The Green Basilisk (Basiliscus plumifrons) – also known as Plumed Lizard – is a moderately sized lizard native to Central American countries including Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama. Green Basilisks are arboreal, meaning they spend most of their time in trees. Their preferred trees are those close to or above water.
They have gained the nickname ‘Jesus Christ’ lizard thanks to their ability to run on water for short distances.
Green Basilisk Availability
Green Basilisks have been more popular over the last 5-10 years, so they are fairly easy to obtain from reptile stores or private breeders. In the UK prices range from £45 to £80 depending on the age, size and gender of the lizard and varies between reptile stores and private breeders. Green Basilisks in the US range from $20 to $60, with juveniles more commonly sold than adults.
Watch Before Buying
As with any reptile, lifespan is largely based on health and breeding. A carefully bred and well cared for Basilisk will live between 8 and 12 years.
Green Basilisks, as the name suggests, are a deep green or green-blue color with dark stripes along the spine and white speckling over most of the body. Some lizards have only a few white speckles, while others have lots of clearly defined speckles.
Adults can grow between 2 and 3 feet long, with males also sporting plumes on their head and along their spine and tail.
Green Basilisk Housing
Due to their moderate adult size, you will need a vivarium measuring approximately 4 x 2 x 3ft. Ideally this will be made of wood with sliding glass doors at the front and large vents to ensure you can establish a temperature gradient.
For juvenile lizards, it is best to include more decorations to reduce the amount of open space. You can gradually remove decorations as your basilisk ages.
This is important for Green Basilisks as they come from hot, humid tropical rainforests. You will need to ensure an ambient temperature and also a warmer basking spot. To this, you will need a ceramic lamp which will provide heat but no light. This will help to maintain a set temperature a night without affecting the lighting.
For the basking spot you will need a strong basking lamp fixed to the ceiling of the vivarium. The spot you choose should be at one end of the vivarium. This creates a natural temperature gradient across the enclosure. Your heating and lighting should be controlled by a thermostat to ensure the correct temperature and lighting for day and night.
The ambient day temperature should be around 30°C or 86°F. For the basking spot you should aim for 32-36°C or 90-96°F. Using a thermostat will ensure that the ceramic lamp turns off during the night.
Reptiles need UVB lighting to ensure they are able to synthesize vitamin D3. Without this, they are unable to convert calcium which puts them at risk of developing MBD (Metabolic Bone Disease). For a vivarium 4 x 2 x 3ft you will need a 6% or 10% UVB bulb. There are two sizes of bulb available – T8 and T5. T8 lamps measure 1 inch in diameter and need to be replaced every 6 months. They have a range of 9-12 inches. T5 lamps are newer and more efficient. They are half an inch in diameter with a range of 18-24 inches. They also need replacing less often, usually every 12 months.
Green basilisks require a humidity between 50 and 80%. You can maintain this by spraying warm water over the vivarium daily. If your budget supports, you can invest in a mister or fogger which will do the job for you.
To ensure the environment retains the correct humidity, your substrate should be soil, soil mixtures, leaf litter or bark woodchip. If you are wanting to create a bio-active enclosure, then go for a nutrient rich soil mix and add a drainage layer underneath your substrate.
Green Basilisks like plenty of hiding spots and shaded areas, so ensure you provide a variety of options through the enclosure. Caves should be placed at either end and centrally in the enclosure, so the lizard has options depending on the temperature they need. Partial cover can also be provided with plants and smaller ornaments.
Grapevine or Iliana branches can be placed across the vivarium to provides perches at various heights and temperatures. Flat rocks such as slate are perfect for providing belly heat. Place these close to but not directly under the basking lamp. If the rocks get too hot your lizard can suffer burns.
Green Basilisk Cleaning
To maintain a healthy environment you should do a daily spot clean to remain any feces and uneaten food. A thorough clean should be done monthly. This means removing all decorations and substrate. Use a reptile-safe disinfectant and wipe dry with a paper towel. You can clean your decorations in a similar fashion. Ensure they are dry before returning them to the enclosure.
Cleaning is best done during the day to ensure your lizard is back in the vivarium for at least an hour before the temperature begins to drop for the night.
Green Basilisk Health
Even though you are providing the correct conditions for your lizard, you should always be prepared for potential illnesses.
Parasites- internal parasites such as roundworm and hookworm can present serious problems for reptiles. A captive lizard can become parasitized through contact with another infected reptile, contaminated objects or infected food. Symptoms of a parasitic infection include lack of appetite and weight loss, regurgitation of food, change in behavior and loose stool or diarrhea. To prevent potential parasitic infection, ensure you clean the vivarium regularly.
Metabolic Bone Disease- commonly caused by lack of UVB lighting. Reptiles cannot convert calcium without vitamin D3 and they cannot synthesize vitamin D3 without sufficient UVB lighting. Providing a UVB bulb covering half to two thirds of the vivarium will be suitable.
Vitamin A deficiency- wild reptiles get their vitamin A from a variety of vegetation, but this is not so simple in captivity. Vitamin A is vital for maintaining good eye health. Vitamin A is available in most reptile supplement powders or as a stand-alone powder.
Rostral (nose) Injuries- stressed lizards often exhibit a behavior called nose banging. They run at the sides of their vivarium and bang their nose against the wall. Open wounds are common which can quickly become infected.
Green Basilisk Food & Diet
As omnivorous reptiles, Green Basilisks require both vegetation and meat foods. Meat is more important, so vegetation should be considered as a supplement to their diet. Live foods such as waxworms, mealworms, brown crickets and locusts are all nutritious options. Offer a variety to prevent boredom. Worms tend to be fatty, so only offer these once or twice per week.
Veggies are best for adolescent and adult basilisks. You can offer apples, bananas, blueberries, carrots and lettuce diced into small bitesize pieces.
Your lizard’s food must be dusted with reptile powder to ensure they are getting all the necessary nutrients. The powder is usually a mixture of calcium and various vitamins, although you can by them separately.
Fresh water should always be available and should be refreshed daily. You may notice your basilisk using their water bowl to bath in more often than to drink. This is still providing essential water so don’t be concerned. Just clean the bowl daily and add clean water.
Green Basilisk Behavior & Temperament
When choosing Green Basilisks, you have several options. They will live quite happily alone with no issues. If you prefer a pair, you can either keep two females together or a male and female. Never keep two males together as they are territorial. A male and female kept together may breed. You need to consider this before introducing a pair. The female will need a nesting box to incubate the eggs and once they reach adolescence they will need to be rehomed or moved to another enclosure.
Green Basilisks are generally skittish creatures, but those handled gently from a young age can grow comfortable with human interaction. They will not seek out attention, preferring to remain in the comfort of their enclosure.
A nervous Green Basilisk can give a nasty bite. They have strong jaws and will bite harder if you struggle. If you are ever bitten, a few drops of vinegar in the mouth will make them let go. You should never handle your basilisk if they are jumpy or nervous.
Once you are familiar with the basic care and temperament of Green Basilisks, they can make great pets. They may not be the most affectionate pet, but they are fascinating to watch and can live a long time. If you are looking for a more confident lizard, then a bearded dragon would be more suitable.