Krystle's Reptile Care and Maintenance Information

Plated Lizard Care and Maintenance

Other Spices you can Apply This Guide to:

Giant Plated Lizard: Adult size: Over two feet (largest of the plated lizard species)

Sudan (or African) Plated Lizard: Adult Size: 14-20 inches

Black Lined Plated Lizard: Adult Size: 16-24 inches

Yellow Throat (or Lined) Plated Lizard: Adult Size: 12-16 inches

Sexing and Characteristics:

Plated Lizards are fascinating creatures. They are smart, spunky, and are cautious by nature.  Their sleek scales and profile and beautiful coloring make them a popular choice for reptile keepers. They have an average life span of about 10 years, and it depends on the species of Plated Lizard you have as to the final adult size.  

Determining the sex of a Plated Lizard is fairly simple and straightforward, if it has reached sexual maturity (approximately 2 years of age.) Sexing baby Plateds is inaccurate and difficult, but a professional, or highly practiced individual, should be able to do it for you. To sex a Sudan Plated Lizard, for example, look at the underside of the reptile, specifically the vent (anus.) If there are two horned spikes/spears on either side of the vent, you have a male, and if its smooth and no trace of anything, than it is a female. For the Yellow Throat or the Black Lined Plated Lizards look specifically at the inner thighs. If there are enlarged fringe like scales that run along the outer edge of the inner thigh, called femoral fringe, then you have a male. There are other ways to sex a Plated Lizard, but they are either inaccurate, or need a trained eye. Looking for hemipenal bulges is an example in which you should have a trained eye.

Most Active:

Diurnal; Plated Lizards are most active during the day.

Substrate and Water:

There are quite a few options for substrate in your Plateds enclosure. However, it is not recommended that you use loose substrate, especially with young Plateds. When they ingest too much of the loose substrate, either by “missing” a prey item, or using their tongue like humans use their fingers to explore their environment, repeatedly ingesting it, they can end up with a medical condition called impaction of the gut. Impaction is a severe blockage of the intestines that if not passed with lead to death. Sand or repti-bark is the most popular loose substrate choice for Plated Lizards, usually because it is seen as the most “natural” choice. What many keepers fail to realize is Plated Lizards have a wide range of habitats in he wild; woodlands, scrublands, and, or course, deserts. Desert doesn’t mean sand, sand, and more sand. There is more to a desert than just sand. If you still choose to use sand, children’s play sand is the safest choice (the lesser of the evils, so to speak.) There are some examples of substrate more dangerous than sand, and these, under no circumstances, should ever be used: aquarium rock, pebbles, gravel, crushed walnut shell, bark, mulch, and wood shavings. More appropriate and safer choices for Plated substrate would be: repti-carpet, textured ceramic tile, slabs of slate rock, carpet (no loops) and Astroturf. You can even go “low tech” with the substrate by using non-adhesive shelf liner, paper towels, and brown butcher paper. If you want a more natural look to your Plated’s enclosure that would also help maintain humidity is to mix "dirt" (Bed-a-Beast, organic potting soil (no chemicals or Perlite), or organic compost) with Cyprus or orchid mulch. Keep the mixture lightly moistened and well mixed. Soaked and compacted bedding will grow bacteria and fungus.  

Fresh water should be available at all times in your Plated Lizard’s enclosure, although you may never actually see the Plated drink. Their bodies are very good at getting the water they need through the food that they eat. Plateds occasionally like to soak themselves (or just play in it), and the water can help them defecate if they are a little constipated. Regular soaking will also help to maintain good hydration and help the reptile during a shed. 

Lighting, Temperatures, and Humidity:

Plated Lizards require UV lighting and heat in order for their metabolisms to work correctly. UV light is an invisible light spectrum, at least to the human eye. Plateds normally get this light by basking under the sun, but you can supplement with a fluorescent light source. There are three types of UV light, but you need only concern yourself with two of them: UVA and UVB. UVA is used to promote a Plateds mental well-being. This type of UV light can be found in any “white light” emitting bulb. UVB is used in a Plated Lizards metabolism, especially in the absorption of calcium in their bodies. UVB can only be obtained in fluorescent lighting. Heat and UVB will be two separate bulbs. The only way to get heat and UVB light in one bulb is to use a MVB (mercury vapor bulb.) Zoomed's Reptisun long tube UVB bulb is one of the best on the market to date. UVB lighting should be available for 10 - 12 hours a day. Coiled/compact UVB bulbs are available, but be warned: these bulbs are documented to have caused severe eye damage and blindness in reptiles. Placing your Plated’s enclosure in front of the window and expecting it to get the UV light that it needs that way will not work. Windowpanes, screen, the enclosure walls and any other obstruction will effectively filter the UV light before it reaches your Plated. 

A heat source is also required in a Plated’s enclosure. They are “desert” creatures, so the basking temperature should be 90 degrees F, situated to one side of the enclosure to create a temperature gradient in the enclosure (warmer on one side of the enclosure than the other.) The basking temperature should be available for 10 - 12 hours a day. All reptiles need to be able to thermoregulate (move from one temperature to another, depending on what their body needs) in their enclosure. They are exothermic creatures, and that means that they rely on outside temperatures to heat and cool their bodies. Reptiles are unable to create their own body heat like mammals can. Night time temperatures can safely drop fifteen or twenty degrees from the cooler side day time temperature; the upper 60’s or 70’s degrees F. If night time temps are too cold, you can use a ceramic heat emiter (best choice because they do not emit any visible light), a dark red, or dark blue bulb to get the temps within the recommended range. Any “white light” producing bulb, including UV lighting, needs to be shut off during the night time in order to maintain a Plated’s day and night cycle (sleeping and waking.)

Another thing to keep in mind is proper humidity in the enclosure. Ideally, the humidity should be 50-60%. Plated lizards like to borrow in the ground and that’s where they find the moisture they need in their arid environment in the wild. Frequent soaking/bathing can help to maintain good hydration and skin condition when maintaining humidity in the enclosure is difficult. 

Caging and Equipment:

You don’t have to go fancy, complicated, or expensive with your Plated’s enclosure. The most popular choice for any reptile enclosure is the glass aquarium. They are visually pleasing and decorative, but can be very costly. If you start out with a baby Plated, it is recommended that you start small and go progressively bigger with their enclosure. Putting baby reptiles in huge enclosures causes stress and stress related illness. Some people will buy the final size they need and simply partition most of it off at first, and progressively make it bigger. A 40-gallon tank is the minimum size for an adult specimen Plated Lizard (except the Giant Plated Lizard; you need a 55 gallon tank or a 75 gallon tank, depending on how large it gets.) A 40 gallon tank is 3 ft. long, 1.5 ft. wide, and 1.5 ft. tall. Bigger is always better when you are keeping any animal. Some less expensive alternatives include, but are not limited to: extra large rubber maid containers (as long as they are the same size and the minimum recommendations listed above), cattle troughs, and you can also build your own. What ever you decide to use for your enclosure, be sure that it is sturdy and secure. Use caution when using a heat source with plastics and wood. 

Other equipment needed for your Plated’s enclosure are a hygrometer and at least two thermometers. A hygrometer will tell the humidity percentage in the enclosure, and the thermometers, of course, will tell you the temperature. One thermometer should go on the warm end of the enclosure, and the other should go on he cooler end. It is recommended that you use digital hygrometers and thermometers. They are more accurate than the traditional “stick on” ones. They also last a lot longer and break less frequently. If you get them from a convenience store they are cheaper than the digital ones from the pet store and in some instances even the stick on ones. Use Velcro to affix the unit to the enclosure.

A “hide” is another essential for your Plated Lizard’s enclosure. There should be at least two of them in the enclosure. A “hide” is a cave like structure that your Plated can effectively hide inside. It brings a sense of security and places to sleep in the enclosure. You can get “hides” from a pet store or you can create your own: broken clay pot halves, building one from sealed wood, or a plastic bowl turned upside down with a door cut into it are some examples.  Another thing you might want to add to your Plated’s enclosure if you are using a substrate like repti-carpet, Astroturf, carpet, or paper is a digging box. It is a box filled with “diggable” substrate, like organic potting soil or Bed-a-Beast. It gives your Plated a chance to do what comes naturally to them with out including more maintenance on your part. The box can be something like a plastic shoebox or a small shallow Rubbermaid tub. You can cut a hole into the lid so your Plated can get in and out as he/she pleases and not make a giant mess in the process. The only other things needed in your Plated’s enclosure, that aren’t already mentioned in other sections of this guide, are decorations and/or furnishings. Plated Lizards enjoy borrowing, hiding in crevices, and basking in large flat surfaces (like rocks), so keep that in mind when looking for décor.  

Diet:

Omnivorous. Plated Lizards are like Humans; they eat both plant and animal matter (protein.) 

Description of Diet:

The age of your Plated determines what their diet should consist of. A young Plated should be eating about 80% animal matter and 20% plant matter. When your Plated Lizard is about half size it should be eating about 50% animal matter and 50% plant matter. And when your Plated is full size it should be eating about 20% animal matter and 80% plant matter. Good sources of protein include: feeder insects, like crickets, phoenix worms, horn worms, red wrigglers (or night crawlers), silk worms, dubia roaches, and red lobster roaches. Examples of feeder insects that should be fed sparingly or occasionally are: mealworms (their outer shell is indigestible; feeding large quantities can lead to impaction), and wax worms (think of them as “reptile candy;” they are fattening and sometimes addicting.) Occationally, cooked unseasoned chicken, turkey, tuna in water (not oil), beef liver, and beef heart can be offered for variety. A general rule for feeding reptiles is not to offer anything larger than the space between the reptile’s eyes. This will make sure that the reptile will not choke, become paralysed, constipated, or impacted.

Dark leafy greens, like collard greens, mustard greens, turnip greens, dandelion greens, endive, and escarole, should comprise most of the veggie part of the diet. The vitamin and mineral content of these greens are excellent. "Lettuces" have very little nutritional value, and ice burg lettuce should never be offerd. Other veggies should be varried often. Click here for a veggie list with nutritional information. Variety is key and any living things diet to ensure maximum nutrition.

Supplements and Usage:

Captive reptiles are prone to calcium deficiency, so a calcium supplement powder is a must with any reptile’s care and maintenance. Young Plateds should get calcium powder at least every other day, although, once a day is better for very young specimens. Plain calcium (no added vitamin D3) is best to use with young reptiles; it is possible for reptiles to overdose on D3. Adult Plated Lizards should get calcium powder at least once a week; twice is better. An efficient method for giving calcium powder is to take a Ziploc baggie, put some powder into it, take the amount of feeder insect you are going to give at one feeding, and “shake and bake” the crickets in the baggie with the powder until they are coated white. Another method for feeding calcium powder is to sprinkle some onto the fruits and veggies that you feed.

A good multivitamin powder and food pellets are some other supplements to consider. Giving a multivitamin powder twice a week to younger Plateds and once a week for adults will ensure that your Plated is getting all the minerals and vitamins that they need to stay healthy. The multivitamin will fill in the gaps in your Plated’s diet. Do not feeda multivitamin powder more often then recommended. It is possible for reptiles to overdose on various vitamins. Food pellets can be given as often as you like. They can add color, texture and flavor to your Plated Lizard’s “salad.” Be sure to soak them (to soften them) for ten to fifteen minutes before feeding. You can soak them in plain water, or a variety of no sugar added juices (like juices for Human babies and children) for different flavors. If your local pet store doesn’t have pellets specifically for Plated Lizards, you can get some made for other omnivores, like Bearded Dragons or Box Turtles.

Maintenance:

Maintaining a Plated Lizard is not a difficult undertaking. Keeping the cage clean and hygienic, the water fresh, the temperatures correct, and offering a variety in their food consumption are a large and easy part of keeping one. There are some smaller, but just as important things to remember when it comes to keeping a Plated. UV and heating bulbs will have to be replaced routinely. The UVB bulbs will need to be replaced according to the manufacturers recommendation, after which time the bulb will no longer produce UVB light even if visible light still is. They should be replaced at least every year. Heating bulbs will need to be replaced whenever they burn out. An average life span for a heat bulb is about 3 - 4 months. An extremely important thing to keep in mind is if your Plated Lizard gets injured, a reptile specialist vet is never cheap, and sometimes difficult to find depending on where you live. The final thing to consider is the fact that you will have to “keep” the feeder insects as well. You will have to feed, water, and clean the feeder insect’s housing. (See feeder cricket care guide.)