Green basilisks (Basiliscus plumifrons) are 2.5-3’ long, diurnal, arboreal lizards native to Central America. They prefer a tropical forest habitat near bodies of fresh water.
Green basilisks have bright green bodies with small aqua and black spots and brilliant yellow eyes. Males have three crests on their head, back, and tail. Females only have one crest, which is on their head.
Green basilisks are not easy animals to keep as pets. They’re fairly large, require a spacious, amphibious enclosure, and are not very handleable. However, properly housed, they can make a wonderful display species. With good care, a green basilisk can live up to 15 years.
Minimum enclosure size for green basilisks
The absolute minimum enclosure size for a single green basilisk is 6’L x 2’W x 4’H. This may seem huge, but keep in mind that these are large, active lizards that need opportunities for both climbing and swimming within their enclosure. Of course, if you can manage it, larger is always better!
Housing multiple green basilisks in the same enclosure is not recommended.
Do green basilisks need UVB?
Yes! Green basilisks require UVB lighting for their survival. UVB lighting helps provide a clear day/night cycle, provides all of the vitamin D that your pet needs, strengthens the immune system, facilitates better digestion, and other benefits.
Here are the best UVB bulbs for green basilisks housed in a 6’L x 2’W x 4’H enclosure:
- Arcadia Desert 12%, 34”
- Zoo Med Reptisun T5 HO 10.0, 34”
For best results, house the UVB bulbs in a reflective fixture like the Arcadia ProT5 or Vivarium Electronics T5 HO. Position the lamp on the same side of the terrarium as the heat lamp. If the UVB is mounted over mesh, place the basking branch so the lizard’s back is 13-15” below the lamp. If the UVB is mounted inside the enclosure, place the basking branch so the lizard’s back is 17-18” below the lamp.
They are also likely to benefit from plant grow lights as part of their environment as well. Add a ~6500K LED or T5 HO fluorescent grow lamp to provide extra illumination, as well as help any live plants in the enclosure to thrive.
Lights should be on for 12 hours/day.
Best temperature for green basilisks
Green basilisks need a basking area temperature between 90-95°F, and between 75-80°F on the cool side, as measured by digital probe thermometers. Nighttime temps should not get lower than 75°F.
Provide heat for your basilisk with a cluster of halogen heat bulbs placed above the basking branch. You will need enough lamps to evenly heat an area at least the size of the lizard’s body. Halogen bulbs are the best way to imitate the warmth of sunlight indoors, and considered to be a superior form of reptile heating by experts.
Do not use ceramic heat emitters (CHEs), red bulbs, or blue bulbs, as these are not as effective. Radiant heat panels, however, can be helpful as a secondary heat source for maintaining warm air temperatures, particularly at night.
Best humidity levels for green basilisks
Green basilisks are a tropical species, so the humidity inside their enclosure should be fairly high: 60-70%. Humidity should be measured via digital probe hygrometer, with the probe placed in the middle of the terrarium.
Increase humidity by misting your basilisk’s enclosure 2x/day with a large pressure sprayer or automatic misting system. Mist first thing in the morning and then again at night if needed. If you need more help maintaining humidity, install a cool mist humidifier connected to a humidistat.
Green basilisks are very comfortable in and around water, to the point of being arguably semi-aquatic. They are excellent swimmers and can stay submerged for at least 20 minutes. For this reason, your pet will require a pool of water that is deep and large enough for them to dive into and swim around in. This means that it should be at least 6” deep, and occupy 1/2 to 1/3 of the enclosure’s floor space.
Your dragon’s pool water will need to be changed once weekly or whenever it gets soiled. Give the pool a good scrub with disinfectant before refilling. Using a siphon (or better yet, a powerful mechanical water pump) and a hose will make maintaining your lizard’s pool faster and easier.
Best substrate for green basilisks
Although green basilisks spend most of their time either in the trees or in their pool, they do occasionally spend time at ground level. Providing a layer of naturalistic substrate (“bedding”) in the enclosure will help maintain correct humidity, cushion your lizard against falls, provide a digging medium, and also help make your enclosure more attractive!
We recommend the following substrates for green basilisks:
Layering clean, chemical-free leaf litter on top of the substrate can help with humidity as well as add enrichment value.
Substrate should be at least 4” deep and completely replaced every 3-4 months. Remove poop and urates daily, along with any contaminated substrate.
How to decorate a green basilisk enclosure
An empty enclosure makes for a bored basilisk, reducing its quality of life. Keep your pet entertained and engaged with its environment with the strategic use of décor items that encourage it to exercise natural behaviors!
Since green basilisks prefer to spend their time either in the trees or in the water, at bare minimum you will need a large, sturdy branch for them to bask on, foliage to hide in, and a sufficiently large pool for swimming. However, it’s best to include other items, such as:
- more branches
- additional live or artificial foliage
All climbing branches should be securely anchored into the walls/floor of the enclosure to prevent collapse.
What to feed to a green basilisk
Green basilisks are insectivores early in life, but they become more omnivorous as they age. They are known to eat a variety of foods, including insects, small animals, fruit, and fresh greens. How much they need to eat varies depending on age:
- Hatchlings (<3 months old) — Insects daily
- Juveniles (<16” long) — Insects and salad every other day
- Subadults and adults (>16” long) — Insects every 3-5 days, salad daily
Provide as much dietary variety as you can manage for balanced nutrition!
Protein options for green basilisks: crickets, discoid roaches, dubia roaches, earthworms, grasshoppers, hornworms, silkworms, mealworms, superworms, snails (captive-bred only), pinkie/fuzzy mice, whole fish, chicks, feeder anoles
Vegetable options for green basilisks: collard greens, cactus pads, spring mix, arugula, kale, alfalfa, bok choy, carrot greens, spinach, dandelion greens/flowers, hibiscus greens/flowers
Due to its high sugar content, fruit should be used as a treat. Options include berries, mango, cantaloupe, and papaya.
How to handle your green basilisk
Reptiles generally don’t appreciate petting and handling in the same way that dogs and cats do. Regarding green basilisks, they generally prefer to be left alone, although some learn to tolerate human interaction well.
If you want to build a trusting relationship with your pet, you will need to develop a foundation of positive interactions. Offering food from feeding tweezers works well as an initial bribe, and it’s best to get the lizard to come to you rather than simply grabbing it.
Here are some more tips for success:
- Don’t grab the lizard from above. Instead, scoop from below.
- Support as much of its body as possible.
- Start with short handling sessions at first, then gradually make them longer.
- Put the lizard back in its enclosure only when it’s calm.
- Handle regularly to maintain tameness.
*This care sheet contains only very basic information. Although it’s a good introduction, please further your research with high-quality sources. The more you know, the better you will be able to care for your pet!