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Sauromalus obesus
Family: Iguanidae
Adult Size: 14 to 20 inches

Southwestern U.S., and northwestern Mexico.

Habitat: Deserts with numerous rocks and boulders
Captive Lifespan: More than 20 Years
Care Level: Intermediate


Chuckwallas are pure vegetarians, specializing in an exclusive diet of desert-adapted fruits, flowers, and succulent new plant growth. In captivity chuckwallas will gladly accept an assortment of veggies and greens that other herbivorous iguanids also thrive on. Chuckwallas normally feed daily once they have basked for an hour or more to raise their body temperature minimally into the high 80s to low 90s Fahrenheit. This necessitates providing them an intense heat lamp that provides a basking area hot spot of at least 100 degrees.

As desert dwellers, chuckwallas obtain nearly all of their water from the plant material they consume in quantity. An occasional misting of water may induce chuckwallas to drink the droplets from cage walls and furniture. A bowl of standing water is not necessary for this xeric species.

To accommodate this bulky lizard, the cage requirements for an adult chuckwalla should extend at least 4 feet in the longest dimension. To avoid injury, use only large rocks that the chuckwalla can’t rearrange. Handle chuckwallas gently, especially when first grasping them because that’s when they often show fright and may react harshly for a moment.