Frilled lizards (Chlamydosaurus kingii) are medium-large, diurnal, arboreal lizards found in southern New Guinea and northern Australia. Their preferred habitat is subhumid to semi-arid woodlands and sclerophyll forests.
Frilled lizards are easily identifiable by the large, circular flap of skin around their neck which expands when they are feeling defensive or upset. Aside from this characteristic, they tend to have long limbs, sharp claws, large heads, and slender tails. Coloring is used for camouflage, so it varies by locale, but is generally a mottled pattern of black, white, gray, and/or brown. They typically grow 2-3’ long, with males being larger than females, and Australian individuals being larger than New Guinea individuals.
Frilled lizards are sensitive reptiles, so they’re best classified as advanced-level pets. With appropriate care, they live an average of 10 years.
Minimum terrarium size for frilled lizards
The absolute minimum enclosure size for a single frilled lizard is 5’L x 2.5’W x 4’H, although larger is preferred. This gives them enough room to accommodate their primarily arboreal lifestyle.
Housing multiple frilled lizards in the same enclosure is not recommended.
Do frilled lizards need UVB?
Yes! Frilled lizards require UVB lighting for their survival. 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.
Here are the best UVB bulbs for frilled lizards housed in a 5’L x 2.5’W x 4’H enclosure:
- Arcadia Desert 6%, 34”
- Zoo Med Reptisun T5 HO 5.0, 34”
For best results, house the UVB bulbs in a reflective fixture by Arcadia or Vivarium Electronics. Position the lamp on the same side of the terrarium as the heat lamp. The UVB lamp should be mounted inside the enclosure, with the basking branch placed so the lizard’s head is 11-12” below the lamp.
They are also likely to benefit from plant grow lights as part of their environment. Add a ~6500K LED or T5 HO fluorescent grow lamp to provide extra illumination, as well as help any live plants in the enclosure to thrive.
Lights should be on for 13 hours/day during summer and 11 hours/day during winter to simulate natural seasonal changes in day length. This is likely to help regulate your frilled lizard’s hormonal cycles, encouraging better long-term health!
Best temperature for frilled lizards
Frilled lizards need a basking surface temperature around 115°F, and average ambient temperatures between 85-90°F. Temperatures can drop down to 75°F at night. Measure your enclosure temperatures with a temp gun.
Provide heat for your lizard with a cluster of halogen heat bulbs placed above the basking branch. You will need enough lamps to evenly heat an area at least the size of the lizard’s body. Halogen bulbs are the best way to imitate the warmth of sunlight indoors, and considered to be a superior form of reptile heating by experts. Do not use ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), red bulbs, or blue bulbs, as these are not as effective. Radiant heat panels, however, can be helpful as a secondary heat source for maintaining warm air temperatures at night.
Best humidity levels for frilled lizards
Frilled lizards are a tropical species, so the humidity inside their enclosure should be fairly high: around 70% on average. Humidity should be measured via a wall-mounted digital hygrometer placed in the middle of the enclosure. For more accurate results, use two devices, one placed at each end of the enclosure.
Young frillies dehydrate easily, so they need to be misted 3x/day. Adults can be misted just 1-2x/day to maintain humidity. We recommend using a pressure sprayer to keep up with your misting needs! Alternatively you can install an automatic misting system.
If you need more help maintaining humidity, install a cool mist humidifier connected to a humidistat to run at night.
Best substrate for frilled lizards
Although frilled lizards spend most of their time in the trees, they do occasionally spend time at ground level. Providing a layer of naturalistic substrate (“bedding”) in the enclosure will help maintain correct humidity, cushion your lizard against falls, provide a digging medium, and also help make your enclosure more attractive!
We recommend the following substrates for frilled lizards:
Layering clean, chemical-free leaf litter on top of the substrate can help with humidity as well as add enrichment value.
Substrate should be at least 2” deep and completely replaced every 3-4 months. Remove poop and urates daily, along with any contaminated substrate.
How to decorate a frilled lizard terrarium
An empty enclosure makes for a bored frilled lizard, reducing its quality of life. Keep your pet entertained and engaged with its environment with the strategic use of décor items that encourage it to exercise natural behaviors!
The bare minimum of décor/environmental enrichment you need is a sturdy climbing/basking branch and somewhere to hide. However, minimum is far from ideal. It’s best to include other items, such as:
- Additional hiding places
- more branches
- live or artificial foliage
All climbing branches should be securely anchored into the walls/floor of the enclosure to prevent collapse.
What to feed to a frilled lizard
Frilled lizards are primarily insectivorous, which means that they require a diet of mostly insects to get the right nutrition for their bodies. When they’re young and growing, they should be fed up to 3x/day, but adults can fed only daily or every other day. Meals should consist of as many insects as your pet can eat in 5-10 minutes.
Frilled lizards are also known to eat a small amount of plant matter. Offer a daily plate/bowl of fresh vegetation for your lizard to pick from as desired.
Vegetables for frilled lizards: collard greens, cactus pads, spring mix, arugula, kale, alfalfa, bok choy, carrot greens, spinach, dandelion greens/flowers, hibiscus greens/flowers
Fruits such as bananas, berries, grapes, melons, papaya, and mango are good to use as treats.
Small vertebrates such as young rodents and feeder lizards can also be used as treats.
You will also need calcium and vitamin supplements to help keep your lizard healthy. We recommend Repashy Calcium Plus LoD, lightly dusted on all insects. It’s okay to occasionally skip a dusting.
Of course, don’t forget a water bowl and feeding ledge for your frilled lizard to drink from! Although your frilly will likely get most of its water from daily misting, your pet should always have access to a source of fresh water. Change the water daily and scrub the bowl with a reptile-safe disinfectant weekly, or whenever it becomes soiled.
How to handle your frilled lizard
Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do. Regarding frilled lizards, they generally prefer to be left alone, as handling is likely to particularly stress them out.
If you want to build a trusting relationship with your pet, you will need to develop a foundation of positive interactions. Offering food from feeding tweezers works well as an initial bribe, and it’s best to get the lizard to come to you rather than simply grabbing it.
*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!