Blue Spiny Lizard

Sceloporus cyanogenys

Order: Squamata

Husbandry Information

Housing Requirements

  • 30-50 gallon sized enclosure, at least.
  • In daytime, need a basking spot of 100-108°F or more (daytime only), with general hot side temps between 88°F, and a cooler side around 80°F. Nighttime temp around 70-80 degrees. Use a temperature gun to check for variation.
  • Provide a pile of rocks under the basking spot, preferably also with a cave, to act as a heat sink at night.
  • Provide a cave on the hot side and cool side.
  • Daily light water mist helps with shedding.
  • Natural Encounters Department, Houston Zoo: We give ours a 100 watt basking bulb with a sturdy pile of rocks beneath it in a V433 Vision cage.
  • Consider providing a natural substrate, or alternatively a sizeable “burrow box” composed of sand or vermiculite, soil, and clay for digging.

Diet Requirements

  • This is an insectivorous lizard species

Veterinary Concerns

Notes on Enrichment & Training

  •  Grasping or restraining the lizard by the tail may cause the tail to autotomize (break off). Broken tails will partially regenerate  but  always visibly differ from the original in structure and scalation.
  • Check out the Reptelligence Facebook page and Reptelligence website for enrichment and training inspiration.
  • Be careful with or do not give dried alfalfa or hay. Ours will gorge on it.
  • May enjoy browse items such as mulberry or hackberry, or dandelion greens and flowers (untreated).
  • Enrichment Ideas:
    • Tubing to climb through
    • Changing the enclosure furniture periodically
    • Offer different food items. They can eat from a person’s hand (best way is to offer with your palm open, like feeding a horse).


Colony or Breeding Management

Notes species is housed or managed socially or for breeding purposes.

Individual Identification –Dimorphism or practiced ways to individually mark species (such as those in colonies).

This lizard is sexually dimorphic with females being the smaller and less colorful sex. Adult males are grayish blue dorsally, rich blue laterally, have a single black collar edged with lighter scales both anteriorly and posteriorly and containing a bright blue spot on each shoulder. Males also have a banded tail, prominent blue belly patches and a blue throat. The head and limbs are gray to brown. Males are especially bright during the breeding season. Adult females and the young of both sexes are grayish or brown and lack most of the blue highlights, including the blue belly and throat patches.

Programmatic Information


Temperature Guidelines



  • Small lizard travel in a Coleman “Party Stacker” type cooler that has been amended with extra ventilation holes on the lid (with a wood-burning tool). The cooler is lined with newspaper and, during cool weather (under 65°F), supplemental heat is provided with a hot water bottle (wrapped in newspaper)

cooler     hot water bottle

Tips on Presentation

Touching Techniques

Tips on Handling

  • This species, while it can be handled, will require much desensitization or presented alternatively in a carrier, as they are very active in hand.


Potential Messaging

  • Encourage responsible pet ownership. In general, animals seen at the zoo do not make good pets. Most have specialized dietary, veterinary, housing, and social needs that are difficult or impossible for even dedicated pet owners to meet.
    • Always ensure that your future pet has not been taken from the wild. Capture of wild animals for the pet trade has significantly damaged the survival prospects of species such as sloths, tamanduas, and many parrots.
    • Captured animals are typically mistreated by profit-motivated traffickers and dealers, resulting in many animal deaths; well-meaning animal lovers may feel like they are rescuing animals by purchasing them but are really perpetuating the cruelty. In addition, many exotic pets are released by their owners when they become too dangerous or demanding, often with devastating effects on local ecosystems.
    • Animals that should never be kept as pets include all bats, primates, and exotic carnivores. Birds, fish, and reptiles have specialized needs, are frequently wild-caught, and damage the local environment if released; guests should be advised to educate themselves and proceed with caution. Domestic dogs and cats are almost always the best option! Many deserving animals are available for adoption at animal shelters.


Acquisition Information

Comments from the Rating System

  • Children’s Zoo at Celebration Square: Our male Blue Spiny was hard to get accustomed to being handled – he was very skittish and stressed. After about a month of training he is much better and settles well (still squirmy to catch, but fine once in the hand). We found it hard to get reliable in-depth scientific information on these guys. We had a female who was much calmer for handling. The public love them and they are interesting to touch. We found out from first-hand experience that they are live-birth reptiles. We had 16 babies one morning!
  • Zoo America: Small and fast; sometimes hard to hold.

Natural History Information

Range and Habitat

American Southwest and Northern Mexico. Desert and scrubland.

Physical Description

Having an overall length of up to 14 ¼ inches (of which nearly 8 inches is tail length) this is the largest of the spiny lizards to occur in the United States.

Life Cycle


Captives have lived for nearly 7 years. The longevity of this lizard has not been ascertained in the wild.



Threats and Conservation Status


Did you know…


Any Documents to attach, species spotlights, etc.



Contributors and Citations

  • Houston Zoo, Natural Encounters
  • Reptiles Magazine