African Eyed Lizards (Timon pater and Timon tangitanus) - Caresheet


These lizards, once very rare in captivity, are becoming much more common thanks to the work of lizard breeders such as ourselves. They are never available as wild caught lizards. The Tunisian Eyed lizard Timon pater is naturally found in Tunisia and Algeria, while the Moroccan Eyed lizard Timon tangitanus is only found in Morocco. They are hardy lizards that make excellent pets, both for new and more experienced reptile keepers. Please note in the past I have also kept and bred many European Eyed lizards Timon lepidus, and this care guide can be used for this species also. The only differences being that lepidus produces larger clutches of eggs.


Indoors it can be housed in vivaria from 90cm long by 40cm deep by 40cm high, as a minimum for an adult pair. The sides of the cage should be opaque except for the front glass to give the lizards some sense of security. In Northern European countries such as the UK, Holland and Germany, they will do well in outdoor vivaria. Greenhouses are ideal for converting into outdoor vivaria. . During the summer months the outdoor vivaria should ideally be covered with mesh only, not glass or plastic, to allow the unfiltered sunlight to enter. For the rest of the year the cages should be covered with glass, or with ideally with UV transmitting plastic sheeting. When kept outdoors it is essential they have access to an underground hide to avoid the extremes of both hot and cold weather. The outdoor vivarium should be kept with a minimum temperature of around 1-2° C. Thermostatically controlled greenhouse fan heaters are perfect to keep the frost out.


Baby Eyed lizards can be fed daily on small crickets, buffalo worms, small hopper locusts, mini mealworms, and small cockroaches. Adult Eyed lizards can be fed Morio worms, adult crickets, well grown hopper locusts, and various roach species.  It’s very important to ensure any insects used are first fed for 24 hours on a variety of green leafy matter, other veggies or fruits. Ideal nutrient-enriching diets for the insects include dandelions, watercress, clover, grass (especially for locusts), tomatoes, orange fleshed sweet potatoes and carrots. You may find your Eyed lizards will occasionally consume soft fruit such as blackberries and very ripe strawberries. They will naturally consume soft fruit during the autumn months in the wild.


Live food should be dusted every third meal with a combined multivitamin/mineral supplement such as Nutrobal. When the lizards are exposed to high output ultraviolet tubes (i.e. 10% UVB rated tubes) or mercury vapour bulbs, it is probably a good idea to use instead a 50/50 mix of nutrobal and calcium carbonate powder. Otherwise you risk overdosing with vitamin D3.


Fresh tap water is perfectly ok. There is no need to use a de-chlorinator. The water should be changed every few days, and the water dish cleaned thoroughly in soapy water every couple of weeks. Plastic jar lids make excellent shallow water containers for baby Eyed Lizards.


Day time temperatures should be, cool end betwee 20-25°C, hot end between 25-30°C, with a hot spot of 40°C.
Night time temperatures should be between 15-22°C. For hibernation the temperature should be between 5-15°C for around 2-3 months.


The vivarium should contain thick branches that enable the lizards to get off the ground, and bask near a heat source. This could be either a ceramic heater with thermostatic control, or a mercury vapour combined heat and UV light bulb. The latter cannot be regulated with a thermostat and therefore are only suitable in very large vivaria.  Old fashioned tungsten light bulbs are now difficult to obtain with a sufficiently high enough wattage to be effective heaters. Generally any heat source needs to be placed at one end of the vivarium to ensure there is a ‘hot end’ and a ‘cool end’. Reptiles need to be able to move easily between different temperature zones to enable them to control their own body temperature.  Very good quality digital ‘in/out’ style thermometers are now available at very reasonable prices. I would consider these an essential part of any vivarium set up


Lighting should be bright. Specialist reptile tubes should be used, rated at least 5% UVB (ultraviolet B range light), but preferably 10% UVB output. In large cages it is definitely worth considering two tubes. One should be a high output UVB tube, the other should be a tube designed to replicate natural daylight conditions. When using UV tube lighting, branches should be positioned so the lizards can choose to bask within 20cm of the light, whether they are near the heat source or not.

Lights should be on for around 13-14 hours per day in the summer months, 12 hours a day in the spring and autumn months, and only 8 hours a day for the winter months. The use of a timer switch is highly recommended.


Humidity should range from 40-60 %. All Eyed lizards should have a damp hide in the cool part of the vivarium. Keeping them in completely dry vivaria may cause the lizards to have problems shedding their skin. It’s a good idea to spray the vivarium thoroughly a couple of times a week. But the vivarium should be well ventilated, and should be dry within a couple of hours. 

General Care and Notes

The first most important factors in keeping Eyed lizards healthy is that it is important to ensure that the feeder insects are nutrient enriched as suggested above. Lizards fed this way will consume natural levels of beta-carotenes essential for healthy eyes. Poor diets will result in Lizards with eye infections.   The second most important consideration is that they receive good quality light with high levels of ultraviolet light in the UVa and UVb range. Modern 10% UVb tubes are very good, or even better unfiltered sunlight available when they are kept outdoors. These two factors also will lead to the best coloured, brightest green Eyed lizards.

Vivaria for Eyed lizards should have plenty of hiding places and live plants. But if you are not very green fingered, good quality plastic plants will do. 

It is a good idea to hibernate your Eyed lizards for a period of two to three months. This will result in longer-lived lizards, and is essential for good breeding success. When cooling them down in the late winter, temperatures should be reduced very gradually over a period of several weeks. This is where a decent thermostat is essential. During the last couple of weeks no food should be offered, but water should be available at all times. It’s very important that lizards do not hibernate with food still left in their stomachs. At the end of the hibernation period temperatures should again be increased over a week or two.

Eyed lizards can be kept either on their own, in pairs or in breeding groups, with a single male and two or three females. Never house males together.  After a couple of clutches of eggs are laid in a season, it is a good idea to remove the males to rest the females, otherwise the females may get exhausted. Over-production of eggs will shorten the life of the females. This is only a reported problem in indoor vivaria. Female Eyed lizards kept outdoors will naturally limit the amount of eggs they produce. Sexual maturity will likely be reached at around one year old, but I believe it is better to keep sexes separate until they are around 18 months old (after a second winter). First time breeding females produce around 10 eggs, but eventually they may lay 18 or more eggs per clutch. Good quality lighting and plenty of calcium in the diet is essential for fertile egg production. 

Written by Mark Harris © 2011.

Not to be copied in part, or in it’s entirety, without the authors permission.