Viviparous Lizard Care Sheet


Introduction

The viviparous or common Lizard, known by the Latin name Zootoca vivipara, is the northern most lizard species in Europe with a particularly low heat tolerance, hence even living within the Artic Circle! They are a native species to the UK as well as vast areas of northern Europe including Spain, Italy, Serbia and Scandinavia and typically grow to around 15 cm long including tail (which is sometimes 2 times the body length) with a brown hue colouration, often with specs of black or dark yellow along the back and flanks. They are a small sized reptile, weighing on average 15 g with males being slightly larger in head size and with more vivid markings. Males also have bulges at the base of the tail, with their underside having orange and red shades. Their name ‘Zootoca vivipara‘ means live birth, which unsuprisingly describes that they are the only European lacertid to give live birth.

This is a protected species in the UK. It is illegal to harm or sell wild individuals. Celtic Reptile and Amphibians only sells captive animals to committed owners and with a certificate of legality.

Young male common lizard basking on a log.

Feeding

These lizards will feed on any commercially available insects, e.g. mealworms, crickets, wax worms, calci worms, morio worms, roaches and earthworms. It is important to gut-load the feeder insects with fruit, vegetables and dandelions as the nutrients from the food will go straight into the lizards. Dusting the feeder insects is also an important step to ensure your lizard maintains healthy levels of vitamins and calcium. We encourage people to establish natural colonies of insects and invertebrates into the enclosure which will ensure your lizards can get an unlimited supply of a varied diet, at no extra cost. Before the lizard goes into hibernation, it is advised to feed it wax worms or any other type of high-fat insects to help cope with the cooler temperatures in winter.

Housing

Common lizards will really appreciate a vivarium with plenty of space to explore, dig and bask. Therefore, we recommend a vivarium of size 1.5m x 0.5m for a pair or small group. The enclosure should also have 50-60cm of soil for the lizard to burrow down and brumate. A variety of plant species, logs and stones will help create a more natural, realistic environment for the lizard to enjoy. For instance, our adult common lizard enclosure has a drystone wall, mimicking their habitat. This also makes for great habitats for insects such as ants, spiders and woodlouse: it’s your own microbiome! Remember, the larger the enclosure, the happier the animal, so don’t hesitate to make a larger enclosure. At Celtic Reptile & Amphibian we house all of our animals outdoors in greenhouse enclosures or, in the common lizard’s case, outdoor vivaria, as this allows vital exposure to the sun and thus, the absorption of UVB light. This also means that no external heating supply or UVB bulb is required. This ensures the animals live the most naturalistic and healthy life possible which can be seen from the stunning colours of our animals! In terms of temperature and humidity, this lizard is rather hardy and so can withstand temperatures as low as 10 C and as high as 30 C , with a happy medium of around 25 C. This species loves to bask and so basking temperatures may need to be higher than the rest of the enclosure, however you can achieve this by ensuring your enclosure is on the south facing wall with no sunlight obstruction.

Habitat of the common lizard: Pembrokeshire, Wales, UK (top) and The Roaches, Peak District National Park, Staffordshire (bottom).

 

Breeding

Mating occurs within the spring months, and consists of the male biting the base of the females tail and proceeding to intertwine tails. This kind of courtship and mating is not too dissimilar to other lacertids. After a successful mating, the female will become extremely fat, usually 1 to 2 months later.  They will give birth 3-4 months after mating depending on how warm that particular season is. Between 4 – 10 lizards will be born.