SHINGLEBACK LIZARD

Tiliqua rugosa

by Simon Watharow

Po Box 4499 Wantirna, 3152 Vic

HUSBANDRY TECHNIQUES

Enclosure design

There are probably two methods used to house these lizards. The conventional indoor lizard enclosure and the outside lizard pit. I will cover both to discuss the various impacts both have. From the introduction we can tell that these lizards come from a fairly dry and warm region of southern Australia. However these lizards are not found in the exceptionally hot areas of Australia. Low rainfall means a uniform dry habitat.

Indoor Enclosure

Indoor enclosures for lizards are available in many shapes and forms. Constructed in many types of wood, glass or metal. However the preferable wood type usually is melamine, pine or plywood, in combination with a glass or perspex front.

While melamine is favoured by most keepers due to its “attractive” style it is less prone to mite infestations due to its smoother surface which is easier to wipe clean. It is available in several attractive colour styles. It does however cost a little more to buy, is more awkward to cut and if water is spilled or if rain damaged it can rot easily. Pine is typically very attractive, but is not available in wide sections, which means slats of wood have to be staggered. Plywood is available in various thicknesses, can be painted or stained, and is water resistant.

Marine ply is suitable for some outdoor enclosures. Weight can be a downside; in larger enclosure designs this can be compensated by using thinner, but reinforced sheets. Alternatively by placing large trolley type wheels at base for movability. This wood type is also more prone to mites due to its irregular and frequent grooves or gaps in the wood grain. It can also be awkward to clean when faeces or urine adhere to the wood surface.

Ventilation is extremely important, place at least four vents, the larger the better. While this allows more heat to escape it also reduces excessive humidity.

Outdoor enclosures

Typically, outdoors enclosures are pits in the shape of old pool galvanised metal liners, concrete walls, brick walls with overhangs or some variation of that theme. In designing a reptile pit it is important to accommodate the light and sun penetration of an area. This is assuming part of the enclosure provides shade in the summer but as much sunshine as possible in the winter. In extreme conditions like Australian summers all reptiles can overheat. The critical thermal temperature in Stumpy-tailed Lizards is around 45 degrees Celsius. While that may sound a lot, on a low 40 degree day a lizard exposed continuously to that temperature will be dead in around 60 – 90minutes. This explains the importance of shade. If there is no available shade make your own by planting a small shrub or place a shade cloth type material across half the enclosure.

Heating

As listed before the lizards are strongly diurnal so a basking light is essential, the lizards should have a reflector type globe. There are several outstanding brands both cheap and expensive. The Stumpy – tailed Lizard is believed to be at 33 degrees Celsius. This could be used as a guide. Under the heat source the temperature can be higher and usually is. The lizard will shuttle to and from the heat source to maintain its PBT.

When running reflector globes it largely depends on the size of the enclosure as to what wattage you use. Usually 40 – 150 watts globes are used. It should be cautioned here that light bulbs over 60watts tend to burn or buckle batten light fittings especially the all plastic batten fittings now sold in most trade shops.

This can be overcome by using a metal or porcelain type fitting o r using screw in fittings. There are adaptors that you can plug in to batten that allow screw in globes.

The lizards may also benefit from having a heat pad this will aid in digestion especially in larger lizards that eat larger meals. The heating mats/pads are also cost effective and allow keepers to heat more lizards and prevent “heat hogging” by dominant lizards. Another heating pad style method is to use slates, tiles or ceramic plates placed under the heat source this allow s the lizard to bask and have contact with a warm surface area. This also will allow several lizards to remain sufficiently warm under a single light fixture.

Lighting

In recent years lighting has been a discussion point for several genera of lizards especially concerning UVA and UVB emitting lights. A point worth always remembering when considering the car of your diurnal reptile – there is nothing better than natural unfiltered sunlight.

The use of fluorescent tubes is primarily to allow the lizards a natural sense of timing, these lizards are diurnal and will emerge to bask and become active after the tubes come on. When they go off the lizard’s retreat to their respective shelters to sleep. If there is no way to tell when day or night is the lizards may bask at 2am and be sleeping at 2pm. So the cycle is unpredictable, will make it difficult to breed and maintain the longevity in your lizards.

There is at present a good range of alternatives to using nature’s sunlight. For lizards housed indoors UVA producing fluorescent tubes are good to use:

Sylvania Repti star Zoomed Repti Glo tubes 5.0, 2.0 Truelite Blacklight (Hitachi, Crompton).

Substrate

There are several types commonly used, these include; newspaper either flat sheets or through recycled pellets. Pellets lower humidity and remove odour but can be accidentally ingested if food is spilled from bowls or when live prey is being fed, while in adults this should be harmless potentially it could cause problems in juveniles.

Sand substrates are naturally stimulating and appealing to the eye, however it may cause dampness if water is spilled and may also be accidentally mixed with food during feeding.

Leaf litter (Banksia spp. Eucalypt spp. and large exotic tree species) is usually a good substrate to use in outside enclosures but is also used indoors especially in cooler months where the lizards like to become dormant in leaf litter. The lizards like to nestle in the leaf litter, if placed in boxes or hides especially.

Furnishings

Typically these lizards need large shelter sites, large cardboard boxes (indoors), replica caves, hollow logs and ceramic pot plants that have been dissected in half work well. Rocks and slabs are useful for lizards to assist with skin shedding but always make sure all large furnishings are stable and very secure.

Water

This area of husbandry is important to these lizards. Especially in animals being kept in coastal areas of eastern Australia. It is better to offer water every two to three days in a shallow water dish. Leave for half a day then remove. If animals are due to slough you can moisten them down or lightly spray with water to assist. This does fly in the face of general rules of ad lib. water provision. But the absence of water does allow for less humidity. Use commonsense here, if there is a wave of hot days switch to water every day in the afternoon.

Diet

These lizards are omnivorous, but their diet is largely plant dominated, especially in adults.  So in captivity this should be reflected. Canned dog food, meat strips, etc. are great but not recommended as a staple diet. Instead chopped roughly 10mm squares (This prevents periodontal disease) vegetables (broccoli, carrots, lettuce, alfalfa), fruit (apples, rockmelon, melon, banana, strawberries, kiwi fruit and pears) the small size helps to prevent periodontal disease. Add to this small amounts of dog food, heart or liver.

Small lizards should be fed very two to three days, adults every three to five days. Lizards can instead be fed every day if you wish but make it small meals.

Supplement their diet with large amounts of flowers; daffodils, dandelions, evening primrose and stems and inflorescences from these plants.

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