The Common Basilisk
Plumed basilis, Jesus lizard
Lacerta basiliscus (Latin)
Species: basiliscus plumifrons
Subspecies: basiliscus plumifrons linnaeus, 1758, basiliscus plumifrons barbouri ruthven, 1914.
The common basilisk is widely spread in South and Central America: in Panama, Nicaragua and Ecuador. It is found near the water: along the rivers in the trees and scrubs. Its lifestyle is connected with water, so they never live in the middle of the forest away from the water. It is not an endangered species.
The common basilisk is a relatively small lizard that is usually around 30 cm long, although specimens up to 75 cm have been reported. But such long basilisks can only be found in the wild, they never grow that long in captivity due to the limited space. They weigh up to 600 gr and the tail comprises up to 70% of the total body length; that’s why they are so light.
The basilisk’s appearance is quite memorable. It is a diurnal species, so it is active at daytime and it climbs trees most of the time. The basilisk has long fingers with sharp claws. The male has a high crest on the head. Both sexes are green; as a rule, the black is darker than the belly and they have white dots all over the body. Such protective coloration enables them to hide from predators in the scrubs – it is their only means of defense.
The common basilisk is a careful lizard; it has a lot of natural enemies, so it prefers to run away in case of danger. It cannot resist the predators, it can only hide. The basilisk is a good swimmer, it can stay submerged for half an hour. It is a rather quick runner; it can develop the speed of 11 km per hour. The common basilisk can run on the water because it moves its hindlegs very fast. The basilisk can run up to 400 m on the water surface with the speed up to 12 km per hour; hence the second common name of this species, Jesus lizard.
The common basilisk should be big, otherwise the lizard in panic can hit itself against the glass. The minimal size of the tank is 130х60х70 cm for one basilisk; if you want to keep a group, the tank should be considerably bigger.
For substrate you can use coconut husks or coconut filament. The layer of the substrate should be at least 10 cm thick. You can put in the substrate pots with real plants; the plants should be big and strong so that basilisks can climb them and stay on them. Apart from the decorative function, the plants make good hiding places and help to maintain humidity. Sturdy and twisty logs are also needed. Males cannot be kept together; you can keep several females or a harem (one male and several females).
The basilisk needs at least 10 hours of light per day. A UV lamp is a must: it helps to digest the vitamin D and serves as good prevention for rachitis. For heating you will need a filament lamp directed at a log, so the basilisk can bask under it. But the lamp has to be at least 15 cm away from the lizard, otherwise it can get burnt. The temperature gradient is desirable (about 10 degrees difference between the temperature at daytime and at night).
The common basilisk loves water, so the tank must contain a large water bowl for the basilisk to bathe in. The water has to be changed daily, and the bowl needs to be cleaned regularly.
The ambient temperature should be around 25°C at night and about 32°C at daytime.
The air humidity should be around 60 - 70%.
The basilisks need diffused light of a UV lamp and a filament lamp.
The common basilisk is insectivore, it east various insects: crickets, mealworm, superworm, cockroaches. The insects shouldn’t be too tough for the lizard to swallow. Before feeding you will need to cover the insects with the mineral powder. The basilisk needs plant feed too: lettuce, dandelions etc. The herbs should be washed, dried and finely cut. You can alternate animal feed with plant feed for adult lizards; young basilisks should be fed twice a day with different types of food.
You will have to add to the food mineral supplements and vitamins.
This species is interesting to watch because it is active at daytime.
It is easy to keep but it requires live feed in the menu.
It is possible to teach them eat from tweezers, so the basilisks will react calmly to the people’s presence behind the glass.
They are very skittish, so they can be handled only for medical procedures. They panic when you make brisk movements. If the basilisk fled from you, you should wait a little until it calms down before picking it up.
The common basilisk can get injuries from hitting itself against the glass when it panics. You can apply wound-healing powder and eliminate stressful situations. The bigger the tank is, the less likely is the lizard to get hurt.
If males are kept without females, they can accumulate a lot of sperm but this problem can be solved by putting a female in the tank.
Shedding disorders: after shedding some pieces of molted skin stay on the body. You should wet them properly and remove carefully with tweezers, otherwise it can result in necrosis.
Under proper husbandry the basilisks don’t need extra stimulation for breeding. Normally copulation takes place under the temperature of about 26 degrees and with the air humidity of about 80%. It is best to separate a couple for a while before mating. The copulation lasts for about 20 minutes; 203 weeks later the female gains weight and starts looking for a place to lay eggs to. The common basilisk is an egg-laying species, usually there are about 9-18 eggs in a clutch. It is best to take the eggs away and keep them in an incubator under the temperature of 28.8 degrees for 8-10 weeks. The eggs should be kept in the vermiculite mixed with water. It is important to control that the vermiculite doesn’t get dry. The hatchlings eat small isects: cockroaches, crickets, mealworm. The common basilisk is sexually mature at the age of 1.5 – 2 years.
Average life span in captivity is about 10 years.