Do Armadillo Girdled Lizards Make Good Pets?

Armadillo girdled lizards are probably the closest thing we’ll ever get to real dragons.

Just from how they look, there is not a lot about them to dislike.

But the question remains:

Do armadillo girdled lizards make good pets? Yes, armadillo girdled lizards make good pets. They’re easy to look after, aren’t messy, and live for a pretty long time. If you’re looking for a lizard you can handle, however, you may want to look elsewhere.

To learn more about why armadillo girdled lizards make excellent pets, read on.

Why Armadillo Girdled Lizards make good pets

Armadillo lizards can be affectionate and lovable companions. As long as you provide these lizards with all their basic needs, they will be a fun addition to your household for years to come. These needs include food and water, a spacious vivarium, and plenty of UVB light and heat.

Here are some more specific reasons that armadillo girdled lizards make good pets.

Easy to look after

Armadillo girdled lizards mainly eat live bugs and invertebrates. Some enjoy eating fruit and leafy greens, though this seems to be an acquired taste.

Luckily, a majority of pet shops now sell tasty bugs in convenient tubs — so you can feed your lizard pretty cheaply. Also, you have to feed them less frequently, such as a couple of times a month, as they are cold-blooded animals and have a slow metabolism.

No fur or dust mites

Dust mites, fur, and pet dander cause a significant percentage of allergies in the home. While you may love your mammals and birds, clearly, in this area most reptiles, such as armadillo girdled lizards win hands down. An armadillo lizard has no fur, and there’s no risk of pesky dust mites building up.

No need for a large cage

A simple terrarium setup is all you’ll need to house an armadillo lizard. Because these reptiles are relatively small and typically reach about six inches in length, they don’t need large habitats. A cage or vivarium with two to four square feet of space is sufficient for a pair or trio.

Armadillo Girdled Lizard | File ID 58203463 | © Warat42 | Dreamstime.com

No need for training or walks

Armadillo girdled lizards are nothing like cats and dogs. They do not need regular walks, nor do they need toilet training. If you have a demanding career or hectic life and having a cat or dog is a problem, an armadillo lizard is a perfect answer. However, they will need some time and effort. As self-sustaining as they are, you can’t treat them like an inanimate object.

They like watching you

Armadillo lizards are very interested in what’s going on in their environment. Their small head pops up when you walk past them, and they eye you beadily when you do something interesting.

As a pet owner, this will give you a good feeling ‒ pets that don’t pay attention to you aren’t very fun. Because reptiles typically ignore you as they go about their day, having an interactive lizard will make the pet-owning experience significantly better.

Happy to stay home alone

Armadillo girdled lizards are perfectly fine if left alone for a significant length of time. As a result, you don’t have to worry about spending a long day at the office or staying over at a friend’s house and leaving your lizards unattended.

They also don’t make enough noise to annoy or disturb your neighbors either. Unless you mention them in a conversation, your neighbors won’t even know that you have an armadillo lizard tucked away. Their quiet demeanor makes it even easier to leave them by themselves.

If you have a cat or a dog, you can’t just up and go without planning and organizing a sitter for them. With an armadillo girdled lizard, all you have to do is make sure that it has access to food and water and you’re good to go.

They aren’t messy

Armadillo girdled lizards are a lot less messy compared to your average mammal. These lizards can easily stay confined to their tank or vivarium — and if you keep them healthy and clean, they don’t smell at all.

The messiness decreases even further if you use a bioactive vivarium, which is a self-contained ecosystem that eliminates the need for cleaning up waste. Small invertebrates live in the substrate, consuming waste as it appears and keeping the vivarium floor squeaky clean.

They are social

Armadillo girdled lizards – unlike other lizards – don’t mind being kept around each other.
File ID 140789393 | © Kerstiny | Dreamstime.com

Armadillo lizards are pretty social creatures in the wild. As such, they prefer to be kept around other armadillo girdled lizards, making it easy to keep two or more lizards in the same vivarium. This ability to house numerous lizards in the same habitat makes having multiple armadillo girdled lizards less expensive than keeping multiple lizards of other species.

They live for a long time

Armadillo girdled lizards are usually quite hardy. As long as their habitat is well-maintained, there won’t suffer from too many health problems.

If properly cared for, armadillo girdled lizards can live up to 25 years, making these reptiles a great long-term family pet. Many people prefer keeping armadillo lizards as pets over other animals for this reason.

Why They Might Not Make a Good Pet

Armadillo girdled lizards have a lot going for them when it comes to keeping them as pets.

It’s not all good, however.

There are a few things we need to cover that might disqualify them from being your next pet.

First:

They Aren’t Great for Handling

Some lizards are great for handling. Leopard geckos, crested geckos, and gargoyle geckos all tolerate handling well.

Armadillo girdled lizards, sadly, do not.

While being far from the worst lizards you can handle, there are a few different reasons why these aren’t great for handling.

Mostly, this comes down to them being timid.

Cordylus cataphractus, Armadillo girdled lizard, South Africa
File ID 44178039 | © Matthijs Kuijpers | Dreamstime.com

They Can Bite

Armadillo girdled lizards are more prone to biting than other types of lizards.

Now, this isn’t a huge deal:

Getting bitten by one won’t do major damage to you. It’s still not a great experience, however, and it shows that they aren’t comfortable with being handled.

They Are Prone to Running Away

Leopard or crested geckos are great lizards for handling. They are more than happy to sit in your hand or rest on your shoulder for as long as you’ll let them.

Armadillo girdled lizards, on the other hand, are more prone to trying to run away at the first opportunity that they can get.

This can be a problem:

Because of how small they are, once they run away and hide under something, it can be incredibly difficult to find them and get them back in their vivarium again.

If you want a lizard that you can take out and hold on a regular basis, you might want to look somewhere else. If you can appreciate a lizard in the habitat you’ve set up for them, however, this downside doesn’t matter as much.

Risk of extinction

Despite their protective armor, armadillo girdled lizards are in danger of going instinct. Human hunters and terrestrial predators are both capturing and killing these lizards in ever-higher numbers.

And unfortunately for lizard lovers, the rising global demand for armadillo girdled lizards is hurting their population in the wild. In addition to these predatory practices, climate change is also contributing to the fact that armadillo girdled lizards are listed as vulnerable and may become endangered shortly.

Because of this, you should look for a captive bred armadillo girdled lizard if you are looking to buy one.

I will admit:

These are harder to find. (Since they only have one or two young per year.) It is the more responsible option, however, and won’t contribute to their going extinct in the wild.

Armadillo girdled lizards: the essential facts

Armadillo girdled lizards are typically found in the mountains of South Africa. Native to rocky desert habitats, the lizard is known for its unique defense mechanism of quickly rolling into a ball and placing its tail in its mouth.

Armadillo Girdled Lizard’s scientific name, Ouroborus cataphractus, is also derived from its peculiar habit of rolling into a ball and biting the tail — just like the mythical Ouroboros found in many ancient cultures.

As you might have guessed from its name, the armadillo lizard rolls into a ball to protect its delicate underbelly when it feels threatened. Once it’s in this unique curled-up position, the other body parts automatically act as additional layers of protection for its soft belly. Once they’re balled up, they can easily stay in this position for over an hour.

These lizards love to sunbathe under the comfort and warmth of the sun. They are also one of the very few reptile species in the world that don’t reproduce by laying eggs. Instead, they give birth to one or two live young.

Armadillo girdled lizards inhabit scrublands, deserts, and dry, rocky areas. Due to their unusual and exotic look, armadillo girdled lizards are often collected from the wild and then sold in pet shops around North America and Europe.

Appearance

Armadillo girdled lizards are yellowish-brown in color with remarkable layered armoring covering their vulnerable skin. Their bodies are covered with square-shaped scales, which are often light or dark brown on the dorsal side of the body, while the bottom side is typically yellow. They usually reach six inches in length, although some occasionally grow even larger.

Their chin and throat are usually covered with small black marks and dark spots, while the upper lip is typically brown. The unique coloration of the lizard’s body provides camouflage and keeps predators at bay.

Armadillo girdled lizards have a stocky body and slightly flattened, triangular head. It’s worth mentioning that the flat body structure of the lizard helps it to squeeze in and easily crawl out of crevices and cracks.

Conclusion

The armadillo girdled lizard is a fascinating and cute creature with some truly unique abilities. There are many reasons why they make excellent pets, including easy maintenance and care, their social and docile nature, and their longevity.

Additional Resources