Slow Worm Care Sheet


Introduction

The slow worm, known by its Latin name Anguis fragilis, meaning ‘fragile snake’, inhabits various parts of Eurasia , for example Spain, France, Germany and the UK. They can grow to about 50 cm long. These lizards are rather unique in terms of the fact that they don’t appear to be a lizard; they resemble a snake or worm, hence the name, and thus people often mistake them for snakes. Slow worms are semifossorial, which means that they spend most of their time underneath objects or debris, leading to the reason why they can commonly be found under tin or black plastic sheets in the UK. They are a medium sized reptile, with the female usually having a stripe along the spine or sides. On the other hand, males may have blueish spots on the sides. Juveniles of either sex are golden with brown undersides and sides , potentially with a dark stripe along the spine similar to adult females.

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.

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Male slow worm basking.

Feeding

Slow Worms will feed on slugs, waxoworms and earthworms (‘night crawlers’) happily. 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 slow worms goes into hibernation, it is advised to feed it wax worms, slugs or any other type of high-fat insects to help cope with the cooler temperatures in winter.

Housing

Slow worms 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. 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 outdoor vivaria, as this allows vital exposure to the sun and thus, the absorption of UVB light.  No external heating supply or UVB bulb is required when outdoors in the UK or Europe. 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.Slow worms can be kept with relative ease indoors too. The best solution is to provide UV and heating, plants and alot of soil – what some may call ‘bio-active’.

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Habitat of the slow worm: Pebblebed Heathland, Devon, UK (top) and a meadow, Staffordshire Moorlands, UK (bottom).

 

Breeding

Mating occurs within the spring months, with the linking up of the base of their tails.  After a successful mating, the female will become extremely fat, usually 4 -6 weeks later. The female will give birth to between 4 and 10 babies.