The green keel-bellied lizard (Gastropholis prasina) is a 10-14” long, diurnal, arboreal lizard native to Kenya and Tanzania. They are proficient climbers and spend most of their time in the forest canopy.
Green keel-bellied lizards have slender bodies with a tapered snout, large eyes, long toes, and rectangular scales. True to their common name, they are primarily vibrant green or sometimes turquoise in color.
Green keel-bellied lizards are intermediate-level reptiles that can make lively, entertaining pets when kept properly. Maximum lifespan is not well known.
Minimum terrarium size for green keel-bellied lizards
The absolute minimum terrarium size for a single green keel-bellied lizard is 36”L x 18”W x 36”H. Of course, larger is always better! These skinks like being up high and having plenty of vertical space.
Housing multiple green keel-bellied lizards in the same terrarium is not required for their wellbeing, but if you wish to keep a group of them, they generally get along well. However, do not house males and females together unless you plan to breed.
Do green keel-bellied lizards need UVB?
Yes! Green keel-bellied 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.
The best UVB bulbs for green keel-bellied lizards are:
- Arcadia T5 HO 6% — 6-8” above basking branch
- Zoo Med T5 HO Reptisun 5.0 — 6-8” above basking branch
- Arcadia T5 HO 12% — 12-14” above basking branch
- Zoo Med T5 HO Reptisun 10.0 — 12-14” above basking branch
For best results, house the UVB bulb in an Arcadia or Vivarium Electronics fixture, and it should be roughly the same width as the enclosure. Green keel-bellied lizards have a tendency to climb on the ceiling of their enclosure, so we recommend propping the UVB lamp up on blocks so it’s 1-2” above the mesh itself. This prevents your lizard from getting exposed to dangerously high levels of UV.
UVB is blocked by glass and plastic, so placing the terrarium in front of a window doesn’t count as “free UVB” — in fact it can make your terrarium too hot due to the greenhouse effect. Don’t forget to replace your bulb every 12 months!
Green keel-bellied lizards are also likely to benefit from plant grow lights as part of their environment as well. Add a ~6500K LED or T5 HO fluorescent grow lamp to provide extra illumination, as well as help any live plants in the terrarium to thrive.
Lights should be on for 12 hours/day.
Best temperature for green keel-bellied lizards
Green keel-bellied lizards should have a basking temperature around 90°F, as measured by a digital probe thermometer with the probe secured to the basking branch. General ambient temperatures should stay between 70-80°F. Nighttime temps can drop as low as 65°F.
Provide heat for your lizard with a cluster of at least two halogen heat bulbs. 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.
Heat sources should be turned off at night.
Best humidity levels for green keel-bellied lizards
Green keel-bellied lizards are a tropical species, so the humidity inside their enclosure should be fairly high: 60-80% on average. 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. Aside from raising humidity, this also provides your lizard with an important source of drinking water!
Best substrate for green keel-bellied lizards
Providing a layer of naturalistic substrate (“bedding”) will help maintain correct humidity levels and also helps make your enclosure more attractive! We recommend the following substrates for green keel-bellied lizards:
Layering clean, chemical-free leaf litter on top of the substrate can also help with humidity.
Substrate should be at least 2” deep and completely replaced every 3-4 months. Remove poop and urates daily, along with contaminated substrate.
How to decorate a green keel-bellied lizard terrarium
An empty terrarium makes for a bored 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!
Since green keel-bellied lizards are arboreal, at bare minimum you will need a branch for them to climb and bask on and some live or artificial foliage for it to hide in. However, it’s best to include other items, such as:
- more branches
- cork hollows
- live or artificial plants
- textured background
What to feed to a green keel-bellied lizard
Green keel-bellied lizards are insectivores, which means that they need to get the majority of their nutrition from insects. Juveniles should be fed daily, while adults can be fed 2-3x/week. Offer as many insects as the lizard will eat in a ~5 minute period. For best results, offer as wide of a variety of prey as possible.
Feeder insects for green keel-bellied lizards: dubia roaches, discoid roaches, crickets, hornworms, silkworms, mealworms, darkling beetles, grasshoppers, black soldier fly larvae
Crested gecko diet (CGD) can be offered occasionally as a treat.
You will also need calcium and vitamin supplements to help keep your skink healthy. We recommend Repashy Calcium Plus LoD, lightly dusted on all feeder insects. It’s okay to occasionally skip a dusting.
Of course, don’t forget a small water bowl and feeding ledge for your skink to drink from! Change the water daily and scrub the bowl with a reptile-safe disinfectant weekly.
How to handle your green keel-bellied lizard
Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do. Green keel-bellied lizards are one of those reptiles that are best to leave alone rather than attempt to handle regularly. If you want to interact with your pet, try hand-feeding it with a pair of feeding tweezers.
*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!
"File:Lacertidae - Gastropholis prasina.JPG" by Hectonichus is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0