Jeff received a very unusual gift from his parents on his 10th birthday. In the living room of their house, stood a glass enclosure with what-he-thought was a chameleon.

As Jeff moved towards the cabinet, the critter stood on its hind legs, with its mouth agape and unfurled its frill. Jeff was thrilled to have become a proud owner of a frilled lizard as an exotic pet. 

“Woww !! thought Jeff, ‘I own a mini dragon’!! The frilled lizard, or frilled agama or frilled dragon, is the only member of the genus Chlamydosaurus. 

The animal gets its name from the frill – a colorful membrane of skin – that opens upward and outward. Usually, this is a sign that the animal is feeling a threat. Frilled lizards or Chlamydosaurus kingii belong to the lizard species in the family Agamidae. It is chiefly found in northern Australia and southern New Guinea. It lives in warm temperate and tropical forests. The lizards grow anywhere between 70 cms – 90 cms long and are primarily arboreal. They descend onto the ground only to feed or in times of territorial conflicts.

Interestingly, these lizards vary in color and size due to the region of their origin. The color is mostly determined by the environment it inhabits. Though it is usually brown or grey with dark-colored spots overall, resembling tree bark. This gives it excellent camouflage. Its frill is of various hues such as orange, yellow, and red due to the presence of carotenoid pigments.  

Pet Trivia          

  • Q: What do frilled lizards like with their hamburger?
  • A: French flies 

Frilled Lizard Care Guide

When you have a mini dragon as a pet, you have to take special care when making an enclosure for it. Some of the points to keep in mind are: 

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1. Housing

In captivity, these lizards need to have a sufficiently large enclosure, cage or aquarium, measuring 20-55 gallons for them to move about comfortably. The size of the cabinet also depends on whether your frillie is a young one or an adult. For an adult frillie, a tank size measuring 4 ft to 6ft. tall, depth of 21/2 ft and 5 ft. in length is ideal. The height of the enclosure is a crucial factor when housing a frilled lizard. This is directly related to heightened feelings of security.  

Keep some branches of varying diameters horizontally, vertically, and diagonally. Attaching a branch or shelf in the upper section of the cage’s rear wall will give your pet ample perching and basking areas.  

frilled lizard sand

2. Heating & Lighting

An essential aspect of your pet’s enclosure is the heating facility in its enclosure. Being ectothermic, a frilled lizard will need to have sufficient warmth and exposure to light. In captivity, UVB lamps of mercury vapor or fluorescent lamps create an atmosphere resembling natural light. A 10% UV tube covering at least 2/3rd of the length of the enclosure is ideal. Increase the intensity of the lamp depending on the height of the cabinet. 

To enable heating, fit basking lamps that maintain a temperature of around 115 degrees Fahrenheit in the upper sections of the enclosure. Leave the basking lamp on for 10-12 hours a day. Install a dimming thermostat to monitor and maintain consistent temperature throughout the day. 

The lizard needs warmth in the night too. Temperatures at night should be anywhere between 75 degrees F to 80 degrees F, without the element of light. Ceramic lamps set on the warm end, with a guard and monitoring by pulse thermostat, will provide the requisite temperature in the night. It is a good practice to ensure 1/3rd of the enclosure remains at 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The rest of the enclosure can have an ambient temperature. 

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In winters or colder areas, heat tape should be used to keep the enclosure warm. Alternatively, ceramic heat emitters can also provide the requisite warm temperature. 

3. Humidity

The enclosure should have 55%-65% humidity, with temperatures ranging between 75 degrees Fahrenheit to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. This prevents them from dehydrating. It is ideal for misting young frillies thrice a day, during feeding. Use a pump sprayer or misting system on adult frillies to simulate rain effect. 

The use of substrate in the enclosure is an essential factor in maintaining humidity too. Use a 2-inch layer of coco-fiber, potting soil or cypress mulch and play sand and mist it daily. This retains humidity.  

frilled lizard

Additional tips for your pet Frilled Lizard 

Frillies are usually docile creatures when in their enclosures, and that way too when out in the open. To ensure that your pet is happy and stress-free, make sure you take the following care:

Food: These lizards are insectivorous. Their ideal diet should comprise of brown crickets, locust or black crickets. You may also feed silkworms, hornworms, roaches, soldier fly larvae, canned grasshoppers, and super worms. Treat your pet with mouse, mealworms, or waxworms sparingly. Alternatively, you may also try offering them fruits and vegetables laced with super worms. 

When offering insects to your pet, dust them with a good quality calcium and Vitamin D3 supplement. 

Also, consider keeping a large bowl of water in the cooler corners of the enclosure to prevent the water from evaporating fast. Your pet will take water in droplets and use it for bathing or as help when shedding its skin.  

  • Health: While you are already taking great care of your pet, there are times when your pet will take ill. Your pet will exhibit specific changes in its behavior or its appearance. Some signs you need to watch out for are:
  • Sunken eyes: This is the first sign of dehydration. 
  • Pinched-looking skin: If on pinching, the skin of your pet stays that way, it is a sure sign of dehydration. 
  • Respiratory infection: If your pet is wheezing or breathing with an open mouth and has mucus around the nasal passages and mouth, it has most likely acquired a respiratory infection. 
  • Digestive problem: Refusal to take food at all is a sign of parasite. 
  • Fungal infection: Difficulty in shedding skin indicates fungal infection. 
  • Stress: When a captive lizard frills out, other than when it faces a threat, it is a sign of stress. 
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Visiting a veterinarian who specializes in treating lizards is then your next option.

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