Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

Plated Lizards


©1995 Melissa Kaplan


The Gerrhosaurus are native to southern and eastern Africa. There are six species found in dry, rocky semi-open habitats. Frequently found in termite mounds.

The species range in size from 40-70 cm (16-28"). Their powerfully-built bodies are only slightly flattened and are supported on relatively delicate-looking legs, much like our own Alligator lizards (Gerrhonotus). The neck is not well differentiated from the head. The tail is typically twice the length of the body.

Scales are evenly arrayed in lines down and around the body. Dorsal scales are keeled while the ventral scales are smooth; little overlapping. Colors are various shades of brown with some lighter longitudinal stripes.

A fold of skin is generally noted running laterally along the length of the body - this allows for expansion.

The plateds become rather tame fairly quickly. While they appear cumbersome and slow, they are capable of movement and, when acclimated, feed well. Some may eventually take small amounts of dog food mixed in their salad which can be used as an occasional supplement to whole prey.


These lizards like to dig and are good swimmers and divers. A substrate of shavings is suitable, as is a good mix of sterile potting soil mixed with some small pieces of orchid bark. Provide caves or slabs of bark for hiding and basking. You can also try a branch or two.

Gerrhosaurus are fossorial, so provide a substrate they can dig into as well as some rocks and/or pieces of wood they can climb in or cave they can get into or lay on top of. A fertilizer-free potting soil lightened with clean sand and orchid bark shreds will work well. Be sure any rocks are secure so that they do not sink on top of a lizard burrowing beneath it.

Undertank heat pad and overhead basking light required. Daytime temps of mid-high 80s, night time low-high 70s.

Sizable water bowl into which the lizard can get in and out safely should be present at all times.

UVB lighting required - DuroTest Vita-Lite or Zoo Med 5.0+ Reptile or Iguana light - 10-12 hours during the daytime.


These omnivores eat a variety of small vertebrates and invertebrates as well as greens and small amounts of fruits. Provide with worms, crickets, mouse pinks, and any of the plants suitable for green and desert iguanas.


To breed, a winter dormancy period of 4-6 weeks is required; reduce illumination and lower temps to 15-20C (keep at night time temps during the day during this period). Lays 2-6 eggs per clutch.



G. flavigularis. Yellow-throated plated lizard. Southern and eastern Africa. 45 cm (18"). Back is brown with 2 lighter-edged longitudinal stripes above sides. Belly is white; throat, chest, neck and sides of head yellow to orange when in breeding season.

G. major. Tawny Plated Lizard. Eastern and southeastern Africa. In excess of 50 cm (20"). Yellow to dark brown with or without black longitudinal stripes. Large component of this species is plants. Usually only 2 eggs laid.

G. validus. Giant Plated Lizard. Southern Africa north to Angola and Mozambique. Almost 70 cm (28"). Blackish brown with narrow bright yellow vertical stripes. Eats a large amount of plant material. Largest lizard in the genus.

G. nigrolineatus. Black-lined Plated lizard. Central to southern Africa. 45 cm (18"). Dark brown to black with light longitudinal stripes. More agile than the other species. Likes to dig.



Obst, et al. Completely Illustrated Atlas of Reptiles and Amphibians for the Terrarium. 1988. TFH Publishing, Neptune City, NJ.

TIGR Reptile Database: Gerrhosauridae: Gerrhosaurus

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Plated Lizards Email Discussion List

Plated Lizards of the Genus Gerrhosaurus: An Alternative to Iguanas

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