How to Decorate a Sudan Plated Lizard Habitat

A Sudan plated lizard habitat with proper heating, lighting, substrate, and food/water bowls is not enough for the long-term welfare of your pet. First, this kind of setup is ugly. Second (and more importantly), minimalistic setups like this are horribly boring for your pet and do nothing to keep them entertained or help them feel secure.

Enclosure decorations play a very important role in a reptile’s mental and physical wellbeing by mimicking their natural environment and providing things for them to smell, explore, climb, hide under, and otherwise interact with. This is called environmental enrichment, and it’s how zoos keep their animals happy and healthy. For a more in-depth discussion on this topic, I recommend reading Environmental Enrichment For Reptiles: What? Why? and How?

Here are some accessory items that work well for both making your Sudan plated lizard’s habitat more functional as well as more attractive:

Hides/Caves

Sudan plated lizards need places to hide in order to feel secure in their environment, especially when they’re young and their predator avoidance instincts are in high gear. Hides are also important for giving the lizard a place to shelter from heat and light when it’s had enough. In the wild, they will take shelter in animal holes, termite mounds, rock piles, and rock crevices.

In your enclosure, you can either use ready-made reptile hides like these, or create your own using other decorative materials. The cave should be large enough to accommodate the lizard’s whole body, but small enough to be a tight fit (this helps them feel safe).

sudan plated lizard habitat
"Photo 21326799" by Ewout Knoester is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0

Cork flats

Cork flats are another stackable material that naturally creates crevices that your plated lizard can happily hide inside. Although cork doesn’t absorb and diffuse heat as well as stone, it still does a decent job as a natural material.

Furthermore, cork is much lighter than stone, making it more convenient for you and less dangerous to your pet if it shifts and falls. That being said, using 100% silicone to stick the pieces together in the desired shape is still a good idea.

Rocks

Natural rocks are heavy, but they absorb heat very well and help file down your plated lizard’s nails. Large, flat rocks like slate and flagstone work especially well when placed under the heat lamp for a basking spot.

If you choose to stack rocks as part of your décor, secure them in place with aquarium cement or silicone so they don’t accidentally shift and crush your lizard.

sudan plated lizard habitat - zoo
Photo contributed by Annika Sorjonen / Korkeasaari Zoo

Logs and branches

Sudan plated lizards are terrestrial (ground-dwelling), but they’re still decent climbers. Including objects like cork logs and large branches provides an opportunity for them to climb and exercise. Don’t believe me? According to The Field Guide to East African Reptiles, the author found one plated lizard in a tree 3 meters above the ground!

You can purchase things like cork logs from your local pet store, but be warned: this can get expensive. It’s convenient, but if you can forage your own wood décor, this is the more affordable option. Forage appropriately-sized branches from areas that haven’t been treated with pesticides, and give them a good scrub before putting them in the enclosure so you can get rid of most of the bugs. Pouring boiling water over the branch(es) in the bathtub is another good way to clean.

Never use pine, fir, cedar, or redwood branches in a Sudan plated lizard habitat, as these woods contain volatile oils that are toxic to reptiles.

sudan plated lizard habitat wild
"Photo 2038778" by Johnny Wilson is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0

Plants

In the wild, plated lizards will often shelter under small bushes and in clumps of grass. You can recreate this with live or artificial plants. Plus, plants always make an enclosure prettier.

Artificial plants: Artificial plants are convenient because they always keep their size and color, and never die. However, this convenience comes with a risk: the plastics and dyes that they are made from can release toxins into the air. The effects that this has on reptiles is still fairly unknown, but we do know that reptiles have more sensitive respiratory systems than humans have, and “indoor pollution” from artificial materials in human homes is rapidly becoming a concern for human health.

sudan plated lizard habitat - artificial plants
Contributed by Mariah Healey

Live plants: Live plants require more upkeep than artificial plants, but as long as you use nontoxic varieties, they shouldn’t pose a health risk if your plated lizard decides to take a nibble. Plus, they can be quite easy to keep alive when you plant varieties suited to the climate of the enclosure, and mist weekly. They can also help maintain healthy humidity levels.

Here are some live plant varieties that are nontoxic and likely to do well in your plated lizard’s enclosure:

  • Air plant (Tillandsia)
  • Aloe
  • Basil
  • Carex grass
  • Chia
  • Cilantro
  • Clover
  • Dandelions
  • Elephant Bush (Portulacaria)
  • Festuca grass
  • Gasteria
  • Haworthia
  • Hens and chicks (Echeveria)
  • Jade plant (Crassula ovata)
  • Mint (Mentha)
  • Parsley
  • Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia danicolor)
  • Speckboom
  • Spineless agave
  • Succulents
  • Turtle vine (Callisia repens)
  • Wheatgrass

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, but still want to use live plants, The Bio Dude sells a handy arid plant kit here.

sudan plated lizard habitat - live plants
"Photo 47105769" by cookswell is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0

Leaf litter

Leaf litter is a good way to make your Sudan plated lizard habitat look more naturalistic and encourage humidity. It also provides some entertainment for your lizard, especially when you first add the dried leaves. If you are collecting your own leaves, make sure to collect them from a pesticide-free area and that the leaves aren’t toxic. Some popular leaves that other keepers use are oak, magnolia, sea grape, and willow.

3D Backgrounds

3D backgrounds like those created by Universal Rocks are an awesome way to maximize the available space in your enclosure. Rather than just having floor space, this makes the walls of your enclosure available for your plated lizard’s climbing pleasure. This gives your pet more exercise opportunities as well as a very functional way to make your enclosure look more naturalistic.

Custom Reptile Habitats offers decoration kits that include Universal Rocks backgrounds and ledges specifically made for 4’x2’x2’ enclosures here. It’s actually the same kit that I used to upgrade my own plated lizard!

sudan plated lizard habitat enclosure
Photo contributed by Custom Reptile Habitats

Fun fact: Sudan plated lizards will often designate part of their enclosure as a “toilet.” For easy cleanup, you can place sand or even a litter tray in that area once you have figured out your lizard’s habits.

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