Frilled Lizard

Imports vs. Captive Bred

Most Frilled lizards sold, especially adults, are imports from Indonesia. The Australian species are not legally exported out of that country. While some juveniles are captive born, both wild caught and captive born Frilled lizards should have fecal diagnostics performed to test for internal parasites, and physical exams should be performed to assess the lizard for external parasites (ie, ticks and mites).

Cage Size and Set Up

Juvenile lizards (nose to tail tip under 12-16 inches) can be housed in a 20-40 gallon aquarium. The absolute minimum cage size for an adult Frilled lizard should be 4 ft x 3 ft x 6 ft. Avoid glass enclosures for adults in order to avoid rostral abrasions (nose sores/rub sores) as healthy Frilled lizards are highly active during feeding. Soft plastic or vinyl clear storage closets work very well for adults and are very affordable. These are available at Bed Bath and Beyond and other internet websites.

Frilled lizards are built for climbing. Provide wooden structures and tree branches for climbing and perching. An area for hiding should be provided as well to alleviate stress.

The safest substrate recommended for the cage/enclosure bottom is paper pulp products such as Carefresh, newspaper, Repticarpet, or indoor/outdoor carpeting. These substrates make the cage easier to keep clean. If a more realistic substrate is used, choose Cyprus mulch or Cyprus mulch/paper pulp product combination rather than sand to avoid the risk of gastro intestinal impaction.

Temperature and Lighting

Frilled lizards originate from Northern Australia and Indonesia. They require high temperatures to thrive and properly digest foods. Provide a hot side and a cool side in the enclosure to allow the lizard to thermoregulate and avoid ‘overheating.’ Temperatures on the hot side should range between 95-102 degrees F. The cool side should range from 75-80 degrees F.

Because these lizards are diurnal (active and feeding during the day), they require UVB lighting to activate Vitamins A and D which increases the absorption of calcium. Provide a 5.0-10.0 UVB light for 10-12 hours per day. One option is to provide UVB through fluorescent tubes along with and additional radiant heat bulb or ceramic bulb for heat as fluorescent tubes do not provide heat. Alternatively, a heat and UVB combination bulb, such as T-Rex Active UVB Heat bulbs or Zoomed’s Powersun halogen UVB bulbs may be used alone.

Fluorescent UVB tubes need to be changed every 6 months, even if they still work, as the UVB will no longer be “active” and will not provide health benefits. Heat/UVB combination bulbs do not need to be changed as often. UVB rays do NOT pass through glass or plastic, so be sure there is nothing between the UVB bulb and your lizard.

Food and Water

Fresh water should be provided at all times. A plastic kitty litter pan is cheap and works very well in an enclosure. Soak you Frilled lizard in a warm water bath for 10-15 minutes 2-3 times per week. A plastic Tupperware container can be used as a “soak bucket.” This helps keep you lizard well hydrated and will help with proper shedding.

Frilled lizards are primarily carnivorous. Juveniles and adults may be offered crickets and the occasional mealworm. Crickets and other insects need to be “gut loaded” and dusted with both calcium powder and a multivitamin powder. To “gut load” crickets, feed them a high quality reptile food in pelleted form, for example, Repcal brand Tortoise pellets. Calcium powder, such as Repcal Calcium with Vitamin D3 should be Phosphorous free, and should be dusted on the crickets 1-2 times per week for adults and 3-4 times per week for juveniles. A multivitamin powder, such as Zoomed’s Reptivite, should be dusted on crickets once every other week for adults and once per week for juveniles. Adults may also be offered pinkies or fuzzies to supplement the diet. Juvenile lizards may be fed every other day, while adults may be fed 1-2 times per week. To gauge how much to feed your lizard, place you lizard in its “soak bucket” and feed 2-5 crickets. Watch closely to see how quickly your lizard eats. If the lizard is still very excited to eat, feed 2-5 more crickets until your lizard has lost interest. This method allows you to closely monitor your lizard’s appetite. It is not recommended that your lizard be fed crickets in its enclosure due to the difficulty of monitoring the appetite. If fed in the enclosure, it is important to remove any uneaten crickets from the enclosure to avoid stress and bite wound injuries to the lizard.

Common Health Concerns

Calcium and Vitamins A and D deficiencies are commonly seen in pet lizards. These deficiencies lead to metabolic bone disease, also known as Nutritional Secondary Hyperparathyroidism, and/or kidney disease. To avoid these complications, provide adequate UVB lighting, calcium, and multivitamin powder supplements.

Dysecdysis, or retained shed, is another common health concern for Frilled lizards. The blood supply to the toes and tail are commonly disrupted by retained skin during shedding. This reduced blood flow may result in vascular compromise, infection, necrosis, and loss of toes or tail tip. To avoid this from happening to your Frilled lizard, provide warm water soaks at least twice weekly.

When the enclosure is too humid, some Frilled lizards may develop fungal dermatitis most commonly seen on the edges of the frill. Monitor your lizard’s hood for any abnormal coloration.

Rostral abrasions occur with many lizard species. Lizards are often not aware of glass or plastic and will attempt to jump through or escape their enclosure during feedings or when startled. Some lizards will rub their face and nose against the enclosure looking for an escape and/or a mate. Sores will develop on the rostrum (nose) and lower jaw. These sores can be painful and keep lizards from eating. Rostral abrasions can become infected or septic and cause changes in the bone formation of the jaw. This condition requires medical intervention and a trip to you herp vet.