Lizards can make excellent pets, but buying one on impulse can be a very bad idea that leads to frustration. Just because a lizard is in a pet store does not mean that it makes a good pet, or that it’s the right lizard for you. Lizard species vary greatly in size, habitat, temperament, and feeding requirements, and all of these factors should be researched thoroughly before deciding what kind of lizard fits into your lifestyle.
Depending upon the species, a full-grown pet lizard can range from five inches (12.7 centimeters) long to six feet (1.8 meters) long, and will require food and housing to support its size. Green Iguanas are popular pets, but they can grow to be up to six feet (1.8 meters) long, requiring 216 cubic feet (6.1 cubic meters) of cage area. If you are unable or unwilling to provide that size habitat, a smaller lizard is a better option. Geckos come in many varieties, and most are comfortable in a 20-gallon (76 liter) aquarium when full grown.
Size is not the only habitat requirement to consider when choosing a pet lizard. Many species, like the Green Anole, require specialized lighting or misting systems that can cost more than the lizard itself. Take into account the climate in which you live. If you live in the desert, maintaining the tightly-controlled humidity for a Chameleon will take up much of your time and money. People who live in humid climates will not be able to provide the necessary dryness for some desert species, which can result in illness.
If you’re looking for a cuddly pet, lizards are not for you. That said, there are some species of lizards that can be tamed, and grow accustomed to being handled everyday. The Red Ackie and the Bearded Dragon are two species that are highly social, and actually develop a bond with their owners. Some pet lizard species, like the Savannah Monitor, can be aggressive, and other species, like the Chameleon, suffer severe stress when handled and are better enjoyed from afar.
Keep in mind that captive lizards cannot hunt, and rely solely on you for their food. If keeping a constant supply of live crickets and mealworms in your home does not sound appealing, then your lizard options become limited. There are some species, like the Uromastyx and Iguana, that are exclusively vegetarian, but you must be hyper-vigilant about removing uneaten food from the cage before it begins to decompose.
Research is your best tool when deciding what kind of pet lizard to buy. Make absolutely sure that the daily care and maintenance will not take more time or money than you are willing to spend. When you finally decide what kind of lizard to get, find out everything you can about that species before you buy it and make it part of your family.