowl and your Collareds would survive just fine. However, many hobbyists take it a step further in creating a much more aesthetically pleasing setup, complete with sand, gravel, live or fake plants, and rocks and wood setup as natural as possible.

I highly recommend using a sand-like substrate that allows burrowing. When given the opportunity, Collared Lizards will create burrows and retreat to them at night for sleeping.

This keeps them occupied all day, and in the end leads to happier lizards. I prefer to use Excavator Clay by Zoo Med, topped with a thin layer of sand for added texture and looks.

When wet, Excavator Clay can be shaped and molded into any shape you can imagine. When dry, it becomes hardened enough to hold burrows, but still able to be dug into.

Succulents and some cacti can be used to add some color, as well as a few flat basking rocks and a piece of Manzanita or Grape Wood.

Water

These lizards hail from the harsh deserts of the United States, and so are adapted to a water preserving life style. I like to provide a shallow water bowl with clean water at all times, even though they rarely drink. I also very lightly spray the tank down once a week, mostly for the plants, although the lizards drink the droplets as well. Other than their weekly spray, they don’t need any added humidity.

Water

These lizards hail from the harsh deserts of the United States, and so are adapted to a water preserving life style. I like to provide a shallow water bowl with clean water at all times, even though they rarely drink. I also very lightly spray the tank down once a week, mostly for the plants, although the lizards drink the droplets as well. Other than their weekly spray, they don’t need any added humidity.

 

Heating and lighting

These guys like it HOT. The basking area should be 110-120 Degrees Fahrenheit during the day, with the ambient temperature ranging from room temp to 85 Degrees. I use and recommend a Halogen basking bulb, as they make it easy to achieve these hot temperatures, but in a small, concentrated area so the entire tank isn’t cooking. I position this light over a large flat rock, so the rock heats up providing belly heat similar to using a heat pad. They will move closer and further away from the hot spot to achieve their preferred temperature. At night time, your temperatures can drop pretty significantly, as long as it heats up during the day. Anything above 60 degrees is fine, although 65-70 Degrees is optimal. This is a truly diurnal species, so high intensity UVB lighting is absolutely necessary for them to thrive. The Zoo Med T5 High Output bulbs rated 10.0 is the way to go. I provide 12-14 hours of daylight, and 10-12 hours of darkness without the lights.

 

Feeding

Collared Lizards eat A LOT. This is especially true when growing, as they are using all nutrients towards their rapid growth. They should be fed daily for their first year, and then every other day once they’re close to adult size. They eat a variety of insects, and the more variety the better. I feed mine mainly appropriately sized crickets, with either Dubia roaches, wax worms and moths, and mealworms being offered with every other cricket feeding. Flying insects are cherished, and they can easily jump up and chase them down to get them. Adults can eat the occasional pinky mouse, and will even eat feeder lizards! It is to be noted that Collared Lizards have extremely large heads and throats in comparison to their size, so taking larger food items is no problem. They have a ravenous appetite, and the more you feed youngsters the better they’ll do. I have also witnessed mine eating the leaves of certain succulents, so it may be worth offering yours leafy greens or even fruit from time to time.  While some will readily consume plant matter, not all do, so don’t worry if yours do not eat vegetation.

Vitamins

On top of a varied diet, I still use a few dietary supplements. Once a week I dust their crickets with RepCal Calcium with D3 mixed 50/50 with Repashy SuperPig pigment enhancer. I also use RepCal multivitamin once a month, also mixed with SuperPig. This is essential in making your Collared Lizards as bright and healthy as possible.

Adult Size and Sexing

Collared Lizards are sexually dimorphic, meaning you can tell them apart just by looking at them. Males will have more blue and green on their body, and females will have more tan and red. Males also get a little larger, have bulkier heads, and an overall heftier build. Adult size on these guys is around 12-14 inches, with males being toward the larger end, and females being on the smaller end.

They can reach adult size in a year to a year and a half with proper feeding, food, and nutrition as well as heat.

Conclusion

The Eastern Collared Lizard is a fun one to keep. They are always doing something, and are very inquisitive. They are quick, but can be tamed down with frequent calm, confident handling. Care for them is pretty straight forward, and they have few to no health issues as long as their heat and feeding requirements are provided. Overall a fascinating desert captive that is sure to become a favorite in any hobbyist’s collection.

The Basking Spot: Repashy Diets

The Basking Spot

By Jennifer Greene

This month, the Basking Spot is on Repashy Diets!

The Repashy Diets are a line of meal replacement powders as well as vitamin supplements.  Since the subject of supplementation is such a complicated topic in and of itself, this article will not be covering the various vitamin and calcium supplements manufactured by Repashy.  For details on what is in the various supplements, as well as their benefits, feel free to visit the Repashy website and read his various articles detailing them.   Instead, this article will cover the Crested Gecko Meal Replacement Powder, the Day Gecko Meal Replacement Powder, the various gel foods, and the SuperPig color enhancer.

First and foremost, any one that keeps Crested Geckos should already be familiar with the Crested Gecko Meal Replacement Powder, often shortened as simply “MRP”.  This food is the most commonly recommended diet for any captive Rhacodactylus species, simply due to how complete it is as a diet.  When Rhacodactylus species such as Crested Geckos were originally kept in captivity, the diets offered to them were traditionally centered around various combinations of supplements and baby food.  The Repashy MRP diet eliminates the need to mix up your own food, and instead rely on the expertise of someone who has maintained and bred and extensive colony of geckos.  The Day Gecko specific MRP is a diet designed along similar lines, but with the specific needs of Phelsuma species in mind.  The use of these diets makes care of the geckos much simpler – very much along the lines of maintaining a dog or cat, in that you simply prepare the commercial diet rather than seeking out various live food items.  It is recommended to include live prey items in your geckos’ diet, but it is possible to maintain Crested Geckos entirely on the Repashy MRP diet alone.

Repashy SuperPig

For those keepers looking to enhance their prize geckos (and other reptiles) in any way possible, I suggest considering the addition of the SuperPig supplement to their diet.  SuperPig is a carotenoid supplement that enhances the red and orange coloration of your reptiles.  The combination of a broad range of carotenoids is in a powdered form, making it a piece of cake to simply add to your calcium mix or to simply mix into your MRP or other diet.  While the effects of the SuperPig may not be immediately apparent (one feeding won’t turn your gecko bright red), over time you will notice your animals exhibiting more red than they did before.  SuperPig is not a magical pigment creator, so if your animal is not slightly red to begin with, it will not put red pigment in.  However, it can enhance the red coloration in Bearded Dragons, Blue Tongue Skinks, Red Tegus, Red Iguanas, Gargoyle Geckos, Crested Geckos, and to a lesser extent, even Leopard Geckos.  Why do I list these specific animals, you ask? Because all of those are species I personally have used (or coworkers have used) the SuperPig with to enhance red coloration, and personally seen the effects of SuperPig before and after.

Red Tegu

This employee’s tegu gets superpig mixed into his diet –

all his white spots have been washed out with red!

A note with SuperPig – it is not going to affect the coloration of the offspring of animals fed SuperPig.  This means that if your Crested Geckos are extra red as a result of SuperPig, their babies are unlikely to retain that same intense red coloration, and will instead look more like your geckos did before they received the supplement.  In addition, once the SuperPig is no longer added to the diet, the effects wear off.  Simply feeding SuperPig to your animals for a few months, and then quitting, will not maintain the red coloration for the duration of your animal’s life.

In addition to Meal Replacement Powders, which create a thick, mushy type of food, there is a new line of gel-diets that can be mixed up.  Bug Burger is the specific diet designed as a gutload for feeder insects, and due to the quantity of gutload that can be made for the cost of a 5.3 oz container, it is one of the most cost effective gutloads out there.  Bug Burger is readily consumed by all kinds of feeder insects, and I personally have used it to feed Superworms, Mealworms, Crickets, Hissing Cockroaches, Dubia Roaches, and once even mice!  It is easy to mix, simply combining it in a 1 to 3 ratio with water, and then heating up to boiling.  Let it cool, and viola!  Instant bug food.

Mixing Repashy Diets

Along the same lines as the Bug Burger are several fish and reptile diets.  The reptile specific diets seem well designed to appeal to their group – they are still extremely new to the market, but every animal I have tried the food with has loved it.  The Meat Pie designed for carnivorous reptiles is not always immediately accepted by reptiles accustomed to eating live prey items, however if your reptiles already eat food from tongs or out of a bowl, the transition is easy.   Savory Stew is the name of the food designed for omnivorous reptiles, and so far I have not been able to find a single omnivorous species that did not readily accept the food just when offered simply on a plate.  I’ve seen Berber’s Skinks, Blue Tongue Skinks, Argentine Black and White Tegus, Red Tegus, Russian Legless Lizards, and even Bearded Dragons cheerfully consuming the Savory Stew!

stew cooling

When placed in the fridge, the Savory Stew turns from liquid to a nice solid gel in a matter of minutes.

With the range of vitamins and other nutrients found in the Repashy diets, they are an excellent choice to consider incorporating into your feeding routine.  As a big fan of variety in the captive diet of reptiles, I would not personally recommend feeding nothing but a commercial diet to your reptiles, but the Repashy line of diets is a high quality food that you can feel comfortable adding to your pets’ diets.  The only draw back?  The gel diets (Bug Burger, Savory Stew, and Meat Pie) all have a distinct odor to them when being prepared.

Keep in mind that the food is not designed to appeal to YOU, it is designed to appeal to your reptiles, many of which cheerfully consume food items such as live insects, dead insects, raw liver and eggs, and other such unsavory food items.  What they find appetizing and what we find appetizing are not nearly the same things – so don’t let the smell put you off, go ahead and offer it to your animals anyway.  They’ll probably LOVE it!