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How to Feed and Care for your Green Basilisk Lizard

For a limited time only, use the coupon code "GreenBasiliskLizard" and receive 20% off your all Dubia and Orange Heads.

Few pets can be quite as romantic as lizards. They can seem so remote, so calm, and so still. They certainly are not your average breed of golden retriever, requiring your sole attention 115% of your day. I used to have a golden retriever so that I can make that joke. You can laugh now.

Green Basilisks are some of the prettiest lizards. Their vibrant green color, their beady yellow eyes, and their dorsal fin remind you of the age when dinosaurs roamed the earth. How these critters survived the dinosaur apocalypse is beyond me, but I am sure glad they did.

Here are some quick facts to keep in mind as you consider your pet purchase. As adults, these creatures reach 24-36 inches in length. A rule of thumb measure of three feet (36 inches) is a little longer than the length of your arm, from your shoulder to the tip of your finger. If you are shorter than 6 feet tall, estimate a few more inches. They are cold-blooded animals, relying on the heat from their natural habitat—the heat emanating from Central America.

Housing

There are several upfront expenses to consider, not only for the Green Basilisk, but for any lizard. Heat should definitely on the top of your list, as lizards do not create their own body heat. While an aquarium in a heated area might come to mind, consider a vivarium instead. You may be unfamiliar with the term, but familiar with the sight of one. Vivariums are what zoos use to keep lizards in. They are often made of wood, with bright lights and glass on one side to allow for viewing of the animal. The natural properties of wood make vivariums an ideal choice as a cage for your new pet. This is a wild animal that you’re bringing indoors, so a cage size significant enough to mimic the securities of the wild is a necessity. An ideal, standard cage size for Green Basilisks is 48”×24”×36”.

These lizards enjoy climbing, so make sure you have an ideal branch for them in the cage. You may find a broken branch in a park; however, this is something that should be purchased at a pet store. The branches sold there have not only been chosen to be ideal for your pet, but ideal for the cage size. They love to climb and to offer this security from their natural habitat to your lizard will make the lizard more comfortable with a change in environment as you bring it home. Other climbing materials might include rocks or artificial plants. At night, they enjoy dark and enclosed spaces, but during the day you will find they enjoy two things: climbing and basking.

A wooden substrate, or bedding, is ideal. Consider beech wood chips or merely bark wood chips. Anything lighter or smaller, like wood shavings or sand, can prove harmful. Lizards feed on insects. While they will not ingest larger substrates such as wood chips, sand and shavings are a different story. These will build up in their system, causing health problems or distress to the lizard. Your pet may enjoy dark seclusion, but it will come out to bask. The lamp in your vivarium not only needs to provide light, but ample heat as well. Cold-blooded animals love the heat. Mimic their natural environment by providing a place to bask “outside” in the heat.

Heating

We’ve mentioned the heat but use caution. Your pet is unable to control its own body temperature, which is why it will spend much of its time basking in the warmth. At the same time, too much heat will prove harmful, especially since it will be kept in a cage.

One end of your pen will be the “hot end” and the other end will be the “cold end.” Between the heater and the bulbs, you can create night and day. During the night cycle, heat is provided by a ceramic bulb at the “hot” end of the vivarium. When choosing one, ensure that you can modify its heat output. Keeping a constant and vigilant eye on the temperature will ensure the survival of your pet. The bulb itself will get hot. A ceramic heater guard will ensure your pet will not get burnt. For fire safety, your ceramic bulb needs to be installed in a ceramic lamp holder.

The day cycle is a little different. The ideal minimum cage temperature is 80º F. Two or three spot bulbs will provide ample “sunlight”, in addition to heating the enclosure by an additional 20º F. In addition to spot bulbs, your lizard will require around 10% UVB lighting, essential to the health of your pet. Green Basilisks need this UVB lighting to process vitamin D. Without this, your lizard will not be able to synthesize calcium, which leads to osteoporosis or metabolic bone disease. One thing leads to another, so make sure you get it right the first time. Metabolic bone disease ends the lives of many basilisks. Both sets of bulbs—the UVB and the spotlights—need to be turned on and off together. This simulates sunlight. The ideal placement will allow the animal to bask 6-12 inches from the light itself. UVB lights are rendered ineffective after about six months, in which you will need to replace the tube. All fluorescent lights require the proper starter, so ensure you purchase one compatible with your light.

Food & Water

Basilisks are carnivorous. Carnivores eat meat. For your lizard, this means live insects. Your pet deserves better than to eat dried up insects for dinner. At home, their primary diet consists of crickets. However, don’t limit their diet. Add variety with  mealwormswax worms, and locusts. Since live food provides the best nutrition, you’ll have another new pet to look after: insects! Keep your crickets, grasshoppers, and locusts fresh with fresh vegetation and insect food. The right food for your insects will in turn provide the right food for your lizard—they eat whatever is in the insect’s stomach, so providing your insects with highly nutritious food will transfer to your basilisk. An excellent way to keep your insects from dehydrating is with bug gels. These gels not only provide a source of water (without the risk of drowning) for your insects, but also pump them full of vitamins necessary for your lizard.

You may want to consider keeping your insects in their own enclosure, designed specifically for the type of insect you have. Just as you keep food in the cupboard and pantry for yourself, you need to keep a stock of live bugs for your pet. There are even products like Nutrobal that will allow you to supplement your pet’s diet with vitamins and minerals. Sprinkle some of the powder directly on the insects before feeding, and it will coat their food with nutrition.

Despite the common idea that lizards are dry animals that live in dry climates, they need water just like the rest of us. Green Basilisks in particular love being in and around a watery oasis when they find one. A deep water bowl large enough to get the reptile wet and drink from provides the perfect watering hole and retreat from a hot, humid environment. If you want to make sure your water is as fresh and filtered as can be, consider integrating a filtered aquarium right there in the vivarium. Filtered aquariums require maintenance of their own, so we’ll save that topic for another day.

That is the next thing to keep in mind for your reptilian friend. Green Basilisks need environments that are hot and humid. You do not need to spend money unnecessarily on a humidifier for your pet. Instead, spray the vivarium once per day with water. A light mist over everything will impersonate morning dew, and that is it. You are aiming for a humid environment, not a wet one.

Other Maintenance Tips

Basilisks do not like to be handled and will get agitated easily. They are not aggressive by nature, but like all members of the animal kingdom, they will attack if they feel threatened. That does not mean you cannot handle them at all. It merely means to put them back in their vivarium if they feel get agitated from too much handling. One of the coolest experiences from owning a lizard is bonding with it. Give it time to get used to its new environment before you take it out and attempt to handle it. Let it get used to you—your sound, your smell, and your touch will be unfamiliar shocks to it at first.

There will be an alpha male in just about any enclosure of animals, and basilisks are no different. Don’t put two males in one cage. However, females are a different story. You can have a small colony of females and find they all get along. If you want to provide your male basilisk with companionship, consider one or two females in the same enclosure—males can handle that.

Change the substrate out every three weeks, or once per month at the very latest. Inspect the vivarium daily for anything requiring spot cleaning—this will keep it your cage sanitary for both you and your pet. Lizard droppings and dead insects need to be removed on sight—don’t let it linger. It is no more sanitary for them than it would be for people to not use the toilet. When you change your substrate out, clean the vivarium with a reptile disinfectant.

Owning a reptile can bring you as much joy as it can be a chore to maintain. They are not “shelf” creatures—don’t “put them on a shelf” by ignoring them for days at a time. They are live animals that need caring for. They bring companionship and curiosity to your home, plus they make great conversation starters for visitors. Good luck on your new pet purchase!

For a limited time only, use the coupon code "GreenBasiliskLizard" and receive 20% off your all Dubia and Orange Heads.

22nd Jun 2015

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