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Horned Lizard

Discussion in 'Lizards - General' started by My2heartboys, Nov 29, 2008.

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  1. My2heartboys

    My2heartboys Active Member

    Ok, my son caught a horned lizard and brought it home. I went to the local pet store and bought some essentials. Crickets, heated rock, substrate, water dish, and lid for the aquarium that we are keeping it in.

    What else do I need to take care of this thing?

  2. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    You need to reconsider taking in wild animals - they don't always adjust well to captivity. Horned Lizards are very selective eaters, and have been known to starve themselves to death in the absence of their preferred foods. Overall, they rarely do well when removed from their natural environment, and frequently die as a result.

    Also, some states consider Horned Lizards a threatened species, and have laws protecting them.

    Excerpt from the following website:

    " Current Status

    Because they are so fearsome in appearance, yet quite harmless, desert visitors tend to collect them to show the folks back home. Horned Lizards are neat creatures but hard to keep because most of them are obligate ant eaters and, at that, eat a very limited number of species of ants.

    Some do diverge from the ant diet at certain times of the year such as the Regal Horned Lizard, which gorges itself on tiny beetles and eschews ants altogether when the beetles are abundant. Also, the Coast Horned Lizard can survive on inverts other than ants. But the Flat tail and Short horned, as well as the Desert Horned Lizards, are closely tied to ants and will die if those are not supplied in quantity.

    Habitat destruction and ant destruction have placed several species of Horned Lizards in danger. After all, the first thing people do when they move into the desert is kill the pesky ants, thereby depriving Horned Lizards of their only dependable diet.

    Taken from their native surroundings and offered an improper diet and an inadequate place to live, Horned Lizards soon die. Consequently, the Department of Fish and Game has been given the authority to limit the take and possession of Horned Lizards. It is best to simply examine one carefully, then release it where found, for that is where it rightfully belongs.
  3. My2heartboys

    My2heartboys Active Member

    Thanks for your reply. This particular lizard was caught in Oklahoma on some private land that my inlaws own. They have kept this lizard alive in a jar with just some sand for about 2 months now.

    I do not know exactly which of the horned lizard species this critter is a member of, but it was caught pretty close to the Kansas/Oklahoma border if that helps any.

    Any thoughts and/or help that can be provided would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you.

  4. Dragoness

    Dragoness Elite Member

    Herps can live a long time in inadequate conditions - many can go months without food. Not a good idea. (a Ball Python can go 22 months without food.) Just cause it survived that doesn't mean it's thriving.

    Without knowing which species it is, it will be hard to offer it the correct enclosure, diet, etc.

    Best advice is to let it go. If you want a lizard, get something captive bred from a pet shop or herp expo. Wild animals are not good candidates for pets. Most, if not all of them, have parasites that can cause health problems, so you will need to get your lizard to a good herp vet to get checked and/or treated for parasites.

    If you insist in keeping this animal, be aware that it is a desert species, and will require a lot of UVB. You will need a special bulb and under-tank heater. You'll need to ditch the hot rock - they can burn and kill herps. You will need enough sand for this creature to dig in to bury himself, you will need to be able to offer it ants of a species it will eat - probably by collecting them yourself, and be warned that bugs that come in from outdoors may carry residues of pesticides or other toxins that can be harmful or fatal to the lizard, which is why they are protected to begin with.

    You will need to do some research and figure out what species you have. Otherwise, you won't know what temps it needs, what kinds of ants it will eat, or other species-specific parameters.
  5. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    Just because it has survived this treatment doesn't meant its the right thing to do. Reptiles are able to survive for long periods of time under horrible circumstances,...
    then they DIE!
    Since you have kept it this long, the temps are now too low in our area to release it. You have a lot to take in.

    Horned lizards (horny toads) eat ants, a specific type of ants and lots of them! Harvester ants are available from suppliers on line.
    You are dealing with an animal that is quite specific in its needs. Many of us tried to keep them when we were kids and they died. That is one of the reasons that they are endangered and in many areas legally prohibited from being bothered. They are NOT an easy lizard to care for and require a lot of effort to get things right.
    Here is a site that deals specifically with horned lizards and their care.
  6. wgnelson

    wgnelson Elite Member

    I don't normally try to 'read' into a posting, but it seems that your heart is not in the right place. I would suggest that you follow the previous postings to the letter. If not, then you need to find someone in your area that knows how to properly care for this "thing". This responsibility to care for this animal is yours now. Do the right thing, the right way. It's a Horned Lizard, not a "thing")
  7. My2heartboys

    My2heartboys Active Member

    OK, first of all, please understand that when I speak of this lizard as a "thing" it is out of frustration. My darling son just dumped this on me, so I am scrambling trying to put together a bare bones habitat for it on a worse than shoestring budget. I keep a saltwater tank with corals in it so artificial life support systems are not anything strange to me.

    When I bought the heat wave rock, I was strictly looking at something that would get the lizard through until we could start getting the proper stuff together for it. On this, I have compromised and decided to unplug the rock during the day while the incandescent light is on so that things do not get too hot for the lizard. It will be plugged in at night to provide heat for the lizard.

    I know that an incandescent light is not really a good substitute for the proper system for a lizard. It will provide some heat, though. I am currently trying to get some harvester ants. I do have some crickets loose in its tank--hopefully it will take an interest in one or two of those until I can get the ants.

    I also bought some no scratch calcium based reptile sand, so it has substrate to dig in. It has a fake log that it can hide in, and a water dish that I put unchlorinated water into.

    Again, I need some specifics folks. What exactly do I need to support this lizard?

  8. Moshpitrockchick

    Moshpitrockchick Subscribed User Premium Member

    Sorry to disappoint again but the calcium sand is a big 'no-no'. It's probably worse than a heat rock which is a reptile slow cooker in my opinion.

    If you have a human heat pad laying around I would throw that under the tank for supplemental heat and ditch the heatrock all together.

    As far as substrate, if you insist upon something that it can dig in then you should use washed play sand, it runs a far lower risk of impaction.

    When you go shopping for lighting don't let them trick you into buying a $6 basking bulb that looks just like an incandescent, because that's exactly what it is with fancier packaging.

    You'll need a UVB light, generally these don't put out heat, (unless you get a Mercury Vapor Bulb) I highly recommend buying one from here: Welcome To ReptileUV - Mega-Ray® UVB lamps for reptile lighting worldwide.

    I'm sorry I can't be of more help, I am not familiar with horned lizards.
  9. fire2225ems

    fire2225ems Subscribed User Premium Member

    First thing is that you actually want to ditch the calcium sand. That stuff is junk and has killed many animals. It is made out of calcium carbonate which is the same stuff that tums are made out of. If the animal digests any of it it basically stops the digestion process, which will cause impaction, which can result in either a costly trip to the vet or death. If you are determined to use sand, get some play sand from your local home improvement center.

    You will also want at a minimum a 20gal long tank for a baby and once it reaches adult size the minimum would be 40gal long. Part of this is the need for a proper temperature gradient, and part is because they need lots of space to not get stressed.

    You also want a good amount of spots that the lizard can use as hides. I also would suggest covering at least 3 sides of the aquarium with paper or even the aquarium backing so that the lizard feels more secure.

    These animals do not like to be handled and will be stressed if you attempt to handle them often. They don't show their stress in the "normal" ways like running away, instead they kinda play dead and hope that you will just leave them be.
  10. fire2225ems

    fire2225ems Subscribed User Premium Member

    The site that Merlin gave ya seems to have a lot of good information on it, it just doesn't have specifics on things like temps and such, which I would think would be about the same as what you find in your area? Which also means that as long as you don't keep your house too cold at night, you shouldn't need supplemental heat at night either...
  11. Merlin

    Merlin Administrator Staff Member Premium Member

    Sorry if we seem to be hammering you, we don't intend it that way. Its just that you are trying to keep a very difficult animal and the fact that it is wild caught compounds the problem.

    Ok bare bones.
    Ditch the calcium sand and heat rock. Both are dangerous if not lethal.
    For a substrate, just lay down a sheet or two of newspaper. NOt pretty but safe and effective.
    For hiding places anything from a small card board box or plastic bowl turned upside down with a hole in the side will do. It needs to be opaque so that it is dark inside.
    For heat, use a regular household bulb in a shop-light dome fixture available at the hardware store. The wattage will depend on how warm the room itself is. I would aim for a basking spot on one end in the 95-100 degree range and the other end 75-80. Placing a stone directly under the light will assist in this.
    If the temps in the room don't drop below 70 no night time heat will be necessary.
    You also HAVE to have a good thermometer. Digitals with a remote probe can be had at Lowes, Home Depot,etc. for about 10-12 bucks. The stick on tapes and dials from the petshop are not very accurate.
    Knowing what temperature you are dealing with is essential. If its too hot, justy like us it will stress out and die. If it isn't warm enough the animal's body cannot function properly. As such it will not feed and if it does it will be unable to digest the food. And you are going to need ants. I have never heard of one eating crickets.
    NONE of what you will have to have needs to be high priced petshop stuff EXCEPT the UVB bulb. And it has to specifically say UVB, not UV, not UVA. Without this the lizard will draw the calcium it needs from its skeletal structure until the bones are like rubber, the animal will become contorted and die! This is a must have. And you can get them online far cheaper than at the pet store.
    I understand being limited financially, but if you are going to suiccessfully do this some cash outlay is unavoidable. If this is not feasable I would suggest contacting a local wildlife center pr zoo and seeing if they would be interested in taking it.
    We will do our best to see if we can't get you thru this.
  12. My2heartboys

    My2heartboys Active Member

    OK, sand we can get this week. I am still working on getting the ants. This month we had far more expenses than we anticipated and things are way tight---unless somebody has some ants they can send us.

    The tank is set up in our living room which is in the front part of the house and in the winter it does get quite chilly. So I am afraid that in the winter time, supplemental heat will be a necessity.

    Will a full spectrum bullb, from the reptile place on this thread, cover the UV needs of this lizard? If so, what size of bulb? What about night time lighting, what kind of fixture do I need for this? Can daytime and nighttime lighting needs be supplied in one fixture, and if so what kind of fixture?

    Will I need a heat emitter and if so, what size? Right now, I believe the 10 gallon tank that we have will be fine. I know that there are supposed to be some cold and hot spots so that the lizard can move around as it needs to. When we put new sand in the tank this week, I will add some more hiding spots (although right now it loves to dig and hide in the sand).

  13. My2heartboys

    My2heartboys Active Member

    OK, ants are on order. Will be here probably sometime this week. We ordered from To begin with we ordered only 500 of them.

    What kind of light do I need? What about heat source?

  14. fire2225ems

    fire2225ems Subscribed User Premium Member

    If you order a MegaRay MVB it will give you both the UVB and produce heat for ya. Here is the link to where you can find them. Welcome To ReptileUV - Mega-Ray® UVB lamps for reptile lighting worldwide

    The nice thing about the megarays is that while most UVB bulbs have to be replaced every 6 months, these will last you a year. If you contact the people on the site they will help you pick the right one for your requirements.
  15. My2heartboys

    My2heartboys Active Member

    OK, shot them a question....just hope it doesn't confuse them.

    What do you recommend to supplement for heat at night? What about night lighting? Is there an absolute need for night lighting?

    Last night, we covered the tank with a few hand towels so that it would remain dark after we turned the light out.

    I will go tomorrow morning and get the play sand. Does it need to be washed and dried? If I wash it, I would just run cold water over it until the water was clear, then put in a frying pan over low heat to dry it (so that no chlorine from the water would remain in the sand).

    What about supplements?

    I am desperately trying not to jump ahead of myself here. I know that reptiles are very hard to care for in captivity.

    Thanks, everybody, for all of the help. It is greatly appreciated.

  16. fire2225ems

    fire2225ems Subscribed User Premium Member

    You don't need night time lighting. How low do the temps in your home get at night?

    Washing the sand is a good idea, if for no other reason than to get as much dust as possible out. I wouldn't put it on the stove or anything to dry (you don't want the rocks in the sand to get to hot and explode) If you just let it air dry as best as possible you should be fine.
  17. My2heartboys

    My2heartboys Active Member

    OK, we keep the house somewhere in the 60's in the winter. I figure summer won't be much of a problem!

    The only reason I would dry the sand on the stove would be for speed. No, it wouldn't get too hot. Once I get the sand, I am looking at washing and drying it pretty quick so that we can get the calcium based sand out of there pronto.

    On lighting, can you provide links to specific bulbs? Right now, I have a standard desk lamp fixture above the screen on top of the tank. A hole for the light can be cut in the screen, no problem. I am just trying to get an idea of what specific bulbs would fit the purpose. Sorry, but when it comes to lighting, I am a little dim on the subject. :eek:)

    As soon as we have good lighting, heating, and food set up for the lizard the hot rock will go away. I am already thinking of looking at different rocks when I get the sand.

  18. fire2225ems

    fire2225ems Subscribed User Premium Member

  19. My2heartboys

    My2heartboys Active Member

    OK, with that bulb how far does it need to be from the cage?

    Again, I stress that in the winter time it gets pretty nippy at night (and sometimes during the day), what do I need as a supplemental heat supply at night?

  20. fire2225ems

    fire2225ems Subscribed User Premium Member

    you can either go with an under tank heater or a CHE.

    I don't know about how far it will need to be, hopefully someone who has more experience with them can help.
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