Butterfly Agama: Lifespan, Behavior, Care, & Breeding

Originating from arid areas of Asia – China, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, butterfly agamas or butterfly lizards are fun & awesome pets to own. Butterfly agamas (l. Leiolepis Belliana) come in vivid colors ranging from gray, green, yellow, red with occasional black stripes on the sides. They are quite calm and solitary, truly – elegant reptiles. They are not usually recommended for beginners as they can be a little bit tricky to maintain. On a scale from 1-10 beginner friendly, it ranks at somewhat 5.

Butterfly Agama Lifespan & Size

Butterfly lizards are small sized reptiles, they can grow up to 20 inches in length, their bodies are slightly flattened with round head, and their tails can be very long, usually twice as long as their bodies. Their lifespan in captivity is up 10 years.

Behavior & Characteristics

Solitary but Family Oriented Reptiles

Common butterfly lizard
Common butterfly lizard Source

Butterfly agamas can be perceived as somewhat shy and skittish creatures. In the beginning, they may not be very sociable and outgoing and will often run and hide at any sign of danger. However, with proper maintaining and socialization, they can be taught to be approachable and friendly to people. They are very territorial reptiles, so it’s best to keep them alone without much company to prevent nasty fights from breaking out.

Butterfly Lizards are very much solitary creatures – they prefer to spend their time alone unless it’s breeding season. However, this group is known to be monogamous, they choose one partner, and they will care for the eggs together with their partner. It is known that they like to hang around in pairs but will often burrow alone.

As for their appearance – they exhibit a vast amount of colors, but they’re usually somewhat yellowish with touches of red, green, gray and black. It’s speculated that the name butterfly comes from their tendency to jump around.

Perhaps the most unique characteristic of butterfly agamas is their love for digging. They very much enjoy digging burrows and will go as deep as your aquarium tank allows them. It is advised to provide as much sand as possible so they can safely dig deep as they are known to damage their nails by trying to dig the glass of their cages. It’s also worth noting that they are diurnal, they will sleep at night and are active during the day, so it’s a good idea to provide them with about 12 hours of UV daylight.


Butterfly agamas are omnivores – they eat insects but also consume plants and fruits. They love to consume different kinds of food, so it’s a good idea to be as flexible as possible. Some of the foods they consume:

  • Insects such as crickets, mealworms, wax worms, roaches
  • Veggies and Greens such as celery, basil, mint & maple leaves, cabbage etc.
  • Fruits (they love ’em!) like berries, cherries, grapes, melons

Clean water should be available at all times for Butterfly lizards. As they prefer hotter conditions, they need to stay well hydrated throughout the day. Make sure the water is changed daily and that it’s clean. Having a simple water dish to refill is very useful in these cases.

Butterfly Agama Care & Housing

Temperature is perhaps one of the most important things; they require up to 85 to 90°F daytime temperatures with about 70°F at night. It’s a good idea to build them a hot basking spot – a small to medium sized rock/log with temperatures up to 100° F. As they are diurnal, they require daily full spectrum UV lightning along with basking light, at least 12 hours per day. Reptiles thermoregulate so it’s a good idea to have both hot and cold sides of the tank so they can choose whichever spot suits them. Butterfly agama requires humidity below 50%, preferably around 40%.

Adult butterfly agama requires about 20-gallon tank size to be comfortable in their habitat. It’s best to focus on floor space rather than height as they are mostly ground / burrowing creatures but they do like to jump so having enough space to do that would be great. As for the environment, keep it desert-like with a couple of rocks or logs, lots of sand & soil. Give them a decent place to hide such as caves or other decorations; you may even add up some bushes.

Since they’re passionate burrowers, make sure you have a good & deep layer of sand so they can dig as deep as they want and keep the lower part somewhat moist but not completely wet. They will mostly stay in their burrows or caves and go out only at the highest temperatures to bask.

Make sure you clean the tank at least once a week as they will release a lot of feces but be careful not to damage any eggs in case you have a pair of Agamas.


Butterfly agamas are healthy reptiles that rarely become ill. However, do keep in mind that they may damage their nails because they like to dig deep burrows and will, unfortunately, encounter a glass barrier when they reach the end. This may cause them to inflict heavy damage on their nails, but it won’t be anything life-threatening.

Butterfly Agama Breeding

Butterfly agamas are monogamous – they stick to one partner their whole lives. It is unsure whether they would ever try different partner in case their first one dies. If you have a pair of agamas, the male will usually mount the female and thus begin the process of mating. If mating was successful, the female will begin to look a tad bit heavier than usual; this is a clear sign that she’s carrying eggs. Make sure you provide her with some moist surface so she can safely lay her eggs in there. Also, do take note that agamas are very defensive and will protect their eggs quite aggressively.


Butterfly agamas are very fun pets to have. Although they require some level of maintenance, they are usually calm and don’t cause a lot of trouble. Try to stimulate their natural desert-like environment as much as possible, and your pets will live a long, happy and satisfied life with you.