How Long Do Lizards Live?

Lizards live much longer in captivity than in the wild. Here's how to ensure your pet will have a long and healthy life.

When you choose a lizard for a pet, you’re in it for the long haul, which is why it’s important to be aware of how long lizards live. Many live a long time, but their life span depends largely on how well you care for their individual needs.

It’s so worth it

It might come as a surprise, but lizards can be very interactive with humans. “Lizards are full of personality and really connect with their owner,” says Ryan McVeigh, founder of the Madison Area Herpetological Society and marketing brand manager for Zilla. “They learn the faces and voices of their owners and will often come to the front of the terrarium when they want food or to get out and hang with their owner. And like a dog or cat, lizards can learn their name and come on command.”

Due diligence

Once you start diving into the question of how long do lizards live, it may seem a bit intimidating. Your new family member won’t live a long life by simply placing him in a glass tank with a decorative landscape or a diet of crickets. “While lizards are amazing pets, they do require more investment in their initial setup and a good understanding of their care needs,” says McVeigh. “You need to know your lizard’s native habitat since you need to recreate it at home.”

Long live the lizard!

How long do lizards live? Lizards in captivity enjoy a longer life span than those in the wild because they enjoy access to veterinary care and improved nutrition and don’t have to fight off predators. But make no mistake about it, proper care is the key to longevity. Lizards depend on their pet parents to provide optimal housing, i.e. a terrarium, to keep their cold-blooded bodies in tip-top shape. “They change the temperature of their body based on their environment, so creating a warm and cold side to the terrarium is imperative,” says McVeigh. UV lighting is also critical; without it, lizards can’t metabolize the calcium in their diet, and they can get sick and die. Supplementation and vitamins are crucial for their health and longevity too.

Lizards for beginners

With so many exciting and cool looking different lizards to choose from, how can you possibly pick? McVeigh suggests the crested gecko, blue tongue skink, bearded dragon, and leopard gecko for beginners. “They are easy to care for, eat food that is easily accessible, aren’t too large, and are fun to interact with.” Even though these lizards are easy to care for, it’s essential to prepare their housing before you bring them home. “The heating, lighting, nutrition, and humidity must be correct in the terrarium before you put your new pet in it,” notes McVeigh. Buying a lizard on impulse without the correct environment already set up will jeopardize its health.

Crested geckos

A female crested gecko Correlophus ciliatusSebastian Janicki/Shutterstock

Crested geckos come in a variety of colors but their stand-out feature is the fringed crest that starts at their eyes and stretches down their back. They’re about 8 inches long from snout to tail and live about 20 years. But if you put a juvenile gecko in a cage that is too large, it may get stressed out and not eat, Zilla says. Another threat to its longevity is temperature; it’s fatal for a crested gecko to have prolonged exposure to temperatures above 80°.

Blue-tongue skinks

As the name implies, this lizard has a long blue tongue it uses as a defense mechanism to ward off predators. Another fascinating fact is that they can drop off their tail for a quick getaway when they are attacked, according to Zilla. They’re about 18 to 24 inches long and can live around 20 years. If you decide to get two blue-tongue skinks, they’ll need their own housing as they tend to be territorial and fight. These pet combos don’t make good roomies either.

Bearded dragon

Bearded Dragon - Posing like a champ on a large boulder with soft focus green foliage in the backgroundRyan Ladbrook/Shutterstock

Super friendly and docile, the bearded dragon grows between 12 and 24 inches and can happily live to 15 years, when cared for properly. According to Zilla that care includes a weekly soak in lukewarm water and UVB lighting; without it, they can develop metabolic bone disease resulting in deformations and death.

Leopard geckos

The gecko leopard is smiling funnyDWI YULIANTO/Shutterstock

These little cuties come in a wide variety of colors and are about 7 to 10 inches long, with a long life of about 20 years. They’re super chill and easy to handle. Zilla says you can improve your leopard gecko’s health by adding a UVA/UVB light which helps improve their immune system. And to ensure a healthy diet, you should spray your lizard’s insect meals with a calcium-boosting spray. It’s crazy, but these animals live to be 100 years old or more!

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Lisa Marie Conklin
Lisa Marie Conklin is a Baltimore-based writer who writes regularly about pets and home improvement for Reader's Digest. Her work has also been published in The Healthy, Family Handyman and Taste of Home, among other outlets. She's also a certified personal trainer and walking coach for a local senior center.