Girdled Lizards and Armadillo Lizards as Pets

Even by lizard standards, these “spiky, dinosaur-like” creatures are sun-worshipers…indeed the largest Girdled and Armadillo Lizard has been dubbed the Sungazer.

The aptly-named Armadillo Lizard (Cordylus cataphractus) was once a popular pet, but is now rarely if ever available; the same is true for the majestic Sungazer. Hardier species such as the Tropical Armadillo Lizard, if given appropriate temperatures and high UVB exposure, make fine, long-lived pets.


Girdled and Armadillo Lizards belong to the genus Cordylus.

Range and Habitat

The Tropical Girdled Lizard or Dwarf Sungazer is found in East Africa, from Kenya, Congo, and Malawi to Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Tanzania. They inhabit dry forests and stay under dead tree bark or in grassland tunnels.

Appearance and Temperament

Girdled Lizards have bony plates that support their spiny scales, which are especially large and pointed in the tail region.


The ideal cage for the Tropical Girdled Lizard is a medium to large desert-type terrarium decorated with plenty of hiding places like cork tubes, hollow logs, driftwood, or stable piles of flat stones. Climbing structures will also be appropriate because these terrestrial lizards also clamber up dead tree branches. The substrate must be at least 2 inches thick with a mixture of soil, sand, and loam. A water container is necessary for drinking and soaking. Day temp: 86-95F; night temp: 68-71F; basking temp: 104F; humidity: 40-60%; lighting: up to 14 hours, UV radiation required

Dwarf Sungazers are community lizards that can get along together unless mating season when males become aggressive about their territories. Under optimum conditions, these lizards can be hardy and live for more than 20 years.


Girdled and Armadillos are insectivores. They feed on moths, spiders, crickets, grasshoppers, and other insects. Gut-loaded crickets and mineral-dusted insects are recommended.