Level of difficulty: intermediate/expert
NOTE: for the most part, these lizards have been rather obscure in the pet trade, due to being illegal to import from Australia. But in recent years, more WC individuals from Indonesia and more specimens being captive-bred have increased its popularity, and one can often find these lizards for around $100, a vast improvement from the 400-500 range they used to be.
“Frillies” are native to most of Northern Australia, and to parts of small Indonesian islands above the continent, including New Guinea and Irian Jaya.
These lizards are often found in sub-humid woodlands and sclerophyll forests. They are strongly arboreal and spend much time perched in a vertical position on a tree trunk or branch.
Males generally top out at around 30″ and females remain just a tad smaller. They’re a rather slender and gangly lizard, not like their portly cousins, the bearded dragons.
Frilles, in general, are pretty high-strung. With time, some individuals will tame down enough to tolerate limited handling. But these are not like bearded dragons or blue-tongued skinks that will calmly sit on your shoulder in the midst of company. Frillies are still easily startled and can take off running in a moment’s notice. And a few can remain very feisty and may even resort to biting if cornered, something to consider since they have two, very pronounced fangs.
Slightly more long-lived than their bearded cousins, frillies on average can live 9-10 years in captivity, although it is rumored they could make it to 20.
Frillies are primarily insectivores by nature, eating nearly any insect that can fit down their throats, while occasionally taking small rodents, lizards, and birds. In captivity, young frillies will take appropriately-sized crickets, mealworms, and waxworms. As they mature, the size of prey can be up-sized accordingly, and a weekly pinky mouse can be offered. Adults may reach the size where they may eat a half-grown mouse, but invertebrates should still comprise the bulk of their diet.
Being a diurnal species, these lizards definitely require UV radiation. So unless your climate permits an outdoor enclosure, be sure to invest in quality UVB lighting. A good daytime temperature is between 85-90’F, with a basking area of 95-100’F. This can be achieved with an incandescent basking fixture. Different situations may vary, but you’ll probably need at least a 100 watt bulb. Make sure you have a thermometer. During the night, it may drop down to 70’F.
Relatively high, around 70-80%.
Minimum required space:
An enclosure roughly 4 ft long by 2 ft wide by 3 ft tall (approx the size of a 150 gallon tall). As mentioned earlier, these lizards are active, high-strung and arboreal, so they need a vertically-oriented, roomy cage. And the bigger, the better.
A wide variety of substrates can be used for frillies, including aspen shavings, repti-bark, cypress bedding, and coconut bedding. Since they are not a desert species, I do not recommend sand of any kind or walnut litter.
Other cage furnishings:
Again, make sure to have plenty of vertically-oriented branches and tree limbs to accommodate their perching needs. They don’t soak a lot, but a large water bowl will help with humidity.
First, make sure you have an adult pair at least 2 years old. Egg-binding is a risk in younger females. It’s recommended to brumate the pair for a month or two during the late summer before mating season begins in September. The male will continually dance, display and attempt to mount the female during this time. When receptive, the female will lay down on the ground to allow copulation. She will lay one or two clutches of 4-23 eggs sometime in November, and 2-3 months later, the babies will begin to hatch.
Obviously, wild-caught specimens are likely to be parasite-ridden. Also, low humidity can cause respiratory issues and skin ailments. One common health issue is somewhat of a mystery. Many captive frillies seem to “sulk” and ignore their owners, other cage mates, and their food while staring off into space. Perhaps this is caused by inadequate housing or perches. Be sure whenever choosing a frilly, pick out one who is active, alert and readily eats.