The sheltopusik (Pseudopus apodus) is a 4’ long, diurnal, fossorial lizard native to southeastern Europe and western Asia. They can be found in a variety of habitats within this area, from humid coastal regions to rocky slopes.
Sheltopusiks 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-black with a pale to yellow belly.
Sheltopusiks are intermediate-level pets, but with good care, they may live up to 50 years in captivity.
Minimum terrarium size for sheltopusiks
The absolute minimum terrarium size for a single sheltopusik 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 sheltopusiks in one enclosure) is not recommended.
Do sheltopusiks need UVB?
UVB lighting is required for keeping sheltopusiks. 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 sheltopusiks are:
- Zoo Med Reptisun T5 HO 5.0 — 11-12” (no mesh), or 9-11” (mesh)
- Arcadia Forest 6% — 11-12” (no mesh), or 9-11” (mesh)
- Zoo Med Reptisun T5 HO 10.0 — 17-18” (no mesh), or 13-15” (mesh)
- Arcadia Desert 12% — 17-18” (no mesh), or 13-15” (mesh)
For best results, use a bulb half the length of your enclosure and house it in a reflective fixture by Arcadia or Vivarium Electronics. Position the lamp on the same side of the terrarium as the heat lamp.
Lights should be on for about 14 hours/day during summer and 10 hours/day during winter in order to encourage natural hormonal cycling. All lamps should be turned off at night.
Best temperature for sheltopusiks
Like other reptiles, sheltopusiks 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, sheltopusiks should have a basking surface temperature of 86-95°F. On the other side of the enclosure, the temperature should be around 75-80°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.
Best humidity levels for sheltopusiks
If you have the eastern subspecies, P. a. apodus, then humidity isn’t much of a concern. However, if you have the western subspecies, P. a. thracicus, then you will need to provide higher humidity levels.
Increase humidity by misting the enclosure each evening with a spray bottle. Alternatively, a reptile fogger with distilled water can be used for a few hours each night. Regardless of the subspecies, there should also be a humid hide, lined with moistened sphagnum moss and placed on the cool side of the enclosure.
Best substrate for sheltopusiks
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 sheltopusiks:
- Exo Terra Plantation Soil
- Zoo Med Eco Earth
- Zoo Med ReptiSoil
Mixing your own substrate with 60% topsoil and 40% play sand by volume can also work well. Layering clean, chemical-free leaf litter on top of the substrate provides extra burrowing material.
Substrate should be at least 6” deep and completely replaced every 3-4 months. Remove poop and urates daily, along with contaminated substrate.
How to decorate a sheltopusik 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 sheltopusik
Sheltopusiks are carnivorous, which means that they eat other animals. In the wild, they eat mostly invertebrates, but they will take vertebrates when available. 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 sheltopusiks: dubias, discoids, crickets, grasshoppers/locusts, snails (captive-bred only), hornworms, silkworms, earthworms, mealworms, superworms, black soldier fly larvae, young rodents, quail eggs, button quail
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 food. It’s okay to occasionally skip a dusting.
How to handle your sheltopusik
Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do. And as far as sheltopusik, they generally prefer to be left alone. When startled, they may attempt to bite you or drop their tail. They’re also very fast and hard to catch if you let it escape!
If you need to pick up your sheltopusik, 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!