Frilled Lizard (Chlamydosaurus kingii)
The frill-necked lizard is a relatively large member of the agamid family, growing up to 85 cm (2.8 ft). It is capable of bipedal locomotion (able to move using just it's 2 rear legs) and has been described as regularly moving in this manner with a purposeful stride at times.
It's colouration tends to be brown or grey with spots and blotches of darker colours mixed in a mottled fashion to give the appearance of tree bark. There is not one standard colour, rather, colouration varies according to the lizard's environment. For example, a lizard found in a dryer, clay filled environment will most likely have a collage of oranges, reds, and browns; whereas a lizard found in a damper, more tropical region will tend to show darker browns and greys. This suggests they are able to adapt to their habitats; their colours are a form of camouflage.
The most distinct feature of these lizards is the large ruff of skin which usually lies folded back against its head and neck. This neck frill is supported by long spines of cartilage which are connected to the jaw bones. When the lizard is frightened, it produces a startling or deimatic display, it gapes its mouth, exposing a bright pink or yellow lining; it spreads out its frill, displaying bright orange and red scales; raises its body; and sometimes holds its tail above its body. This reaction is used for territorial displays, to discourage predators, and during courtship.
Secondarily the frill can serve as a form of camouflage when relaxed; there is no standard coloration to the body, but it is usually darker than the frill.
Like many lizards, frill-necked lizards are carnivores and will feed readily on a variety of insects and they especially favour butterflies, moths and their larvae. Though insects are their primary source of food, they also consume spiders and occasionally other lizards. Like most members of the agamids (dragons), frill-necked lizards employ an ambush method of hunting, lying in wait for their prey. When the lizards eat, they eat in abundance; these binge periods usually occur during the wet season, when they ingest hundreds to thousands of alate (flying) ants or termites.
The main diet for a captive bred frilled lizards should be comprised of insects, such as crickets, roaches, hornworms, silkworms, soldier fly larvae, superworms and canned grasshoppers (available in some stores that sell reptile supplies). All insects should be dusted with a quality calcium and vitamin D3 supplement. An occasional pinky or fuzzy mouse, depending on the size of the lizard, can also be offered.
Juvenile frilled lizards should be fed appropriately sized insects, no larger than two-thirds of their head width, up to three times a day. They should also be misted with fresh water at each feeding.
Adults will feed once a day or every two days. I supplement all of their food with a dusting of calcium and D3 at every (sometimes every other) feeding. Gravid female frilled lizards should be fed more often and provided calcium/D3 at every feeding.
Frilled lizards are basking lizards that require a good UVB source (mercury vapour or fluorescent) and basking bulbs for heat. The basking area temperature should be around 115 degrees Fahrenheit, focused on a branch in the upper quadrant of the cage. Try not to get it too close to the branch, as frillies can easily burn the top of their frills by sitting under a hot light that’s too close for too long.
Ambient temperatures of 85 to 90 degrees should be maintained throughout the rest of cage. Nighttime temperatures should drop to somewhere between 75 and 80 degrees.
In cooler climates or during the winter, heat tape can be used to help warm the cage bottom, or ceramic heat emitters should provide the necessary ambient temperatures inside the enclosure. Please follow installation instructions carefully to prevent lizard burns and house fires.
A popular substrate to use is a combination of coco fibre, play sand and organic potting soil with about a 2-inch depth. This substrate holds humidity well and is not dusty. Other substrates that could be used include pure cypress mulch or a commercial forest bedding.
In the wild, frilled lizards thrive during the rainy season, and the daily rains keep them hydrated. An enclosure humidity of around 70 percent will keep pet frilled lizards from dehydrating.
Mist juveniles around three times a day, when feeding. Healthy adults can have a daily rain. Use a pump sprayer or misting system that provides a rain effect.
Frilled lizards drink water droplets. A shallow pan placed in the bottom of the enclosure may or may not receive much attention (though placing a heat source under it will help raise humidity levels). Usually, after a few minutes of misting/rain, a thirsty lizard will drink. I like to provide this when they are eating, as the water helps wash the insects down their gullets.
One of the first signs of dehydration is sunken eyes. Also if the skin is loose and you pinch it, and it stays pinched-looking, you have a dehydrated lizard. Give it several long showers a day, and consider taking your pet to a veterinarian for subcutaneous rehydration injections.
A 20-gallon “tall” aquarium is adequate for a single pair of juvenile frillies measuring 12 inches long. I recommend a visual barrier—such as by attaching cardboard or another material, painting the walls, etc.—on all sides of the tank except for one, the viewing side, as this will help provide the required feeling of security. Feeling exposed can lead to stressed-out frilled lizards that are excessively wary whenever something moves in the room where their enclosure is located. Plus, the limited view makes it easier for them to focus on food when it is presented.
Adult enclosures can range from 4 to 6 feet tall, at least 2½ feet deep, and 5 feet long, especially if you’re raising a breeding pair or trio of frilled lizards. Dimensions can be somewhat smaller for a single adult, but remember, height is very important. The height at which a frilled lizard can bask equates to additional feelings of security.
Branches of various diameters should be placed vertically, diagonally and horizontally. Also attach a branch or shelf to the upper section of the enclosure’s rear wall. These will provide your frilled lizard(s) with plenty of comfortable perching and basking areas.