The Spectacled Caiman
White caiman, common caiman
Krokodilkaiman, (Nördlicher) Brillenkaiman (German)
Species: caiman crocodilus.
Subspecies: caiman crocodilus crocodilus – the main subspecies that is endemic to the north and north-east of South America, mainly Venezuela.
Сaiman crocodilus apaporiensis can be found in the north-west of South America, e.g. in Columbia.
Caiman crocodilus fuscus is native to Mexico and Central America.
Сaiman crocodilus matogrossiensis can be found in southern Brazil.
Сaiman crocodilus paraguayensis lives in Paraguay.
Сaiman crocodilus yacare is native to the medium part of South America. Some scientists consider it to be a separate species.
The spectacled caiman is widely spread in South America and has many subspecies. Some of them have been introduced to Cuba. This species can move in salty water, so it has migrated also to some islands off the coast of South America, e.g. Trinidad and Tobago.
This caiman prefers slow-flowing rivers with flat sandy banks.
Males reach 2-2.5 meters, females are smaller and don’t grow more than 1.4 m.
It is a relatively small crocodile with a long narrowed snout. Young caimans are yellow with black spots and stripes all over the body. Adult caimans are olive-green.
The spectacled caiman has bony warts between the eyes and around them, which remind of spectacles. This is the reason the species got its name. This species, like many others, has special eye protection for swimming under the water – a special membrane.
All species of caiman are aggressive towards people from a very early age. But if a caiman lives in your house from its birth, it can get used to the person taking care of him and trust him or her. It is important not to let the caiman stay hungry and feed it regularly, otherwise its aggression increases.
Small caimans make quacking sounds when they feel threatened. Adult reptiles make more hoarse and hissing sound. Adult caimans regularly “bark” in a loud voice.
A young spectacled caiman should have a tank starting from 200 liters. But it grows quickly and the adult caiman needs at least 1000 liters’ tank. The enclosure should have a water pond – at least 40 cm long. There must be an island for the caiman to climb on and warm itself. Another option is to put in the tank a big log where it can climb and bask under reflector or heating lamp.
The tank must be made of durable glass and all the equipment must be installed properly, otherwise the caiman can break it with its strong tail. The tank needs good ventilation. You should have a powerful external filter for the water and the system of drainage so you won’t have to contact the caiman weekly in order to change the water. You have to do all the procedures in the tank wearing thick gloves.
The ambient temperature should be in the range between 25 and 35°C.
The ideal water temperature is around 22-25 °C.
The spectacled caiman needs at least 12 hours of light every day. A UV lamp is a must. If you have a chance, you should take your caiman outdoors in summer in order to improve its immunity.
Feeding the caiman is a dangerous procedure. It is best to give food to the caiman so that it doesn’t see your hand, otherwise it will perceive it as food. Young caimans should be fed daily, adult caimans can be fed twice a week. Although caimans can stay without food for a long time, you shouldn’t try it because starvation makes the caiman too aggressive. The spectacled caiman eats meat and fish, rats, rabbits, quails.
The caimans can have its own likes and dislikes in food: they can eat some food and reject other. But you shouldn’t encourage this: if you miss several feedings, the caiman will eat what it is given.
The hatchlings eat large insects: cockroaches and crickets, snails. You have to add to the food vitamins and calcium supplements.
The spectacled caiman is a large, beautiful reptile that is easy to care for and which often gets used to its owner.
It is aggressive and agile, requires a very big tank.
On the ground this species can move very quickly and even jump. In the wild they often climb on logs and stones.
Besides its sharp teeth, the caiman has a very strong tail that it can whip with.
The most common disease is tapeworms. If you suspect that your caiman has tapeworms, you should have its feces tested. If the result is positive, the vet will prescribe antihelmintics. If the caiman’s diet is too monotonous, it can get different metabolic disorders which can be treated with changed menu and vitamins.
The spectacled caiman gets sexually mature at the age of 4-7 years old. They mate and lay eggs all year round. They hardly ever breed in captivity, since in the wild the female builds a huge nest: up to 1,5 m in diameter and 20-25 cm high. The clutch normally has from 15 to 30 eggs. The incubation period lasts 80-86 days under the temperature of 30-32 degrees. During this period you mustn’t disturb the caimans since they get extremely aggressive. Hatchlings are about 20 cm long and they eat insects, frogs and pink mice.
If you prepare a female for breeding, you should give eat vitamin E. You should put in the tank varied materials for the nest: leaves, small branches, moss. Once the hatchlings come out, they should be kept apart from the adults because cannibalism occurs.
Average life span is about 30 years, and it can be even longer with proper care.