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Desert Night Lizard - Xantusia vigilis (Captive Bred)


We are not currently working with this species and, at the moment, have no plans of working with it. We've left this page up so that the care information is still easy to find. Please don't expect this species to be available for sale in the near future.

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About This Product

  • Very unique desert species
  • Active and fairly bold
  • Small and diurnal
  • Fascinating family behavior!

Name: Xantusia vigilis, commonly known as the desert night lizard. But despite the name, this species is actually diurnal (active during the day)! The name likely derives from their very secretive nature, although they acclimate well and become fairly bold in captivity.

Recommended Enclosure Size: Although small, this active species enjoys space to move around. A 12x12x12 enclosure minimum will house a lone animal or pair, but an 18x18x12 or 10 gallon enclosure is recommended for more individuals. Juveniles can coexist in groups and with their parents, but adults should only be housed in pairs. Sand works well as a substrate. Desert BioBedding with isopods (dwarf whites or dairy cows or giant canyons all work well), springtails, and succulents can be used to create a beautiful and bioactive arid enclosure! This species takes advantage of both horizontal and vertical space, so climbing material is recommended. We very strongly encourage the use of cholla wood, which provides both climbing material and hiding places. Hides on the ground, such as stacked slate, will also work. While this species does not often dig, heavy items should be supported by the bottom of the enclosure and not by the substrate.

Temperature: Keep desert night lizards around 75-85 F. Use a basking bulb to provide a basking spot of around 95 F. This diurnal species also requires UVB light. Mercury vapor and metal halide bulbs are often too hot and too wide for a smaller desert setup, so we recommend using a dual light fixture, which works very well for small enclosures in providing both heat (via a mini halogen bulb) and UVB (via a compact fluorescent bulb). Temperature should be monitored with a digital thermometer, and the basking spot can be checked with an infrared thermometer or temperature gun. Night temperatures can safely drop down to 68 F. 

Humidity: Keep desert night lizards at 40-50% humidity. A humid hide is recommended, and can be as simple as keeping moist sphagnum moss at the base of a piece of cholla wood or underneath a hide. Ambient humidity should be monitored with a digital hygrometer. Desert night lizards should be misted around three times a week to provide dew on enclosure walls and cage items from which they can drink, but enough ventilation should be provided to allow the enclosure to dry out within a few hours. A shallow water dish can be provided but is not necessary with regular misting.

Size: Desert night lizards are at least an inch long when sold by Josh’s Frogs. As adults, they will only reach around 4 inches as adults!

Age: Desert night lizards sold by Josh’s Frogs are at least 4-5 weeks old. This species can live up to 10-15 years in captivity.

Feeding: Desert night lizards are insectivores. Individuals sold by Josh’s Frogs are fed a staple diet of ⅛-inch crickets and melanogaster fruit flies. Adults can be fed bean beetles, ¼-inch crickets, and hydei fruit flies. All feeder insects should be gut loaded and dusted with vitamin/mineral supplements. A food dishmay be used but is unnecessary, as this active species will actively chase after moving prey.

Sexing: This species is not sexually dimorphic and can be difficult to sex. However, they may be sexed by candling (passing a bright light through) the base of their tail: whereas females will not show any organs, adult males will exhibit a pair of hemipenes through the light.

Color/Pattern: Desert night lizards range from gray to beige and even olive. These lizards have dark mottling and spotting along their body.

Social Behavior: An extremely rare trait in reptiles, these lizards exist in family units in the wild, with a pair of parents along with their offspring! Offspring can live with their parents for several years! In captivity, juveniles can coexist in groups or with their parents, but adults should only be housed in pairs. 

Breeding: We have successfully bred this species without brumation, although a cooling period or changes in day-night cycle throughout the year likely helps to incite breeding. Females are viviparous (live bearers), birthing a litter of 1-3 lizards once a year.

Natural Range: Desert night lizards are found in the arid southwest USA, particularly in southern California, western Arizona, and southwest Utah.

History in the Hobby: This is a very uncommon species in the trade, rarely bred in captivity. Their hardiness and small size makes them an excellent pet, while their fascinating behaviors makes them an absolute joy to watch! At Josh’s Frogs, we are excited to help this unique desert species become regularly available!

Links of Interest:

Still not sure if desert night lizards from Josh's Frogs are the right pet for you? Read the reviews below and see what other customers are saying!


After placing an order containing a live animal, you will receive a scheduling email containing our JotForm scheduling link to schedule your new pet's delivery date.

With this scheduling link, you will be able to schedule your order's delivery up to 30 days in advance. You will be able to choose a date of delivery for Tuesday-Saturday (Saturday arrival depends on the carrier's service availability) with the estimated time of arrival generally being 12pm, or 4:30pm for more rural areas. Overnight lows must be above 40°F to ship directly to you (or above 30°F for FedEx Ship Center pickups) as well as below 90°F by estimated time of arrival.

If you require further assistance, or prefer to talk to one of our Customer Service agents, please feel free to reach out to our [email protected] email or our phone line 1-800-691-8178.

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