Little is known about these lizards in the wild. Although they are common in their country of origin, they are not often studied and rarely kept in captivity. They are brightly colored with neon yellow and jet black stripes on their head and torso, with their tail a bright neon blue instead of yellow. These small, undemanding lizards are found in the forests of East Africa, and as per their name "glide" from tree to tree both to forage for food and escape predators. A recent study has found that compared to other gliding species, these lizards do not actually possess much in the way of adaptations for gliding, such as extended flaps of skin on the body or between the toes. However, they can flatten out their rib cage, and that combined with their light weight for their size is what enables them to "fall slowly", rather than truly glide.
Gliding Lizards are in the lacertid family, and are the only species in their genus. They are also the only arboreal lacertid currently known, making them unique and fascinating creatures to keep. They will readily drop their tails when stressed, and it does not take much pressure from their keeper to cause the tail to simply fall off and twitch on the ground. Fortunately, they do regrow their tails quite quickly, and most captive Gliding Lizards have regrown tails.
These lizards are sexually dimorphic; in addition to the males having distinct hemipenal bulges, they also have a bright orange belly in comparison to females, who have a muted, yellowish colored belly. Both genders will develop small jowls on either side of the chin, but males seem to get larger and have more distinct jowls as they mature and put on weight.
Despite being small and delicate looking, Gliding Lizards are surprisingly durable and can make do in remarkably small spaces until acclimated and a larger cage can be provided for them. At a minimum, a 10 gallon or 12 x 12 x 18 naturalistic terrarium is a must for up to a trio (one male and two female) of lizards. They can be set up simply or elaborately, and seem to do as well in either style of setup. For the true enthusiast, a well constructed living vivarium is recommended to encourage a full range of natural behaviors, including courtship and breeding!
A simple setup can have orchid bark or cypress mulch as substrate, sprayed down with water regularly and allowed to dry out between sprayings. A small water dish kept full of fresh, clean water is a necessity, as these little lizards will regularly use the dish to drink from. Several hiding places are a must, as are climbing surfaces in the form of grapewood or manzanita branches. These are arboreal lizards and will utilize every bit of vertical space you give them!
A more elaborate living vivarium style setup seems to encourage the widest range of behaviors and helps the lizards to thrive. A layer of cypress mulch laid over a thick layer of compressed coconut (cocosoft) can provide enough bedding to plant one or two live plants directly into the cage, and minimize the need for a complete bedding change. Stacks of small pieces of cork bark provide a secure place for them to hide and sleep, and a couple of tall, branchy pieces of wood will provide a basking perch for them. Vining plants such as creeping fig and pothos work well to train to climb the wood features in the cage, providing more hiding places for the lizards. A small vivarium can be constructed in a 12 x 12 x 18 sized cage, but to truly enjoy these lizards and provide them enough space to actually "glide", a cage at least 18 x 18 x 24 is recommended.
These funny little lizards are a basking, diurnal species, and as such require both the opportunity to bask and UVB lighting provided to them during daylight hours. With ideal daytime heating, Gliding Lizards can tolerate drops in nighttime temperatures down to 68 degrees. Ideal daytime heating for these lizards includes a nice, toasty basking spot in the mid to high 90s! However, equally as important is a cool side that dips into the low 80s and high 70s. A sign that your cage is heated correctly is when you see your lizards basking under the heat light for a few minutes at a time, then running throughout the cage foraging and interacting with each other.
Use of a 50 or 75 watt basking heat light works well, and the correct wattage for your cage depends on your situation. A digital thermometer with a probe, or a temp gun, is highly recommended to monitor temperatures within your cage.
In addition to a basking area, a source of full spectrum lighting including UVB is necessary to keep these lizards happy and healthy. A simple 5.0 strip or compact fluorescent light will work for cages up to 12" tall, but for taller cages a 10.0 light will be needed for the UVB to reach to the bottom of the cage. If possible, provide a basking spot both under the UVB light and the actual basking light. If you have any doubts as to the necessity of the UVB light, a perch directly under the light will show you the lizards actively basking under the non-heat producing UVB light just as much as they bask under the heat light!
Cypress mulch is an exceptional bedding for these lizards as it will slowly let moisture evaporate into the air of the cage, keeping humidity up with a minimum of effort. However, orchid bark, compressed coconut, and sani chips have all been used with good results, so use whatever is easiest for you to keep clean.
As previously mentioned, these lizards are arboreal and will utilize as much vertical space as you provide them. In a tall enough cage with suitable branches, they will actually "glide" from the top to the bottom to catch prey items. Hiding spots on the bottom of the cage are also used frequently, and you can gauge how good your hiding spots are if you can never find the lizards in the same spot twice in a row! The more hiding places the lizards are comfortable using, the better they will do for you. Also, the more hiding places the lizards have to use, the safer they will feel - and the more you will see them out!
Contrary to some information currently out for these lizards, they actually thrive under subtropical or even tropical conditions. While they can survive drier setups, they much prefer a humid cage with moist hiding places. Regular, if not daily, mistings are recommended, and you will frequently see your lizards lapping up water droplets immediately after being sprayed. A hand sprayer is the usual method for spraying down a cage, but a living vivarium can benefit from a fogger system. In addition to raising humidity, foggers also make the cage look like a piece of rainforest right in your living room!
A small water bowl of clean water should also be provided. In addition to hiding under the bowl, Gliding Lizards will readily come down to their bowl and drink water when they need to.
When housed correctly, these little lizards are voracious and enthusiastic hunters. A primary diet of small to medium sized crickets is all they really need, but they will readily eat waxworms, mealworms, baby roaches, silkworms, "reptiworms", smaller lizards and geckos, each other's tails, and just about anything else in their cage that moves and is small enough to fit in their mouth (and even some things that aren't). They will also eat a variety of canned insects, including canned worms, canned crickets, and more! Basically, if your Gliding Lizards are healthy, they'll eat anything you put in there!
In addition to a varied diet, all insects should be gutloaded with a high quality insect gutload. Most feeder insects are mostly stomach, so the more nutritious food you can put into that stomach, the better those insects will be for your lizards! All insects should also be dusted with a high quality calcium powder at nearly every feeding, with a high quality reptile multivitamin provided about once a week.
While these lizards are voracious little piggies, no more feeder insects should be placed in the cage than they can eat in a day. Not only will the insects digest their nutritious gutload, they will lose their coating of calcium or vitamin powder, and will no longer be a suitably nutritious prey item. 30 small crickets, 10 waxworms, and 10 mealworms should be enough for 3 Gliding Lizards to feast for a week, so keep this in mind when offering food!
Gliding Lizards are easily stressed out, so handling should be kept to the bare minimum, and only taken out as needed for cage cleaning or other maintenance. These are shy, secretive little lizards and it may take several months for them to acclimate well enough to your presence to be out regularly when you are in the room. They are somewhat aggressive towards each other and other species, so the beginner should house only 1 male per cage, and not mix Gliding Lizards with other animals. The more advanced keeper with a large living vivarium can attempt to mix these lizards with geckos and lizards large enough not to be eaten, or so large that they can eat the Gliding Lizards! If the Gliding Lizards are kept well fed, they can be housed with dwarf geckos such as the yellow headed dwarf gecko or the electric blue gecko. Just keep in mind that if your Gliding Lizards get hungry, the geckos will start losing their tails!
With the right setup and a hands off approach, these little lizards make extremely rewarding display animals.