6 Reptiles With The Shortest Lifespan (With Videos)

Reptiles With The Shortest Lifespan

It’s possible that the best part about getting a pet reptile is how quickly you can become attached to them. And one of the worst parts about having any pet is when their life comes to an end.

It’s hard to imagine that we outlive most of the pets that we have in our lifetimes. For the most part, reptiles have fairly long lifespans. However, there are a few exceptions to this trend.

In this article, we’ll list reptiles with the shortest lifespan.

Some pet reptiles are very short-lived and have less than 10 years in captivity. Pets like green anoles, garter snakes, and chameleons have some of the shortest lifespans of any reptile. For some of these critters, a captive life may shorten their lifespan even more.

Even if you have a love for one of the short-lived reptiles, don’t worry.  There are some controllable aspects that affect how long a reptile can live.  Before we list and discuss our shortest-living reptiles, let’s talk about what factors can affect lifespan in captivity.

Factors That Affect Lifespan In Captivity

In captivity, life spans can vary greatly. Pets live in a much more controlled environment than the wild. Ironically, this can either make a pet’s lifespan, longer or shorter, depending on the quality of their environment. In the wild pets, had to deal with threats from predators, disease, and even starvation. In captivity, but shouldn’t really have to deal with any of these factors.

However, keeping some reptiles alive in a captive environment can be extremely difficult. Captivity can even shorten the lifespans of many exotic animals because they’re so delicate and hard to care for. Here are some of the biggest factors that can affect lifespan in captivity.

1. Diet

The quality of the diet that you feed to your pet reptile can either lengthen or shorten its lifespan.

Some animals, like chameleons and anoles, are extremely hard to feed in captivity. That’s because these animals often eat tiny flying insects in the wild that can be hard to find in captivity. While things like dubia roaches and crickets are readily available for purchase, flies and spiders aren’t. Often times these small lizards need live insects to stimulate their hunting instincts.

Beyond this, even the quality of the bugs that you’re feeding, your pet reptiles makes a difference. Fresh and live bugs are always preferred to frozen and thawed. You also want to get load your bags before feeding them out to ensure that they are as nutritious as possible.

As you can imagine, there are a lot of variables when it comes to reptile diets in captivity. The better their diet, the better their health will be long-term, and the longer they’ll be able to live.

2. Environment

A reptile’s environment also plays a huge role in how long or short their lifespan is in captivity.

Humidity and temperature play a great role in how comfortable the environment is for your reptile. Oftentimes, captive reptiles need their enclosures to be hotter and more humid than our indoor spaces are. Providing your reptile with a proper environment will help them to thrive and live longer. They’ll also be more active when placed in an appropriate setting.

3. Stress

Just like for humans, stress is a factor that can greatly shorten a reptile’s lifespan. In the wild, reptiles experience stress from predation. In captivity, reptiles, don’t have to deal with this type of stress but deal with other types of stress caused by handling, fear, and improper housing.

There are some reptiles that are naturally tolerant of handling. But for the most part, handling can be a very stressful event for a reptile. Should always make sure to take the handling process slow and steady. Causing your reptile stress will do nothing to increase its lifespan.

4. Healthcare

The last thing that plays a role in how long your pet reptile lives is the healthcare you provide.

It’s recommended that you take your pet reptile to the vet at least once a year. They’ll be able to make sure that your pet is on the right track and doesn’t have any issues healthwise. Among other things, veterinarians can make supplement recommendations based on blood work, care for parasite infections, and help you manage weight issues.

Though healthcare can be costly it’s essential if you want to lengthen the lifespan of a short-lived pet.

6 Reptiles With The Shortest Lifespan

No matter how well we care for our pets they can’t live forever. The reptiles on the list below might have longer better lives with good husbandry. Even so, they’re still, some of the shortest living reptiles in existence. Sadly, some of these pets are even shorter, lived in captivity than in the wild, because they’re just so difficult to care for.

Here are reptiles with the shortest lifespan.

1. Garter Snake

Garter snakes are a snake species known for their calm temperament and moderate size. Though garter snakes are venomous, their venom only produces a slight reaction of inflammation and human skin. Garter snakes have an interesting diet and eat mammals like mice and invertebrates like worms among many other small creatures.

As you can imagine, these snakes are popular as pets.

The sad thing about garter snakes is that they’re one of the snakes with the shortest lifespans. It said that these snakes can live around 10 years, but more commonly only live about 4 to 5 years in captivity. The oldest recorded individual of a Butler’s garter snake was only 14 years old before it passed away.

2. Green Anole

Green and brown anoles are tropical lizards commonly kept as pets and they are much more well-known than their brown anole cousins (that are actually orange sometimes).

These lizards are so small and might be one of the tiniest reptile pets. Because of their size, they shouldn’t really be handled.  Not only are these lizards delicate, but they are nearly impossible to find when lost. Green and brown animals are beautifully colored and can live communally with other lizards of the same species and even lizards of different species.

Unfortunately, these lizards have an incredibly short lifespan both in captivity and in the wild. Wild anoles typically only live around 2 – 8 years. In captivity, anoles have an average lifespan of 5 years and usually live anywhere between 4 to 6 years. Part of the reason that animals have one of the shortest lifespans of any reptile is that they’re so small. They’re delicate and fragile and aren’t built to stand the test of time

3. House Gecko

If you’ve ever lived somewhere tropical, you probably know house geckos very well. House geckos are tropical lizards that can be seen climbing the walls of houses in search of small flying insects in warm and humid climates. Well, some people see these geckos as pests others prefer to keep them as pets. The name of the house gecko is very fitting as these small lizards do tend to stick to urban areas.

House geckos are small and only grow to be about 3 to 6 inches long. As one of the reptiles with the shortest lifespans, they only live for around seven years in the wild or in captivity.

4. Long-Tailed Lizard

Long-tailed lizards are hilarious-looking reptiles with pretty short lifespans. These lizards only live for about 5 years both in the wild and in captivity.

Their name is representative of their appearance as long-tailed lizards have, well, incredibly long tails. While a long-tailed lizard’s body is only 2 -3 inches long, its tail is about 12 inches long. Like many other lizards, these reptiles can drop their tails in a moment of panic.

One reason why their lifespan is shorter is that they are never able to regrow a long tail again once it’s dropped. This affects their speed and balance making them an easier target for predators.


Some of the reptiles with the shortest lifespan are chameleons. Chameleons are notoriously difficult to keep in captivity. They don’t seem to thrive in enclosures and take expert care to even survive.

Oftentimes, captive chameleons are wild, caught adults that may already be a few years old. It’s hard to keep chameleons alive in captivity, let alone keep them happy enough to warrant that choice.

5. Labord’s Chameleon

Labord’s chameleon has the shortest lifespan of any reptile or any four-legged vertebrate for that matter. These reptiles have a fascinating life cycle that takes place within the span of just a few months. In fact, Labord’s chameleons only live between 4-5 months. They spend this time maturing, breeding, and laying the eggs of the next generation.

As you can imagine, these chameleons aren’t kept as pets.

6. Panther Chameleon

As you can see from the video above panther chameleons are vibrant and beautiful. For this reason, they’re often kept in captivity. However, panther chameleons don’t make the best pets. Not only are these reptiles likely to bite out of fear and stress, but they also have incredibly short lifespans.

Even in the best situations, these chameleons only live about 5 to 8 years in captivity, and for the most part, they don’t make it past the age of five.

What Is The Shortest Living Snake?

Most snake species live about 15 to 20 years in captivity. As we mentioned above, the snake with the shortest lifespan is the garter snake. Both in the wild and captivity, these snakes are small and opportunistic feeders. Their size and diet may contribute to their short lifespan.

What Is The Shortest Living Lizard?

Many lizards have short lifespans. We’re sure you noticed that most of the reptiles on the list above are some type of lizard. This probably has a lot to do with their small size and delicate temperament. If you read the article above, you know that the shortest-living lizard by far is Labord’s chameleon.

Even the healthiest of these chameleons only live to a maximum of five months old.

What Is The Shortest Living Turtle or Tortoise?

Turtles and tortoises are well known for their long lifespans. The oldest ever recorded tortoise was a Seychelles giant tortoise named Jonathan. Jonathan lived to be an amazing age of 190 years old. Amazingly, many other tortoises, get close to this goal and outlive humans regularly. Turtles are also fairly long, lived with some of them living as long as humans.

Allegedly, the chicken turtle is one of the turtles with the shortest lifespan. A chicken turtle’s lifespan is only about 15 to 20 years. This may seem like a lot, but compared to other turtles it’s quite a short time.

In captivity, all turtle and tortoise species can live shorter, lives due to improper care and husbandry. It’s true, that many red-eared sliders live longer than 10 to 15 years in captivity but should be able to live up to 40 years when healthy.

Final Thoughts

All in all, there aren’t that many reptiles with short lifespans. These animals are built to survive. They have tough exteriors and special physiological traits that allow them to adapt to a range of conditions.

Many of the shortest-living reptiles are small lizards. This probably has something to do with their delicate build and small anatomy. Small lizards are also harder to keep happy in captivity and to find an appropriate diet for. Garter snakes are relatively short-lived for snake species and there aren’t really any turtles or tortoises that are truly short-lived.

It’s important to remember that most reptiles don’t have short lifespans. When you adopt a pet reptile, you’re usually making somewhere around a 10 to 20-year commitment.

You want to make sure you have all of the special and financial resources you need to care for this animal for the foreseeable future. And if you’re not sure what the future holds, you can always start with one of the reptiles on our list above that have the shortest lifespans.