Is it Legal to Own an Armadillo Lizard?

Owning an armadillo lizard as a pet raises questions about its legality. It is important to understand the legal considerations associated with owning such a unique reptile.

Key Takeaways:

  • Armadillo lizards are native to South Africa and have spiny coats of armor resembling a dragon.
  • While they make great pets, it is illegal to export them from South Africa due to conservation concerns.
  • Armadillo lizards grow to just over four inches in length and prefer to live in groups.
  • They require specific care, including high temperatures, low humidity, and a diet of insects.
  • Proper care and regular check-ups can ensure a healthy lifespan of up to 25 years for these reptiles.

Armadillo Lizard Characteristics

The armadillo lizard, also known as the Ouroborus cataphractus, is a fascinating reptile native to South Africa. Its most distinctive feature is its spiny coat of armor, which closely resembles that of a dragon. These lizards are small in size, typically growing to just over four inches in length. Male armadillo lizards tend to be slightly longer than females.

Armadillo lizards are sociable creatures that exhibit interesting social behaviors. They prefer to live in groups of four to six lizards, offering each other protection from predators. In addition to their unique appearance, these lizards are also known for their hardiness. They are easy to care for, making them popular among reptile enthusiasts.

Conservation concerns have led to regulations on exporting armadillo lizards from South Africa. As a result, it is illegal to obtain these lizards from the wild. However, captive-bred armadillo lizards are available from private breeders. As pet companions, they can bring joy and fascination to reptile enthusiasts who appreciate their unusual characteristics.

Armadillo Lizard Characteristics:

  • Spiny coat of armor resembling a dragon
  • Sociable and exhibit interesting social behaviors
  • Small in size, typically just over four inches long
  • Male armadillo lizards are slightly longer than females
  • Hardy and easy to care for
  • Illegal to export from South Africa
Characteristic Description
Coat of Armor Resembles a dragon’s spiny armor
Size Just over four inches in length
Social Behavior Prefer to live in groups of four to six lizards
Hardiness Known for being hardy and easy to care for
Legal Status Illegal to export from South Africa

Armadillo Lizard as a Pet

armadillo lizard in terrarium

Armadillo lizards make excellent pets for reptile enthusiasts due to their hardy nature and unique dragon-like appearance. These sociable reptiles prefer to live in groups, exhibiting interesting social behaviors that can be fascinating to observe. However, it is important to understand that armadillo lizards may become stressed with excessive handling, so it is best to provide them with a secure and comfortable environment.

Breeding armadillo lizards in captivity can be challenging, requiring specific temperature and humidity conditions. It is recommended to consult with experienced breeders or herpetologists for proper guidance and advice. Additionally, as armadillo lizards are illegal to export from their native South Africa, it is crucial to acquire them from reputable private breeders who specialize in captive-bred specimens.

When establishing an enclosure for armadillo lizards, it is essential to mimic their natural habitat. Providing a spacious tank with plenty of flat rocks for basking and hiding is crucial. A 30-gallon tank is suitable for housing one or two lizards, and maintaining proper heating and lighting conditions is vital for their well-being. It is recommended to create a diverse environment with different substrates, branches, and caves to fulfill their natural instincts.

Armadillo Lizard Care Checklist:

  • Provide a spacious tank with flat rocks for basking and hiding.
  • Maintain proper heating and lighting conditions.
  • Ensure a diverse environment with various substrates, branches, and caves.
  • Feed a diet primarily consisting of termites, supplemented with appropriate insects.
  • Regularly monitor for signs of mouth and femoral pore infections.
  • Consult with experienced breeders or herpetologists for breeding guidance.

By adhering to these care guidelines and respecting the legal regulations surrounding armadillo lizards, you can enjoy the company of these remarkable reptiles and provide them with a fulfilling life in captivity.

Armadillo Lizard Size and Behavior

The armadillo lizard, also known as the armadillo girdled lizard, is a small reptile that reaches a maximum length of just over four inches when fully grown. Males tend to be slightly longer than females. These lizards are slow-moving and spend a significant amount of time basking in the sun or hiding between rocks. Their spiny coats of armor provide some protection from predators in the wild.

In their natural habitat, armadillo lizards are usually found living in groups of four to six individuals. This behavior helps provide additional protection against predators and allows for social interactions among the group. While they are sociable creatures, it is important to note that armadillo lizards can become stressed with excessive handling, so it’s best to limit interactions to minimize their stress levels.

When kept as pets, armadillo lizards require an environment that closely mimics their natural habitat. This means providing them with a spacious enclosure that includes plenty of rocks for basking and hiding. Creating a suitable environment that allows them to exhibit their natural behaviors is essential for their well-being.

Armadillo Lizard Care and Diet

Proper care and diet are essential for the health and well-being of armadillo lizards. These unique reptiles have specific requirements that need to be met in order to ensure their optimal living conditions.


Creating a suitable habitat is crucial for armadillo lizards. They thrive in a warm and dry environment with low humidity. It is recommended to provide them with a spacious enclosure, preferably a glass tank, with plenty of rocks for basking and hiding. The tank should be adequately heated using a heat lamp or an under-tank heating pad to maintain temperatures between 85-90°F during the day and around 70°F at night.


The diet of armadillo lizards primarily consists of termites in the wild. However, in captivity, it is important to provide a well-rounded diet to ensure proper nutrition. Their diet can be supplemented with a variety of small insects, such as crickets and superworms. These can be dusted with calcium powder to meet their calcium requirements. Leafy greens can also be offered occasionally, but they should not be the main component of their diet. It is crucial to avoid feeding them large prey items or foods that are high in fat, as it can lead to health issues.

Food Frequency
Insects (crickets, superworms) Daily
Termites Occasionally
Leafy greens Occasionally


Armadillo lizards require access to clean and fresh water at all times. A shallow dish can be provided in their enclosure for drinking and soaking. The water should be changed regularly to maintain hygiene and prevent bacterial growth.

It is important to note that armadillo lizards are sit-and-wait predators, meaning they may not eat every day. They have a slower metabolism compared to other reptiles, so it is normal for them to go a few days without eating. However, if you notice a significant decrease in appetite or any abnormal behavior, it is recommended to consult a reptile veterinarian.

By providing proper care and a well-balanced diet, you can ensure that your armadillo lizard remains healthy and happy in captivity. Remember to regularly monitor their behavior, maintain their habitat, and seek professional advice when needed.

Armadillo Lizard Lifespan and Health

When it comes to owning an armadillo lizard, understanding their lifespan and health is crucial. These reptiles can live up to 25 years in captivity, making them a long-term commitment for any pet owner. With proper care and attention, you can ensure that your armadillo lizard stays healthy and thrives in its habitat.

Armadillo lizards are generally robust and resilient creatures. However, they can be prone to certain health issues, including mouth and femoral pore infections. It is important to regularly check and maintain their oral hygiene to prevent infections. Additionally, keeping their enclosure clean and providing appropriate temperatures and humidity levels will help promote their overall well-being.

Regular veterinary check-ups are essential to monitor your armadillo lizard’s health. A reptile veterinarian can provide guidance on preventive care, recommend appropriate supplements, and treat any potential health issues that may arise. Maintaining a close eye on their behavior and appetite can also help detect any early signs of illness.

Common Health Issues Symptoms Treatment
Mouth Infections Difficulty eating, swollen gums, drooling Veterinary treatment with antibiotics
Femoral Pore Infections Swelling, discharge from the femoral pores Veterinary treatment with antibiotics and proper cleaning of the affected area

By providing your armadillo lizard with a proper diet, a suitable habitat, and regular veterinary care, you can ensure that it lives a long and healthy life. Remember to always consult with a reptile veterinarian for personalized advice and guidance on caring for your armadillo lizard.

Armadillo Lizard Enclosure and Buying Guide

Creating the perfect enclosure for your armadillo lizard is essential to ensure their comfort and well-being. These reptiles require a tank that closely mimics their natural habitat, providing them with the necessary space and conditions to thrive. Here is our comprehensive guide to setting up an ideal armadillo lizard enclosure.

Enclosure Size and Setup

For one or two armadillo lizards, a 30-gallon tank is recommended. It should be spacious enough to accommodate their natural behaviors while allowing for easy maintenance. The enclosure should be escape-proof, as armadillo lizards are known to be skilled climbers. A secure lid or screen top is essential to prevent any accidental escapes.

To create a suitable environment, include plenty of flat rocks for basking and hiding. Armadillo lizards are primarily terrestrial, so a substrate of sand or reptile carpet is preferred. Additionally, provide a hiding spot, such as a small cave or hollow log, to offer them a sense of security.

Temperature and Lighting

Armadillo lizards require a temperature gradient in their enclosure to regulate their body temperature. Provide a basking spot with a temperature of around 90-95°F (32-35°C) and a cooler area at 75-80°F (24-27°C). Heat lamps or ceramic heat emitters can be used to achieve the desired temperature range. Additionally, UVB lighting is essential for armadillo lizards to metabolize calcium and maintain healthy bones.

Feeding and Hydration

In the wild, armadillo lizards primarily feed on termites, so providing a diet that replicates their natural food source is crucial. Offer them a variety of small insects such as crickets, mealworms, and roaches. Gut-loading the insects with nutritious foods before feeding them to your lizards will ensure they receive the necessary nutrients. Always provide fresh water in a shallow dish, making sure to clean and refill it daily.

Buying Armadillo Lizards

When purchasing armadillo lizards, it is crucial to ensure that they are captive-bred and not illegally sourced from the wild. Wild-caught armadillo lizards can be detrimental to their natural populations and may carry diseases. Look for reputable private breeders or licensed pet stores that breed armadillo lizards ethically and responsibly.

By following these guidelines for setting up an appropriate enclosure and sourcing your armadillo lizards responsibly, you can provide them with a safe and comfortable home. Remember to regularly monitor their health and behavior, and consult a reptile veterinarian for any concerns or questions you may have.

Enclosure Tips Buying Tips
Secure lid or screen top to prevent escapes Ensure armadillo lizards are captive-bred
Include flat rocks for basking and hiding Look for reputable breeders or licensed pet stores
Provide a hiding spot for added security Avoid purchasing wild-caught armadillo lizards
Maintain proper temperature gradient Consult a reptile veterinarian for guidance
Use UVB lighting for calcium metabolism
Offer a varied diet of small insects
Provide fresh water daily


Owning an armadillo lizard as a pet can be an exciting and rewarding experience. These unique reptiles, with their spiny coats of armor and sociable nature, make a fascinating addition to any reptile enthusiast’s collection. However, it is important to understand and meet their specific care needs and consider the legal regulations associated with their ownership.

Armadillo lizards require a carefully designed enclosure that mimics their natural habitat, with proper heating, lighting, and plenty of flat rocks for basking and hiding. Providing the right diet, mainly consisting of termites or small insects, is crucial for their health and well-being. Regular check-ups can help prevent and treat any potential health issues, such as mouth and femoral pore infections.

When considering owning an armadillo lizard, it’s essential to follow legal regulations. Exporting these lizards from their native South Africa is illegal, so it is recommended to purchase captive-bred individuals from reputable private breeders. By ensuring proper care and adhering to legal requirements, you can enjoy the company of these extraordinary creatures and create a fulfilling and enriching bond with your armadillo lizard pet.