How to Care for Your Chuckwalla

February 11, 2021

common chuckwalla


Common chuckwallas (Sauromalus ater) are 14-20”, diurnal, heavy-bodied lizards native to the Mojave desert of the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. Common chuckwallas generally have dull gray, black, and cream coloration. Some adults may also have some yellow or orange coloration.

Common chuckwallas are an intermediate-level pet reptile.


A single chuckwalla should be kept in a 4’x2’x2’ enclosure or larger.

Chuckwalla substrate should facilitate digging and a low-humidity environment. Their substrate should be natural sand or a sandy soil, and at least 4” deep, preferably deeper. Keep the substrate clean and fully replace on a regular basis.

Aside from substrate, your chuckwalla will also need functional decor items like sturdy climbing branches and rocks to encourage exercise and help prevent it from getting bored. Don’t forget to provide multiple places for them to hide and feel secure.

Chuckwallas obtain most of their moisture from their diet, but it’s still a good idea to still provide a shallow water dish.

Heating and Lighting

Chuckwallas require UVB lighting in order to stay healthy. It should be a high-strength T5 HO Zoo Med or Arcadia bulb, half the length of the enclosure, and mounted in a reflective fixture on the warm side of the enclosure.

Chuckwallas require a basking area with a surface temperature of at least 120°F. Place the basking surface about 12” below the light. The air temperature in the rest of the enclosure should be 80-85°F during the day, and in the upper 60’s to low 70’s at night. Use an infrared thermometer to measure surface temperature, and a digital probe thermometer to measure air temperature.

Food and Supplementation

Chuckwallas are herbivores, which means that their diet should consist of all plants, primarily leafy greens such as kale, collard greens, romaine lettuce, dandelion greens, and occasionally spinach. Fruit should be offered only as a rare treat due to its high sugar content. 

Food should be lightly dusted with a calcium and multivitamin supplement such as Repashy SuperVeggie.

*This care sheet contains only very basic information. If you are new to chuckwallas, please do additional research to obtain additional information from more detailed care sheets.


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