Tiliqua Rugosa (Written and supplied by Steve Cato)
Bobtails can be kept in both indoor and outdoor enclosures and will thrive if a few basic rules are followed.
For indoor enclosures, size is the first important consideration. Firstly the number of lizards being housed should have ample room to move and hide away from each other.
For a colony of four adults, an enclosure of 5ft wide, 2ft deep and 2 ft high would be of a suitable size. The enclosure should have enough hiding places for each lizard and hides should be large enough for more than one Bobtail to fit in as they do like to sleep together.
Heating should be provided in indoor enclosures and basking lights are an excellent way to provide this. Bobtails enjoy basking first thing in the morning and after eating.
Basking site temperatures should be in the range of 35-45c with around 40c being perfect. A large flat rock or tile placed underneath the basking light makes a great place for them to bask on.
Basking sight temperatures may sound hot but the basking site is only a small spot in the cage, directly under the basking light.
Provided the Bobtails have a basking site and a cool area of around 20-24c the rest of the enclosures temperature shouldn't matter.
It is highly recommended that a thermostat is used to control the basking site temperature.
Being diurnal lizards (active by day), UV light should be provided by a specialised reptile light. This provides the vitamins they gain from natural sunlight.
Substrate for Bobtail enclosures can be varied, although rice husks are the superior choice. Rice husks don't absorb moisture so waste sinks to be cage floor while the top of the substrate is kept dry. Other substrates can be used such as, sand, newspaper and fake grass though these all have drawbacks, the main one being that they become very smelly. Rice husks can be spot cleaned mostly with a full cage clean every couple of weeks.
A small shallow water bowl can be left in the enclosure full time or can place one in the cage every couple of days and allow them to drink. Preferably, water should be only offered once every 2 or 3 days as this helps to keep humidity down.
Outdoor enclosures are by far the best way to keep Bobtails. Unfortunately Bobtails can not be kept outdoors on the east coast of Australia or in high humidity areas as they will suffer severe respiratory infections. Respiratory infections can kill Bobtails very quickly; in fact it can only take a few hours in high humidity for a Bobtail to become very sick. Humidity levels in their enclosure should be kept below 40%.
In areas where Bobtails are found naturally or low humidity areas like most of inland Australia, Bobtails can be kept in a range of outdoor enclosures ( see diagram 1 ).
My personal preference for outdoor enclosure size is as large as possible though if only a few Bobtails are being kept then smaller enclosures will be fine.
They should be in a position where they will get direct sunlight for most of the day but still offering shade.
My outdoor enclosure measured 3m X 4m and this housed 34 sub adult- adult shingle backs.
The big advantage of outdoor enclosure is you can make them as realistic as you like by adding live plants or trees rocks and logs.
For outdoor enclosures I like to provide one or two large hide boxes filled with dry grass, Bobtails love to burrow and dig in dry grass and will often sleep in a large group rather than on their own.
A shallow water bowl can be left in the enclosure full time, it should be shallow enough for the Bobtails to touch the bottom as they aren't the strongest swimmers and there should be no steep edges to prevent them from getting out if they do go in.
The other big advantage of outdoor enclosures is that they can be built out of almost anything.
Simple chicken wire fences are a great way to build them. Whatever material you use walls should go at least 40cm underground and 1m above, this is mainly to prevent other animals getting inside if a roof isn't used.
If chicken wire is used the bottom 20-30cm should be lined with timber or bricks to prevent nose rubbing.
When kept outdoors Bobtails will go through natural hibernation period during winter and plenty of dry grass should be provided under the hiding places for them to burrow in, they should not be disturbed unnecessarily during this time.
Bobtails eat a wide variety of foods and are easy to cater for. Fresh and frozen vegetables and fruit should make up a large part of their diet. Canned dog food (non seafood) can be fed every other feeding and is a good way to fatten them up before breeding. A mixture of the two forms a perfect basic diet.
Snails are great to vary their diet also and Bobtails love them, just be sure they are collected from areas that have no snail baits in place.
They can also be given pink mice and rats as a treat from time to time.
They have huge appetites and will quickly learn that the keeper means food and will often meet you at the door when it`s feeding time. (See diagram 2)
If large numbers of Bobtails are being kept in an outdoor enclosure be careful to make sure that all lizards get enough food as large more dominant Bobtails will often eat more than they should.
Dusting food with calcium powder once a week is also beneficial and especially for young and growing Bobtails or females that have just given birth.
BREEDING AND SEXING
Sexing Bobtails is often an area of debate and there a few methods commonly used to sex them.
One method used successfully is comparing tail shape. Male Bobtails have a more elongated tail where as females have a large bulb shaped tail. The only problem with this method is that you really need to shown the difference by an experienced keeper or have a definite male and female to compare to.
Breeding Bobtails isn't difficult; the most important part is having well conditioned lizards.
After winter cooling/hibernation, mating takes place in spring and early summer. Males can be quite violent, chasing females and grabbing their tails and necks.
It's often said that Bobtails mate for life in the wild, but when kept in large colonies this appears to be ignored, males will chase any female they see during mating season.
There doesn't seem to be any combating of males during this time and provided they have enough room, multiple males can be kept in the colony year round.
Bobtails give birth in early autumn to live young producing between 1-4 offspring per litter, the average being 2 offspring. Babies are born quite large and the less the litter size, the larger the offspring. Babies are born ready to go and should be fed on the same diet as adult just cut up more finely.
When Bobtails out grow their skin, it is shed off. The Bobtails colour will dull off before shedding takes place; the skin will come off in one piece and is often eaten by other Bobtails very quickly.
Care should be taken around the toes as the skin often sticks and has to be removed gently by the keeper or the skin can cut off circulation to the toes which can cause them to drop off.
Bobtails make great pets. Most will quickly become accustomed to the keeper's presence and will become interactive especially when food is involved.
Bobtails will bite if they feel threatened or hands are mistaken as food. Bites can be very painful, and can be likened to having your finger slammed in a car door. Most will release quickly and scurry off.
Gentle handling is fine for Bobtails and the keeper should make sure that the lizard's body is supported at all times.
Some Bobtails do have a nasty habit of defecating while being handled and they can make a rather large mess on the unsuspecting handler so it's best not to hold them against your body if your Bobtail is known to do this.
They have great personalities and each specimen will act in different ways toward each other, the keeper and food.
All up Bobtails are a very interesting and fun lizard to keep. When their requirements are met, Bobtails are a breeze to keep and will give a keeper many years of happiness.