Armadillo Lizard (Cordylus cataphractus)
Armadillo Lizard Tank Armadillo Lizard
Since armadillo lizards are fairly small, a single individual can easily be kept in a 10-gallon aquarium (left).  Armadillo lizards are named for the heavy, pointed scales that protect their body (right) and their ability to roll into a ball when threatened.
     I obtained my armadillo lizard as an adult from a friend of mine who was breeing them; their native habitat is the southern tip of Africa.  They are best known for the unique defensive posture they take when threatened; an armadillo lizard will roll into a ball and grab its tail with its mouth, creating a spiny loop that is difficult for a predator to grab.  Of course, like many reptiles and amphibians that have been habituated to humans, they no longer display this behavior in captivity.  There are many species of girdled lizards (the group to which armadillo lizards belong) besides C. cataphractus; if you'd like to learn more about them apart, check out this web page on the family Cordylidae, which includes a phylogeny of the family.
     Although armadillo lizards aren't easy lizards to find in the pet trade, they are pretty easy to keep.  Mine lives in a simple 10-gallon aquarium with a few stacked rocks for hiding places and a plastic plant for decoration.  The substrate is corncob bedding, which I have found works well for lizards that can be kept in dry habitats.  (Corncob bedding will grow mold if it gets wet.)  Since my place tends to be on the warm side, I don't have a heat lamp for the lizard - just a fluorescent light.  There's a water bowl in the tank, but I only fill it every couple days; the lizard tends to run through it and splash much of the water out.  He isn't a picky eater and will eat any insect he can fit in his mouth (including crickets, small roaches, superworms, mealworms, and waxworms).  I don't handle him much, but he's not too bad when I do - mostly he just wants to run and hide.  All in all they are fun little lizards.
     Like many lizards, Cordylus gives birth to live young (i.e., they do no lay eggs.) There are some great photos of this process (and mating) on the Chicago Herpetological Society's web page, courtesy of Gary Fogel.  I do not know whether he is still breeding these lizards, nor do I personally know of anyone else  who is (or where they can be purchased).
This page was last updated on December 12, 2006.