Chuckwalla

Are you a seasoned lizard owner looking to add a little spice to your collection? If so, you might want to check out Chuckwallas. Chuckwallas are large lizards that adapt well to captivity, provided the owner knows how to properly care for the tank and lizard.

While Chuckwallas are a bit hard to find and expensive once you find them, they can make great pets. They are large, making them easy to spot, and they adapt to captivity and are handled much better than other lizards.

To find out more about Chuckwallas and what you can expect if you have one, keep reading. This care sheet tells you everything you need to know to properly care for Chuckwalla in captivity.

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Quick Facts About Chuckwallas

Species Name: Chuckwalla
Family: Iguanidae
Treatment Level: Intermediate to experienced
Temperature: 70 – 120 degrees Fahrenheit with sunbathing area
Temperament: Restless but more tolerant of handling
Color Shape: Dark gray with other color variations
Lifetime: 20 years
Size: 15 – 20 inches
Diet: Vegetarians, especially green leafy vegetables and greens
Minimum Tank Size: 4 x 4 x 4 feet
Tank Setting: Non-moisturizing substrate with controlled hot, flaming and dry environment
Suitability: Lizard owner with experience and extra money to spend

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Chuckwalla Overview

Chuckwallas are a very large type of lizard. Many people like these quirky lizards because they are fun to watch, more tolerant of handling, and are unique animals to have in your home.

These animals are native to the Mojave Desert found between America and Mexico, but they can also be found in other locations. Most often, Chuckwallas have dark colors and scales. The exact color depends on their original location. Compared to other lizards, they have a flat but broad body.

While Chuckwallas are truly unique and more suitable for holding, they are not the most recognizable lizards today. Due to their rarity, high price and special requirements, only experienced reptile owners handle these lizards.

chuckwalla on the rock

How Much Do Chuckwallas Cost?

Chuckwallas are not very popular in the pet trade, making them quite expensive. You can expect to pay between $150 and $200 for a common Chuckwalla. If you want Sant Esteban Chuckwalla, you can pay between $800 and $1,500.

Chuckwallas used to be much more common than they are now. To find Chuckwalla today, you may need to look for breeders online. We recommend choosing a breeder who works with exclusively bred reptiles.

Typical Behavior & Temperament

Like other types of lizards, Chuckwallas can become restless. Chuckwallas caught in the wild are very restless and temperamental when kept in captivity. However, these lizards adapt to captivity much better than other lizards and reptiles.

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While the Chuckwalla will never like to be held like a dog, it tolerates handling more quickly than other types of lizards. Especially if you gently expose the Chuckwalla to your hand and it’s finally ready to be held, your Chuckwalla will be tame and used to being held.

Appearance & Variety

Chuckwallas are a large type of lizard. In total, there are six distinct species of Chuckwallas, and each species looks slightly different from one another. Nevertheless, most of the Chuckwallas share the same physical attributes.

For example, Chuckwallas have broad and stocky bodies. The middle is flat, but the belly sticks out. Loose folds of skin run down Chuckwalla’s body, starting in the neck area and running down most of his midsection.

This species of lizard is sexually dimorphic. Males have a black head, shoulders, and limbs, while the body can be of several colors, including red, pink, orange, yellow, or light gray. Again, the original location will largely determine Chuckwalla’s exact color.

Comparatively, females and juveniles have spots and contrasting bands running down their bodies. This band is usually a contrast between a dark color and a gray or yellow color.

chuckwalla on the sand

How to Care for Chuckwallas

One of the reasons why many people don’t choose Chuckwalla is because they have fairly broad housing requirements. Because these lizards are very large, they need a large vivarium. Plus, they need a very warm and dry environment that is closely monitored.

Habitat, Tank Conditions & Settings

Since Chuckwallas are very large, it is best to choose a vivarium that is 4 x 4 x 4 feet and includes ventilation and glass doors. If you need additional insulation, you can look for a wooden vivarium, but you can opt for a glass model if the area you live in is not too cold.

In the vivarium, place a comfortable and safe bed for the lizards. You can use the option of coarse beech wood chips, or some sort of mixture of sand, earth, and clay.

You will also need to decorate the aquarium to suit the lizard’s natural environment. These lizards like to sunbathe and lie on rocks. Choosing natural stone, wood decorations, and artificial ornaments can be the right choice.

More important than the decorations in the tank are the heat, humidity and light. Because Chuckwallas evolved to survive in harsh desert climates, they cannot handle ordinary room temperatures, low light, or high humidity.

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In contrast, Chuckwallas need a basking area between 100 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. Aim for the basking area to cover about 1/3 of the enclosure. The rest of the cage should be between 70 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

To maintain the temperature inside the enclosure, use a controlled thermostat so that it can monitor the temperature throughout the day. Turn off the basking lights at night so that the habitat mimics the cycles of the sun and moon.

Apart from temperature, you have to be careful with the lighting you provide. Because Chuckwallas are in the sun all the time, they need a frequent source of UV light. Choose a 10% to 12% UV tube that covers about 2/3 of the enclosure.

Unlike other amphibians and lizards, Chuckwallas do not need high humidity because they survive in the desert. Just keep a non-porous water bowl in the cage. At times, Chuckwallas may like to be obscured as a snack, but don’t obscure the vivarium so much that it affects its humidity.

Do Chuckwallas Get Along With Other Pets?

You should never expose your Chuckwalla to other pets. Other animals can be dangerous or stressful for Chuckwalla. To make sure your Chuckwalla is comfortable in his crate, keep it away from other pets, especially large or noisy animals like dogs.

With it, you can definitely place more than one Chuckwalla in the vivarium, as long as you get a tank large enough for more than one adult size Chuckwalla. Remember: putting a boy and a girl together is likely to produce a baby!

chuckwalla climbs on the rock

What Feeds Your Chuckwalla

Chuckwalla is vegetarian. Babies (under one year) need finely chopped greens once a day. You can also add edible flowers to Chuckwalla baby food. As for adults, feed chopped greens, greens and flowers occasionally.

There are some vegetables you shouldn’t give your Chuckwalla, including onions, iceberg lettuce, spinach, and peas. Some of these foods are poisonous, while others can cause diarrhea due to their high water content.

It’s a good idea to add supplements to your Chuckwalla’s diet as well. Calcium powder and multivitamins should be sprinkled on your Chuckwalla diet several times a week. This supplement will ensure that Chuckwalla gets enough calcium and vitamin D to properly digest food and lead a healthy life.

Keeping Your Chuckwalla Healthy

If you give Chuckwalla the right habitat and diet, he will easily adapt to captivity and live a healthy life. In addition to managing your habitat properly, you will need to clean it regularly and monitor its temperature, lighting, and humidity.

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We recommend cleaning the vivarium spot once a day. This will allow you to keep the aquarium habitable for the lizards. At the same time, it will allow you to quickly detect if there is a problem with the lighting or heat source and fix it before your lizard gets hurt.

The final tip for keeping your Chuckwalla healthy was previously mentioned. Be sure to supplement calcium or other multivitamins for your Chuckwalla’s diet by sprinkling powdered vitamins over the food.

Breeding

If you want to breed Chuckwallas, you only need to mate a female and a male. As long as the habitat meets the standard living requirements for Chuckwallas, you don’t have to do anything to encourage reproduction.

Make sure the female has access to the nesting box. The box should be big enough that mom can flip through it inside. Most experts recommend using a soil mix in a nesting box so it holds moisture and forms.

After the female has laid the eggs in the nesting box, remove the eggs and incubate them in an incubator at 84 degrees Fahrenheit. You want the eggs to be incubated in a closed box with a moisture-rich substrate. After about 60 days in the incubator, the eggs will hatch.

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Is Chuckwalla Right For You?

Chuckwallas are a super cool and fun type of lizard, but they’re definitely not for the faint of heart. Since these lizards are expensive and require extensive habitat requirements, we only recommend them for intermediate to experienced lizard owners.

If you are a beginner interested in Chuckwallas, we recommend starting with the more manageable lizards. It will introduce you to the basics of lizard ownership without spending a fortune or sacrificing the life of a relatively rare creature.

With the right habitat and diet, you and your Chuckwalla will be delighted with the setting. Good luck!


Featured Image Credit: TeeFarm, Pixabay