The eastern glass lizard (Ophisaurus ventralis) is a 3.5’ long, terrestrial reptile native to the southeastern United States. They can generally be found in flatwoods, forests, meadows, marshes, and coastal dune habitats.
Eastern glass lizards are legless lizards that strongly resemble snakes except for a few key traits: unlike snakes, they have eyelids, an external ear opening, and a lateral groove. Glass lizards’ jaws are also significantly less flexible than snakes’. Coloring is tan to brown on top with a pale to yellow belly, and stripes/speckles on the cheek and neck.
Eastern glass lizards are intermediate-difficulty pets due to the fact that they are not common in the pet trade, so not much is known about their care. The information provided in this care sheet is speculation to the best of our ability based on their natural habitat and biology.
Minimum terrarium size for eastern glass lizards
The absolute minimum terrarium size for a single eastern glass lizard is 48”L x 24”W x 24”H. Of course, larger is always better! This species is quite active, and they need at minimum enough room to stretch out fully and thermoregulate.
Cohabitation (keeping multiple glass lizards in one enclosure) is not recommended.
Do eastern glass lizards need UVB?
UVB lighting is required for eastern glass lizards’ long-term health. UVB lighting helps provide a clear day/night cycle, provides all of the vitamin D that your pet needs, strengthens the immune system, facilitates better digestion, and other benefits.
The best UVB bulbs for eastern glass lizards are:
- Zoo Med Reptisun T5 HO 5.0, 22”
- Arcadia Forest 6%, 22”
For best results, house the UVB bulbs in a reflective fixture. Position the lamp on the same side of the terrarium as the heat lamp, about 9-11” above the basking area if over mesh, and 12-14” above the basking area if not. Don’t forget to replace your bulb every 12 months!
Lights should be on for about 13 hours/day during summer and 11 hours/day during winter in order to encourage natural hormonal cycling. All lamps should be turned off at night.
Best temperature for eastern glass lizards
Like other reptiles, eastern glass lizards are cold-blooded, which means that they rely on external temperatures to manage their own body temperature and metabolism. A reptile’s enclosure should offer a range of temperatures to allow them to thermoregulate effectively.
Specifically speaking, eastern glass lizards should have a basking surface temperature of 90°F. On the other side of the enclosure, the temperature should be around 75°F. These temperatures can be measured with an infrared thermometer.
Provide heat for your lizard with at least two halogen flood heat bulbs, placed close together over the basking area (ex: a piece of flagstone or stone paver) to evenly heat the animal’s entire body. Do not use ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), red bulbs, or blue bulbs, as these are not as effective.
The warm hide should be placed directly under the basking surface.
Best humidity levels for eastern glass lizards
Eastern glass lizards should have an average humidity of 65-75%. There should also be a humid hide, lined with moistened sphagnum moss and placed on the cool side of the enclosure. Humidity should be measured via digital probe hygrometer, with the probe placed in the middle of the terrarium.
Increase humidity by misting the enclosure 1-2x/day with a spray bottle. Mist first thing in the morning and then again at night if needed. Mixing water directly into the substrate also helps with maintaining high humidity.
Best substrate for eastern glass lizards
Providing a thick layer of naturalistic substrate (“bedding”) will help cushion your lizard’s body, maintain correct humidity levels, provide a burrowing medium, and also make your enclosure more attractive! We recommend the following substrates for eastern glass lizards:
- Exo Terra Desert Sand
- Zoo Med Repti Sand
- Zoo Med ReptiSoil
Layering clean, chemical-free leaf litter on top of the substrate provides extra burrowing material and can also help with humidity.
Substrate should be at least 4” deep and completely replaced every 3-4 months. Remove poop and urates daily, along with contaminated substrate.
How to decorate a eastern glass lizard terrarium
An empty terrarium leads to a stressed reptile. Keep your pet entertained and engaged with its environment with the strategic use of decor items that encourage it to exercise natural behaviors.
At bare minimum, you will need a couple of hiding places and some foliage for cover. However, it’s best to include other items, such as:
What to feed to a eastern glass lizard
Eastern glass lizards are insectivorous, which means that they eat insects as the majority of their diet. Here is a basic feeding schedule:
- Juveniles: daily, as much as they will eat
- Adults: 2-3x/week, as much as they will eat within 15 minutes
The key to balanced nutrition is variety, so make sure your lizard gets as many different (but still appropriate) foods as possible! Here are some ideas:
High-protein foods for eastern glass lizards: dubias, discoids, crickets, grasshoppers/locusts, snails (captive-bred only), hornworms, silkworms, earthworms, mealworms, superworms, darkling beetles, black soldier fly larvae, young mice
You will also need calcium and vitamin supplements to help keep your lizard healthy. We recommend Repashy Calcium Plus LoD, lightly dusted on all of your pet’s feeder insects. It’s okay to occasionally skip a dusting.
How to handle your eastern glass lizard
Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do. And as far as eastern glass lizards go, they generally prefer to be left alone. When startled, they may attempt to bite you or drop their tail.
If you need to pick up your eastern glass lizard, be gentle and try to pick it up from the side or below rather than from above. Avoid chasing it around the enclosure. Support as much of its body as possible, and NEVER pick it up by its tail!
*This care sheet contains only very basic information. Although it’s a good introduction, please further your research with high-quality sources. The more you know, the better you will be able to care for your pet!