Jeweled Lacerta Care Page
Prepared by Frank Payne
Jeweled lacertas are diurnal (day active), terrestrial/semi-arboreal lizards found throughout southwestern Europe. The most striking aspect of these lizards is their vibrant coloration - bright green with blue "occelli" covering their flanks like jewels, hence the name! These omnivorous lizards mostly prey upon insects, but will also munch various vegetation. Jeweled lacertas tend to be 16″-24″ long from nose to tail and have a lifespan of 12-20+ years.
This Care Guide been curated by Frank Payne.
Frank Payne is a biology teacher, former AZA senior herpetology zookeeper, and breeder of exceptional lizards. He has been keeping and breeding reptiles and amphibians for over twenty five years.Read Full Care Guide
Jeweled Lacertas at a Glance
These are some basic core facts about Jeweled Lacerta care:
Terrestrial & Semi-Arboreal
Scrubland, Grassland, and Dry Forest
Jeweled lacertas are native to the Iberian peninsula and southwestern Europe.
4 out of 5: Good Handleability
Jeweled lacertas are highly intelligent lizards that quickly learn to recognize their keeper and can develop a strong relationship of trust and tolerance. Their larger size, climbing skills, and inquisitive nature make them great for handling once this relationship has been established.
Expected Weekly Dedication: 4 hours minimum
With a pet jeweled lacerta, daily chores may include preparing food, replacing water, and spot-cleaning. Misting several times weekly may be required, depending on local climate/weather. Food and water dishes should be disinfected weekly, as well as any soiled surfaces.
The amount and frequency of cleaning required will depend on whether your enclosure is bioactive or not. We'll cover these respective chores in the Enclosure Enrichment section.
- Very intelligent
- Easy to feed
- Moderate humidity
Things to be aware of:
- Large enclosure
- Strong UVB lighting
- High basking temperature
Jeweled lacertas need at least a 4ʼx2ʼx2ʼ enclosure, preferably larger.
Reptiles aren’t like dogs and cats that can simply roam around your house. They are very sensitive to their environment, and need their own enclosure set up according to their specific needs. This guide covers everything you will need to care for your pet jeweled lacerta properly.
Enclosure Size Requirements
Jeweled lacertas should be housed in an enclosure that is no smaller than 4’L x 2’W x 2’H. This is the bare minimum, calculated according to the reptile’s average length and activity patterns.
However, if you can provide an enclosure with more vertical and floor space, do it! Housing your lacerta in a larger enclosure with more climbing opportunities will encourage it to be more active and demonstrate more natural behaviors.
Lacertas are extremely active and love to explore, so bigger is better. Even babies can be housed in an adult-sized enclosure as long as they have lots of hiding places to help them feel secure.
Lacertas can also be kept in outdoor enclosures for part of the year if the local climate and weather is safe for the species. Size and husbandry requirements are the same, but outdoor enclosures must prevent the lacerta from escaping and prevent predators from entering. Every side of the enclosure, including the bottom, needs to be covered in wire mesh. The bottom frame of the enclosure should extend at least six inches underground to prevent the lacerta from digging out. Make sure to include an area in the enclosure that is fully sheltered from the elements.
Can multiple jeweled lacertas be housed in the same enclosure?
No, cohabitation is not recommended. Though some breeders may house mating lacertas in pairs, this requires far more experience and active observation than a keeper can provide to ensure the animals' safety.
Jeweled Lacerta Enclosure Examples
36"x24"x16" - Photo contributed by Frank Payne
Substrate is the material that you use to cover the floor of the enclosure. Jeweled lacertas are active burrowers, so they require at least 4-6” of loose substrate.
The best substrate for lacertas is a DIY mix of roughly 40% untreated topsoil + 40% sand + 20% excavator clay. Topsoil must not contain any fertilizers, manure, or perlite/vermiculite - read the ingredients! Mix well, soak until muddy, then pack it firmly at the bottom of the enclosure. Make sure it is 100% dry before introducing the lacerta to the setup.
You can also use a pre-packaged substrate, though this can be more costly. Depending on the brand, you may still need to add some topsoil (if too dusty) or sand (if too muddy) to reach desired consistency. Here are some recommended commercial substrates appropriate for lacertas:
All of these substrates can easily support a bioactive setup for your jeweled lacerta. While traditional housing depends on the keeper for maintenance, bioactive setups are more or less self-sustaining, miniature ecosystems.
What makes this work is the “cleanup crew,” or bugs. They clean up uneaten food, fallen leaves, and fecal remains, making bioactive substrates incredibly low maintenance. All you need to do is wipe off the glass and remove large pieces of waste.
Springtails and isopods (wood lice) make a good starter cleanup crew. For a quick and easy way to set up a bioactive substrate for your jeweled lacerta, check out The Bio Dude.
When you first bring your new jeweled lacerta home, you will need to quarantine for at least 1 month. This means keeping the enclosure as sterile as possible and closely monitoring the lizard's health.
Paper towels are the best substrate for quarantine, as they can be frequently replaced and make it easier to observe feces and other potential health issues. Paper towels should be fully replaced at least once a week and any soiled areas must be replaced daily. Once your pet has shown a clean bill of health, you can introduce your long-term substrate to the enclosure.
If you already have other reptiles in your home, you should extend the quarantine period to 3 months, keep the enclosure in a separate room if possible, and make sure not to share any tools or decor between your new lacerta and other pets, unless fully sanitized between each use.
Reptiles are much more intelligent than we humans tend to give them credit for, and that means they need things to entertain them. Otherwise they exist in a state of perpetual boredom, which makes them dull, inactive, and overall less interesting as pets. When reptiles have objects to interact with in their enclosure, they become less stressed and more engaged with their environment. This practice is called environmental enrichment.
It’s important to choose enrichment items (a.k.a. enclosure decor) that are appropriate to your pet’s natural behaviors. Jeweled lacertas are natural burrowers and semi-arboreal, so a deep layer of substrate, plenty of hides, and sturdy climbing objects are essential for this species. Here are some other objects that serve a vital function in a lacerta terrarium:
You’ll need at least one "humid hide" placed near the center, slightly closer to the warm side to avoid a cold, wet environment. This hide should be filled with sphagnum moss or coconut fiber and kept at a high humidity at all times, using a hand mister to aid in healthy shedding. Additional hides and burrowing opportunities should be provided throughout the enclosure on both ends of the temp gradient to help your lacerta feel secure in its environment.
Large branches, hollow logs, and cork bark are excellent for varying the terrain and giving your lacerta things to climb on/in. If you collect wood from outside, give it a good scrub and soak in a disinfectant compatible with porous surfaces, such as Clean Break or F10SC and/or bake in the oven at 250°F for about an hour.
Rocks and stacked slate add to the naturalistic appeal of an enclosure, and absorb heat when placed close to your heat source, creating additional basking spots. If you collect rocks from outside, give them a good scrub and soak in a disinfectant compatible with porous surfaces, such as Clean Break or F10SC. NEVER bake rocks, as they may explode!
Both live and artificial foliage can be used to enhance your lacerta's enclosure, and both have their strengths and weaknesses. Fake plants are easier to clean and tend to withstand being climbed on better than their live counterparts, but they may off-gas chemicals. Live plants are less sturdy and higher maintenance, but safer for your lizard's health. Make sure live plants are nontoxic to reptiles and artificial plants are sanitized before adding to the enclosure.
Aside from helping your setup look nice, a good background can provide more climbing opportunities and/or help your lacerta feel more secure if the terrarium is made of glass. The background should cover three sides of the enclosure.
How do I keep my enclosure clean?
To control the growth of pathogens and keep your jewled lacerta’s enclosure hygienic and odor-free, it’s important to clean it regularly.
Spot-cleaning should be performed daily. This is the routine removal of uneaten food, feces, urates, and contaminated substrate. Soiled surfaces, food dishes, and water dishes should be scrubbed with reptile-safe disinfectant and rinsed at least weekly. Substrate should be completely removed and replaced every 4-6 months, depending on how diligent you are about spot-cleaning. This is also a good time to completely disinfect the enclosure with an animal-safe disinfectant like F10SC or chlorhexidine.
If you have a bioactive enclosure, “cleaning” will be more like periodic maintenance: watering the plants, adding biodegradables, and feeding the CUC as needed. Substrate does not need to be replaced. Some spot-cleaning will still be required for urates and soiled surfaces. Food and water dishes should be disinfected weekly.
Jeweled lacertas need 3 types of lamps in their enclosure: A UVB lamp, a 6500K daylight lamp, and cluster heat lamps.
UVB is important for enabling vitamin D3 synthesis, strengthening the immune system, and encouraging proper organ function. It also stimulates the production of serotonin, a feel-good hormone. When lacertas don’t get UVB, they can become D3 deficient, which leads to Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD). UVB can’t just be replaced with a vitamin D3 supplement for jeweled lacertas!
UVA is important for allowing full-color vision, because jeweled lacertas can see UVA wavelengths (humans can’t!). It is suspected to play a role in mental health and appetite.
The 6500K daylight lamp provides extra illumination at a color temperature that is similar to sunlight. As diurnal reptiles, jeweled lacertas are highly stimulated by having a well-lit environment during the day. Bright daytime lighting is likely to encourage more activity, better appetite, and better mental health.
Infrared radiation (i.e. heat) is important for reptiles' thermoregulation. As ectotherms, they rely on the heat of the sun to warm their bodies and stimulate their metabolism, digest their food, and stay alert and active. The shorter the wavelength, the deeper it can penetrate their muscle tissue. In captivity, we can provide this with specific heat bulbs that emit the most beneficial infrared wavelengths (IR-A and IR-B).
All light and heat should be kept on a regular schedule using outlet timers or done manually. This allows for a predictable day/night cycle which the lizard can follow, allowing for natural hormonal rhythms and good mental health. We recommend the following schedule for jeweled lacertas, based on their natural environment:
|Spring||12hrs ON / 12hrs OFF|
|Summer||14hrs ON / 10hrs OFF|
|Fall||12hrs ON / 12hrs OFF|
|Winter||10hrs ON / 14hrs OFF|
As diurnal reptiles, jeweled lacertas need plenty of UVB in order to stay healthy. A 10-12% UVB output T5 lamp is best. We recommend an Arcadia or Zoo Med brand linear fluorescent tube, as these brands produce the best and most reliable UVB lamps on the market
The lamp should be roughly half the length of the enclosure in order to create an appropriate UV gradient, and placed on the same side as the heat lamps. So if you have a 48” long enclosure, you will need a 22” T5 HO UVB bulb.
Best UV bulbs for jeweled lacertas:
Distance and Mesh
The strength of the UVB lamp’s output varies according to distance from the bulb - stronger when closer, and weaker when further away. If you are using a Solarmeter 6.5 to measure your UVB lamp’s output, the UVI (UV Index) reading should be between 4.0-6.0 on the basking platform, and down to 0 on the cool side.
If you don't have a Solarmeter, here is an estimate of how far away your basking platform should be, based on which bulb you are using and whether the lamp is mounted above or below mesh:
|BULB TYPE||ABOVE MESH||BELOW MESH|
|Zoo Med T5 HO 10.0||10-12”||14-16”|
|Arcadia Desert 12%||10-12”||14-16”|
To optimize your UVB bulb’s performance, you will need a high-quality reflective T5 HO fixture. Some lamps come in kits that already include a fixture, such as the Arcadia ProT5 kit. Otherwise, Zoo Med and Vivarium Electronics make various fixtures for T5 bulbs.
T5 bulbs last 12 months before requiring replacement, as their UVB output decays over time. Off-brand UVB bulbs are likely to have shorter lifespans and unreliable output. Avoid “compact” and coil UVB bulbs, as these cannot properly distribute a UV gradient across the enclosure.
We strongly advise adding 1-3" to the recommended distance to account for your specific lacerta's height.
It takes a lot to light a large enclosure, UVB and heat bulbs aren't going to be enough to provide the bright light that a diurnal reptile needs for simulating natural sunlight. The brightest reptile light fixture currently on the market is the Arcadia Jungle Dawn LED Bar, which emits 6500K color temperature, filling out the light spectrum and supporting plant growth. They’re expensive, but the sheer output of bright, beautifully white light makes them worth the investment. We highly recommend installing one in your lacerta's enclosure, or one of our other recommended ~6500K daylight lamps:
Jeweled lacertas need access to a variety of temperatures within a certain range in order to properly regulate their metabolism:
- Basking surface: 100-120°F
- Cool side: 70-80°F
- Nighttime: 65-75°F. Night temps can drop as low as 55°F, but shouldn’t be higher than 80°F.
All heat lamps should be turned off at night and kept on a regular day/night cycle that matches the same schedule as the UVB and daylight lamps, allowing for a natural temperature drop and a healthy circadian rhythm.
The best way to create a nice hot basking area for your jeweled lacerta is with a cluster of at least two halogen heat bulbs, such as:
The exact wattage that will work best for you varies based on the distance between the bulb and the basking platform, as well as local room temperature. This may take a bit of experimenting! However, using a dimming thermostat or an on/off thermostat with a plug-in dimmer allows you to adjust it to the right temperature and keep your lacerta safe. Place the thermostat probe directly on the basking surface below the heat source.
You will also need a lamp to put your bulb in. Our favorite is Fluker’s 8.5″ dimmable lamp. The ceramic socket helps make sure that the bulb doesn’t get too hot for the lamp (risking electrical fire), and the dimmable feature enables you to dial down the bulb’s heat output if it gets too warm.
Unsafe Heat Sources
These heat sources are particularly dangerous to jeweled lacertas because they can pose major health risks and cause stress. Avoid the following heat sources at all costs and stick to the bulbs we recommend above.
❌ Colored bulbs
Red, blue, purple, and other colored light bulbs are inappropriate for almost all reptiles. They can wash out your lizard’s vision and make it harder to hunt and move freely. In fact, blue lights are known to potentially damage reptiles’ eyes!
❌ “Nighttime” bulbs
The idea that reptiles can't see red, purple, or “black” light is a myth! They may not be able to see the color, but they can still see the light. Using any lights at night can interfere with your lizard’s day/night cycle, causing stress and poor health.
❌ Heat rocks
Heat rocks (also known as hot rocks/rock heaters/etc.) are notoriously unreliable and many reptiles have lost their lives due to severe burns caused by these devices. They’re also not a good choice for heating your enclosure, as it only warms the rock’s surface, not the surrounding air.
❓ Mercury vapor bulbs
MVB's and other heat+UVB combination bulbs (Zoo Med PowerSun, Exo Terra Solar Glo) are very powerful, but can be difficult to control for new keepers. These bulbs cannot be used with thermostats or a dimmer, so the amount of heat and UVB must be regulated by adjusting the height of the lamp. We only recommend using MVB if you have a tall enough enclosure to accommodate vertical adjustment and a Solarmeter to test UVI at the basking area. It's safer and easier to provide and control your heat and UVB separately with a thermostat and our UV lamp distance chart.
To track the temperatures in your jeweled lacerta's enclosure, you will need a good thermometer. Temp gun-style infrared thermometers are useful for measuring surface temperatures anywhere in the enclosure. However, digital probe thermometers are useful for being able to track local air temperatures at a glance. It's best to have at least 2 thermometers to measure temps on each end of the heat gradient. Here are some devices we recommend for measuring temperatures:
Although jeweled lacertas are semi-arid reptiles, they still need moisture in their environment to stay well hydrated and have healthy sheds.
The average humidity in your lacerta's enclosure should stay between 40-60%. This number is probably similar to the humidity levels in your own home, but it’s still important to keep track of the specific humidity in your lacerta's enclosure. You can measure humidity with a hygrometer like the Zoo Med Digital Combo Gauge linked in the Measuring Temperature section.
Hygrometers should be placed within 12” above the substrate towards the middle of the enclosure to give you an accurate idea of average humidity levels (or one on either side if using a thermo/hygro combo meter).
Jeweled lacertas are known to brumate instinctively during winter. Although this is a survival mechanism that enables them to live through times of cold weather and scarce food in their natural habitat, this instinct still manifests in captivity as part of their natural cycle, and is perfectly healthy.
For information on how to brumate your jeweled lacerta safely and effectively, go here.
Jeweled lacertas are omnivorous, which means that they require both animal- and plant-based foods for a balanced diet, but they are primarily insectivores. To be more specific, lacertas need a diet of mostly live insects with greens/vegetables and occasionally fruit.
Here is a basic feeding schedule for pet jeweled lacertas:
|Hatchlings||4-5x a week|
|Juveniles||Every other day|
|Adults||Every other day|
Hatchling, juvenile, and adult jeweled lacertas should all be fed as much as they will eat in about 10-15 minutes.
Live, gut-loaded insects should make up at least 70% of you jeweled lacerta's diet. You should also provide leafy greens and vegetables for every meal. Fruits should be offered sparingly and make up no more than 25% of their diet.
The key to a healthy, balanced diet is variety, so make sure to provide as many different kinds of foods in your jeweled lacerta's diet as possible!
- Black soldier fly larvae
- Dubia roaches
- Discoid roaches
- Red runner roaches
- Hornworms (captive bred only)
- Snails (captive bred only)
- Bell pepper
- Cucumber, peeled
- Carrot, grated raw
- Squash, raw
- Sugar snap peas
- Yam, grated raw
- Beet greens
- Bok choy
- Cactus pads
- Carrot greens
- Collard greens
- Dandelion greens
- Mustard greens
- Mustard cress
- Pea shoots
- Spring mix
- Swiss chard
- Turnip greens
- Cactus fruit (prickly pear)
Because of its high sugar content, fruit is best used as a treat only. Superworms, butterworms, and waxworms are high in fat and should be used as occasional treats rather than regular feeders.
All feeders should be captive bred. Don’t feed your gecko bugs from your backyard — these can make your pet sick! Here are some sites we recommend to buy safe, captive bred feeders:
Although live insects and fresh veggies are most ideal for your lacerta, sometimes you may run out of certain foods or just want to bolster your lizard's diet. Insectivore and omnivore commercial diets are not a complete replacement for live, fresh food, but it's good to have some non-perishable options on hand for emergencies, or just for added variety! These are the diets/foods we recommend for jeweled lacertas:
- Repashy Beardie Buffet (veg+insects)
- Arcadia OmniGold (veg+insects)
- Repashy Grub Pie (insects)
- Repashy Grasshopper Pie (insects)
- Repashy Mealworm Pie (insects)
- Repashy Superworm Pie (insects)
- Wet-preserved insects (canned or vacuum-sealed)
Prepare Repashy products according to the instructions on the label. Make sure any commercial diets or pre-killed insects are served wet, as your lacerta gets much of its hydration from its food. Dried or freeze-dried insects are devoid of necessary moisture and nutrition and are not good for your lizard!
Calcium & Vitamin Supplements
To make sure that your jeweled lacerta is getting all of the vitamins and minerals that their bodies need, it’s important to use calcium and vitamin supplements as part of their diet.
All feeder insects should be lightly dusted with supplement powder and previously gut-loaded with fresh vegetables. Repashy Calcium Plus LoD is a great supplement to use for jeweled lacertas, as it provides both calcium and necessary vitamins.
Keeping Your Jeweled Lacerta Hydrated
Your jeweled lacerta should have access to a small to medium-sized, shallow bowl of water at all times. Make sure that the water is always kept fresh and clean, and disinfect the bowl with an animal-safe disinfectant like F10SC, Rescue, or chlorhexidine once a week to inhibit pathogens.
Taming & Handling
Jeweled lacertas are highly intelligent animals that quickly recognize their keeper and can develop good tolerance and trust. A key to developing such a rewarding relationship with your lacerta is to interact with it whenever you feed it and don’t force handling right away. Lacertas are very food motivated animals, so hand-feeding will allow the lizard to associate you with positive interactions.
For handling, allow your lacerta to come to you first and crawl willingly onto your open hand. Even a tolerant lizard will become stressed and may bite if it is physically restrained and held. The more you work with your lacerta the more it will become accustomed to you, especially if you begin socialization from a young age. Another important thing to keep in mind is that every lacerta is an individual - some are calmer and tolerant of handling, while others may always be more skittish.
- Wait at least two weeks for the lacerta to settle in before handling.
- Let it get used to your presence.
- Offer food via your fingers or soft-tipped feeding tongs to build trust.
- Use slow movements.
- Let the lacerta come to you.
- Scoop the lacerta up from below.
- Start handling your lacerta as soon as you bring it home.
- Grab it from above.
- Pick at loose skin.
- Let children handle the lizard without supervision.
Here are some common health problems to look out for.
Possible illnesses and health problems in jeweled lacertas include metabolic bone disease, intestinal parasites, impaction, and respiratory infections. Providing proper husbandry, diet, and supplements should help avoid most health issues, but if your lacerta is displaying potential symptoms of illness, it’s important to take them to an experienced reptile veterinarian right away for diagnosis and treatment. Do not try to treat them at home, as you could make the problem worse!
Signs of a healthy lacerta:
- Clear, bright eyes
- Slender, muscular body
- Straight spine and limbs
- Breathing with mouth closed
- Firm, dark poo with white urates
- Eats regularly
- Moves freely and easily
- Alert, inquisitive attitude
Signs of an unhealthy lacerta:
- Curved limbs
- Kinked spine
- Dull, blurred eyes
- Excessive weight gain
- Rapid weight loss
- Breathing with mouth open
- Runny stool
- No bowel movements for extended period of time