Caring for a Caiman Lizard
A Pet for Experienced Reptile Owners
Perhaps you’ve seen photos of the beautiful caiman lizard, featuring its green body and red-orange head, shared by a friend or fellow reptile enthusiast on social media. The caiman lizard—of the reptilia class and known as the Dracaena guianensis—is growing in popularity as a pet. If you are tempted to consider keeping a caiman lizard as a pet for yourself or your family, we understand the appeal: This lizard is a gorgeous and fascinating creature!
But please also consider this:These lizards grow to be very large. The average male caiman lizard is five feet in length, including its tail. The average length for females is four feet. They can weigh from 8 to upwards of 12 pounds. Their size—and their love and need to climb—will require a very large enclosure to keep them contained and comfortable.
Do caiman lizards make good pets? The answer depends on your experience level with caring for reptiles. If you’re new to keeping reptiles as pets, we recommend you look into a gecko, bearded dragon, or skink to start. While caiman lizards can make great pets for the right owner, we recommend them only for more experienced reptile owners.
That being said, we’re happy to share more about caiman lizards, their natural habitat and characteristics, and what it would take to care for them properly.
All About That Color
As we mentioned, these lizards are distinguished by a very unique color pattern. Most caiman lizards have a green body, ranging from olive green to bright green, with either a red or orange head. Their tail is usually brown or black with yellow stripes. Their body is made of very large, bony scales that resemble a crocodilian species.
Caiman Lizard Habitat
According to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, these lizards are found in Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, and the Guianas. Caiman lizards tend to spend their time in swampy habitats like flooded woodlands. They are a semi-aquatic species, meaning they spend some time in the water.
Because of their size and their need for water, their enclosure needs to be, at minimum, 6 feet long, 3 feet wide, and 4 feet tall. They will need vertical space to climb as well as both large water and land areas within the enclosure. Most owners will fill the tank with either live plants or artificial plants to provide cover, as well as large branches for climbing and basking areas.
The Right Temperature
Because caiman lizards are tropical, they require proper warm temperatures. Reptiles Magazine recommends the following setup in terms of lighting and temperature:
- Daytime temperatures between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit
- Daytime basking area temperature of 100 degrees or higher
- Nighttime temperatures that fall no lower than 75 degrees
- Supplemental heat sources such as ceramic heat lamps and infrared heat lamps
It is also important that caiman lizards are provided with UVB lighting. This type of lighting will help your lizard produce their own vitamin D3. Without adequate sources of vitamin D3, your lizard will not have the proper amount of calcium and can suffer from nutritional deficiencies. The general recommendation is to provide a 12–14 hour period of daytime lighting that offers light from several sources: UVA, UVB, and visible daylight.
What’s for Dinner?
One main food source for caiman lizards is aquatic snails, but their diet can also include a variety of live insects like superworms or roaches and fresh fruits like papaya, mango, banana, and kiwi. They will obtain their water intake from the large water area in their enclosure. Provide a water depth of 12” so that it is deep enough for your lizard to fully submerge underwater.
Are Caiman Lizards Dangerous?
The bottom line is that when a lizard, or any reptile, feels threatened or scared, it can become aggressive. With the caiman lizard, the risk for the owner is elevated due to the lizard’s large size and body weight. Some caiman lizards can be trained to be handled, while others will not enjoy being held by their owner. This is just another reason why only the most longtime and experienced reptile owners should consider keeping a caiman lizard as a pet.
If you have more questions about caring for your caiman lizard, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team. Remember that ABDragons is here to help with all of your live feeder insect needs.