Sheltopusik (Pseudopus apodus)
Sheltopusiks (Pseudopus apodus) are 4′ / 1.2m long lizard with a triangular head, long body, plate-like scales, lateral groove, and most distinctively — no legs! Also known as the giant glass lizard or European legless lizard, these lizards are commonly mistaken for snakes. However, what distinguishes them from snakes are a set of distinctively un-snakelike traits, including eyelids, ear holes, and a tail that composes roughly 50% of their total length.
In terms of coloring, sheltopusiks are typically light tan to dark brown, although some have an orange or reddish hue. Some individuals may have a mottled or speckled pattern. The had is typically paler than the rest of the body, and the irises are also usually light-colored.
Sheltopusiks can be found from eastern Europe, through the Middle East, to western Asia, and have adapted to a variety of different habitats, from semi-arid climates in the west to more moist climates in the east. They are primarily active during the day.
Sheltopusiks can make very interesting, intelligent pets when cared for properly. If you pay careful attention to providing high-quality sheltopusik care, your pet may live for up to 50 years.
Supplies You Will Need for a Pet Sheltopusik
These are products I personally recommend for setting up a functional sheltopusik terrarium. Some of the links in this care sheet are paid links — if you’d like to know why ReptiFiles uses paid links, visit this page.
To save money on shipping, I strongly recommend buying items marked with an asterisk (*) locally rather than online.
- 48″L x 24″W x 24″H front-opening terrarium (or larger)
- 70w PAR38 Halogen Flood Bulb, x2
- Fluker’s Dimmable Clamp Lamp, x2
- 22″ Zoo Med T5 HO Reptisun 10.0 OR Arcadia Desert 12% UVB bulb
- 24″ Vivarium Electronics T5 HO Single Bulb Light Strip
- 34″ Arcadia Jungle Dawn LED Bar
- Zilla 24/7 Digital Power Center
- Zoo Med Digital Combo Thermometer Humidity Gauge, x2
- Exo Terra Mister
- DIY semi-arid substrate: (100lbs play sand* + 2 cubic ft clean topsoil*)
- Hides/caves (at least 2)
- Misc. décor
- Food and water dishes
- Repashy Calcium Plus LoD
- Soft-tipped feeding tongs
Sheltopusik Enclosure Size Requirements
Sheltopusiks require an enclosure large enough to give them to let them fully stretch out, explore, hunt, and generally exercise natural behaviors. They are also terrestrial, which means that they are a ground-dwelling species, and generally prefer terrariums that are wider than they are tall.
This is why the minimum recommended enclosure size for a single sheltopusik is 48”L x 24”W x 24”H. Whenever possible, larger is ideal. Here are some enclosures that are appropriate for housing sheltopusiks:
- Custom Reptile Habitats 4 Foot Reptile Enclosure
- Zen Habitats 4’x2’x2′ PVC Panel Reptile Enclosure
- Dubia.com 4x2x2 (120 Gallon) Reptile Enclosure
- Custom Reptile Habitats Essential 6 Foot PVC & Aluminum Enclosure
Can multiple sheltopusiks be housed in the same enclosure?
This species does not appear to live in groups in the wild. Females may be able to get along in a large enough enclosure, but keep in mind that if they don’t get along, they can fight and severely injure one another. Males in particular are known to fight. Altogether, it’s best to house only one sheltopusik per enclosure.
Lighting & UVB for Sheltopusiks
Sheltopusiks are diurnal, which means that they are primarily active during daytime. This means that they are likely to prefer warmer temperatures, are exposed to higher levels of UVB, and have poor night vision.
All lights should be turned off at night. You can use a 12/12 day/night cycle, or you can vary day length seasonally to encourage more natural hormonal rhythms. The easiest way to do this is to sync your pet’s lights with your local sunrise and sunset times.
Sheltopusiks require UVB lighting for good long-term health. In order to get the right strength of UVB (measured by UV Index, or UVI), distance, equipment, and obstructions must be considered.
To provide appropriate UVB to a sheltopusik, you will need one Arcadia T5 HO Desert 12% or Zoo Med T5 HO ReptiSun 10.0, roughly half the length of the enclosure, mounted in a reflective T5 HO fixture such as the Arcadia ProT5 or the Vivarium Electronics T5 HO fixture.
The basking platform/surface should be placed as follows:
- UVB mounted over mesh: lizard’s back is 12-15” / 30-38cm below UVB lamp when basking
- UVB mounted under mesh: lizard’s back is 16-18” / 40-46cm below UVB lamp when basking
(These recommendations are approximations. It is strongly recommended to use a Solarmeter 6.5 to determine the best placement to achieve a UVI of 3.0-4.0 in the basking area.)
Diurnal reptiles are stimulated by the presence of bright daytime illumination in their environment, and a UVB bulb isn’t bright enough to meet those needs. So you will need to supplement with a bright, 6500K T5 HO fluorescent or LED lamp (preferred), long enough to span most of the enclosure.
This is particularly important if you have live plants in the enclosure, but it is also valuable for providing additional illumination and supporting your dragon’s general wellbeing. The Arcadia Jungle Dawn LED Bar and the Bio Dude Glow & Grow are my preferred choices.
Sheltopusik Temperature Requirements
Humans are warm-blooded, which means that our body temperature is automatically regulated. Sheltopusiks, however, are cold-blooded, which means that they have to move between areas of different temperatures to regulate their body temperature. In the wild, sheltopusiks warm up by basking in a warm patch of sunlight. In captivity, the best way to replicate the warming effects of sunlight is with a heat lamp.
- Basking area temperature: 90-95°F (32-35°C)
- Ambient temperature: 75-82°F (24-28°C)
- Nighttime temperature: 60-72°F (16-22°C)
Generally speaking, a cluster of two ~70w halogen heat bulbs should be plenty for achieving the desired temperatures in your sheltopusik terrarium. Heat lamps should be placed on the extreme right or left of the setup to create a temperature gradient. Here are some good options:
If you notice that the enclosure is getting too warm, dial down the heat with a lamp dimmer or switch to a lower wattage bulb. If the general air temperature is too cool, try adding another heat bulb to the cluster.
To measure the general temperature of different areas of your terrarium, use two digital probe thermometers: one placed on the basking surface under the heat source, and another on the cool side of the setup.
Sheltopusiks generally occur in areas with a temperate climate, which means that they experience cold winters. For your pet’s best health, ReptiFiles advises hibernating sheltopusiks in total darkness at 46-50°F / 8-10°C from October to March, with one month of transition time on each end.
For details on winter cooling, see this article.
Sheltopusik Humidity Requirements
There are two subspecies of Pseudopus apodus: P. a. apodus and P. a. thracius. The former seems to tolerate lower humidity levels than the latter. If you know which subspecies you have, great! If you don’t, don’t worry too much about it.
Shoot for an average daytime humidity of 40-60%, and an average nighttime humidity of 60-80%. The lizard should have consistent access to a “humid hide” — a cave or hide with moistened substrate, placed on the cool end of the enclosure. This will help your lizard shed successfully and stay hydrated, and increases your chances of success if you happen to have a sheltopusik with higher humidity needs.
You can monitor humidity levels in your enclosure with a digital probe hygrometer with the probe placed in the middle. You will need another device if you want to monitor the humid hide separately.
To increase humidity levels in the enclosure, use a handheld pressure sprayer like the Exo Terra Mister. Distilled or reverse osmosis water works best if you want to avoid water spots.
Sheltopusik Substrate Options
It’s best to use a well-drained, naturalistic substrate that is similar to what is found in a sheltopusik’s native habitat. This substrate should be layered 6″ deep to allow for burrowing behavior, which will require about 120 quarts of substrate. Here are a few options:
- DIY semi-arid mix: 60% clean topsoil, 40% play sand
- Lugarti Natural Reptile Bedding
- The Bio Dude Terra Sahara
New sheltopusiks should pass quarantine before naturalistic substrate is added to their enclosure.
Feces and urates should be removed daily, and contaminated substrate should be scooped out and replaced. Substrate should be completely replaced once every 3-6 months, depending on how diligent you are about daily cleaning.
Decorating Your Sheltopusik's Enclosure
Decorations play a vital role in your sheltopusik’s enclosure as environmental enrichment. Enrichment items encourage exercise, stimulate your pet’s natural instincts, and help promote overall wellbeing. And, of course, they make the enclosure look nicer! Without décor, your terrarium is just an expensive box of dirt.
Here are some ideas for appropriate décor in your sheltopusik terrarium:
You can also provide additional hideouts. Arrange these items in a way that encourages your lizard to climb and explore, and provides a variety of places to sleep or shelter in.
Feeding Your Sheltopusik
Sheltopusiks are carnivores, which means that they eat other animals. In the wild, they eat invertebrates, small birds and mammals, smaller lizards, and eggs. To replicate this diet in captivity, aim for a balance of roughly 60% invertebrates and 40% vertebrates and eggs. Both juveniles and adults should be fed daily, but to prevent obesity, don’t offer more than the lizard is capable of eating in about 5-8 minutes.
Invertebrate options for sheltopusiks:
- dubia roaches
- discoid roaches
- black soldier fly larvae
- snails (captive-bred ONLY)
Vertebrate options for sheltopusiks:
- young mice
- young rats
- young hamsters
- house geckos
- chicken eggs
- quail eggs
The key to providing a healthy, balanced diet for your pet is VARIETY. Provide as varied of a diet as you possibly can, and you will be rewarded with a healthier pet that always looks forward to mealtime.
Feeder insects can be easily sourced online from reputable breeders such as Dubia.com, Beastmode Silks, and Luna Roaches. Vertebrate feeders can be purchased from high-quality breeders such as Layne Labs and RodentPro.
All insect feeders should be lightly “dusted” with calcium powder to balance the calcium-phosphorus ratio. Multivitamin powder can be used every once in a while to provide extra nutrients. All-in-one powders provide a balanced dose of both at once.
There are many options, but Repashy CalciumPlus LoD is a solid all-in-one supplement for getting started. For best results, use as directed by the label.
Sheltopusiks should have free access to a shallow bowl of fresh, clean water daily. Scrub out the water bowl with veterinary-grade disinfectant every week to maintain good hygiene.
Sheltopusik Handling Tips
Once you’ve brought your sheltopusik home, it’s tempting to start playing with them right away. But wait 2 weeks after buying before beginning handling — your pet needs time to settle into their new home, and handling on top of that can cause additional stress. If your sheltopusik hasn’t eaten by the time the 2 weeks are over, do not handle and make an appointment with an experienced reptile vet.
After the 2 week waiting period is over, introduce yourself to your lizard by putting your hand in its enclosure every night for a few minutes so it can get used to your scent and presence. They should already be relatively familiar with you, since you’ve been in their space replacing water, offering food, cleaning up, etc. Let it come to you! (Food bribes offered with a pair of soft-tipped feeding tongs can be helpful here.)
When you begin handling, start with 5 minute sessions every other day, gradually increasing the length of the sessions and escalating to daily. Support the whole body, and start with handling inside the enclosure, as sheltopusiks can move very fast when they want to! Never grab the tail, as it is detachable.
Consistency and positive experiences are key to successful taming, although do note that some sheltopusiks may never warm up to being handled.
Baines, F. M., Chattell, J., Dale, J., Garrick, D., Gill, I., Goetz, M., Skelton, T., & Swatman, M. (2016). How much UVB does my reptile need? The UV-Tool, a guide to the selection of UV lighting for reptiles and amphibians in captivity. Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research, 1, 55. https://doi.org/10.19227/jzar.v4i1.150
Climate & Weather Averages in Adana, Turkey. (n.d.). Timeanddate.Com. Retrieved January 24, 2022, from https://www.timeanddate.com/weather/turkey/adana/climate
Climate & Weather Averages in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. (n.d.). Timeanddate.Com. Retrieved January 24, 2022, from https://www.timeanddate.com/weather/turkmenistan/ashgabat/climate
Climate & Weather Averages in Tbilisi, Georgia. (n.d.). Timeanddate.Com. Retrieved January 24, 2022, from https://www.timeanddate.com/weather/georgia/tbilisi/climate
European Glass Lizard (Pseudopus apodus). (n.d.). INaturalist. Retrieved January 24, 2022, from https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/31975-Pseudopus-apodus
Giant Glass Lizards (Scheltopusik). (2014, December 14). ReptileApartment.Com. http://reptileapartment.com/giant-glass-lizards-scheltopusik/
Medium UV Species. (n.d.). Arcadia Reptile. Retrieved January 24, 2022, from https://www.arcadiareptile.com/lighting/medium-uv-species/
Olga Jovanović, G., Paula, P., Vanja, L., Lorena, D., Zoran, T., & Duje, L. (2020). Morphological and ecological divergence in two populations of European glass lizard, <italic>Pseudopus apodus</italic> (Squamata: Anguidae). Zool. Res., 2, 172–181. https://doi.org/10.24272/j.issn.2095-8137.2020.025
The Scheltopusik: A Legless Wonder. (2011, December 1). Reptiles Magazine. https://reptilesmagazine.com/the-scheltopusik-a-legless-wonder/
The ReptiFiles Sheltopusik Care Sheet is a simplified care summary, not a full ReptiFiles care guide. While I have done my best to ensure that the information contained is accurate, due to time constraints, the research behind ReptiFiles care sheets is not as thorough as the research involved with my full-length care guides. I strongly encourage readers to do their own research from high-quality, reputable sources outside of just this care sheet as part of preparing for your new pet reptile.