Reptile import-export and breeding since 1993

BION Events Keeping and breeding of Shield tailed agamas (Хеnаgаmа taylori) at BION Terrarium Center

Keeping and breeding of Shield tailed agamas (Хеnаgаmа taylori) at BION Terrarium Center


Shield tailed agama (Xenagama taylori, Parker, 1935) inhabits desert areas in Somalia and Ethiopia.

This species is at present known from just four localities. Originally discovered in the 1930s on the border between Ethiopia and northern Somalia, where found in dry, open woodland with a sparse ground-cover of grass and low herbage, it has more recently been observed at the adjacent sides of Dargah Bur and Aware in Ethiopia. Here it lives in flat, semi-desert country, being active by day and occupying burrows in sandy soil, into which it retreats head-first when disturbed. Presumably the broad and extraordinarily spiny tail serves as a very effective deterrent to any predator that might be tempted to follow this lizard into its lair. 

This agamas reach  10 см, including tail. The tail resemble small «shield», which  give the lizard english name – «shield tailed agama». They are pretty hardy in captivity in case their needs are properly meet. Xenagama species possess an unique behavior – they blocked  at night by their shield tails the entrance of  short holes they deep as shelter. This is the original way of protection against predators. 


Photo by Thomas Price

We keep & breed Хеnаgаmа tayloriin BION Terrarium Center since 2003. For October 2014, we have 5 adult males, 3 adult females and 3 juveniles 1 year old as current breeding stock. We hope to receive more animals for breeding program soon.

 Keeping in captivity

Terrarium: For adults –  90х60х60 cm. Substrate:  loam mixed  with clay  (depth 10-12 cm). See the pictures.

Babies and juveniles are kept in open plastic boxes 60x40x30 cm. Substrate: paper towels .

Decoration: Potsherds as hiding places. For babies we use egg trays.

Lighting : full spectrum Zoo Med lamp “Reptisun UV.10”; up to 14 hours at summer and 5-6 hours at winter .

Heating: 60 watt spot lamp ; up to 14 hours at summer and 5-6 hours at wintertime.

UV: Full spectrum Zoo Med lamp “Reptisun UV.10”; up to 14 hours at summer and 5-6 hours at wintertime.

Temperature: day time - 28°C (basking place – 40-45°C), night time - 22-24°C.

Humidity: 50-60%. It should be sufficiently dry in the terrarium. But it is necessary to keep moist down level of  substrate because these lizards are good diggers.

Diet:  For adults: crickets, roaches, zophobas, mealworms, sometimes butterflies of Pyralidae family. Size of insects is 0.8-1 cm. Food is provided every other day by 3-5 insects per head. Also we offer salad on a daily base . Summer version: dandelion, nettle, hemp, clover, plantain, leaves of cultivated grapes. Winter version: Chinese cabbage, different kinds of green salads, parsley, celery, carrot.

For babies: crickets, roaches, zophobas, mealworms, sometimes butterflies of Pyralidae family. Size of insects is 0.3-0.5 cm. Food is provided every day by 3-5 insects per head. Salad is given in small quantities on a  daily base.

Mineral supplements:  Each feeding we sprinkle insects with calcium (especially it’s important for babies and pregnant females). We use Reptical + D3.

Mineral all  from Repashi for babies and adults – 1 time per week.

We provide Reptivit with D3  to all babies starting from 2 months age.


Males and females of Xenagamas reach their sexual maturity at 15-18 months. The best reproduction level   females achieved at their  2 years .Sexual dimorphism is evident at the age of 5-7 monthsMales differs from females by slightly smaller sizemore intensive turquoise color ofthe chin and neck while stressing, as well as the presence of distinctfemoral pores above the hole, covered with waxy yellow grease.

We keep adult lizards in groups 1:2,  also possible to keep in groups 1:3.

To stimulate reproduction we provide hibernation (soft conditions). We make the hibernation from the beginning of November till the beginning of February. We make hibernation in the same terrariums, where the lizards are kept. The temperature that time is 22-24°C, day length  5-6 hours. Fresh water is available all  time, humidity is low -  50-60% (just misting the soil at the basking place).

Mating (we didn’t observepresumably occurs after hibernation, subject to increase day length to 14 hours step by step.

AS the matter of fact we incubated Xenagama eggs in two ways:

          1.  In the terrarium (at the place the clutch is laid). We just slightly moistsoil in this place on a regular base. The temperature is the same as in the terrarium - 24°C (with nocturnal fluctuations to 22-24°C).

       2.   In the incubator with a constant temperature  28°C.

In both cases the incubation finished  gives the similar hatching results.

Breeding statistics:

-         In 2013 we got 9 babies (3clutches of 17 eggs total)

-         In 2014 we got 4babies (1 clutch of 6 eggs total)


Keeping of  offsprings:

We recommend keeping Xenagama babies according to their sizes. We keep new born lizards by 2-3 heads in open plastic boxes 60x40x30cmtill their 5-6 months age.

We spray the box with newborn babies moderately onlyat the morningduring the first 2 months.

Very important: to provide UV, vitamins and mineral supplements on a regular base.

After the determination of sexual dimorphism (approximately in 6 months old) we keep all agamas as adult lizards.

Veterinary issues:

If the soil is too wet, fungus can appear on the animals skinFor treating you need to bathe lizards in a solution of Betadine® every other day (a few drops of medicine on 1 liter of warm water, which should be lightyellow color).

In case of bites of other lisards you need to treat the bitten place with hydrogen peroxide, and then apply veterinary ointment Mastijet® Forteto the wound. Use the ointment every other day until a crust on the wound.

There must be a lot of hiding places (1-2 per head) in the terrarium to avoid aggression &  bites .

Useful sources:

- *Malcolm largen and stephen spawls. 2010. The Amphibians and Reptiles of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Edition chimaira. Hardcover. 693 pp. isBN 9783899734669.

- Randall L. Gray. 2003. Desert Lizards: Captive Husbandry and Propagation. Krieger Publishing Company. Malabar. Florida