11 Lizards that Look Like Dragons

Getting a pet lizard is a real commitment because today’s most popular pet lizards can live for years or even decades in captivity.

So, if you’re getting a pet reptile for years to come, you might as well get an epic one, right?

And what spells epic more clearly than a dragon-like lizard? Fortunately, I have just the right list for you.

Here are 11 lizards that look as close to dragons as you can get:

Bearded Dragon

It’s only fitting that we begin this list with a lizard that has the actual ‘dragon’ in its name. Few pet lizards are more popular than bearded dragons for a variety of reasons, including looks, ease of care, adaptability to a captive lifestyle, and overall friendliness.

Bearded dragons come from Australia and can reach up to 20-24 inches in length. Most will stay smaller than that, though, up to 16-18 inches. The lizard is highly recognizable by its visible side and head crests and the spiky beard, giving it that distinct dragon look.

Bearded dragons aren’t known for their exhilarating coloring, as most are generally various shades of brown. But they make up for it in the overall dragon-like look and presence.

Bearded dragons are very docile and intelligent, and they can learn to recognize their handlers and even show signs of affection.

The trickiest part about them is that they are omnivores and require an extremely varied diet with a multitude of veggies, greens, and insects.

These reptiles also require higher temperatures, up to 100-110 F for the basking area, but low humidity, only up to 30-40%.

Interesting fact – Bearded dragons can change their color to communicate with other bearded dragons or express various mental states.

They can turn black when stressed, sick, in a full mating display, or when exhibiting territorial aggression.

Frilled-Neck Lizard

The frilled-neck lizard is a staple dragon-line reptile, one of the most recognizable in the wild. You may know this one as the running lizard due to its predilection for bipedal running and impressive short-distance speeds.

This lizard is native to Australia and New Guinea and is mostly present in tropical and subtropical ecosystems like forests, savannas, and woodlands.

They typically prefer open spaces with moderate vegetation, which is indicative of their predilection for running.

The frilled-neck lizard is quite colorful, mixing nuances like brown, yellow, and rusty orange, which help with camouflage. The most noticeable feature is the frill, which is the umbrella-like skin membrane that the lizard can expand to an impressive size.

The neck membrane creates a circle around the animal’s head when the lizard is aggressive and tries to intimidate its attacker. For us, it’s just cute and adorable.

These lizards are insectivores but can also consume small mammals and reptiles because they are fairly large, up to 3 feet, as adults.

The protein-based diet provides them with the nutrients they need to grow fast and achieve their full potential, both in the wild and in captivity.

The reptile’s main issue is its fiery temperament. Frilled-neck lizards are notorious for their territorial display and aggression, so there’s no way you can keep 2 of them in the same enclosure.

You might also want to give the lizard space if it begins to flare its frill at you and open its mouth. That’s not a sign of affection.

Interesting fact – Frilled-neck lizards can actually fly. Well, not fly, but rather glide from tree to tree over short distances, around 25 feet. They do this usually to avoid predators or when looking to cover larger distances faster.

They achieve such a feat by expanding their frill, which, when combined with speed, creates elevation and allows the animal to float.

Marine Iguana

Marine iguanas are the closest you can get to owning your own miniature Godzilla. The animal looks exactly like the famous TV character, except for the fact that it’s not bipedal; everything else is nearly identical, from the mean-looking face with a short snout, to the spiny crests covering the dorsal area.

This lizard is powerful and has thick legs with long and dangerous claws. Your typical marine iguana can grow up to 4-5 feet in the case of males and up to 2-3 feet for females.

They have very long tails, often longer than the entire body, which they use for swimming at high speeds.

This fascinating animal is only found in the Galapagos Islands, where they lurk around the rocky shores, where they’re on a constant lookout for algae.

Yes, this Godzilla lookalike feeds almost exclusively on red and green algae; you can’t have everything you want, I guess.

This lizard isn’t exactly pet material for several reasons. One of them is their secluded native land, causing the species to rank as vulnerable.

This means owning, growing, and breeding marine iguanas is illegal in many states and requires a permit in others.

Then you have the fact that these animals are notoriously difficult to keep in captivity. The main reason is their need for a personalized habitat layout with deeper waters and a rocky setup.

The animal also demands clean and fresh water at all times, so you need to have a very good maintenance routine in place. I only recommend marine iguanas to experienced reptile breeders.

Interesting fact – Marine iguanas is the only known lizard to specialize in foraging food from the ocean. This reptile can dive up to 30 feet into the oceanic water to look for algae.

The lizard’s adaptability to saline water comes from the specialized glands that allow it to filter out the salt, so it won’t become dehydrated.

Chinese Water Dragon

Here’s another one with the word ‘dragon’ stapled to its name. Interestingly, this isn’t the only similarity between the Chinese water dragon and the bearded dragon.

The 2 species even look similar in some aspects, primarily the spiny dorsal crests. However, you can quickly tell that this is a different species by the coloring and overall appearance.

Chinese water dragons can reach 3 feet, so they rank as medium-sized. They are generally green in color, but many individuals also display shades of red, blue, and purple around the thorax, belly, neck, and face.

The lizard’s body is slim and agile, with a long and thin tail at the end. The lizard’s body structure suggests an agile and fast swimmer.

This reptile is most widespread throughout Southeast Asia, in countries like Thailand and Vietnam, but you can also find them in the US, where they rank as non-native species. Needless to say, these lizards spend most of their time near various bodies of water like rivers, streams, ponds, etc.

Chinese water dragons are omnivores, consuming a variety of foods like crickets, worms, locusts, blueberries, carrots, collard greens, and much more.

This makes them rather easy to satisfy from a dietary standpoint because there are few foods that they won’t eat.

Interesting fact – The shedding process is different in Chinese water dragons than in most other reptiles. Instead of shedding their skin in one piece, as is the norm among all reptiles, water dragons shed it in several pieces over time.

This makes the lizard sometimes look like it’s covered in wet paper that’s breaking down gradually.

Green Basilisk

The green basilisk is an awkward-looking shape, looking more like a dinosaur than an actual dragon. This one is also known as the double-crested basilisk due to its distinct head crests, imbuing the animal with a majestic appearance.

One crest is located on the forehead, and it’s very narrow, while a larger one occupies the entire nape, giving the lizard’s head an elongated appearance.

The body isn’t less peculiar either, as the lizard is slim and fit with 2 noticeable dorsal crests spanning across the entire body. These crests possess spines that provide the lizard with an exotic and dangerous look.

Green basilisks are native to Central and South America in areas like Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, and Ecuador. They prefer to inhabit various bodies of water as they possess excellent swimming capabilities.

Their diet is omnivorous, so they’re likely to eat pretty much anything, primarily insects and veggies.

Interesting fact – Green basilisks are known as the Jesus Christ lizards. This is due to their astounding ability to run on the surface of the water for several yards at speeds of up to 7 mph.

They can also swim quite proficiently and remain submerged for up to 10 minutes in case of need.

Komodo Dragon

komodo dragon

We’ve finally reached the apex in terms of size and sheer shock factor. Komodo dragons are the lizards you’re looking for in your quest to discover a real-life dragon.

The only things this lizard is missing to become the real deal are the wings and the ability to spit fire. Everything else is already there.

Komodo dragons are native to the Indonesian Islands of Komodo, Flores, Rica, and Gili Motang, where they hunt and eat everything that moves. These animals rank as the largest lizards on earth, capable of reaching 11 feet and close to 400 pounds as adults.

Needless to say, these beasts have no natural predators when at full size, first because of their actual size and strength, and then due to their envenomed bite, large claws, and jaw power.

Komodo dragons also qualify as the most vicious reptiles you can encounter due to their predilection for eating their prey while still alive. Their paralyzing venom helps a lot with that.

More impressively, Komodo dragons can use their smell to detect their prey at extreme distances and can chase the animal for hours after the initial bite, waiting for the venom to act. You most definitely don’t want to run into this one in the wild.

If you do, don’t think you can outrun it, as this monstrosity can reach 20 mph over short distances.

It can also swim and attack in the water perfectly fine, and it can climb in case you decide a tree is the way to go.

Interesting fact – Komodo dragons qualify as endangered, which makes them trading and owning them as pets illegal.

This is fine because you wouldn’t want to own a powerful, fast, and deadly lizard that can eat you with relative ease anyway. I know you do, but you actually don’t.

 Sailfin Dragon

I simply have to rank this one as my personal favorite, first because of its looks and then due to its unique personality and behavior. Sailfin dragons thrive in Southeast Asian jungles and forests, preferably close to various bodies of water.

They rank as excellent swimmers and climbers and can display impressive agility on land as well.

The sailfin dragon is impossible to mistake for any other reptile, thanks to its trademark appearance. This lizard can reach 4 feet in length and comes with a stocky but agile body, a small head and dorsal crest, and a large fin covering half the tail.

To picture the head, imagine the standard picture of a Chinese dragon (the actual mythical creature), and you’ll get a pretty good idea.

Color-wise, sailfin dragons are quite diverse. They often come in several colors, like purple, blue, green, brown, and black, with random color splashes covering the body.

Sailfin dragons are omnivorous, so they consume a variety of foods, including plants, veggies, fruits, insects, you name it. This makes them quite easy to satisfy in captivity, although they’re not quite good pet material for beginners.

On the one hand, they require a rather massive enclosure with a lot of water in it. On the other hand, sailfin dragons demand pristine living conditions to stay healthy and happy; otherwise, they can get stressed out and sick.

Interesting fact – This is a talking one. Sailfin dragons use intense vocalizations (a very low, rumbling sound similar to a growl) to communicate with one another.

They use the same sound to express stress or fear, as well as to attract mates during the mating season.

Green Iguana

If you’re not all that into extreme dragon-like lizards and want to settle for a more familiar species, consider the green iguana for a change. Green iguanas are basically staple lizards in the pet trade for their docile and friendly personality and ease of care.

They are generally found throughout Central and South America, where they inhabit forested areas primarily, with a lot of vegetation and at least one water source nearby.

These lizards can reach sizes of up to 5 feet, sometimes 6, thanks to their extremely long tail. They are highly recognizable by their bulky body, dorsal spines, and flappy dewlap hanging below the chin.

All individuals have black bands covering their tails, which is another trademark feature. Most green iguanas are green, but not all. Some are brown or come with rust-like splashes, depending on the specimen.

Green iguanas are exclusively herbivorous, so they thrive on a plant-based diet. They are generally easy to keep in captivity, with the biggest challenge being constructing the ideal layout.

These lizards are native climbers, so you need to provide them with ample climbing opportunities.

Interesting fact – Green iguanas possess a structure called a parietal eye, located on the top of the head. You might miss it at first, but it should be fairly visible upon closer inspection.

This structure isn’t just aesthetical but practical as well, as iguanas can detect subtle changes in light and darkness around them. This is thought to help the lizards detect and avoid predators in time.

The parietal eye is also responsible for regulating the animal’s circadian rhythm.


Chuckwallas are small, simple, and rather bland rocky lizards that possess an undeniable charm and uniqueness. You can find these crawlers throughout South America and Northern New Mexico, inhabiting specialized ecosystems.

These include rocky outcrops, rocky desert canyons, and even vegetation-rich ecosystems, so long as temperatures are right.

As you can see, ‘rocky’ is the keyword here because these are desertic reptiles that like to sneak between crevices and tight places and use rocks for basking in the sunlight.

These lizards are relatively small, only reaching 16 inches in most cases, which makes them fairly cute.

Appearance-wise, the chuckwalla looks exactly what you would expect from a rocky lizard. The lizard exhibits dull and bland colors like brown, rust, black, and sand-yellow, often mixed together in randomized, splashed patterns.

Chuckwalla isn’t concerned about aesthetics, but rather its own survival, in which case its coloring fits the purpose precisely.

This reptile is entirely herbivorous, as it prefers to feed on plants, flowers, leaves, and anything else it can find in its native desertic region. They are well-adapted to such a dry habitat, so they don’t need as much water as other reptiles.

This makes chuckwalla relatively easy to keep in captivity, provided you ensure a natural-like ecosystem and a varied and fulfilling diet.

Interesting fact – Chuckwalla has a unique defense mechanism that matches the hunting tactics of the lizard’s natural predators. When spotted and chased by a predator, chuckwalla will slip through a crevice and hide between rocks.

The problem is that this doesn’t provide any real protection, as most predators have learned to pull the lizard out. So, chuckwalla inflates its neck pouch, which acts as an inflated balloon stuck between 2 rocks.

This makes the lizard almost impossible to pull out. Most predators simply give up the struggle after spending their energy in vain.

Thorny Devil

I’m not going to lie, this lizard sounds like something I would get for my collection. There are some hurdles along the way that turns that into an impossible task, though, which we will discuss shortly.

Thorny devils are native to Australia and, simply put, are desert lizards specialized for thriving in dry and arid environments.

They look exactly like they sound. This small reptile (only 8-9 inches at most) is brown and covered in pines from head to toe. They even have them on their bellies and face. These are generally for defense purposes, making the lizard really difficult to swallow if you know what I mean.

Thorny devils are perfectly adapted to live in the desert, which is astounding given their diet. While thorny devils rank as carnivores, they really only consume ants and termites.

They may eat other insects as well, but they’re primarily ant eaters. This makes them notoriously difficult to keep in captivity because these animals tend to consume thousands of ants every day.

And that’s not even the biggest problem. The biggest problem is that thorny devils are banned from leaving Australia.

So, you can only have them as pets as a native Australian, living on the Australian continent, and even then, you might require a permit to do so. However, I advise against it, however tempting it might be.

Thorny devils are notoriously difficult to keep in captivity due to their highly specialized diet and living conditions required.

Interesting fact – These animals are so fascinating that I’ll mention 2 interesting facts instead of just one. The first one is that thorny devils rarely need to drink water, which is an adaptation to the fact that even if they wanted, they couldn’t find it.

Instead, they have developed the ability to absorb water from their environment through their skin. The other fact is that thorny devils can change their color based on environmental conditions.

If it’s too hot outside, they turn lighter, if it’s too cold, they turn darker. Their ability to change their color is also useful for camouflaging purposes.

Armadillo Girdled Lizard

This one is the smallest lizard species on this list but also one of the most fascinating. In short, we have another specialized ant eater to compete with the thorny devil.

These lizards are native to South Africa, primarily in the outcrops of the Namibian Desert. They inhabit extremely arid regions thanks to their amazing adaptability to habitats with high temperatures and virtually no water.

Just like thorny devils, they can absorb particles of water through their skin directly from the air, which helps them remain hydrated. They can also get water directly from the insects they’re eating daily. And they’re eating a lot of them.

Armadillo girdled lizards look exactly like you would imagine a wingless dragon looks like. The entire body is covered with rows of thick and bony scales with spikes at the end.

These even cover the head and limbs. The scale structure and appearance remind of an armadillo, hence the name sharing.

More importantly, armadillo girdled lizards are very easy to care for in captivity, making them ideal even for beginners. They don’t produce a lot of mess, don’t need too much space (they can only grow up to 8 inches), and don’t need much maintenance in the long run.

The only challenge is the diet, as these insect eaters consume a lot of food to stay healthy.

Interesting fact – Armadillo lizards have a unique defense mechanism that involves inflating their lungs with air, which expands their bodies and allows the scales and spines to flare out.

The lizard will then curl up in a bowl and take their own tails in their mouths. The result is a large and spiky ball that most predators prefer to ignore.


These lizards are the closest you can get to the mythical fire-spitting, winged creatures that were once thought to inhabit fictional realms of the past.

They are all unique species, though, so make sure you learn everything you can about them before deciding which is best for you.

Robert from ReptileJam

Hey, I'm Robert, and I have a true passion for reptiles that began when I was just 10 years old. My parents bought me my first pet snake as a birthday present, which sparked my interest in learning more about them. read more...