Are you new to reptile keeping and looking for help choosing your first pet lizard?
Each lizard is very unique and, in most cases, will have its own specific husbandry requirements.
Some lizards are outgoing and enjoy being handled, whilst other lizard species are shy and will become stressed during handling.
As lizards can live for a very long time, picking one that matches your lifestyle and husbandry capabilities is very important.
Below we have listed the 20 most popular based on ease of care, cost, and temperament. So keep reading to find your perfect pet lizard…
Table of Contents
- Lizard Basics
- 20. Green Basilisk
- 19. Caiman Lizard
- 18. Gidgee Skink
- 17. Green Iguana
- 16. African Fire Skink
- 15. Gargoyle Gecko
- 14. Savannah Monitor
- 13. Long-Tailed Lizard
- 12. Chameleon
- 11. Ackies Monitor
- 10. Gold-Dust Day Gecko
- 9. Chinese Water Dragon
- 8. African Fat-Tailed Gecko
- 7. Uromastyx
- 6. Argentine Black and White Tegu
- 5. Green Anole
- 4. Blue-Tongue Skink
- 3. Crested Gecko
- 2. Leopard Gecko
- 1. Bearded Dragon
- Which Is The Best Lizard For You?
Lizards are animals from the reptile suborder Lacertilia.
Like other reptiles, most lizards are solitary creatures and are happy on their own. Their solitary existence starts from the beginning as most female lizards will find a spot to lay their eggs in loose soil or under rocks and then, unlike most mammals including humans, many lizards will leave their newly hatched lizards to fend for themselves.
So you don’t need other lizards to keep them company. Male lizards will most likely fight with other males so definitely don’t get two males.
They are cold-blooded. In the wild, they regulate their body temperature from the sun. In captivity, in most places, they need heat lamps.
Some lizards can detach part of their tail to escape from predators if the predator grabs them by the tail. The still squirming tail also acts as a distraction to the predator. The lizard can then regrow its tail, at varying rates.
Below we have listed the 20 most popular lizards from the numerous species based on ease of care, cost, and temperament. So keep reading to find your perfect pet lizard…
20. Green Basilisk
Its natural habitat is the tropical rainforests of Central America. They have an omnivorous diet, eating invertebrates and mice as well as an occasional fruit.
These lizards are beginner-friendly due to their size. Usually growing up to 3 feet long, they aren’t very stocky and are very light for their length.
They require higher than normal temperatures and humidity with a large enclosure. They don’t always adapt well to handling, but make an entertaining lizard for those looking to admire from afar.
This species is best kept by beginners who are ready to accommodate their specific husbandry requirements and lack of human interaction. They live 8-12 years and cost US$25-$65.
19. Caiman Lizard
The Caiman is great for first-time keepers looking for a unique color pattern. This species has heavy scales with all the colors of the rainbow.
They are also great climbers and swimmers which makes them active in their vivarium.
Caiman Lizards are very big, one of the biggest on this list! They can reach 2-5 feet long and will need an enclosure that is big and strong enough to house them properly. Because they love to swim, they will also need a very big pool of water to submerge in.
These reptiles also prefer it very hot in their enclosure (with high humidity too).
They mostly eat a carnivorous diet, eating invertebrates found in marshy areas, including insects, snails, crawfish, and clams.
Caiman Lizards are smart and are not naturally aggressive, but they don’t always adapt to being handled well. They make a great beginner lizard for someone willing to house and care for them from a distance, enjoying their beautiful rainbow appearance.
They live up to 10 years and are a bit expensive with prices reaching US$350-$900.
18. Gidgee Skink
Gidgee Skinks are unique because they are often found in groups rather than living alone.
These Australian natives are between 7-10 inches in size and need a tank size of around 40 gallons. They require much higher temperatures than is usually required for other lizards, with a basking area of up to 120℉!
They are omnivores and eat a variety of insects and vegetables. They are relatively fast-moving in and outside of their tank, so they don’t always do well with handling.
Gidgee Skinks make a good pet Lizard for beginners who want a group of unique-looking reptiles who are active in their tank.
They can live for more than 20 years, and are very expensive, reaching US$550-$2000.
17. Green Iguana
Iguanas are very popular beginner Lizards because of their beautiful appearance and herbivore diet. They eat leaves, fruits, and flowers, and so they make great first-time reptiles for anyone who doesn’t enjoy feeding live food.
They are native to Central and South America and they grow to 5-6 feet, the largest lizard here. Because they get very big they will need a large enclosure with a pool of water large enough to soak in.
Iguanas can be shy. If you plan on getting an Iguana, make sure they adjust to being in your home before you handle them.
Once they seem more comfortable, you need to start handling your Iguana as often and gently as possible to tame them.
They also have sharp claws, so just be aware of where their feet are.
Baby or juvenile iguanas cost $20 to $50 and live 10-15 years.
They make a great choice for beginners with plenty of space, patience, and dedication.
Unsurprisingly, as their name suggests, the African Fire Skink is found in Africa and are known for their bright red colors!
They are not large lizards, reaching only 14-15 inches in length, and have very basic husbandry requirements. They don’t require any specific heating or lighting but do need a substrate that they can dig into. They eat mostly insects but can occasionally have a pinky mouse.
African Fire Skinks are usually very shy, but they have great personalities and activity levels when admired from far away.
Overall, this is a hardy lizard who lives for 15-20 years with few health problems. What makes them uncommon is their availability; they aren’t easy to find at local pet stores. They cost $25-$70.
They make great beginner reptiles because they live easily with few problems and are full of energy and personality.
15. Gargoyle Gecko
Gargoyle Geckos are closely related to the extremely popular Crested Gecko and also come from New Caledonia.
They resemble the Crested Gecko with their large, slitted-eyes, but lack the spiny eyelashes that Crested Geckos are so well-known for.
With similar care and husbandry requirements as the Crested Gecko (e.g. basic tank, heating, and lighting), they are only a less popular gecko species than the Crested due to their timid and shy temperament. They will likely try to escape when being handled.
While they have very easy care requirements, first-time owners should adopt this lizard if they enjoy their appearance but aren’t looking to handle them frequently.
They are of similar size to Crested Geckos, reaching a maximum of 8 inches, will live for 10-15 years, and generally cost $50-$100.
Despite a Gargoyle’s shy nature, they are easy to care for and make a good choice for beginners who don’t want the more popular Crested or Leopard Geckos!
14. Savannah Monitor
The first Monitor on our list, the Savannah is a less popular choice when it comes to monitors, as they are a bit bigger and can be less docile than the Ackies Monitor (#11 on our list). This does not mean, however, that they do not make a good beginner lizard.
These African savannah natives are large pets, but like the Ackies, are still smaller than other monitors, reaching 2.5-3 feet long.
They require housing large enough to accommodate their large size. Being both strong and smart, their enclosure needs to be well built to keep them from escaping. These reptiles also like to dig, so they will need a substrate that allows for this.
Savannah Monitors eat mice, crickets, and other invertebrates.
Like the Ackies Monitor, the Savannah is one of the more easily tamable monitors, and they can become very docile with regular, gentle handling. These lizards live for 15-20 years and cost $30-$40.
Their docility makes them a great pet for a beginner who wants a larger lizard.
13. Long-Tailed Lizard
Long-Tailed Lizards, also known as the Asian Grass Lizards, have a tail that is 3 times the length of their body.
This Asian lizard, despite its tail’s length, is very small. They have a slender, small body and only grow to 8 inches in size from snout to vent.
They may not be very big, but they should have a 20-gallon tank to accommodate their tail length, fast movements, and high energy levels. They need lots of leaves and branches in their enclosure, as their habitat in the wild is most commonly trees and forests!
Naturally gentle and easy-going, they are the perfect pet lizard for beginners looking to keep a small lizard in a well-decorated tank.
Long-Tailed Lizards only live 5-6 years in captivity, but they are also pretty inexpensive ($5-$15).
Even if you aren’t a herpetologist, you may still recognize the Chameleon for a variety of reasons:
- Their famous color-changing abilities.
- Their telescopic eyes.
- Their claws and slow movements.
Though popular as pets, these lizards do not always have the best time adjusting to life in captivity. These pets require lots of special care to help them feel safe in captivity.
Many beginners take on the responsibility of housing Chameleons, but they must understand the responsibility of caring for an easily stressed species.
Chameleons make beautiful and entertaining display reptiles for beginners.
They are native to Africa, but like many species, are rapidly disappearing with the deforestation of their natural habitats. Many in the pet trade are wild-caught, and so should be avoided by beginners..
Chameleons are not aggressive to their owners, but are extremely shy and have little in the way of defending themselves. Any handling stresses them.
They vary widely in their size, depending on the species, ranging from 1 inch. to 27 inches. They only live for 2 years in captivity and can cost $30-$300.
For some beginner hobbyists, they can make a good first pet because of their docile nature. However, they are much harder to care for than most lizards.
11. Ackies Monitor
The Ackies Monitor is naturally found in Australia and looks like a small Komodo Dragon.
They are known for their spines on their tail which they use to protect themselves from predators. They have a carnivorous diet that includes mostly insects and the occasional pinky mouse.
Ackies Monitors are very tame for first-time reptile keepers.
However, some potential owners are concerned by their large size. They are larger than most reptiles on this list, ranging from 24-30 inches long. But, they are smaller than most other monitors.
They are known to like their basking spots very hot, but their lighting and humidity requirements are relatively simple.
Monitors typically aren’t recommended for beginners, but the Ackies is tame and smaller than most. They do best with a room dedicated to just them and generally live 15-20 years, costing $250-$400.
10. Gold-Dust Day Gecko
The Gold-Dust Day Gecko is a native to Madagascar but has recently been introduced to some Pacific Islands, including Hawaii.
Mostly green in color, they earn their name from the gold specks that develop on their dorsal side.
They are small lizards, averaging about 5 to 6 inches, but they should still have a 20-gallon tank with lots of logs and branches to hide in. This will accommodate their shy nature. These branches will also allow them to enjoy their love of climbing.
What keeps some beginner reptile keepers from adopting this species is that they stress very easily and their skin tears easily. These lizards do best as display pets with limited handling.
They are suited to beginners who wish to learn about caring for a lizard without interacting with them very much. Gold-Dust Day Geckos live about 10 years and cost $40-$250.
9. Chinese Water Dragon
There are several species of water dragons; the most common for beginners are the Chinese and Australian water dragons. Chinese Water Dragons are typically more popular than Australians.
Water Dragons require large enclosures, closely regulated temperatures, and a mostly insectivore diet, with some leafy vegetables. One thing that is more difficult about caring for water dragons is that they require very high humidity.
Chinese variants are mostly green. Their care requirements can be more advanced:
- They need large tanks (e.g. 4 to 6 feet long) because they reach up to 3 feet in size.
- They enjoy swimming, so will need a large-sized pool of water within their enclosure to swim in.
Smaller than most water dragons, they must be socialized from an early age to become accustomed to handling. Once socialized, they are typically very friendly and enjoy handling.
They have an average lifespan of 15-20 years and cost $20-$80. If you are looking for an Australian Water Dragon, they are $200 to $300.
While they may have specific care and husbandry requirements, a beginner with the room and dedication can certainly care for a Chinese Water Dragon.
8. African Fat-Tailed Gecko
African Fat-Tailed Geckos are very similar to Leopard Geckos (who rank #2 on our list) and have very similar care requirements.
As their name suggests, these lizards are African natives and their tails are nearly as thick as their bodies.
Like Leopard Geckos, they are very easy for beginners to care for. They have very easy husbandry and feeding requirements. They are generally friendly and docile.
They live anywhere between 10 and 25 years and generally cost anywhere between $150 and $600. What puts them much lower on this list than their leopard cousin is their popularity, and thereby, their greater lack of availability.
The Uromastyx is in the same family of lizards (“genus family”) that has Bearded Dragons. Native to the Middle East, they are solid yellow-gray in color and ground dwellers.
Uromastyx isn’t overly large in size, reaching 14-16 inches, but they are bulky and heavy.
They have simple husbandry requirements, but because they are diggers, they need a substrate that they can burrow into.
Known as Spiny-Tailed Lizards, they are nearly entirely herbivorous. They eat mostly vegetables, including leafy greens and grocery store vegetables, and they only eat insects every once a week.
When it comes to a beginner’s handling, Uromastyx is very docile and friendly.
Their overall temperament and ease of care make them a good beginner pet. They can live 15-30 years and generally cost $75-$300 depending on the species.
6. Argentine Black and White Tegu
The Argentine Black and White Tegu is native to South America but has recently been introduced to the wilderness of Florida. They are a burrowing species and like to hide in burrows to avoid extreme heat.
This is a larger species, reaching up to 4 feet in length, but beginners who can manage their size should have no trouble caring for them.
Despite their large size, Black and White Tegus tend to be more docile than most reptiles.
They can be handled readily and are very intelligent. They are another reptile species that eat mice, so this may not be the best option for you if you would rather not do that!
This tegu lives for 15-20 years and generally costs $140-$400.
5. Green Anole
They are known by reptile hobbyists for extending their bright red dewlaps under their chin, as this greatly contrasts their bright green body.
Green Anoles are small lizards with long tails, so their housing does not need to take up a great amount of room in your house. A 20-gallon enclosure is more than big enough for them to be comfortable. Anoles require the basic light, temperature, and humidity that many other pet lizards need.
These lizards are great for first-time owners because of their small size and relative ease of care. To recreate their habitats, they do require some live plants in their terrarium for hiding and licking dewdrops.
One disadvantage to this species as a first-time pet is that they prefer not to be handled consistently.
They have a very shy nature but may be willing to be handled if they are handled gently from a very young age.
Green Anoles are small, about 5-8 inches long, and have a shorter lifespan of three to six years. They tend to be very inexpensive, costing $10 or less.
In summary, this is a great reptile for beginners who want to learn how to care for a lizard but do not want to handle them much.
4. Blue-Tongue Skink
The Blue-Tongue Skink is best known for its bright blue tongue!
These Australian natives are omnivorous, eating mostly fruits with some meat. Although they need a fruit and vegetable diet, meat should also be provided, consisting of big worms or mice.
They are a bit heavier than previously listed reptiles, but they do not get very long for their weight (about 20 inches).
Blue-Tongue Skinks are generally very docile, quiet, and easily tamed. If they feel threatened, they do have a strong bite, so while it is ok for children to handle them, they should always be supervised.
They live up to 20 years and generally cost $150-$250, but rarer morphs can cost thousands.
Overall, their ease of care and docility makes them good beginner reptiles.
3. Crested Gecko
The Crested Gecko is native to New Caledonia (a group of islands near Australia). These geckos are well-known for having “eyelashes.” These eyelashes are actually spines that travel from their eyes down to their tail.
Crested Geckos, like most geckos, have webbed feet and love to climb, so they will need a tall tank. They also need a warm environment and a very high humidity.
Because they are nocturnal, they do not require any special lighting, but giving them two to four hours of light each day is best for their natural circadian rhythm.
Like the Bearded Dragon, Crested Geckos are are very docile reptiles and are not likely to bite, making them easy to handle for those who are gentle with them.
Crested Geckos are small, growing up to 8 inches in length, and live for about 10 or more years. Their price varies depending on a variety of factors, but they typically fall between $30-$300.
2. Leopard Gecko
Leopard Geckos are very popular and are widely known for being a great pet for beginner herpetologists.
They are coated with a pattern of dark brown spots, much like the animal they are named after. They are entirely insectivorous and require calcium supplements. They are also nocturnal.
Leopard Geckos are generally very docile, not likely to bite, and their ease of care makes them suitable for beginners.
They like to vocalize, especially if they’re hungry, so it may not be the one if you don’t want a noisy pet.
Luckily, unlike other geckos, this species doesn’t have sticky toes and doesn’t climb, so they will not need a tall tank.
They are smaller than the Bearded Dragon, growing to a foot at most, and live about 15 years. They generally cost $20-$40, but rarer morphs can be more expensive.
1. Bearded Dragon
The Bearded Dragon is an all-around popular, outgoing, and easy-to-care-for lizard. They are one of the best reptile pets you can have.
Beardies are native to Australia and are known for the way they communicate with each other. They have folds of skin under their chin that puff out in a “beard”.
They are active during the day, and they are omnivorous, consuming a variety of fruits and insects. They eat a couple of times a week and should also have a calcium supplement.
These dragons are as sociable as lizards get. Most of the time, they tend to enjoy interactions with their owners. Many owners have claimed that each dragon has its own little personality.
The Bearded Dragon’s overall ease of husbandry and friendly temperament makes it a great beginner lizard. They grow 1-2 feet in length, live 10-15 years, and generally cost $30-$60 depending on their size.
Which Is The Best Lizard For You?
Many of these lizards in our list make a great choice for some, but not for others. Whilst choosing a species, make sure you choose one suited to your lifestyle, husbandry, and handling abilities:
- The Crested, Leopard, and Gargoyle Gecko are all great for those who don’t want complicated tank set-ups and want basic husbandry.
- The Bearded Dragon, Leopard and Crested Geckos, and Blue-Tongue Skink are great choices for a hobbyist looking to handle their pet.
- If you want a small lizard, good choices include the Gold-Dust Day Gecko, Green Anole, Crested Gecko, and the Long-Tailed Gecko. Meanwhile, Tegus, Water Dragons, Monitors, Iguanas, and Caiman Lizards are big reptiles.
- If you do not feel comfortable feeding your pets live food, then Uromastyx and Iguanas are nearly pure herbivores.
- Chameleons and Iguanas are fantastic choices for display pets and aren’t interested in handling.
- Finally, do not choose an Iguana if you don’t have space for them, and do not get a Green Anole if you want to handle your pet often!
Though all of the lizards on this list will make a great first pet, they all need careful husbandry.
A Bearded Dragon, makes one of the best choices for first-time reptile keepers because of its friendly personality and love of handling.
Choose your reptile with care, do your research, and keep in mind their care requirements. Let us know your favorite below.
Interesting Ones That Didn’t Make Our List
As a defense mechanism, some of them can squirt blood from their eyes! Say no more!
Extremely large and extremely aggressive monitor! If you’re tempted by monitor lizards, we think you’d be better off with the more docile, smaller, lookalike Ackies Monitor.
Glass Lizards And Worm Lizards
Technically lizards, but they have no legs so they look like snakes. Unlike snakes, they have movable eyelids which makes them lizards. We think when most people are looking for a lizard they are thinking of one with four legs, but they may interest you.
Gila Monster And Mexican Beaded Lizard
Gila Monsters and Mexican Beaded lizards are venomous lizards, so don’t make great pets.