Mexican Arboreal Alligator Lizard Care Sheet

Mexican Arboreal Alligator Lizard Care Sheet

Mexican arboreal alligator lizards (Abronia spp.) are 6” long, diurnal, arboreal lizards native to the cloud forests of Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. They prefer a montane forest habitat with foggy nights and plenty of bromeliads.

Mexican arboreal alligator lizards have a variety of colors and patterns. However, Mexican arboreal alligator lizards can still be identified by their rows of large scales, large triangular head, elongated body, long toes, and slender prehensile tail.

Abronia are fairly rare and not easy animals to keep as pets. They are very sensitive to poor care, and get sick easily. However, when properly housed, they can be beautiful, rewarding pets.

Minimum terrarium size for Mexican arboreal alligator lizards

The absolute minimum enclosure size for a single Abronia lizard is 18”L x 18”W x 36”H. The enclosure should be made of mesh rather than glass or PVC to promote optimal ventilation. Otherwise, the high-humidity environment preferred by this species becomes stagnant and is likely to make your lizard sick.

Housing multiple Abronia lizards in the same enclosure is not recommended.

Do Mexican arboreal alligator lizards need UVB?

Yes! Abronia 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 Abronia lizards housed in a 18”L x 18”W x 36”H enclosure:

  • Arcadia T5 HO 12%, 22”
  • Zoo Med T5 HO Reptisun 10.0, 22”

For best results, house the UVB bulbs in a reflective fixture such as the Arcadia ProT5. Make sure that the fixture your UVB bulb is housed in does not have a clear plastic bulb cover, as plastic and glass block UVB. Place the basking branch so the lizard’s back will be 12” below the lamp at closest.

Abronia lizards also benefit from plant grow lights as part of their environment. Add a bright ~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 12 hours/day. All lamps should be turned off at night.

Best temperature for Mexican arboreal alligator lizards

Abronia lizards need a basking surface temperature around 90-92°F, and between 75-80°F everywhere else, as measured by digital probe thermometers. Nighttime temperatures should fall to 50-65°F, which can be accomplished by a Zoo Med Repti Cooler evaporative cooler or similar.

Provide heat for your lizard with one or two ~40w heat bulbs placed above the basking branch. This is going to be the best way to imitate the warmth of sunlight in your pet’s enclosure, 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.

To prevent burns, elevate the lamp above the top of the enclosure with the Exo Terra Light Bracket.

Best humidity levels for Mexican arboreal alligator lizards

Abronia lizards need low humidity during the day and high humidity at night for best health. During the day, aim for 80% humidity, and aim for 100% at night. Humidity should be measured via digital probe hygrometer, with the probe placed in the middle of the terrarium.

Increase humidity by misting the enclosure every morning, afternoon, and night with a large pressure sprayer, but preferably with an automatic misting system. You will also need a cool mist humidifier to run at night, connected to a humidistat to maintain high humidity levels.

Reptile humidifiers and foggers should only be used with distilled water and require frequent disinfecting to keep your reptile from getting sick.

Best substrate for Mexican arboreal alligator lizards

Abronia lizards are strictly arboreal, but it’s helpful to use a moisture-retentive substrate to maintain healthy humidity levels. Use a small-particle substrate that imitates tropical soil for best results. Here are some good options:

  • Zoo Med Eco Earth
  • Zoo Med ReptiSoil
  • Exo Terra Plantation Soil
  • Zilla Jungle Mix

It’s a good idea to layer clean, chemical-free leaf litter on top of the substrate.

Whatever you use, your substrate layer should be at least 2” deep and fully replaced every month. Spot-clean to remove waste daily.

How to decorate a Mexican arboreal alligator lizard terrarium

An empty enclosure makes for a bored and stressed Abronia lizard, reducing its quality of life. Keep your pet relaxed and engaged with its environment with the strategic use of décor items that encourage it to exercise natural behaviors!

You will need plenty of vines, thin branches, and foliage to decorate your terrarium — particularly bromeliads and Spanish moss! Arrange them in such a way that the lizard has somewhere to hide as needed, with an open area under the heat lamp for basking. 

All climbing branches should be securely anchored to the walls of the enclosure.

What to feed to a Mexican arboreal alligator lizard

Abronia lizards are insectivores. This means that they only eat insects. Their feeding schedule is quite simple: just offer food daily, as many bugs as your Abronia is willing to eat. If it starts to get fat, reduce the number of bugs that you offer.

Feeder insect options: crickets, discoids, dubias, banana roaches, red runner roaches, black soldier flies, hornworms, silkworms

Make sure to offer a wide variety of insects, not just one or two different kinds!

Supplements

You will also need calcium and vitamin supplements to prevent your Abronia lizard from developing a deficiency. Use Repashy Calcium Plus LoD most frequently, with occasional additions of Repashy Vitamin A Plus and Repashy SuperPig for carotenoid support and promoting optimum color.

Make sure that all feeder insects are well hydrated and gutloaded prior to feeding.

Drinking Water

Most of your Abronia lizard’s drinking water will come from daily mistings, but it’s also helpful to make sure there’s a bit of standing water available for drinking at all times. The best way to do this is with a wall-mounted water dish. This should be changed out daily, and once a week, scrub the bowl with a reptile-safe disinfectant (or whenever it becomes soiled).

How to handle your Mexican arboreal alligator lizard

Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do. Some tolerate it more than others, but generally Abronia lizards prefer to be left alone. 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 is a good way to start.

 

*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!


"Abronia graminea" by David Jimeno is marked with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

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