In this care guide I’ll be covering everything you need to know to keep the Blue Swift, also known as the Blue Spiny Swift (Sceloporus cyanogenys) as a pet. I’ll be covering housing, heating, lighting, water, diet and handling.
Meet the Blue Swift (Sceloporus cyanogenys)
|Common Name||Blue Swift, Blue Spiny Swift, Blue Spiny Lizard, Blue Fence Lizard|
|Scientific Name||Sceloporus cyanogenys|
|Origin||Texas, northern Mexico|
|Size||12 – 14″ (including 6 – 8″ of tail)|
|Lifespan||Approximately 7 – 8 years|
|Housing||Terrestrial, 4ft or larger tanks|
The Blue Swift is also known as the Blue Spiny Swift, or Blue Fence Lizard. It comes from rocky desert areas as well as scrublands in Texas and northern Mexico. It has very similar care, with overlapping habitat range as the Collared Lizard. They are the largest species of swift and grow from 12 – 14″ as adults, although up to half of this body length is tail. As the name suggests they are extremely fast, although captive bred individuals are much calmer than those who are wild caught.
The name comes from the males bright blue undersides, particularly mature males during breeding season. Adult males are a gray with blue tinge on their top, with bright blue undersides. They have a black collar and blue spots on the shoulders. Adult females, as well as juveniles of both sexes are gray or brown and don’t have the blue highlights.
Blue Swifts are often wild caught, which poses risks such as stress, illness and parasites. Few people have bred them in captivity, but there has been some success in the UK and it is possible to find them captive bred, which we recommend wherever possible.
Because most are wild caught there is very little data on the lifespan in captivity. It’s usually listed as around 7 – 8 years, but I personally think this is an underestimate. With proper care and captive bred babies, I personally think this could be 10, or even 15 years.
We would suggest a 48x18x18″ enclosure as a very bare minimum for a single lizard, but a 48x24x24″ is recommended, giving a single adult room to show natural behaviour, or suitable for a pair as well. Having a vivarium that is 24″ in height also gives you some flexibility to work with height, as although the Blue Swift is terrestrial, it will climb rocks and perch in low lying bushes and shrubs, so you can build up different levels if you have some height to work with.
The setup we recommend is a Bearded Dragon setup – which focuses on a dry environment with a high basking temperature and a high strength UVB. Although Bearded Dragons come from Australia, the environment that they live in is very similar to Blue Swifts.
Heating and Basking
|Basking Temperature||95F – 105F||35C – 40C|
|Basking Spot Surface Temperature||105 – 120F||40C – 48C|
|Ambient Temperature||75 – 90F||23 – 33C|
The Blue Swift comes from a dry, hot environment in rocky desert areas of Texas and Northern Mexico. They will bask in the sun on rocky outcrops during the day and as such need a basking spot of 95F (35C) – 105F (40C). This must be controlled by a dimming thermostat to avoid overheating.
The basking surface temperature can reach temperatures of 105 – 120F. This is not the air temperature, but the temperature detected with an infrared temperature reader directly on the surface that they will be basking at. Having a raised basking platform such as slate or rock simulates the natural environment and provides a surface that will absorb the heat. You’ll want to check the temperature of this rock as well as the air temperature, to ensure that there’s no risk of overheating / burns.
The ambient temperature of the rest of the tank can range from 75F (23C) on the cool side to 90F (33c) on the hot side.
Your basking lamp should be connected to a dimming thermostat at all times to avoid overheating.
Night time temperatures are around 70 – 75F (21 – 23C) and can be gained either through a ceramic heater bulb, or a heat mat on the hot side of the tank. This should be controlled by a temperature thermostat.
- HabiStat Digital Temperature Thermostat Day / Night£59.00
- HabiStat Heat Mats£11.99 – £23.99
- Arcadia Ceramic Lamp Holder and Bracket£14.99
- Arcadia Ceramic Heater Bulb 50w 100w 150w£14.99
- HabiStat Mat Stat 300w£25.99
Measuring Heat – You should have a thermometer – either analogue, or digital – in the enclosure as it is possible for thermostats to be faulty and you want to double check that your temperatures are correct. Ideally having one on the hot end and the cold end, or having one with two probes provides you with the best information.
Blue Swifts are diurnal and as such need UVB for 10-12 hours a day. We would recommend a UV Index of 3-4 to simulate the rocky desert of Texas.
If your main basking areas are 12-15″ away from your lizard, you should use an Arcadia T5 6% UVB or T8 12% UVB (or equivalent strength in different brands). If your enclosure is taller, and your Lizard is 15-24″ away, you can increase this to a T5 12% bulb. Bear in mind that this should the distance from the bulb to the areas that your Swift basks at, and not necessarily the height of the tank if you use a raised basking platform. In a 48x24x24″ tank, which is what personally recommend, we’d use the Arcadia T5 Pro 12% kit and this is what comes with our setup.
Your UVB lighting should be on for 10 – 12 hours a day, which you can set on a timer if you’d like. Always turn off your UVB lighting and your basking bulb at night time.
- Arcadia D3+ Reptile Lamp, 12% T8£22.99 – £28.99
- Arcadia D3+ Reptile Lamp, 14% T5£25.99 – £31.99
- Arcadia D3+ Reptile Lamp, 12% T5£22.99 – £28.99
- Arcadia D3 Reptile Lamp, 6% T5£22.99 – £28.99
- Arcadia T8 Control Unit (Dry)£26.99
- Arcadia T5 Control Unit£49.99 – £54.99
- Arcadia Pro T5 Kit£47.99 – £55.99
Keep a small fresh water bowl in the tank.
Blue Swifts need a dry enclosure, to simulate the rocky, desert scrubland that they come from. 50-60% humidity is fine for Blue Swifts. To keep humidity down, keep your water bowl on the cold side of the tank and do not let your substrate get damp.
Decor, Substrate and Bioactive options
You may want to keep your hatchling or juvenile Blue Swift on a substrate such as Cage Carpet for the first few months, to ensure that they’re eating well and to lower any chance of substrate being ingested. For older Blue Swifts or those you’re already confident are eating accurately, you’ll want a dry sand based substrate such as Habistat’s Desert Sand which is a fine natural sand, or Bearded Dragon Bedding which is a blend of sand, soil and grit.
You should decorate the enclosure in natural decor that would be found in a desert scrubland. That can include low lying plastic plants, rocks, cork bark and slate. Try to build up some different levels, particular in rocky areas, but make sure rocks are secure and cannot roll or fall and damage the lizard. You can use aquarium glue if you want to attach rocks to each other more securely to create climbing platforms. Having slate raised underneath the basking area can create a higher basking ambient temperature and surface temperature.
Social Needs and Housing Together
Blue Swifts can live quite happily alone for their entire lifetime, but can also be kept in groups of one male and one or more females. You should never keep two males together as they are territorial and can fight. Do not mix the Blue Swift with other species.
Sexing Blue Swifts
The easiest way to sex Blue Swifts is via their colour in adulthood. Juvenile males will look the same as juvenile females, but adult males will display a stunning blue hue, particularly on their underside. Adult females will generally be gray or brown, and will not have any blue on their underside. A gravid female or a female in a mating display may show some pink or orange colouration.
Blue Swifts are excellent hunters and are insectivorous. In captivity they will eat a range of hoppers / locusts, crickets, mealworms, waxworms, dubia roaches, silk worms, earthworms etc. They are very fast and will enjoy chasing their livefood all around the cage, but you may also be able to hand feed tamer individuals.
Livefood should be kept in cool, well ventilated containers and gut loaded with fresh dry vegetables, or a pre-made mixture such as our Livefood Care Pack which comes with both nutrients and hydration. Don’t use a water bowl with livefood, the humidity will cause them to die and they’re prone to drowning.
Food should be dusted with a multivitamin D3 supplement once a week and straight calcium on all other days.
I see a lot of people referring to Blue Swifts as a display only lizard. This is primarily because until recently, pretty much all of the Blue Swifts in captivity were wild caught. However, if you get a captive bred animal it is much more calm and handleable and does not get stressed by interacting with you. Wild caught animals may never be handleable, as they’ve grown up surrounded by predators and will always view you as a threat.
Blue Swifts will run before attacking or defending themselves and can move very fast. If you are handling them try to do so in a safe space where they can’t escape. They can squeeze themselves into tiny crevices in the rock, so will get behind furniture or underneath spaces in a room. If they do feel threatened, they might bite as a last attack, but this is much less likely to happen in a captive bred individual.
If you have a wild caught individual you should view this as a display or interact in the tank species. You can build up trust with hand feeding over time, and letting them run over you in the tank. This will require lots of patience, but can be very rewarding. If you are lucky enough to be working with a captive bred baby, regular handling from a young age inside the tank is likely to yield quite placid adults.
Blue Swifts have an autonomous tail – it can break off as a defensive measure. It does grow back, but looks different. Many wild caught adults will have broken tails after escaping from predators, but captive bred individuals are unlikely to drop their tail unless they feel extremely threatened. You should never grab a Blue Swift by the tail.
Breeding Swifts in Captivity
There’s not a lot of detailed information about this species, and I’ve never personally bred it in captivity. However, Blue Swifts have been bred in the UK so if you have two or more healthy adults, captive breeding is attainable. The Blue Spiny Swift is a live bearing species, so you won’t have to deal with incubation of eggs and watching a lizard give birth live can be extremely exciting and rewarding.
The Blue Swift has range that overlaps the Collared Lizard, whose breeding we have covered extensively here. The Collared Lizard – who has been bred much more extensively in captivity – needs to be brumated at 5 – 12C in a hibernation chamber such as a fridge. In the wild Blue Swifts would also enter a period of several months of darkness and low temperatures. You may be able to breed your Swifts whilst keeping them active all year round, but they may not produce the hormones required to ovulate if not brumated.
I really hope that this Blue Swift caresheet has covered everything you were looking for. This is such a great species to own and hopefully it will be bred more frequently in captivity in the future. If you have any questions give us a message on Facebook or an email. Thank you!