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Ameiva Care guide

Ameivas are a small to medium size lizard belonging to the teiidae family of lizards like tegus. They have streamlined body and pointed head. These lizards can grow from 12 inches to up to 2 feet in length. They are widespread across Central and south America including: Panama, Trinidad, Tobago, Brazil, Colombia, Suriname, Guyana, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, Argentina And Paraguay and also found In the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago,Grenada, The Grenadines, Swan island, Margarita, Isla de la Providencia And Puerto Rico. These lizards are insectivores but sometimes they will scavenge or eat fruit. They are very agile lizards and can sprint up to 10 miles per hour. Ameivas are undervalued animals that don't receive a lot of attention but they are very interesting lizards that make wonderful display animals or with a lot of handing and love a really unique and friendly pet.

There are 3 common types of Ameivas in the pet trade today.

Green Ameiva (Ameiva ameiva): The Green Ameiva originates from Central and South America. They have vivid green patches in the head or pelvic area depending on sex and turquoise blue belly. Like all Ameivas they are sexually dimorphic in the sense that the females grow smaller than the males. Males will grow from 18 to 24 inches and the females 14 to 16 inches from tail to snout.

Rainbow Ameiva (Ameiva ondulata): There found in Costa Rica, Nicagua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize and southern Mexico. They are brown in color with white to light blue and black zig-zag lines or bars running down the sides and have green to turquoise blue underside. The males will grow up to 16 to 17 inches and females will stay in the 12 to 14 inch range.

Tiger Ameiva (Ameiva festiva): these Ameivas are found in Southern Mexico all the way to Colombia. There similar in color to Rainbow Ameivas but these Ameivas will some times have light orange jowls and dull mustard yellow colored head. The juveniles have metallic blue colored tail. The males wil grow up to 16 to 17 inches and females will stay in the 12 to 14 inch range.

Housing: For juvenile Ameivas up to 12 inches, a 20 gallon long aquarium or terrarium with screen lid will be OK. For an adult a 40 gallon is minimum. If you want to house two Ameivas together a 4'W by 2'L by 2'D custom made wood cage would be the best option.

Lighting: On the Warm end of the cage the temperature should be 90 to 100 degrees F and on the cool end 80 to 85 degrees F is fine and at night above 70 degrees is fine. They also have to be provided with full spectrum lighting to be able to produce vitamin D3 and absorb calcium for bone development. To provide that kind of lighting a UVB Reptile Specific bulb is necessary. There are three types of UVB bulbs. Florescent Tubular bulbs, compact florescent bulbs and mercury vapor bulbs that produce heat and uv at the same time that fit into a regular light fixture. The three work fine.

Humidity: Because Ameivas come from tropical areas and rain forrests the humidity in the cage should be 60% to 80%.

Substrate: Like monitors and tegus, Ameivas love to dig so something like 5 to 8 inches of potting soil or aspen bedding will be perfect for them.

Decor: It is important for the Ameiva to have branches to climb or bask. Although they are borrowers they enjoy climbing, so artificial or live branches or something to climb would be necessary. Because ameivas love to dig, make sure to put rocks or cork flats so they can borrow under and sleep or explore.

Feeding Ameivas: Ameivas are insectivores but sometimes will scavenge or eat fruit. Really small Ameivas can eat ants, baby dubia roaches, pinhead crickets. Or fresh fruit grated to a puree. Adult Ameivas will eat large crickets, medium sized dubia roaches, meal worms, super worms, f/t pinky mice and fuzzy mice and sometimes live lizards like anoles and house geckos. Baby Ameivas should be fed every day a properly sized meal and juveniles and adults 3 to 4 times a week. When babies, at least 3 meals a week should be dusted with calcium and vitamin powder to help promote healthy bone development and proper growth. When adults, 1 or 2 meals should be dusted a week.


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Great article! Thank you for sharing your knowledge with the forum


Active Member
Monitors are not related to tegus, they belong to their own family Varanidae.

When using scientific names, there are some rules. Beings they are considered a foreign language, they are italicised or underlined (not both). The genus (first epithet) is capitalised, the species (second epithet) is lower case.

Ameiva ameiva is a sun-loving terrestrial species that is typically found in open areas such as grasslands and savanna habitats. Has been introduced to southern Florida. Feeds principally on arthropods.

Ameiva undulata is another heliotherm, preferring open situations in drier regions but with some venturing into marginal habitat (forest edges, secondary growth). Also feeds principally on arthropods.


Active Member
Ameiva festiva tends to inhabit forested regions of humid lowlands, tropical woodland. Diet consists of a variety of small arthropods, primarily orthopterans and spiders, but are also known to eat small amphibians and lizards.

Considering that many of the Ameivas are highly active, high-strung lizards with a strong disposition towards exploring/searching for food, I would recommend perhaps even larger enclosures. A. festiva particularly is highly active and smaller enclosures may lead to self-induced trauma such as nose rubbing.