Plated Lizards as Pets

Plated Lizards are alert and robustly-built African lizards which make fine pets if provided with spacious enclosures and the high temperatures and UVB exposure they require. Few take well to handling, but they are otherwise responsive to people and readily consume invertebrates, certain fruits, and even canned monitor lizard diets. The Sudan Plated Lizard has reached age 25+ in captivity.


Plated Lizards belong to the family Gerrhosauridae, which contains 35 species. Several species in the genera Gerrhosaurus and Zonosaurus are available in the pet trade.

Range and Habitat

Plated Lizards are native to southern and eastern Africa and Madagascar. Those in the genus Gerrhosaurus are found in dry and rocky semi-open savannahs; several species utilize termite mounds as hunting and sheltering sites. The Zonosaurs species, generally limited to Madagascar, tend to occupy forest edges and riverine areas.

Appearance and Temperament

Plated Lizards have regularly arrayed scales that have osteoderms or plates underneath. The dorsal scales are keeled, and the ventral scales are smooth. The lizards range from 16 to 28 inches in length, with the tail about twice the length of the body.

Many Plated Lizard species are robust, some slightly flattened in shape. Most of them have a distinct fold of skin (that allows the lizard to expand) seen along the sides, more prominently on the lower sides of the neck region.

Plated Lizard Housing

Plated Lizards do well in large enclosures that mimic their natural habitats. A sand and orchid bark substrate is required for Gerrhosaurs because they dig into the ground. A water dish for drinking and soaking is essential. The Sudan Plated Lizard (G. major) has lived for over 25 years in captivity.

Plated Lizard Diet

Plated Lizards feed on insects, various fruits, seeds, vegetation, and canned monitor or tegu food.