Lizards make some of the most interesting pets. They are loved for their beautiful colors as well as their unique personalities.
There are approximately 6,500 different lizard species. They range from the tiny Nano-chameleon to the 10-foot Komodo Dragon! Before buying a lizard, you should do plenty of research to ensure you can provide them with the proper care.
Getting a lizard for the first time may sound hard. But there are many great types of pet lizards that are excellent for beginners.
Continue reading to discover 15 of the easiest and best pet lizards. We also share how to care for them and what makes them a good beginner species.
- Pet Lizards
- 15. Panther Chameleon
- 14. Green Basilisk
- 13. Gold Dust Day Gecko
- 12. Green Iguana
- 11. Uromastyx
- 10. Chinese Water Dragon
- 9. African Fat-Tailed Gecko
- 8. Frilled Dragon
- 7. Ackie’s Monitor
- 6. Argentine Black-and-White Tegu
- 5. Crested Gecko
- 4. Green Anole
- 3. Blue-Tongued Skink
- 2. Leopard Gecko
- 1. Bearded Dragon
Lizards are a group of reptiles that belong to a larger group called squamates (scaled reptiles). This group is the oldest and largest order of reptiles which includes snakes and primitive snakes (amphisbaenians).
There are nearly 6,500 species of lizards in the world. However, there are only a few species that make great pets. Like all reptiles, lizards are cold-blooded. This means they need extra care.
Unlike what most people think, lizards can make very exciting pets.
Of course, they are not like dogs that can play fetch. However, watching your lizard chase down a cricket in their enclosure is fun. Most lizards are also expert climbers. Watching them maneuver their way around branches and other objects in their tank is fascinating.
There are many reasons why someone may choose to get a reptile.
For one, lizards come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors. Similar to pet snakes, lizards can be bred to have different morphs with unique colors and patterns.
Unlike other small pets like hamsters and fish, lizards have a surprisingly long lifespan. Most lizards can live from 8 years to as long as 30 years old!
Below is a list of 15 of the easiest species for any beginner.
Some of these species are perfect for owners who want a sociable lizard they can handle. Others are great for those looking for a pet to look at. Regardless of what you want, the list below may introduce you to your very first pet lizard…
|1||Bearded Dragon||Yellow to brown||16-24||$30 – $60||Very sociable|
|2||Leopard Gecko||Yellow and black||6-9||$25 – $50||Neutral|
|3||Blue-Tongued Skink||Brown to black||16-24||$150 – $500||Very sociable|
|4||Green Anole||Green and white||5-8||$7 – $15||Slightly sociable|
|5||Crested Gecko||Brown to olive||9-16||$50 – $250||Slightly skittish|
|6||Argentine Black-and-White Tegu||Black and white||36-60||$250 – $500||Very sociable and intelligent|
|7||Ackie’s Monitor||Brown to yellow||24-28||$400 – $900||Slightly skittish|
|8||Frilled Dragon||Grey to brown||24-36||$150 – $350||Slightly skittish|
|10||Chinese Water Dragon||Green to blue||20-30||$15 – $45||Neutral|
|11||Uromastyx||Varies drastically||10-18||$75 – $200||Skittish|
|12||Green Iguana||Green to orange||36-60||$10 – $250||Solitary|
|13||Gold Dust Day Gecko||Green and red||4-9||$60 – $250||Display only|
|14||Green Basilisk||Green||18-27||$20 – $35||Stubborn|
|15||Panther Chameleon||Varies||10-20||$100 – $300||Display mostly|
15. Panther Chameleon
Panther chameleons (Furcifer pardalis) are arguably one of the easiest pet chameleons to keep. They are very beautiful lizards and are most well-known for their ability to change colors. This is one of the main reasons why beginners choose to buy them.
Many people believe that chameleons change colors to camouflage with their environment. However, they really change colors to communicate their mood and to control their body temperature.
Male and female chameleons come in many unique colors and patterns. However, beginners that want a vibrant coloration should consider getting a male. Not only are male chameleons twice as large as females, but they also come in more vibrant colors. However, this does make them more expensive.
These chameleons, like most others, are insectivores. This means they mainly eat crickets and other insects. All insects should be live fed in their tank to encourage their hunting ability. Beginners find it fun to watch their panther chameleon hunt down prey and use their long tongues to snatch them.
With panther chameleons, it is most important that they are never kept in a glass enclosure. Glass is not great for ventilation and can affect the tank’s temperature. Instead, they should be housed in mesh walls that allow for ventilation.
The Panther makes the best pet chameleon for many reasons. They are more docile than Veiled chameleons and are not territorial.
14. Green Basilisk
Green basilisks (Basiliscus plumifrons) are unique pet lizards. They are famous for their bright green color, long slender long tails and ability to “run” on water.
They are similar in shape and color to the Chinese water dragon but require much more space and a large water source too. They are also very skittish and do not tolerate handling as well as the other lizards on this list. This is the main reason for why they don’t rank higher.
Green basilisks are very interesting lizards that are well adapted for life near the water. They are known as the Jesus Christ lizard for their ability to “run” on water to avoid predators. They are amongst the fastest of lizards, reaching a maximum speed of 15 mph. They can also stay underwater for nearly 30 minutes at a time.
Unfortunately, this species can be difficult for beginners to feed. In the wild, they eat a varied diet of meat and plant matter. But each individual prefers something different. As pets, most green basilisks will only eat insects, but some will only eat vegetables. It is important for a beginner to quickly learn what their lizard most likes to eat!
These beautiful lizards make fantastic pets for those who enjoy vibrant green colors and do not want to handle their lizard.
13. Gold Dust Day Gecko
Gold Dust Day Geckos (Phelsuma laticauda) are small, diurnal geckos that are native to the island of Madagascar. These geckos are mainly green but have vibrant gold speckles running along their back. On some occasions, these lizards can also have bright red and blue patterns around their neck and tail.
Day Geckos make a great choice for someone who wants a beautiful display terrarium. Even though they do not like to be handled, they can still be very entertaining pets to watch. These geckos are very delicate and handling can damage their skin.
These lizards do not rank in our top 10 because their care can be very hard, especially for a first-time keeper. Crested or Leopard Geckos are normally a better choice for beginners.
Caring for these geckos requires specific temperature, humidity, and lighting. They also need a habitat that requires a lot of maintenance. These geckos are great climbers, so plenty of branches and plants are recommended for their tank. It is also recommended that live plants be used to help maintain the required 60 to 80% humidity.
Gold Dust Day Geckos can live for around 10 years, when given the proper care. A beginner with lots of commitment and effort can keep this species.
12. Green Iguana
Green Iguanas (Iguana iguana) are amongst the most well-known iguanas. They are famous for their bright green colors and association with tropical paradise.
Green iguanas have become so popular in the United States that they have also become an invasive species, especially in Florida. However, Iguanas can sometimes make good pets. This is why it is important that if you are going to purchase an Iguana, you commit to providing the best care.
Iguanas can grow very big; six to seven feet is normal. A simple terrarium bought will not work for them. Instead, they can be kept in a room or a custom-built cage. This makes them challenging for most beginners. They are one of the most difficult lizards to care for.
Green iguanas are very intelligent and have been known to have a personality. If cared for and handled well from a young age, they can be very docile. The bond between a Green iguana and its owner is known as being one of the closest in the reptile kingdom.
You can also consider adopting a Green Iguana from a reptile shelter or government amnesty program. Unfortunately, their difficult care requirements, complicated diets and large size mean plenty have been abandoned and need a new home.
The Uromastyx (Uromastyx ssp.) is more commonly known as the spiny-tailed lizard. The Uromastyx genus is a very diverse group of lizards. Some of the most common Uromastyx include the Ornate, Moroccan and Mali.
Ornate Uromastyx are most well-known for their distinct bright colors that could range from blue and yellow to red and black. However, they are rare and sell at very high prices, sometimes over $200.
All Uromastyx species are relatively new to the pet trade. Much about their diet and husbandry varies depending on who you ask. Because of this, the uromastyx does not rank in our top 10.
It is not exactly known how long these lizards can live. It is estimated they will live anywhere from 25 to 35 years. Once tamed, these lizards are very easily handled and can be very docile.
Uromastyx are great for beginners who want to start with an easy but rare species. However, they are more expensive than most on this list.
10. Chinese Water Dragon
Chinese water dragons (Physignathus cocincinus) are lizards commonly found throughout China, as well as most of southeast Asia. They are part of the agamid group of reptiles and are closely related to Bearded Dragons and Uromastyx.
These lizards are mainly green and have a tail that makes up about 70% of their total length.
Chinese water dragons are famous for changing color as they age. Young Chinese water dragons are normally less vibrant, but as they mature, they will develop bright green and blue colorations. They are also well-known for their white and yellow throat flaps. These flaps are easily seen when they throw their heads back.
On rare occasions, Chinese water dragons will stand on two feet beside plants to camouflage. It can be a very exciting experience to watch your pet lizard as they try to blend in with their surroundings.
Chinese water dragons are mostly arboreal, despite their name. They are fantastic climbers and need a large enclosure. The recommended enclosure height is about six feet tall. Their enclosure should have multiple basking spots, branches to climb, rocks, and space to scurry across branches and leaves.
Beginners can be creative with their water dragon’s enclosure. However, it is important that you do not overcrowd the tank which may cause stress.
Chinese water dragons are great for hands-on beginners who are not afraid of committing to a large lizard.
9. African Fat-Tailed Gecko
African fat-tailed geckos (Hemitheconyx caudicinctus) are some of the most peaceful and docile reptiles you can find. They are great for beginners looking for a unique species that is not high maintenance.
Fat-tailed geckos are relatively docile and do not mind being handled. However, if they feel startled or scared, they will drop their tail. As you develop a bond, they will get very comfortable with being handled.
These lizards are known for having different colors and patterns. Most are shades of brown, yellow, and black in different variations. Depending on the morph, they can also have stripes, spots, or splotches.
African fat-tailed geckos only grow to about seven to nine inches. Because of this, they only need a 20-gallon tank. Multiple hide boxes should be placed in their enclosure to mimic the burrows they hide in the wild.
Overfeeding an African fat-tailed gecko is not as much of a problem as with other species on this list. As their name suggests, they can easily store excess fat in their tail. However, beginners should still feed them a healthy diet of crickets, mealworms, and even canned snails.
8. Frilled Dragon
Frilled Dragons (Chlamydosaurus kingii) are well-known for the large frill around their neck. When unfurled this frill can reach as wide as one foot. However, to open their frill they must also open their mouth, which just adds to the scary display. It is used as a defense mechanism when they feel threatened.
Seeing a frilled dragon’s intimidation tactics can be quite amusing, but it is also a sign that your lizard feels threatened or stressed. They can sometimes be quite skittish.
These prehistoric-looking lizards are one of the most unique pets on this list.
After the release of Jurassic Park in 1993, frilled dragons have been in high demand. One of the most famous scenes in the movie showed a dinosaur called a dilophosaurus. Although this dinosaur did exist, the movie producers were inspired by the frilled dragon when choosing to use this dinosaur.
These lizards are also known as “bicycle lizards” because of another unique attribute they have. When threatened they will run on their hind legs which resembles riding a bicycle. However, you are unlikely to see this behavior if keeping them as a pet.
Frilled Dragons are perfect for beginners who are looking for a low-maintenance lizard.
7. Ackie’s Monitor
The Ackie’s Monitor (Varanus acanthurus) is a type of monitor species that is well-known for having a very mellow and docile temperament. This is quite the contrast to their larger cousins, the Komodo Dragon! These lizards can live for about 15 to 20 years and are excellent pet lizards for beginners.
These monitors are great for beginners because they are naturally docile, but also inquisitive.
Besides their docile nature, these monitors are also loved for their beautiful patterns and color. Their leopard-like spots come in an array of colors, from a bright yellow to a dark red, and sometimes have darker spots within them.
Because Ackie’s monitors are originally from hot deserts in Australia, the temperature of their basking spot should be between 120 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. This may seem exceptionally hot, but these lizards are accustomed to living in these harsh arid conditions. It is important that a beginner is confident in their ability to set up a warm tank before getting this lizard.
Many beginners enjoy caring for Ackie’s Monitors because of their unique colors and charismatic personalities.
6. Argentine Black-and-White Tegu
The argentine black-and-white tegu (Salvator merianae) makes a great companion pet. They are possibly one of the most intelligent lizards on this list and are known to be much more docile than their smaller cousin, the Colombian Tegu. In some cases these lizards have been housebroken and can be kept outside of a terrarium.
Tegus are originally from South America. However, it is possible to see them in many other countries where they are now invasive. This is due to irresponsible owners releasing their tegus into the wild.
In the southeastern United States, many native bird and reptile populations have decreased as a result of eggs being eaten by released tegus. Because of this, some states in the U.S. have banned the sale and ownership of tegus. If you plan on becoming a tegu owner, ensure that you know your local laws and practice responsible reptile ownership.
A beginner would be best buying a female argentine black-and-white tegu. They are around three feet in length, which is more manageable than the five feet of males. Tegu enclosures are usually built using plywood or other material since there is no store-bought terrarium large enough to house them.
Tegus are popular with beginners because of how easy they are to feed. They will eat just about anything, from eggs and small birds to flowers and fruit. In captivity, their diet should include frozen mice and chicks, soft-boiled eggs, an assortment of insects, melons, and squash.
Argentine black-and-white tegus are the gentle giants of the tegu world. Even though they are one of the larger tegu species, they are much more docile than other tegus.
5. Crested Gecko
The Crested Gecko (Correlophus ciliatus) was once thought to be extinct. However, since their rediscovery in 1994 they have made an amazing comeback. They are now a household favorite around the world.
Their most popular feature is their flashy eyelashes, which has earned them the nickname the “eyelash gecko.” Even though they have eyelashes, crested geckos do not have eyelids. Because of this, it is typical for them to lick their eyes to keep them moist.
Most Crested Geckos are a little skittish. But beginners find that with gentle care, they can be handled and will quickly become friendly.
Crested geckos are one of the few lizard species on this list that are nocturnal.
They are best suited for beginners who have a schedule that fits around caring for a nocturnal pet. Besides that, crested geckos are great for any type of beginner.
Crested geckos are not as popular as their relatives, the leopard gecko. However, they can still make a great, low-maintenance pet.
4. Green Anole
Green anoles (Anolis carolinensis) are small pet lizards that have a bright green body with a red or pink throat dewlap.
Anoles are typically kept as beautiful display lizards by beginners that do not have much experience with handling. Their vibrant green colors, and tropical habitat, make for a great view.
These lizards are great as display pets but can also tolerate some handling. However, as they are much smaller than typical pet lizards, so they require extra care when being handled.
If you are worried about their small size, you may be interested in their larger cousin, the Cuban Knight Anole. Cuban Knight Anoles can grow up to 13 to 20 inches, compared to 5 to 7 inches for the Green anole. However, the knight anole is known for being more aggressive.
Green anoles are expert climbers and need branches and rocks in their enclosure. However, due to their small size, the typical tank size for a green anole is only 20-gallons. A simple vertical tank can easily provide plenty of climbing room.
If you are looking for a small display lizard, green anoles are a great choice; their beautiful colors and small size are what attracts beginners to them.
3. Blue-Tongued Skink
Originally from Australia, blue-tongued skinks (Tiliqua ssp.) are very unique lizards that also happen to make great pets. One of their most unique characteristics is their bright blue tongues. This often makes them very interesting to beginners.
Blue-Tongued Skinks evolved to have blue tongues as a defense mechanism against predators in the wild. When they feel threatened they quickly stick out their tongue. This is known to disorient the predator, which gives them enough time to escape.
Even though they have bright blue tongues, they are not venomous.
In fact, Blue-Tongued skinks are very sociable and docile. They are not dangerous. These skinks will hiss, defecate, pop out their tongue, and jump before they even consider biting. They are docile creatures that avoid violence and enjoy handling.
Blue-Tongued skinks are solely ground dwellers which means it is easy for a beginner to set up their tank. They do not require branches, high rocks or high basking sports. However, they do require a large 55-gallon tank with some hiding spots.
Beginners that want a lizard they can bond with and handle, but have a lack of experience should consider blue-tongue skinks as their first lizard. They have simple husbandry needs and are large enough that handling is easy.
2. Leopard Gecko
Leopard geckos (Eublepharis macularius) are desert lizards from central Asia and India. They are called leopard geckos because their spotted pattern looks the same as a leopards’. Besides their black spots, they are typically yellow or white.
Leos are known for their very gentle nature, they always seem to be smiling at you! These geckos are second on our list because of their charismatic nature. They are extremely friendly and were the first domesticated lizard.
Unlike many other geckos, Leopards do not require a lot of room and are generally ground-dwelling. This makes their tank set up very simple for any beginner.
Leopard geckos are most active in their tank during dawn and dusk. Beginners who are home during dawn and dusk, and want a friendly, active species, should lizard buying a Leo. They also make great pets for older children who love reptiles and are responsible enough to handle them.
Interesting, leopard geckos have very good eyesight. If you ever catch your gecko staring at you from inside his tank, just know that he can see you perfectly. He is probably very curious about what you are doing.
Leopard geckos are another great beginner lizard. They are very easy to keep and have a simple diet. However, if you decide to buy this lizard, they are a long-term commitment. Many Leos can live for up to 25 years.
1. Bearded Dragon
Bearded dragons (Pogona spp.), or “beardies” for short, are the best pet lizard for any beginner. They are docile lizards and are very rarely aggressive. They do not mind being handled, as long as you are gentle, and are very easy to take care of.
These lizards get their name from their puffed beard and spiny scales that cover the outline of their body. Bearded dragons normally have very flat bodies and varied colors. Typical colors include shades of brown, yellow, and red.
Bearded dragons are easy to care for and have a very simple diet. Above all, their unique personalities are very lovable.
One of the most exciting parts of becoming a new Bearded dragon owner is developing a bond with them. Many Beardies develop close relationships with their keeper. Through routine handling and physical contact, beardies will eventually be able to identify their owner.
Whether a beginner or expert, beardies are loved by all lizard lovers. If you want a pet that you can grow close with and think of as part of your family, then a bearded dragon is the best choice.
Which lizard is your beginner choice? Let us know in the comments!