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Reptiles/red headed agama


QUESTION: I bought 1 male and 1 female about two weeks ago and the male today has started to open his mouth
Like he can't breathe, what could be causing this?

ANSWER: Hi Greg,

There are a couple different possibilites that I am aware of. What you are describing could simply be what is called gaping. Gaping is performed by agamas when they feel threatened and is an attempt to scare off a potential predator. If he seems to perform this behaviour when you are in sight then that is probably what you are seeing.

If he does it when he is basking then he is likely just temperature adjusting. Gaping while basking is a normal and common behaviour in Bearded Dragons which are in the same family as agamas. Red heads very likely has a similar behaviour. They do it to release heat.

Reptiles will also open mouth breathe when they have a respiratory infection. This is often  accompanied by excessive mucous in the mouth and possibly around the nostrils. You probably would have noticed other symptoms by now such as lethargy and lack of feeding as well if this was the cause.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: I can't see any mucous at all, he just started it today if its respitory what do I do?

Hi Greg,

If it is respiratory then you can sometimes get it under control by adjusting their basking temperature. You want to  make sure it is at the upper end of the optimal range for that species which for agamas is right around 100 to 105F.

They will still need a cooler end to retreat to so that they can properly thermoregulate. With a high basking temp. like that you really need a tank that is at least 30 inches long to provide a cooler end. With agamas being semi arboreal you can also move the basking spot up closer to the heat source by providing a climbing surface near the lamp. That moves your hot spot to an upper corner and the cool end diagonally opposite in the lower corner. That can still work to provide a cool end if your tank is not very long but does have some height.  


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I can answer questions on the proper husbandry and diet of Iguanas, bearded dragons, geckoes, skinks, chameleons, tortoises, box turtles, treefrogs, non-venomous snakes and tarantulas. Also the breeding of some species of feeder insects. I have no experience with venonmous snakes and only limited experience with aquatic turtles.


I have been keeping and breeding reptiles for over 30 years. In addition to my regular job in the medical field I also worked for several years in a pet store that specialized only in exotics. The job entailed both caring for and answering questions on innumerable species. It required constant, extensive research into a wide range of reptiles. I have been called to appear on televised national media (CBC, CTV and Life Channel) as well as CBC radio to discuss the proper care of reptiles and other exotics in captivity. I currently own one or more species of those listed under my expertise with the exception of chameleons. I owned chameleons for years but keep none currently. I keep over 20 snakes comprising 5 species, both Colubridae and Boidae. I bred corn snakes for several years. I have a particular interest in treefrogs and currently have 5 different species. I've raised redfoot tortoises for 10 years and have two iguanas, one for 12 years.

A small and now defunct local magazine called "Pet Vue"

Diagnostic medical microbiology with some parasitology experience.

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