Getting yourself a new pet can be daunting and you may not know where to start. If you’re considering a scalier companion as opposed to the typical furry type, we have created a list of the 15 best lizards for beginners to help you narrow down your search.
Within our list, we will also include important facts and information about these exotic pets for you to consider on your search so you can make a suitable decision. These include sizes, temperament, and basic needs you will need to fulfill. Along with our guide, you will find an additional tips section at the bottom, which will include valuable information, for you to review to help you with your decision-making.
To begin, we’d thought we’d list some of our smaller lizards that make great beginner pets. Generally, a lot of these come from the Gecko family as these tend to be popular low-maintenance picks although these are often regarded as a crepuscular species.
Read on to find out more about these adorable reptile species.
1. Leopard Gecko
A Leopard Gecko is one of the most popular pet lizards for beginners, although they are 10-20 year commitments. Covered in black and brown spots, they are primarily yellow in color and can grow to be between 8 – 10 inches (including their tail). What makes them the best lizard for novice lizard owners is their docile and slow-moving nature and unlikeliness to bite.
Usually, a leopard gecko will tolerate a certain amount of handling but can become stressed if handled too often. Be sure to socialize with these geckos when you first bring them home but look out for noticeable tail movements which might suggest they are becoming anxious.
Leopard Geckos live on a diet of insects such as crickets, small locusts, and waxworms as opposed to fruits or veggies. Young geckoes will need to be fed insects daily whereas adults can be fed every other day (they are likely to get a little vocal if they start to get hungry). It is also necessary that these insects are coated with supplements prior to being fed to your lizard.
A shallow water bowl must be present in the lizard’s tank at all times so they can stay hydrated. The water will also help the humidity levels in the enclosure and may even act as a bathing spot for your pet lizard too!
1 – 2 Leopard Geckos can be housed in a 10-20 gallon tank which will provide them enough space to explore whilst being comfortable. Overhead heating including a UV light is a requirement when housing a leopard gecko and they should have some accessories within their tank to mimic their natural environment. This heating will also provide them with a basking spot.
2. Crested Gecko
Crested Geckos are nocturnal reptiles known for the fringed crests lining their eyes which resemble eyelashes. These reptiles can come in several shades and markings and have sticky toe pads which will allow them to scale surfaces dexterously. Care must be taken when handling Crested Geckos as they are known to be great jumpers. A Crested Gecko is generally docile although if irritated they are likely to become skittish and leap from your palms or nip you.
A Crested Gecko tends to grow up to 8 inches with some reaching a maximum of 10 inches. Like the Leopard Gecko, if given proper care these lizards can live anywhere between 10-20 years.
Unlike other lizards, the Crested Gecko doesn’t rely on live insects for sustenance. Instead, the best diet to feed your Crested Gecko would be a commercially-made powdered diet with the addition of some mashed fruits such as bananas, apricots, mangoes, and even passion fruit. Young Crested Geckos should be fed daily whereas adults can be fed around three times a week.
With their love of ascending verticle surfaces, a tall enclosure will be necessary to allow them more freedom to roam. With this in mind, it will also be beneficial to decorate the tank with branches and driftwood to give your Crested Gecko more obstacles to climb. These lizards generally don’t need specialist lighting however some sources recommend a low-level UVB light.
3. Gargoyle Gecko
Gargoyle Geckos come in an array of vibrant colors and patterns and are a common and popular pet lizard to own. These mellow and docile lizards earned their name for their subtle horn-like protrusions on their heads.
These friendly creatures are likely to tolerate more handling than the previous Geckos featured here although owners must initially proceed with care to ensure that they effectively form a bond with you. In other words, don’t handle them too much, and be sure to give them plenty of time and space between handling moments.
Like other members of the Gecko family, this lizard species can live anywhere between 15-20 years if the proper care and attention are given. Generally, the Gargoyle Gecko can grow between 6 – 10 inches and also enjoy closely inspecting the upper walls of their tanks.
Some regard the Gargoyle Gecko as a picky eater when in fact they are omnivores. These lizards will happily chow down on live insects such as crickets and mealworms but sometimes prefer the juiciness and sweetness of fruits and vegetables to fill their stomachs.
Like the Crested Gecko, these lizards will also benefit from tall tanks decorated with branches and leaves to climb and hide under. Some owners will supply their Gargoyle lizard’s tank with a low wattage bulb and/or heat lamp although this isn’t always necessary as these reptiles are adaptable animals. It’s important to replicate a day and night cycle with lizards so some form of light is preferred.
4. Gold Dust Day Gecko
Compared to other Geckos featured here, Gold Dust Day Geckos may not be some people’s number one choice of a pet due to their inability to tolerate being handled at all. If they are to be picked up it should only be on the occasions they need veterinary care or assistance. Having said that this beautiful lizard type is wonderful to observe in a thriving habitat and are well-known for their vibrant color and speckled gold backs.
This small lizard will grow between 4 – 6 inches and will live for around 10 years. It is not recommended that a male gold dust day Gecko be housed with another male as they can become aggressive toward them.
The Gold Dust Day Gecko is another that loves both insects as well as pureed fruits and veggies. Although this lizard will drink water from the leaves left behind by the mist and humidity, a water bowl won’t go amiss in their home on the occasion they should need a larger source.
These Geckos thrive best in an environment decorated with live plants with large leaves along with a spot for them to shelter and hide in. Their homes need to be highly humid and will therefore need misting daily.
5. Long-Tailed Lizard
As you may have guessed these lizards are known for their especially long tails. Growing anywhere between 10-12 inches the tail of this reptile typically takes up to 4/5 of the overall length. These lizards can tolerate short handling sessions but may become agitated if these sessions last too long. Also, new reptile owners should be wary of is this lizard’s speed as they are incredibly quick on their feet. However, these reptiles are commonly known to be benign and easy-going which makes them more than suitable for first-time owners.
Unlike other lizards featured on our list, the lifespan of the Long-Tailed lizard is only around six years.
A Long-Tailed Lizards diet is primarily insects. Crickets, mealworms, and even flies can be fed to a Long-Tail. A shallow water bowl must also be available to these lizards.
These agile lizards will need a tank that has a firm and secure lid to prevent a jailbreak. You will also need a fairly large enclosure, decorated with branches, plants, and vines for them to explore, hide, and whiz around.
6. Green Anole
Known for having a bright green body, small size, and a willingness to interact with people, Green Anoles are a great first pet lizard for novices. Green Anoles are also perfect for homes that are looking to help teach children about caring for lizards as they are easy-going and friendly reptiles. However, always make sure to socialize them gradually when bringing them home so that they become accustomed to the new environment and household.
An adult male Green Anole will grow up to 8 inches in length whereas females will be relatively smaller. When you own one of these beautiful green reptiles you can expect them to live for up to 8 years if cared for sufficiently.
A Green Anole will live off a diet consisting of small, live insects such as mealworms, waxworms, and crickets.
Green Anoles don’t require copious amounts of space but filling their home with plants and branches will result in a happy and relaxed reptile. If you’re looking to get more than one however you should consider a larger enclosure to accommodate them.
7. African Fire Skink
African Fire Skinks retain a beautiful array of colors and have thicker bodies than other small lizards. Their striking appearance and low-maintenance needs mean that they are a great pick for rookie reptile owners although their longer lifespan will mean that they can be a bigger commitment.
African Fire Skinks can live anywhere between 15 – 20 years and can grow up to 15 inches in length. These active lizards can be shy and will not tolerate as much handling as other species although their energetic nature will make them very entertaining to observe.
African Fire Skinks should be fed a diet of crickets, mealworms, waxworms, or other similar prey to keep them healthy and active. Occasionally, adults can be fed a pinkie mouse.
An African Fire Skink will appreciate a surrounding made up of rocks, woods, and branches. These lizards love to burrow so their enclosure should be relatively deep to give them extra digging room. It’s also important to know that when an African Fire Skink is brought up in a healthy and rich environment, they can become more sociable. Although make sure to only handle them in short sessions so that they become accustomed to the interaction.
Don’t let the size of these pet lizards deter you from bringing one home. Although they may be a little bigger than a Gecko, some of these lizard species can be surprisingly low-maintenance. For example, the Bearded Dragon is actually considered to make one of the best pet lizards for rookie reptile owners. This is because of their easy-going nature and willingness to interact with their owners as well as their adaptability. Browse through our list to get some more in-depth information about these beautiful creatures and their needs.
8. Bearded Dragon
The Bearded Dragon is possibly one of the most popular pet lizard species for countless reasons. First and foremost, they have a docile nature and are easy-going creatures that are active during the day and enjoy human interaction, unlike other reptiles. Secondly, they are easy to care for and very adaptable. All things considered, Bearded Dragons are a great beginner lizard.
An adult Bearded Dragon can grow anywhere between 16 and 24 inches in length and have a life span of 10 – 15 years. Always remember that if given the right care, pets can sometimes live a little longer than normal.
A Bearded Dragon will typically eat insects but will also enjoy vegetables. Feeding times will depend on the age and size of your Bearded Dragon so it’s always worth seeking advice on providing adequate nutrition. Generally, young Beardies will need to be fed around three times a day and an adult will need to be fed once daily.
Bearded Dragons will need a large enclosure, complete with a top, due to their size. These tanks should be no smaller than 75 gallons and house branches, logs, and hiding spots for your Bearded Dragon. Like most reptiles, they will need a basking spot and an overall warm enclosure that can get away with being a little cooler during the night.
9. Blue Tongue Skink
As you can probably imagine the most notable feature about this reptile is its bright blue tongue. These lizards don’t come in too many colors or marking variations but you will always be guaranteed to have one with a blue tongue. Blue Tongue skinks are tame and quiet reptiles although if they feel threatened they can become hostile so it’s important to monitor lizards if children are handling them.
Compared to other lizards featured here, Blue Tongue Skinks tend to weigh a little more and have a stocky body. These lizards will also grow between 20 – 22 inches long and can live for up to 20 years.
Occasionally a Blue Tongue skink can be fed a mouse although their diet should typically consist of insects with occasional vegetables and fruit.
Since a Blue Tongue Skink can grow to be quite long, a large enclosure will be necessary when homing one of these reptiles. You may want to decorate their home with branches and bark which they will love to hide under however they are not climbers and will prefer to tunnel or burrow. They will also enjoy basking under heat after a meal so ensure that there is plenty of space for them to lounge around freely.
10. Ackie Monitor/Spiny Tailed Lizards
Beginner reptile keepers may be put off by the size of this lizard although the Ackie Monitor is relatively small compared to other members of the Monitor family. Including their tail, these pet lizards can grow up to 28-30 inches and somewhat resemble a Komodo Dragon.
Once Ackie Monitors are settled into a new home and have become adjusted, these friendly lizards become very docile and relaxed and can live anywhere between 15-20 years. Although if not cared for adequately they can become somewhat hostile or unsociable.
Ackie Monitors live off a carnivorous diet consisting of insects, eggs, rodents, and even shrimp. However, when feeding an Ackie, owners must always keep an eye on their weight as they have large appetites and can become overweight.
These lizards will need a tall enclosure to allow them to burrow. Ackie Monitors are not known to jump or to climb but they are known to dig which is why they should need the extra space. They are also known to love basking so they will need an open area, heated by a lamp, to allow them to lounge around comfortably.
11. Chinese Water Dragon
The most common Water Dragon for beginners is the Chinese Water Dragon which is regularly mistaken for the Green Iguana due to its’ bright green body. Chinese Water Dragons are social reptiles that can happily tolerate humans as long as they are socialized from an early age and can even live between 15-20 years old. Chinese Water Dragons are rather large lizards as they can grow up to 35 inches/3 feet in length.
Chinese Water Dragons live off insects such as waxworms, crickets, mealworms, and grasshoppers but also happily devour thinly sliced vegetables and fruits. Once in a while, an adult Chinese Water Dragon can also be fed a pinkie mouse.
Since these reptiles can grow to a sizeable length and have an eye for water, their habitats can be quite expensive and will need to be large. The Chinese Water Dragon loves to swim so will therefore require a pool big enough for them to almost submerge themself and paddle in. Live plants and branches will also need to be present in the enclosure so they can climb.
12. Caiman Lizard
Far from small lizards, the reptiles are known to grow up to five feet in length (60 inches) and can also weigh up to 12 pounds. Caiman Lizards can be a little more on the difficult side to take care of due to their size and environmental needs, however, they are commonly known to be docile reptiles. Like other species, it’s important to socialize them when they are young so they become familiar with who you are and form a bond.
In captivity, Caiman Lizards will live for up to 10 years if cared for properly. If this reptile is in the running as a potential pet lizard, it would be beneficial to complete some in-depth research into how to accommodate one appropriately. Making sure they are happy and healthy will greatly benefit their life expectancy.
Since the Caiman Lizard is semi-aquatic their diet doesn’t resemble most others on this list. These lizards devour hard-shelled invertebrates and shellfish but can also live off crickets and super worms. Fruits such as mango, kiwi, banana, and papaya can also be included in their diet.
Caiman Lizards will of course require a large enclosure with space for a water area (meant for submerging), an area for lounging, and enough open space for accessories used for climbing.
13. Veiled Chameleon
With over 200 species of Chameleons, the most popular has to be the Veiled Chameleon with the Panther Chameleon coming in at a close second. Veiled Chameleons are typically green with brown and yellow patterned in places although this lizard can alter these colors to blend in with their surroundings. Shy and calm, these slow-moving lizards are best admired from their habitat as they’re not comfortable with being handled.
Veiled Chameleons have a relatively short life expectancy compared to other lizards as they typically live between 8 – 10 years. Also, they can grow up to 22 inches overall and their tongue can stretch rough twice the size of its’ body length.
Veiled Chameleons require a diet primarily made up of insects such as crickets and roaches however they also benefit from cut-up fruits and vegetables.
Veiled Chameleons prefer tree branches and bushes as opposed to areas designed for basking or burrowing. Decorating their enclosures with plant life and branches will make your Veiled Chameleon feel at home with plenty of spaces to hide and blend into.
14. Green Basilisk
Also referred to as the ‘Jesus Christ Lizard’, due to their ability to briefly run across the surface of the water, the Green Basilisk is a popular reptile among Lizard-lovers. Resembling the Green Iguana these lizards can be quite shy and will agitate easily so they may not be ideal for owners who want to handle them frequently. Green Basilisks can grow up to 36 inches in length and will live anywhere between 8-10 years in total.
Insects and vegetables are two important foods to give to your Green Basilisk to keep them healthy and happy.
Due to their high activity levels and size, these lizards will need a large enclosure to roam freely around along with decorations for them to utilize. Thick branches to climb and plants to blend into will also be valuable to place in their tank to make them feel at home.
15. Green Iguana
These Iguanas are, without a doubt, one of the most common and popular lizards in the pet trade. If you’re set on a Green Iguana you may want to ensure that you can provide the time necessary to home and tame one. However, as time-consuming as these lizards can be, owning one can be very rewarding to reptile lovers who wish to own a lizard that will like to be held.
Note: It’s important to understand that these Iguanas will need regular handling from the minute you bring them home. Frequent handling sessions will help to tame your Green Iguana and will also build a level of trust.
Adult Green Iguanas can weigh a whopping 20 pounds and can grow up to 7 feet long (84 inches) which is not far away from the Komodo Dragon which can grow up 10 feet in length overall. These Iguana lizards have been known to live up to 20 years however they commonly only live between 10 – 12 years.
Unlike other species of lizard, adult Iguanas must be fed daily and will require a diet of leafy greens. They can also occasionally be fed fruits.
These Iguanas will need an exceedingly large enclosure, around 12 feet in length and 8 feet tall, to roam around happily. They will also require large branches and rocks to climb as they mostly dwell in trees in the wild. Some Iguana owners have been known to attach fixtures and shelves for their lizards to climb.
Other Types Of Pet Lizards To Consider
With hundreds of species of lizards available throughout the pet trade, there are some types that didn’t quite make the list. These lizards are often regarded as suitable for new reptile owners however their initial homing needs or upkeep may be costly, although, they are still worth looking into if you haven’t been able to find the best lizard for you.
- Frilled Dragon
- Tokay Gecko
- Savannah Monitor
- Panther Chameleon
- Uromastyx (Also known as dabb lizards)
Additional Tips And Things To Consider
Although these lizards are perfect for beginners, there are still certain things that you must know before getting one. No matter what pet you opt for they will always require a level of care that you need to make sure you can fulfill. Although, it’s useful to know that some online sources will provide owners with care sheets to help owners take care of their pet lizards.
When looking to buy your first lizard consider how long their typical life span is and whether you can promise your lizard pets that you can keep and care for them for that entire time. Some lizards have expensive diets and will need a lot of accessories within their enclosure to keep them content and relaxed.
When looking for the best pet lizard for you, always consider the specific components that will make up their living space. Each lizard is different, for example, some common species are nocturnal and will have different lighting requirements. Therefore, it is important that you make sure you thoroughly research the following along with any care and cleaning techniques to keep their enclosures hygienic:
It may also be beneficial to research any common health care problems a particular lizard has and what you can do to ensure they develop safely and healthily. A lot of resources recommend coating some of your lizard’s foods with vitamin and calcium supplements to support health.
Some males of varying species can be territorial so always make sure that it’s safe to have more than one. As an example, a male Tokay Gecko may become hostile to other animals or Tokay Geckos as they are highly territorial.
It is also important to understand whether or not a lizard is social or not. Some prefer the company of one or two companions whereas others are more solitary creatures that don’t typically like interaction at all.
If you are a first-time pet owner, let alone a lizard owner, you should always understand what your lizard will need prior to bringing them home. You should also make sure you have your pet registered with a vet and have any leftover questions ready.
Insurance is a must for any pet owner. Not only will it ensure that your lizard is well taken care of but it will also provide financial security to owners.
When you take your new pet lizard to the vets for their first visit, make sure to ask for more information about insurance from your vet and take some out as soon as possible.
Nutrients and Supplements
These can be added to your pet lizard’s diet to help to take care of their overall health. Talk to your vet to find out more and what types of supplements to give your lizard.