Meet the Long-Tailed Lizard (Takydromas sexlineatus)

Common NameLong-tailed Lizard, Asian Long-tailed Lizard
Scientific NameTakydromas sexlineatus
OriginSoutheast Asia, China, southern Russia
Size2-3″ body length, 12″ with tail
LifespanApproximately 5 years
HousingSemi-Arboreal or Arboreal
DietSmall live insects

Long-tailed Lizards (Takydromas sexlineatus) are an amazing little lizard, named for their extremely long tail, which can be up to four times the length of their body. They can grow up to around 12″, but the vast majority of this is tail. The body is usually only about 2-3″ at maximum. They have control over this tail, can whip it as a defense mechanism, use it to balance, or wrap it around branches for stability. A Long-tailed lizard’s tail can detach as a defense mechanism, similar to geckos and other species. It will grow back, but it takes a long time, seriously hampering their ability to survive in the meantime. In the wild the majority of Long-tailed Lizards who drop their tail do not survive until it grows back, so this is an extreme measure they take if they believe they are going to be killed anyway. In captivity it is rare to see one drop their tail, as they do not experience any trauma or threat the way they do in the wild.

Although they can move extremely quick and are very agile, these lizards are generally calm and docile in the tank and don’t get stressed easily. They have tons of interesting behaviours to watch too!

Long-tailed Lizards come from southeast Asia, China and southern Russia. They live in grasslands and forests. In the forest they usually live in trees and bushes, whilst in the grasslands they will live at the very tops of tall grass. They prefer to be up high where possible, surveying the area for predators or prey. However, they will spend some time hunting on the forest floor and may choose to sleep in secure hides on the floor or up in the trees. As such they are semi-arboreal.

The majority of Long-tailed Lizards in the pet trade are wild caught. This is because they’re a relatively inexpensive lizard and extremely common in the wild. You should always be careful about purchasing wild caught animals as they can be stressed or harbor parasites. That being said, wild caught Long-tailed Lizards are still very easy-going and tend to adjust very quickly to captivity and people, as long as they’re given the right conditions to thrive in. They do breed readily in captivity as well, so it might be possible to find them captive bred, or to buy wild caught and breed yourselves to add to the captive bred population.

Long-tailed Lizards are not long lived, you can expect most to reach 5 years and possibly a little longer if captive bred. When buying wild caught adults, just be aware that you don’t know how old they are when purchased.

Housing

Long-tailed Lizards are a small species but appreciate a good amount of space. The larger your tank, the more natural behaviours you will see. You have a few options in terms of setup. As this is a semi-arboreal species and sometimes described as arboreal, you want a tank that offers some height as well as length.

Glass Tanks – Glass Tanks such as Exo Terra and Habistat, specifically made for reptiles, are an option. You may need to test your temperatures in these tanks to ensure that you are getting an adequate basking spot, as Long-tailed Lizards like a hot basking spot and glass does not hold heat as well as wood. Glass has the advance of holding humidity well, as well as being available in a more flexible range of arboreal sizes to wood. Glass tanks are however much more expensive than their wooden counterparts in size.

If going for a glass tank I would recommend a minimum of a 60 x 45 x 60 cm (24 x 18 x 24″) for two Long-tailed Lizards, but you would need to increase this if keeping a larger group. A 90 x 45 x 60cm (36 x 18 x 24″) would be suitable for a larger group.

Wooden Vivariums – Wooden vivariums are perfect for Long-tailed Lizards, and our personal recommendation. Wooden vivariums hold the heat well and allow you to provide a basking lamp and UVB inside the enclosure. You are more limited in size however.

The standard wooden sizes that are an option for you include 36 x 24 x 24″ enclosure (suitable for up to 4-6 Long-tailed Lizards) or you could go for a more arboreal setup with our 24 x 18 x 36″ enclosure, suitable for 3-4 Long-Tailed Lizards. As you can see, due to their semi arboreal / arboreal nature and their small size, there are a few options to fit your space and the size group that you intend to house.

I’d personally recommend a 36 x 24 x 24″ wooden vivarium as my first choice, with a group of four Long-tailed Lizards (1 male and 3 females if at all possible).

Heating and Basking

Basking Temperature90 – 95F32 – 35C
Ambient Temperature75 – 80F23 – 26C
Night Temperature70F21C

Long-tailed Lizards love to bask in the sun and will need a basking bulb creating a basking area of 90 – 95F (32 – 35C). The temperature can then drop down to 75 – 80F (23 – 26C) on the cooler side. This gradient is why we prefer a 36 x 24 x 24″ vivarium, although you can obtain these temperatures in a Mesh topped glass tank using a reflective dome such as the Arcadia Ceramic Clamp Lamp which clamps, or sits on top of the mesh and reflects the light and heat downwards.

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.

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.

UVB Lighting

Long-tailed Lizards are diurnal and as such need UVB for 10-12 hours a day. This is essential for the health. They usually live under a shaded canopy in areas of the world that do not have intense sunlight, so your basking zone should have a UV Index of 3-4.

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 Long-tailed 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 lizards primarily bask in, which for Long-tailed Lizards is likely to be in the branches, and not on the ground, so it is not the total height of the tank. If you’re using an Exo Terra or a Habistat enclosure, which you might choose to do with this species, bear in mind that the mesh blocks approximately 30% of the UV rays.

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.

Water

Keep fresh, clean water in the enclosure at all times. It does not need to be deep. Long-tailed Lizards can swim if they have to, but don’t choose to do so, so a shallow bowl of fresh water for drinking is fine.

Humidity

Long-tailed Lizards come from humid regions and need a humidity of 70-80%. You can achieve this by ensuring you have a substrate that holds moisture well, keeping the water bowl on the warm end of the tank and ensuring it’s always full, and spraying the enclosure once to twice a day, and making sure you have a humidity reader so you can tell if it’s humid enough.

Decor, Substrate and Bioactive options

Long-tailed Lizards do best with a natural substrate that mimics the forest floor, as well as holding humidity well. They do amazingly in a bioactive setup. As a light bodied lizard they do not damage the plants even if they climb them.

If you’re not doing a bioactive setup your substrate can be any sort of earth based medium, such as Arcadia EarthMix, or Orchid Bark.

In a bioactive setup you want to have a layer of bioactive clay balls, separated from your substrate by plant mesh. Then a deep layer of natural substrate designed for plants, such as Arcadia EarthMix, then lots of plants in the enclosure. You’ll also need a plant growth bulb if you want your plants to thrive.

As we’ve already seen, Long-tailed Lizards love to climb and often live at the tops of grass or in the trees and bushes, so you’ll want to plant the enclosure out with plenty of decor that gives them these opportunities. Lots of branches, vines, plants (live or plastic), cork bark and several hides at different places in the enclosure will make them feel confident. The more confident they are, the more you’ll see them exhibiting natural behaviours and coming out to bask in the light.

Social Needs and Housing Together

Long-Tailed Lizards can be housed in small groups, but males may fight if kept together. Where possible we would recommend keeping one male to two to three females, but it may be tricky to sex them. If you are buying a group, be prepared to separate out your males or return one to the breeder or shop if there are territorial problems. The females are generally peaceful and get along well.

They have a range of social communication which includes head bobbing and arm waving, similar to many agamids such as Bearded Dragons.

Sexing Long-tailed Lizards

Sexing Long-tailed Lizards can be challenging. There is no visual guarantee, but males can have a thicker tail and larger femoral pores. Females can have more of a white/cream/beige underside, whilst males can sometimes show a more yellow or even green tint. Two males together can exhibit territorial behaviour – if you see your Long-tailed lizards fighting, it is likely to be two males – but males can also chase females around the vivarium during breeding season!

These visual identifies can be unreliable unfortunately. The only way of guaranteeing a male is seeing a physical copulation with a female.

Diet

Long-tailed Lizards are keen and agile hunters of small insects. You can feed them small crickets, small locusts (hoppers), and occasional snacks like waxworms or mini mealworms. They’ll also eat things like flies or chopped up earthworms.

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.

Supplementation

Food should be dusted with a multivitamin D3 supplement once a week and straight calcium on all other days.

Handling

Despite their ability to move at very high speeds, Long-tailed lizards are generally a very calm and docile species that don’t seem to mind being handled. You should be very careful if handling them out in the open, they can shoot off at a moments notice. It’s far safer to handle them in the enclosure, letting them walk over your hands, where they will sit. They may also take food out of your hands. Always support their body and be aware that any movement or surprise will make them dart off.

Never grab a long-tailed lizard by the tail. Although it’s an easy target with that long length, they can drop their tails which will cause them distress, as well as taking a long time and a lot of energy resources to grow back. If you need to hold a long-tailed lizard secure for a health check, hold them firmly between your forefinger and thumb below their head and legs, then support the body in the rest of your hand. This will immobilize them without you having to hold onto their tail at all.

Breeding Long-tailed Lizards

These lizards are not hard to breed if you have setup the enclosure as above, giving them plenty of space, the right heating and UVB, as well as a good diet. The main reason that they are wild caught is simply they are inexpensive and very abundant in the wild. This makes them a poor commercial target for breeding, but for the hobbyist who simply wants to experience the breeding process and add more captive bred babies into the country, breeding would be extremely rewarding.

Always make sure your adults are in the very best of health before breeding, and ensure you have everything you need – including multiple setups with the correct heating and UVB – ready for the babies.

In the wild breeding season is April to June, so there is a fairly short window. In captivity they may breed outside this, but in general will only breed for a few months of the year. You may see courtship behaviour such as extensive arm waving and head bobbing, and the male may chase the female around the vivarium before catching her. He may bite her back to hold onto her, but they have tough skin and are a gentle species, so this shouldn’t do any damage.

She will lay her eggs in a clutch of two to four in what she considers a safe place, which is usually underneath a plant, but can be stuck to branches or glass. If the eggs are glued to an object you may be unable to remove them from the tank. If so, try to find a way of securing a tub around them so the eggs do not get damaged by the adults, who will knock them off or accidentally crush them sometimes. If they can be removed, it is much safer to move the eggs to an incubator. They must be kept the way up that they were laid, as an air bubble will have formed at the top of the egg.

Eggs should be incubated at 30C with a humidity of 75%. and will hatch in around 4-5 weeks. If they are incubating naturally in the tank, the duration is likely to be longer as the temperature will be cooler.

Hatchlings will need to be housed in a miniature version of the adults setup, still achieving the correct temperatures and UVB, and fed on very small prey such as fruit flies and hatchling crickets. The hatchlings may be no larger than a fingernail, so make sure your enclosure is secure! Although the parents are gentle, it’s easy for them to confuse their young as food, so do not house the hatchlings in with the parents until they are too large for any mixups to occur.

I really hope that this Long-tailed Lizard caresheet has covered everything you were looking for. This is such a fun species to own! If you have any questions or are in the UK and would like to purchase a Long-tailed Lizard, give us a message on Facebook or an email. Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.