Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home > Reptiles > Armadillo Lizard: Care Guide, Pictures, Varieties, Lifespan & More

Armadillo Lizard: Care Guide, Pictures, Varieties, Lifespan & More

armadillo lizard on rock

Armadillo Lizards are prehistoric-looking reptiles that are relatively easy to care for and maintain. These reptiles are popular due to their ability to curl up and bite their tails to protect themselves from predators. It’s a relatively inactive reptile that is sociable and makes a great first pet for someone interested in owning one. Keep reading while we learn more facts about this interesting animal to see f it’s right for your home.

new gecko divider Quick Facts about the Armadillo Lizard

Armadillo Lizard on rock side view
Image Credit: reptiles4all, Shutterstock
Species Name: O. cataphractus
Family: Cordylidae
Care Level: Minimal
Temperature: 60-85 degrees
Temperament: Sociable but prefers solitude
Color Form: Light to dark brown
Lifespan: 20 years
Size: 3 – 4 inches
Diet: Insects
Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons

Armadillo Lizard Overview

The Armadillo Lizard can also be called an Armadillo Girdled Lizard, Golden Armadillo Lizard, or the Armadillo Spiny Tailed Lizard. It varies from light to dark brown with a yellow underbelly with a black pattern. It’s usually three to four inches long, but some may grow as long as eight. It can bask for many hours in the hot African sun, and its tiny spines cause it to resemble a dragon. Since this desert animal likes to roll up into a ball to protect itself from predators, it gets its name from the South American Armadillo that does the same.

How Much Do Armadillo Lizards Cost?

Armadillos vary considerably in cost depending on where you get them, but you should expect to pay between $35 and $150 for yours, with most costing around $100 by the time you pay for the taxes shipping. Some specialized breeds created for size or color will likely increase the cost of purchase. However, once you purchase your pet and a few supplies, there will be very little to purchase, and your yearly cost is quite low. You can even breed pets food to reduce costs further.

Typical Behavior & Temperament

Your Armadillo Lizard prefers a solitary life but is quite friendly around people and usually doesn’t run and hide unless it feels threatened, but unlike many other reptile species, it doesn’t like when you pick it up. Picking one up can make it feel like a bird of prey is attacking it, and it will curl up into a ball and scurry away when you put it down. It spends most of its time basking in the sun or hiding between rocks and is not very active. It has a powerful bite but rarely uses it in captivity.

Appearance & Varieties

Armadillo lizards have heavily armored bodies and scales called osteoderms. You can also find these osteoderms on other reptiles, like crocodiles, alligators, and turtles. It’s not very colorful, but it features a black pattern on its belly that extends to color the bottom part of the jaw, and the head and body are flat, so they can fit between rocks.

divider- lizardprint How to Take Care of Armadillo Lizards

Habitat, Tank Conditions & Setup

Your Armadillo Lizard is relatively easy to take care of, especially in comparison to many other reptile species.

Tank Size

Most Armadillo Lizards do quite well in an ordinary 30-gallon aquarium. It’s not very active, so it doesn’t need too much space for roaming around. It lives in a rocky environment, so you will want to create a similar environment in the tank. Use plenty of flat rocks to create lounging areas above and below, and use a reptile carpet substrate for best results.

Temperature, Humidity, and Lighting

Armadillo Lizards require a warm environment with low humidity, so you won’t need to worry about humidity or hygrometers, but you will need to keep the temperature up, which will naturally reduce humidity. Armadillo Lizards prefer daytime temperatures to hover between 80 – 90 degrees and nighttime temperatures between 65 – 70 degrees for optimal health and happiness. The basking area, where your pet will spend much of its time, will need to reach 115 – 130 degrees. You can easily achieve this by using the correct lighting, which you will need anyway.

If you keep your reptile indoors, it will be missing out on important ultraviolet light that it needs to stay healthy. Most owners recommend using special ultraviolet bulbs to provide this essential nutrient and replacing them frequently because they usually stop producing ultraviolet light long before it burns out.

Do Armadillo Lizards Get Along with Other Pets?

Armadillo Lizards prefer to live a solitary life, and though they are often friendly during visits with their humans, they likely won’t enjoy any company in their tank unless it’s during mating season. It will usually allow a female into the tank but is territorial against other male Armadillo Lizards. Since most other reptiles have unique lighting, temperature, and humidity needs trying to house another species in the same tank is usually more trouble than it’s worth.

What to Feed Your Armadillo Lizard

Your Armadillo Lizard will eat primarily insects, as it does in its natural environment. We found crickets to be the best, and you can even breed crickets if you have an outside shed or garage that you can use to house them. It will also eat termites, spiders, millipedes, super worms, and even pinky mice. You will need to gut load the insects by providing them plenty of food before feeding them to your reptile. You will also need to coat them with a calcium supplement to prevent your pet from developing a dangerous bone condition called Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD). MBD can cause the bone in your reptile to become soft and brittle, impairing its movement.

Keeping Your Armadillo Lizard Healthy

It is not difficult to keep the Armadillo Lizard healthy as long as you keep the temperature in the cage constant and feed them high-quality food with calcium supplements. The lighting can be a little tricky since there is no way to tell if the bulb is putting out enough UV light, but if you use a quality bulb and change it according to instructions, you will be fine.


Male Armadillo Lizards are territorial animals that will only allow the female into its habitat. A male and female in the same tank will eventually mate, producing one (sometimes two) live animal. It’s one of the only lizards that does not lay eggs, but the downside is that they produce far fewer children. Fewer offspring per clutch is one of the main reasons that the Armadillo Lizard price can fluctuate dramatically. Another reason is that the female doesn’t reproduce every year, and there can be a few years gap between pregnancies, making it hard for a breeder to determine when your pet will be ready.

new gecko divider Are Armadillo Lizard Suitable for You?

Armadillo Lizards make fantastic pets and are especially well suited to children and anyone interested in mythology or any other stories that contain dragons. It looks fierce, but it doesn’t might human attention and is quite calm as long as you don’t pick it up. It’s extremely easy to care for, and once you set up the habitat and get your temperatures right, you will need to do little else besides feeding it and providing calcium supplements for 20 years or more. You can even raise the food yourself to minimize the cost.

We hope you have enjoyed reading over this short guide and learned something new about these somewhat rare reptiles. If we have helped you choose your next pet, please share this guide to caring for an Armadillo Lizard on Facebook and Twitter.

Featured Image Credit: Dylan Leonard, Shutterstock

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets