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

Toad-Headed Agamas


©1995 Melissa Kaplan


These interesting lizards are found through Middle East across to Manchuria. There are about 40 species (including one that lives in the Himalayas above 5000 ft).


Physical Description
Flattened dorsoventrally. Head is large and rounded across the snout (looks more like a US horned toad than an Australian bearded dragon). Tympanum covered by scales. Toes are partially fringed to aid in walking across sand. Browns and grays with darker and lighter markings.


Natural History
These are terrestrial lizards living in sandy or rocky dry, hot areas. Pugnacious, they will fight off other lizards, including conspecifics, and even snakes. Spend the hottest part of the day in burrows under ground. Digs using both limbs on one side at a time. Curls its tail up over itself when agitated, exposing the boldly striped pattern on the ventral surface.

Most Phyrnocephalus' are oviparous (egg layers), producing several clutches of 1-6 eggs each year. Species from the more northern areas of the range and those residing at higher elevations tend to be ovoviviparous (retains uncalcified eggs inside until they hatch).


Keep as for bearded dragons. Large, dry, spacious terrarium with a deep sand layer and some rocky slabs or bark for cover and perching. Keep the one area of the sand substrate slightly damp for burrowing.

Daytime thermal gradient should range from 86-95 F with basking areas up to 104 F. Nighttime down to the mid 60s-low 70s. Northern species should be wintered for 2-4 months at 50-60 F.

Lighting and Heating
Provide under tank heating under the warm side, and overheat radiant heat sources. Fluorescents emitting UVB are required.


Primarily insectivores, toad-headeds eat arthropods, including crickets, worms, spiders, and beetles. Larger species may be able to take day-old pinks.


Spray the enclosure occasionally, and provide a shallow container of water in which the lizards can soak. They may not drink from standing water but may when in water or be attracted to moving water (such as water agitated by a bubbler, or by water dripped from above, etc.)


The following are just a few of the over 40 species and subspecies in the genus Phrynocephalus.

P. guttata. Tail Roller. Western Asia to extreme southeastern USSR. Keep on sand. To 5-5.25" (13 cm).

P. helioscopus. Sun-gazing Agamid. Trans-Caucasus to Mongolia. Rocky steppes. Head quite round, snout turned up slightly. Most likely to survive in captivity. To 4.8-5" (12 cm).

P. interscaplularis. Spiny Toad-Head. Asia. Dune regions with some growth. Difficult to keep. To 4" (10 cm).

P. mystaceus. Bearded Toad-Head. Central Asia, northern Iran, Afghanistan. Steppes and deserts. Spines at corners of mouth that can be erected when threatened, enlarging the appearance of the mouth to almost 3 x its usual size. Toes distinctly fringed. Does relatively well in captivity (only compared with how poorly most of them do...) To 10" (25 cm).



TIGR Reptile Database: Agamidae

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

There are a number of interesting websites that discuss Phyrnocephalus, many including photos of different species, but the sites tend to be in Russian, Dutch, and other languages. There are various online text translators you may use to translate the pages not in English.

Vladimir Dinets: Deserts
NBAT: Phrynocephalus
Siberian Zoological Museum: Phyrnocephalus melanurus

Need to update a veterinary or herp society/rescue listing?

Can't find a vet on my site? Check out these other sites.

Amphibians Conservation Health Lizards Resources
Behavior Crocodilians Herpetology Parent/Teacher Snakes
Captivity Education Humor Pet Trade Societies/Rescues
Chelonians Food/Feeding Invertebrates Plants Using Internet
Clean/Disinfect Green Iguanas & Cyclura Kids Prey Veterinarians
Home About Melissa Kaplan CND Lyme Disease Zoonoses
Help Support This Site   Emergency Preparedness

Brought to you thanks to the good folks at Veterinary Information Network, Inc.

© 1994-2014 Melissa Kaplan or as otherwise noted by other authors of articles on this site