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Sudan Plated Lizard

From The Reptile File Wiki



Order: Squamata
Family: Cordylidae
Genus: Gerrhosaurus
Species: major


The Sudan plated lizard (AKA Round-nosed Plated Lizard or Rough-scaled Plated lizard) is from the arid regions of Eastern and southeastern Africa. The name "Sudan" plated lizard simply comes from someone assigning this name since it is shipped to Sudan first and then imported from there. They spend much of their time underground or in rocky crevices to escape the hot African sun. This contributes to their shy nature since hiding is in their programming. The Sudan's in particular live in the rockier regions where vegetation is scarce. In the wild their diet consists of a high insect diet, but being omnivores they do VERY well on a diet of greens, veggies and fruits supplemented with a good insect diet.

Photo by netbunny
Photo by netbunny

Sudan's show in a variety of earth tone colors from yellow to dark browns. Their bodies are built low to the ground with short, stout legs that make you think these guys may be slow. They're anything but slow. These lizards can move fast! They have a stout tail and can use it as a club in defense. In extreme circumstances they can lose their tail and regenerate a new one. The ridges, or keel, of the plated lizards have a raised angle on the dorsal (top) side while the scales elsewhere are quite smooth. They have an extra lateral fold of skin which allows for expansion so they can wedge themselves into their escape hole if being chased by predators.

Sudan plated lizards have long been in the pet trade with minimal popularity and exposure. They are gaining that as more people learn these are an easy animal to handle once they get over their shyness and their size makes them easily manageable.

The Sudan plated lizard is one of 7 species for which this wiki can be used, as well. The other 6 species are:


Advanced - but only because the level of specific care requirements needed in lighting and heating to keep your plated happy and healthy. These are a very easy lizard to handle.

Basic Info


They average at about 20". Some may become a little longer while some remain a bit smaller. Half it's length is the tail.


So far these lizards are living about 8-12 years.


Sudan plated lizards are somewhat shy lizards, but become accustomed to people rather quickly. There are not many breeding programs for any of the plated lizard species so many are WC specimens. Even newly captured plateds are not very prone to biting. They can bite and one should not be surprised if this happens. It's natural and to be expected. It just doesn't happen very often.


Housing Size

Single plateds should be housed in no less than a 55 gal. (or 40 gal. breeder) tank as babies and young lizards. The temperature gradients cannot be achieved in anything less. Of course, bigger is better and you may quickly find you have run out of room in the 55 gal. I keep mine in a 75 gal. and even this has limited room with the extras. Though not an overly active lizard, it does appreciate the room offered by larger accommodations. A custom built cage would be ideal for a plated lizard.

Here are some simple dimensions:

  • 12” to 14” animals are housed in 5’L x 2’D x 2’H
    • 6’L x 2’D x 2’H or 4’L x 3’D x 2’H melamine cages for pairs & trios
  • 14” to 24” animals are housed in 6’L x 3’D x 2'H
    • 54"L x 36"D x 24"H or 72"L x 28"D x 24"H for pairs & select trios of 1.2


Plated lizards love to dig. They're very good at it. A fertilizer-free potting soil lightened with clean sand and orchid bark shreds will work well. Newspaper is easier to clean and easy to feed on, but they are made for burrowing and will do quite well on the substrate mixture. My plated enjoys the children's playsand very much, but not only did it make the already heavy cage even heavier, it was hard to keep the sand out of the food with his digging. I have offered him instead a kitty litter pan filled with sand and his hide sits in it. I will soon be changing to a covered rubbermaid container so the sand stays in it better.


Use a digital indoor/outdoor thermometer w/hygrometer for the best accuracy. You can get these for about $15 - $20 U.S. currency. Once you get the thermometer your goal is meeting the required temperature gradients in three different spots:

  • Basking: 90-95
  • Ambient: 80-85
  • Cool end/night time: 70-75

Without the correct temps, especially the high basking temps...all that good food going in will not get digested properly and organ functions will be trying to run on less than ideal capacity. Nutrients are lost and illness sets in.


Sudan plated lizards come from very arid regions. However, they should have a moist hide in which they can turn around in for aid in shedding. Females will often lay their eggs in this. This can be as easy a a rubbermaid container with a lid and a hole large enough for the lizard to get in and out of. Fill this with a sand/moss mixture. In the wild there are damp areas within the rocks and hides they seek out in the heat of the day.


Basking lights are very easy and inexpensive if you stay away from the pet stores for this one. They need a photoperiod with daylight and nighttime as they would in their natural home. You can either follow the seasonal light changes going no less than 10 hours lights on to no more than 14 hours lights on. Instead of using the expensive "reptile basking lights", go to your local retail store and get a regular incandescent light bulb, such as what you would use for a lamp.

Plateds should NOT have night heat unless their nighttime temps go below the lowest temp requirements. Their bodies need to regulate to lower temps in order for them to "rest and recharge" for the next day.

Not all UVB lights are created equal. Some decay very quickly. You need no less than two 36" fluorescent UVB tubes using a dual shop hood fixture. Short version - UVB helps the plated to process the calcium in their diet. Without the UVB...the calcium does not get absorbed and the result is Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD) and renal failure. The brands to go with:


  • Reptisun 5.0 or 10.0
  • Iguana Light 5.0
  • Exoterra 8.0
  • Arcadia 5.0 (UK)

Merc Vapors:

  • Mega Ray EB (external ballast) ReptileUV
  • Mega Ray SB (self-ballast)
  • T-Rex 100W or 160W Active UV Flood & Spot Lamps (available in many stores)

Many of these can be purchased at Reptile Direct for a more reasonable price than the pet stores. Once you provide these lights for your lizard...set them in the 6" - 8" range (12" - 18" for the Mega Rays). Any farther and the UVB drops of so much that they don't do any good. A note on the compacts and spirals. These are no good for large lizards and reptiles. They do not cover nearly enough of the animal to benefit them. A UVB meter is an excellent way to keep on top of your bulbs.

Some EXCELLENT sources on UVB at the bottom.



Plated lizards are omnivores and will readily eat a wide variety of foods. Gutloaded insects can include, but are not limited to: crickets, mealworms, superworms, silkworms, waxworms, phoenix worms and cockroaches (lobster roach & hissers). Plant can contain, but not limited to: collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, dandelion greens (flowers and leaves), escarole, endive, radicchio, green beans, snap peas, yellow wax beans, parsnips, cactus leaves (remove spines), prickly pear, any of the summer squash, blueberry, blackberry, strawberry, mango, fig (rehydrated) any bright colored bell pepper. Human food: cooked lean burger (small amounts only!), boiled chicken, scrambled eggs (no seasonings, no oils). Lettuces of any kind should not be a part of the diet for their lack of nutrition.


The diet should have a calcium (no D3, no phosphorous) very lightly dusted on the salad 3-4x weekly. You should not be able to see the calcium once it's been added. A great way to add this is to use a salt shaker and gently shake once. If you have a limited variety of greens/veggies you should also add a good vitamin. Herptevite is a good choice to go with. A balanced diet should need no vitamin supplements. Calcium should always be used.


Water should always be offered in a non-tipping dish changed daily. Mine will also take water from a syringe. I do this so I know he is getting some water intake.



Sexing is very difficult in plateds unless you have another same-species lizard of the opposite sex to compare it to. They both have femoral pores which excrete a waxy substance. The males are more prominent than the females. There is only one 100% way to tell what you have. Even comparisons can be shaky depending upon the time of year and seasonal changes. Getting a DNA test using a spot of blood is the only sure-fire way if you are just dying to know. However...the only problem here is getting the blood. It means, at the very least, clipping a toenail toe short. Here is a website if you can bring yourself to do it complete with instructions and a printable blot page. Zoogen Incorporated has been used for many years in bird sexing and have been very successful in sexing reptiles, too.






  • Plated Lizards of the Genus Gerrhosaurus: An Alternative to Iguanas - by David T. Kirkpatrick
  • Grzimeks Animal Life Encyclopedia - by Bernhard Grzimek


This article was originally written by prism_wolf. View other articles by prism_wolf. Please note that others may have contributed to this article.

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