10 Best Lizards to Keep as Pets

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key point:
  • Many types of lizards are not suitable for beginners. If you're considering lizards as pets, it's wise to do a lot of research first.
  • Bearded Dragon is one of the best choices for beginners.
  • Each lizard has different climate, food, and enclosure requirements.

Introducing a new pet into your home is a big decision, especially when you want to adopt one so the children can learn some sense of responsibility and closeness. While the most common pets to adopt are dogs and cats, adopting reptiles is also becoming more common. These cold-blooded animals may seem intimidating as pets, but they are among the most acceptable.

With so many different types of reptiles, it can be difficult to find the best pet lizard without a little guidance. Is a Bearded Dragon Right for You? Are leopard geckos a good choice for beginners?

Let's take a deep dive into the 10 best pet lizards and explore the best types of pet lizards:

#10 Caiman Lizard

best lizard caiman lizard
Caiman lizards need lots of space, submerged water, UV light and vitamin D3 to stay healthy

©iStock.com/Denja1

Even though caimans are at the bottom of this list, they are still very friendly and one of the better types of pet lizards. They are great companions for any owner. They get quite large at 5 feet long so a large enclosure is needed to house them. However, they can be fun for beginners who want to train them. With a rainbow of colors and great patience, the Caiman Lizard is perfect for beginners who want to take on larger animals rather than more traditional reptiles.

Due to its length, the caiman lizard needs an enclosure that is 4-6 feet long, 1-3 feet wide, and 2-4 feet high. Part of the terrarium should have a large body of water that the lizard can completely submerge and something to climb onto. Caiman lizards come from tropical habitats where they are accustomed to temperatures in the 80-90 degree Fahrenheit range, and can even withstand temperatures of 100 or higher when basking in the sun. They need UVA and UVB rays to get vitamin D3, which supports their overall health and activities like eating. A combination of natural sunlight, Exo Terra halogen spotlights, and Reptisun or Powersun UV lights will help you replicate the environment your caiman lizard needs to breed. It also needs a cozy tree branch in its enclosure to relax and bask in the sun.

A pet caiman lizard's diet included crickets, canned snails and shrimp, super worms, and fruits like kiwi, banana, papaya, and mango. They also need reptile multivitamins and calcium supplements. Since caiman lizards live about 10 years, pet owners are considering investing time and money in setting up and maintaining their pets, as well as the space in your home. Consider these things before taking the plunge. You should buy caiman lizards through a reputable reptile breeder, which can range from $350 to $1500.

advantage shortcoming
beautiful colors Cost $350-$1500
easy-going temperament professional diet
10 years lifespan need a large case

#9 Green Iguana

Best Lizard - Green Iguana
Green iguanas tend to be one of the best lizards for beginners to care for because they are not carnivorous.

© iStock.com/Travel_Bug

Green iguanas are relatively easy-to-keep pet lizards. Because they do not have carnivorous tendencies, they are easier to take care of for beginners. These reptiles are herbivores, so they should be easy to feed. However, as they grow larger (up to 6 feet), they will require an enclosure similar to that of a caiman lizard, but larger to accommodate their greater length. Their tank also needs a sink.

Iguanas are relatively friendly and easy to tame. While they're great for beginners, the sheer amount of care required to have one means you need to be able to invest time, effort, and money. The average price for an iguana is $25 to $40. While on the surface this may seem like an affordable option for pet lizards, the investment in all the care and maintenance can be quite expensive. A terrarium or cage for an iguana can range from $150 to $1,000, depending on size and preference. Investments in twice-yearly UVB bulbs range from $29 to $300. Food for iguanas ranges from $1 to $50 per day . Because it is an exotic pet, veterinary care for a pet iguana can cost an average of $200 to $300 per year for general care, but thousands of dollars for more serious health problems. There are other costs to consider, such as toys, climbing items, and other miscellaneous costs. (Note: These fees apply to many types of pet lizards, not just iguanas)

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Their lifespan is about 20 years and can make great long-term companions. Be sure to calculate the cost and make sure that an iguana is indeed the right pet choice for you.

advantage shortcoming
friendly and easy to tame expensive care
Cost $25-$40 up to 6 feet
Lifespan 20 years

#8 Savannah Monitor

Best Lizard - Savannah Monitor
The Savannah Monitor is very easy to tame, making it one of the best lizards to keep.

©iStock.com/MariusLtu

The Savannah Monitor is so easy to tame, it allows beginners to enjoy the large reptile without having to worry about controlling it. It needs a large habitat with digging abilities, as it likes to burrow in the dirt. You'll need a fairly large enclosure with enough dirt in it to burrow so the lizard doesn't collapse and give it a chance to hide its 3 foot long body.

As interesting as this creature is, you'll have to get used to its diet, which is rich in eggs, birds, insects, and most other animals it can get its hands on. Unfortunately, many Savannah monitor lizard owners feed them a high-fat diet (such as rodent or canned dog food), which can lead to obesity and fatty liver disease, which greatly shortens their life expectancy. It is also very important to find a reputable breeder to buy Savannah monitors from rather than buying imported ones as imported Savannah monitors are often subjected to trauma and harsh conditions which can also negatively affect their life expectancy.

Savannah monitors actually shed their skin on a regular basis, and if left to roam, they can show up in your home as flaky dandruff. Savannah monitors range in price from $25 to $100, but as we discussed earlier, any pet lizard setup will cost you initially. Proper care can keep a pet savannah monitor with its owner for up to 20 years.

advantage shortcoming
easy to tame Susceptibility to obesity and fatty liver
Cost $25-$100 Prefers dirt in the shell to burrow
With proper care, you can live to 20 years old shed scale

#7 Chinese Water Dragon

Best Lizard - Chinese Water Dragon
Water dragons are omnivores, preferring to eat insects, fruits and leafy vegetables

© iStock.com/Nigel Jarvis

Chinese water dragons are native to South China, Vietnam, Thailand, South China, Cambodia and other places. As adults, Asian water dragons range in color from dark kelly to light mint with vertical pale green, mint, light green or turquoise stripes. They grow to about 3 feet long. This particular water dragon is the easiest for a novice to care for. They have to take some getting used to being around people, but they love being cuddled once in a while.

55 gallon glass container fits china water dragons. Many Chinese water dragon pets don't understand glass and rub their noses against glass, sometimes damaging their noses and jaws. It is recommended to consider an enclosure with shielded siding rather than glass. They needed to install a UVA/UVB bulb in a terrarium to simulate 12 hours of sunlight per day. Other considerations are the object to climb, a place for it to bathe in heat and moderate humidity. Their main diet consists of crickets, grasshoppers, mealworms and earthworms, but they also like to eat some fruit or chopped green leafy vegetables.

Chinese water dragons usually cost between $50 and $100. This lizard has a friendly disposition and its main concern is the need for proper care, which can help your pet Chinese water dragon live up to 10-15 years.

advantage shortcoming
exotic colors can be shy at first
Cost $50 – $100 can damage their snouts on glass-sided shells
easy care

#6 Chameleon

Best Lizards - Chameleons
Chameleons are beloved by reptile lovers for their ability to change colors and their laid-back nature

© iStock.com/Cathy Keifer

Chameleons are gentle and docile, but are beloved by their owners for their ability to change color and their eerie bulbous eyes. They don't need to be petted as they have the ability to become stressed, so this may not be the best option for kids who want more hands-on animals. They can be a little more difficult to care for due to their specialized needs, but they don't require as much space as some larger lizards. Life expectancy can range from 3 to 10 years.

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For housing, chameleons like to climb trees, so it's best to have a vertically tall terrarium with lots of objects to climb to high places. A cage that is 3 x 3 long and wide and 4 feet high works well. You'll need to research the correct temperature for your particular breed's basking spot and general climate. Chameleons drink water from leaves, not from dishes. Therefore, you will need to spray the enclosure with water twice a day or install a drip irrigation system.

Chameleons use their ballistic tongues to catch crickets, mealworms, superworms, waxworms, wax moths, and cockroaches, but they will sometimes eat small amounts of leafy greens or fruit. They need vitamin supplements because they are prone to calcium and vitamin A deficiencies. Chameleons range in price from $30 to $300. We recommend working with a breeder for any type of lizard as you can have greater confidence that you are getting a healthy pet from the start.

advantage shortcoming
Cost $30 – $300 become stressed when dealing with
Live 10-15 years Drip irrigation system or spray for chameleon drinking
Change colors and fun looks Easily deficient in vitamins and calcium

#5 Green Basilisk

Best Lizard - Green Ankhlizard
The green snake is also known as the feathered snake lizard or the double-crested snake lizard; but its prodigious ability to run across water has given this species its most recognizable nickname: the Jesus Christ lizard. If you also want to have some fun with your pet, this is one of the best lizards around.

© iStock.com/ArmadilloCommander

If you want to have a little fun with your reptile, the green basilisk is the way to go. With the right traction and speed, they can walk on water. This unique talent is why the green snake is known as the "lizard of all ages." The green basilisk comes from Central America and the rainforests of Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, and Nicaragua. Its body is covered with bright green scales, and its belly can have white, gray or light blue markings. While many reptile lovers love their color and vibrancy, they can be difficult to care for.

They can be very territorial if you're interested in owning more than one. Two females can get along and two males can fight, but one male and one female is not advisable unless mating. The temperament of the green lizard is not the most charming of reptile pets. When they feel threatened, they crane their necks and growl, bite, and are often tense and short-tempered. They don't need much care to stay safe and healthy, and while they can stretch up to 3 feet in length, most of that length is in its tail. With proper care, green lizards can live up to 10 years old. They're also one of the cheapest options in our top ten, ranging in price from $3 to $20.

advantage shortcoming
Cost $3 – $20 Shy, moody, nervous personality
Exotic Colors, Appearance Territory, if more than one
low maintenance and fairly small will bite

#4 Black and White Tygus

Best Lizard - Black and White Tegus
The black and white Tegu cats are very friendly and will cling to their owners and follow them around the house

©iStock.com/Rafael Cutó

The beautiful black and white tegu is a South American species that can grow to nearly 4-5 feet long and is characterized by gorgeous beaded black and white scales arranged in intricate patterns. Once they learn to trust their owners, they become very friendly and can be loyal companions. They become very attached, causing them to follow their person around the house. Like several other reptiles on this list, these lizards have an expected lifespan of 15-20 years.

Black and white Tigers for sale are harder to find than some other species, so you'll need to find a reputable breeder. A hatchling typically sells for $200. Like other popular lizard pets, your B&W tegu needs plenty of room in its enclosure, which can vary in size from 6x3x3 feet to 8x4x3 feet (for the larger ones). You'll need the right climbing accessories, a basking spot with UVA/UVB bulbs (up to 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit), 90-95 degrees and a cooler 75-80 degrees.

Tegus also need 75-90% humidity in their enclosures to thrive, so you'll need a system in place to handle this. They like to burrow in the substrate, so 4 inches deep is fine, but avoiding pine or cedar is recommended as they create dust that can damage their lungs.

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For maximum health, its diet should vary – don't rely solely on frozen/thawed rodent or lean meat. You should mix fish, eggs, fruits and vegetables. Many tegus turn up their noses (or should we say noses) at vegetables, so you should chop them up and mix them with other ingredients these lizards love.

advantage shortcoming
Beautiful black and white patterned scales Incubation costs $200
loyal, friendly personality Requires a warm and humid environment
Lifespan 15-20 years must change diet

#3 Skink

The Best Lizard – African Flintstone
Skinks are low maintenance and easy to care for

© iStock.com/Farinosa

The African Fire Skink is easily one of the most popular pet skinks, mainly because of the beautiful red markings. It's good for beginners with low maintenance needs, but they're not really for processing. What's more, one can admire them from outside their habitat, watching them move around and enjoy their surroundings. As an added bonus, this particular skink is less prone to many health problems and is therefore easier to care for.

If you want a reptile that enjoys the company of other reptiles, the Gidgee skink is a great choice. Although they are large, at 10 inches long, they love to live with a mate to show their social side. With a little patience, they can be quite easy to handle.

For a more docile reptile that's easier to handle, consider the blue-tongued skink. It weighs only about 4 pounds and can stretch up to 20 inches long. They are generally considered an excellent choice for beginners and children.

The skink lizard's diet consists mainly of insects. All three species we mentioned are omnivorous, so their diet should be balanced between insects (they prefer live insects such as flies, crickets, cockroaches, millipedes, centipedes, beetles, grasshoppers, worms , slugs, mosquitoes, or snails), and vegetables like carrots, kale, dandelion greens, cabbage, green beans, arugula, squash, or squash. While a bit of banana, papaya, or berries can serve as fruit, citrus fruits can kill skinks.

Skinks prefer to burrow rather than climb, so their enclosure should be between 40 gallons and 55 gallons. They love hiding places, so look for hiding places made of cork bark, wood, rocks, or other reptile-friendly materials. They will need heat bulbs, and the bedding can be cypress mulch, aspen shavings, or newspaper. Skinks are prone to clogging, so make sure your skink isn't eating the specific wood you may be trying.

A blue-tongued skink sells for $150 to $500; an African salamander $40 to $50; skinks, the most expensive species, cost $500 to $2,000 !

advantage shortcoming
Passionate lizard/few health problems African salamanders are not easy to handle
The blue-tongued skink is small and perfect for grasping Gidgee Skink needs a partner
The living environment is not so complicated Can cost a lot for some breeds like Gidgee Skink

#2 Gecko

Best Lizard – Leopard Gecko
Leopard geckos are one of the best lizards to keep because they are easy to handle and don't bite very often.

© iStock.com/LeitnerR

Geckos are a little smaller than other pet reptiles, but there are many kinds of them. For example, the leopard gecko is one of the most popular choices. Their skin can take many forms, but common colors are yellow, white, or black spots. They are fairly easy to deal with and don't bite very often, but most of their notoriety is due to the noise they make. They also communicate through tail movements. Leopard geckos can be cuddled, but are not affectionate or playful per se. Leopard geckos are only about 8 inches long and reach full maturity at about 1 year old.

Since leopard geckos are nocturnal, they don't need as much UVA/UVB light as other lizard species — 2%-7% light can help them stay healthy. A 10-20 gallon aquarium or enclosure will do, depending on if you only need one or more geckos. You can add hiding places, branches and plants, and watering areas, since geckos drink a lot of water. Leopard geckos feed on live crickets, silkworms, cockroaches, mealworms, wax worms and super worms. You should also include some fresh vegetables in their diet. Pet leopard geckos usually sell for $30 to $100, but prices can go as high as $3,000! It is best to see a breeder to make sure your leopard gecko is healthy.

The African fat-tailed gecko, on the other hand, comes from West Africa. They are born with the ability to withstand time in captivity well and can live well into their 20s if you give them proper care. They are one of the easiest animals to care for regardless of skill level, just like crested geckos, golden pink geckos, and more.

advantage shortcoming
Docile temperament, funny voice and behavior not very affectionate or playful
Easier to care for than most pet lizards Live insect feeding (some pet owners don't like this)
Average cost $30-$100 Live for 20 years (if you don't want to invest long term)

#1 Bearded Dragon

bearded animal
Bearded dragons are odorless and white, yellow, purple or red

©Ken Griffiths/Shutterstock.com

One of the best pet lizards for beginners and experienced tamers alike is the bearded dragon. It is one of the easiest pets to find in stores and breeders because they are one of the easiest pets to care for and are very friendly and playful. With proper training and exposure, they can even walk on a leash as they get a little social time with their owners. They are cute and well-behaved and can live to be around 15 years old with proper care. Bearded dragons are also very attractive lizards and come in a variety of colors such as white, yellow, purple and red. They also come in interesting variants. Another fun fact is that, unlike most reptile pets, bearded dragons are odorless, which is definitely an advantage when kept indoors. The average cost of one is $25-75.

One thing to be aware of with bearded dragons, or many other reptile species, is that their skin may carry salmonella. When handling one, you should wash your hands before and after to protect them and yourself from germs.

Like many other pet lizard species, bearded dragons require a spacious terrarium, a basking spot heated to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and a cooler area around 75-80 degrees. Sandy substrates can be used, as can rocks, vegetation, and other things that can hide or sit on. They feed on live insects, mainly crickets, but also mealworms and king bugs. Suitable vegetables are sweet potatoes and leafy greens such as kale or parsley.

advantage shortcoming
Various colors and variants Requires live insects to feed
Very friendly, playful and trainable Salmonella can be carried on the skin
Cost $25-$75

Here is a roundup of the top 10 best lizards to keep as pets

There are many factors to consider. Here are the pros and cons of each lizard.

rank lizard advantage shortcoming
#1 bearded dragon multiple colour. friendly. Playful. trainable. Live insects are required. Salmonella can be transmitted.
#2 gecko docile. Make funny noises. Easy care. Long life (20 years) Not affectionate or playful. Live insects are required. A long lifespan (20 years) requires a long-term commitment.
#3 skink There are few health problems. small. Blue tongue skinks are easy to handle. simple habitat African salamanders are not easy to deal with. Gidgee Skink needs a partner, and it's expensive.
#4 Black & White Targus Beautiful patterns. loyalty. friendly. Lifespan 15-20 years expensive. complex habitat. There must be a variety of food. Longevity is a long-term commitment.
#5 green basilisk Cheap. Exotic colors. low maintenance. small Shy and nervous character. Territorial. can bite.
#6 chameleon The cost can be inexpensive. The life span is 10-15 years. change color Easily nervous. The habitat must use a drip irrigation or misting system. Easily deficient in vitamins.
#7 Chinese water dragon Exotic colors. medium cost. Easy care. Shy. Sensitive noses can be easily injured.
#8 Savannah Monitor Easy to tame. Cheap. long lasting. prone to obesity. Dirt habitat suitable for burrowing is a must. Shedding scales.
#9 green iguana friendly. Easy to tame. Inexpensive for initial purchase. long lasting. Care is costly. Grows very large, up to 6 feet long. Longevity is a long-term commitment.
#10 caiman lizard beautiful. easy going. 10 years service life. Expensive to buy and fit. A specialized diet is required. A large case is required.

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about the author

Heather Hall


I'm a freelance writer with 22 years of experience. I live in the Pacific Northwest surrounded by nature. When I do my daily runs, I often see herds of elk, deer, and bald eagles. I have two dogs that take me on hikes in the mountains where we see coyotes, black bears, and wild turkeys.

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