Frilled-neck lizards, often called frilled dragons, are a popular lizard because of their titular frill, or collar. These lizards have made appearances in cartoons and movies, and stolen the hearts of many reptile enthusiasts.
While owning a frilled lizard as a pet isn’t as common as with bearded dragons or geckos, you’re still able to purchase them from reputable breeders and online suppliers. These neat lizards are great climbers, runners, and are fairly widespread throughout Australia and New Guinea.
If you’re looking for information about frilled lizard care, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, you’ll find information like:
- Types of Frilled Lizards
- Basic Frilled-Lizard Behavior
- How To Build a Frilled-Lizard Habitat
- Frilled-Lizard Diet
- Health and Wellness
- Buying a Frilled-Lizard Online
Types of Frilled Lizards
The frilled-neck lizard (Chlamydosaurus kingii) is coincidentally the only member of its genus. While it is related to over 400 different lizards in the Agamidae family, none of its brethren share the spiked collar that makes this lizard unique.
Native to Australia and parts of New Guinea, the frilled-neck lizard can grow up to be more than 2 feet in length and live up to 15 years in captivity. Unlike the bearded dragon, which hails from the deserts and scrublands of Australia, the frilled-neck lizard sticks to the wooded areas, and is often seen climbing trees and moving through the canopy.
Even though there aren’t more members of the Chlamydosaurus family, variations between the frilled-neck lizard population can still occur. These slight variations come as color-differences, and a study into their frill colors indicates that it’s because of their diets and location.
The study found that lizards in Queensland showed a significant lack of pigmentation in their frills when compared to lizards from Western Australia. This led researchers to believe it had to do with the food source, some of which contained more pigments than others.
Just another interesting tidbit about these fascinating creatures!
How to Build a Frilled Lizard Habitat
Because of their spiky, dragon-like appearance, people often associated frilled-neck lizards with bearded dragons. And while they do look similar in some ways, frilled-neck lizards are more like chameleons when it comes to their habitats.
As arboreal lizards, frillies love to climb. This means that instead of a horizontal terrarium, you should opt for a vertical one. A taller enclosure lets a frilled dragon climb to their heart’s content, and allows much more room for terrarium plants and accessories. Frilled lizards also need a lot of room to move around. Therefore, if you plan on raising them to be an adult, we’d recommend buying a 4-foot enclosure.
Frilled dragons are diurnal lizards, so they are awake and most active during the day. They also need UVB lighting to help regulate their temperature, natural rhythms, and to obtain the vitamins they need.
For a frilled dragon, 10% UVB for 12 hours a day is the recommended amount. When you’re building your terrarium, it’s important to include both a well-lit area, as well as a shadier area. Frillies are used to waltzing about in the canopy, so shade and hiding spots are essential for their wellbeing. You wouldn’t want to be out in the sun all day, either!
At night, you should turn off all the lights. This will help your frillie get into a good sleep cycle. Aim for 14-16 hours of light in the summer, and 12-14 hours of light in the winter.
In terms of bulbs, we’ve seen a lot of people using T8 and T5 UVB bulbs, and they’re a good choice. They are fairly inexpensive, and don’t need replacing every month like some other bulbs. You should always make sure that you attempt to create a temperature gradient using these bulbs, which we’ll detail more in the next section.
Frilled-neck lizards like it hot! On any given day, they might spend most of their time basking, so it’s critical that you provide them with a basking area that’s at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit, even a little hotter. This basking area should be available for the lizard all day, even if they choose to spend some time in the shade, you should still have the basking area up and ready for them.
The rest of the tank should also be fairly warm. Anywhere between 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit is suitable for a frilled dragon. Nighttime temperatures should not drop below 80 degrees Fahrenheit, so you’ll have to employ a ceramic bulb or a heating stone to keep the tank temperature up.
Here’s a quick look at the temperature requirements for frilled-neck lizard care:
- 85-90 degrees Fahrenheit (29.5-32 degrees Celsius) during the day
- 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.7 degrees Celsius) in a basking spot
- 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26.6 degrees Celsius) at night
Since frilled-neck lizards live in the forests of Australia and jungle-like regions of New Guinea, they need a higher humidity level than most reptiles. Generally, you should aim to have 70% humidity in your terrarium.
A few ways to obtain this level of humidity include:
- Keeping a closed terrarium–no mesh lids
- Use a hygrometer to measure humidity
- Set up a mister to provide enough water to the terrarium, or manually mist a few times a day
- Include a lot of foliage and vegetation–they help keep humidity levels high
Your frilled-neck lizard likely won’t spend much time on the floor of their enclosure, so substrate isn’t a super big concern.
However, you should still choose a substrate that won’t irritate your lizard (AKA sand) and will help retain moisture and humidity levels.
There are a lot of different ways you can set up your frilled-lizard habitat, but generally we’d recommend using one or a combination of the following:
- Coco fibers
- Cypress mulch
- Organic potting mix
- Zoo Med Eco-Earth
- Peat Moss
- Zilla Jungle Mix
Because of the high moisture content in frilled-lizard habitats, it’s important to monitor the substrate and remove it if there’s any mold growth. Even a few spores can spread and cause respiratory problems for your lizard. To counteract this, make sure you’re replacing the substrate once every few days and thoroughly cleaning the tank.
We recommend a combination of the following:
Frilled Lizard Diet
Frilled-neck lizards are traditionally classified as omnivorous creatures, but they tend toward meat and insects rather than fruits, greens, or vegetables.
That being said, you should strive to feed your frilled-neck lizard insects like:
- Black or brown crickets
- Dubia roaches
You can also choose to give your frilled-dragon some occasional treats, which should include:
All of these feeders are fairly high in fat content, so make sure you only feed them to your frillie once or twice a week.
You might also try to feed them dark leafy greens like kale or spinach, though they might not like it.
It’s important to note that frilled dragons should be offered food that is no bigger than the space between their eyes. If the food is too big, they may have trouble digesting it properly and could end up with an impacted digestive system.
Feeding your frilled dragon smaller meals more often is better than one large meal every few days. Not only will this help with their digestion, but it will also help them maintain a healthy weight.
In terms of supplements, you should regularly dust your frillie’s feeders with calcium powder to make sure that it’s getting the support it needs for its bones and skin.
Frilled Lizard Care: Health and Wellness
Now, like we mentioned before, we don’t intend to come off as veterinarians, because we’re not. So if your pet frilled-neck lizard is experiencing an ailment and you’re concerned, seek professional help.
Here we aim to inform you about potential medical issues that are common among frilled-neck lizards, and how to prevent some of these conditions.
There are a few common health issues that frilled-neck lizards can experience. These include:
1) Respiratory Infections: Frilled-neck lizards can be susceptible to respiratory infections, so it is important to keep their environment clean and dry. Make sure to change the bedding regularly, and to disinfect any surfaces that your lizard comes into contact with. If you notice your lizard wheezing, sneezing, or having trouble breathing, take them to the vet right away.
2) Gastrointestinal Problems: Another common health issue among frilled-neck lizards is gastrointestinal problems. These can be caused by stress, improper diet, or parasites. If you notice your lizard vomiting, having diarrhea, or losing weight, take them to the vet.
3) Skin Problems: Frilled-neck lizards can also experience skin problems, such as shedding difficulties, infections, and mites. Mites are tiny parasitic creatures that can cause your lizard a lot of discomfort. If you see your lizard scratching excessively, or if you notice any redness or swelling on their skin, take them to the vet.
4) Egg-Binding: Female frilled-neck lizards can sometimes experience a condition called egg-binding, which is when they are unable to lay their eggs. This can be caused by a lack of calcium in their diet, so make sure to give them a calcium supplement if they are gravid (pregnant). If you notice your lizard straining to lay eggs, or if they stop laying eggs altogether, take them to the vet.
All of these “potential” health issues can be pretty intimidating if you’re a first-time reptile owner. That’s why it’s critical you practice preventative measures.
- For example, you should aim to clean your lizard’s enclosure once every few days, scrubbing their tank with a reptile-safe disinfectant and changing their substrate.
- Speaking of substrates, try to avoid sand because it can easily get in the lizard’s eyes or cause a digestive impaction if they eat it.
- Monitor your frilled-neck lizard’s tank temperature and humidity often, and keep it in the acceptable ranges. Drastic swings in temperature can impact your lizard’s ability to self-regulate.
- And always seek medical attention for your lizard if you are worried. As reptile owners, it’s important to get the right kind of care, because a lot of these ailments can become progressively worse if not diagnosed early.
Buying Frilled Lizards Online
Like we mentioned in the beginning of this article, keeping frilled-lizards as pets isn’t as common as bearded dragons, anoles, or geckos, so the availability of these lizards is really hit or miss.
However, there is a demand for them, and they are a fairly common species in the wild, so you don’t have to worry about endangering a species.
There are a few places online where you can pick up frilled lizards, and to be honest, you’ll find the best selection online.
A few considerations when choosing to buy a frilled-lizard–or any reptile–online:
- Make sure you understand the commitment. You should have a terrarium, food, and all the necessary supplies set up before you order a lizard.
- Plan to be available for the delivery. Shipping live reptiles is no simple business, so you have to make sure you’re at your door when it arrives.
- Communicate with the supplier. Most reptile breeders won’t just ship out reptiles willy-nilly, so start a conversation with them to discuss shipping specifics, reptile care, etc.
- Budget ahead. Shipping generally will run you about $50, and after that, be prepared to spend around $100 a month on food and frilled-lizard care supplies.
With all that under your belt, here’s a look at some of the best places to buy frilled lizards online:
Understanding Your Frilled Lizard’s Behavior
One of the great things about owning a frilled-neck lizard, sometimes affectionately called frillies, is that they are very active and curious creatures. They love to explore their surroundings, and will often climb up on branches and perches to get a better view.
Frilled-neck lizards are also very playful, and will often engage in mock fights with each other in the wild. This is usually just a way of establishing dominance within the pack, and is usually not aggressive unless it’s mating season.
That being said, it’s not advised to keep more than one frilled dragon in the same enclosure. Male lizards will become quite territorial in such a limited space, and it can cause issues with proper feeding.
You can expect for your frilled dragon to grow up to 2 feet in length, so make sure their enclosure is big enough for them to move around and stretch out. Generally, a 20 gallon tank is good for raising juveniles, but it should be much larger for adults.
Frilled dragon sex is fairly easy to identify. Males are much larger than females, with longer tails and more aggressive demeanor. There’s little-to-no color variation between the two sexes.
A healthy frilled dragon will have clear eyes, clean skin, and a well-formed frill. They also love to run on their high legs in an upright position! Despite being avid climbers, frillies do enjoy a good run!
Frilled-Neck Lizard Care FAQs
Frilled-lizards that have been socialized since birth are usually docile and kind creatures. They might become violent or aggressive if they’re fighting for a mate, but generally they are not dangerous creatures.
Prices will vary depending on the age and sex of the frillie you’re looking to buy. But, on average you can expect to spend between $150 to $300 on a frilled-neck lizard.
In most parts of the United States, frilled dragons are legal to keep as pets. If you’re worried about the legality of owning a frillie, be sure to read up on what reptiles are legal in your state.
On average, a frilled-neck lizard in captivity will live between 10 and 15 years. They reach adulthood after about 2 years. In the wild, frilled lizards are often a tasty snack for larger reptiles, birds of prey, and wild dogs, so their life expectancy is less than 5 years.