The Red Headed Agama

By Snaketracks / April 29, 2020
red headed agama lizard uganda africa
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Red Headed Agama Care

The Red-Headed Agama is a species of lizard named due to the color of the male’s head, which is red to orange on a blue body and a tail that can be either red, deep blue, or striped turquoise. Because of the striking colors of the males’ display, they are also known as rainbow agamas.

Male colors intensify on the breeding season and can change if they are going to fight with another male. Preceding a fight, their heads turn brown and white spots appear on their body.

Females and young males are typically brown or olive green with a white belly and a head that is a slightly different color than their body.

They make great pets as they are fun lizards to watch and can be easily handled. Even if at the beginning they tend to be jumpy, with regular handling, they will tame up. On top of it, they’re extremely affordable, even when captive-bred.

Found in most of sub-Saharan Africa, agamas are neither poisonous or venomous and unlike some amphibians, they don’t produce defensive toxins through their skin.

A bite from a Red-Headed Agama can be treated just by washing the affected area with soap (better if antibacterial soap) and warm water.

Quick Reference Section

  • Experience level:  beginner or intermediate
  • Family: Agamidae
  • Scientific name: agama agama
  • Other Names: common agama, red-headed rock agama, rainbow agama
  • Average adult size: varies from 13 to 30 cm (5.1 to 11.8 in) in total length. Males are typically 7.5–12.5 cm (3–5 inches) longer than the average female.
  • Lifespan: 5 to 10 years
  • Stress level: moderate to low
  • Reproduction: oviparous
  • Clutch Size: five to seven ellipsoidal eggs
  • Egg Incubation Period: 8-10 weeks
  • Breeding level: Intermediate to advanced
  • Food: omnivore (they eat both vegetation and meat)
  • Average Temperature: 85-90°H/74°L ambient, basking 100+°H
  • Humidity: 40-60%
  • UVB lighting: full-spectrum lighting is required
  • Average price range: $ 15 to 25

Interesting Facts About The Red-Headed Agama

red-headed agama lizard uganda africa (agama agama)
Red-headed Agama lizard in Uganada (agama agama)

Red Headed agamas live in social groups including a lead male, about half a dozen females, and subordinate males.

The center of a leading male territory is usually marked by the presence of a physical object, such as a tree.

When preparing to fight, a Red-Headed Agama male will bob with his whole body, arch his body, and hop sideways. The male will do that several times, allowing the challenger to retreat before attacking.

Subordinate males can only gain their own group if they eliminate the existing lead male or establish a colony outside all other leading males’ territory.

Red Headed Agamas use head nodding and bobbing to signal their position within the hierarchy of the group. A dominant male courting a female will start by bobbing his head, which can look like he’s doing push-ups with the front half of his body.

Only the leading male is allowed to mate with the females.

Ambient temperature determines the sex of the eggs in a clutch. Eggs laid when temperatures are between approximately 78 and 83 degrees Fahrenheit produce females, while eggs laid when temperatures are approximately 84 degrees Fahrenheit or higher produce males.  Therefore, all the eggs in a clutch will have the same sex.

Geographical Distribution

red-headed rock agama
Red-headed Rock Agama

The Red-Headed agamas can be found native in countries such as Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cabo Verde, Chad, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, and Madagascar.

However, nowadays Red-Headed agamas can be found in the wild in southern Florida, since being introduced through the reptile trade.

Habitat

Red Headed agamas, even if natural from arid conditions have proven the capacity to adapt themselves well to humid conditions as well (i.e. southern Florida).

They remain active throughout the day except for the hottest hour when even shady spots can reach 38 °C (100 °F).

Enclosure

Medium (2×3 feet) for one lizard, large (3×2 +) for more than one. A 20-gallon long tank is only proper for hatchlings. Carolina Custom Cages makes some nice large enclosures that are high quality.

Enclosure cleaning

Spot clean the cage and provide fresh water daily.

Replace loose substrate every 4 months, and replace newspaper when soiled.

Remove all uneaten insects from the enclosure every evening before you turn the lights off. This is to avoid injuries to your agama while it sleeps. When in doubt, leave a few leafy greens for the insects to munch on overnight.

Substrate

There are many types of substrates to choose from. They include sand, wood chips, mulch, coconut husk, pulverized walnuts, and some others. You can also keep them on paper towels. They are absorbent, have no odor, and change out easily.

Temperature

It is vital to have an enclosure big enough, offering a warm area, a basking site, and a cool area at the opposite end of it.

You can use an under-the-tank-heat-mat like these from Zoo Med.  Avoid heat stones because they’ve been known to burn reptiles.

Be sure to use a thermostat to control the temperature as well.

There’re other heating options like having a nighttime bulb that’s either black or blue. Reptiles cannot see this spectrum of lighting so it won’t keep them up at night.

Another alternative is ceramic heating bulbs which give off infrared heat. They get quite warm and work well for nighttime heating if necessary.

Humidity

Humidity should be kept between 40 and 60%.

Since Red-Headed agamas frequent scrublands and savannas, keeping the substrate moist isn’t as vital as for other tropical or monitor lizards.

Monitor the temp and humidity using a hygrometer.

Lighting

Red Headed Agamas require full-spectrum lighting including both UVB and UVA. These are popular bulbs.

Accessories:

Have at least one hiding place where your pet lizard can escape all external stimuli and feel completely secure.

Red Headed Agama Feeding

Red Headed rock agama between grey stones
Red Headed Rock Agama between grey stones

Agamas should be fed 2-3 times a week with large feedings. Their diet typically consists of live reptile food like crickets. (Learn to create a cricket farm)

They won’t eat dead insects, only live prey.

Feed them properly sized foods. All insects that you feed your agama should be smaller than the width of your agama’s head.

You should give adult agamas either 15-20 crickets or 7-10 superworms each feeding. (DIY Superworm farm guide)

Insects should be gut loaded with calcium powder at every feeding and a supplementary vitamin D3 and multivitamin should be dusted with around.

Gut loading means that the insect is acting as a vehicle to pass on beneficial nutrients to your Agama agama.

Younger lizards need more vitamin D3 than adults. The same is also said for gravid females. Use the vitamin D3 supplement three to four times a week for adults and daily for hatchlings. Multivitamins should only be offered once or twice a week.

You can also gut-load your feeder insects with quality fruits, vegetables, and roach food or tropical fish food flakes.

Red Headed Agama Temperament

rainbow agama
Rainbow Agama

Even if flighty by nature, they quickly tame down with regular handling.

Red Headed Agama Handling

Never with-strain the lizard, allow it to freely walk from your hand, up to your arm, and to your shoulder if it so chooses. In this way, you will allow your agama to feel it’s in control.

Never pull or hold on to your Red-Headed agama’s tail because they may drop it in defense. The tail will grow back but it won’t be as nice looking.

Common Health Concerns (Issues/Solutions

common agama
Common Agama

Metabolic bone disease occurs in lizards kept in captivity when genuine sunlight isn’t available for an extended period. This is easily remedied by having full-spectrum, UVB lighting, and a quality vitamin D3 supplement in powder form. 

Red-Headed agamas don’t usually have shedding issues but sometimes they do. This might become problematic especially when it cuts blood circulation to the tail which might result in the tip of the tail eventually dying and falling off. 

Red-Headed Agama Lizard with Stuck Shed (Video)

Pricing and Availability

The Red-Headed Agama is a lizard that’s both inexpensive and fairly easy to keep.

Even if captive-bred specimens are not as common as their wild-caught counterparts, try to get yours from a breeder.

Available at $ 20,99 at https://www.reptilesncritters.com/red-head-agama-lizard.php

Red Headed Agama Care and Setup (Video)

Conclusion

Red Headed agamas make excellent pets!

They are relatively easy to care for but they need their space, so, before buying yours, make sure you can provide your agama with a spacious desert set-up.

Also, you should have your set-up completely ready to go before purchasing your agama.

When choosing your Red-Headed agama always go with captive-bred over wild-caught or field collected. While wild-caught agamas can still make good pets, acclimation might be harder.

Last but not least, when choosing your agama always look for an energetic specimen with good body weight. Avoid excessively thin lizards or if they have blisters, sores, or mites. Check around the mouth and mucous membranes for dried, crusty, or even wet residue.

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