Caiman Lizard

With the growing interest in exotic pets, especially reptiles, there are more Caiman Lizards available for adoption. Caiman Lizards are known to be difficult to handle, and difficult to care for. If you get past that, they are very pleasant to have around. The biggest obstacle for most families to own them is the upfront cost of ownership. They require a fairly large enclosure to be happy lizards. As you can guess this is something that you are likely going to be building yourself because there aren’t any Caiman Lizard enclosures on Amazon.

If cost isn’t going to scare you away there are a few other things that might. Don’t get us wrong, these can be great pets, but one of the biggest problems people have is they don’t fully understand what they’re getting into with Caiman Lizards before they get one and take it home.

Finding food for them that they will eat can be one of your biggest challenges. Some Caiman Lizards will only eat snails. Finding a reliable supply of these can be challenging, and making sure they’re free from any diseases or parasites. The last thing you’ll want to do is buy some poor quality food for your lizard and have them get sick or die.

If you are still interested, read on. There is a lot you’ll need to learn before you decide if this is a pet for your family.

a Caiman Lizard basking for heat

Caiman Lizard Information

  • Average Length: 2 to 5 feet
  • Average Weight: 8 to 12 pounds
  • Skin Appearance: Flat with horn-like scales
  • Skin Colors: Olive to bright green
  • Grooming Needs: Low 
  • Shedding: Every few months
  • Sensitive to Touch: No
  • Biting Tendency: Sometimes
  • Tolerance to Heat and Cold: No tolerance to cold.
  • Good Pet: No 
  • Safe with Children: No
  • Good with Other Pets: No
  • Suitable to live in an Apartment: Yes
  • Suitable for First-Time Pet Owners: No
  • Weight Gain: Normal
  • Health Concerns: Respiratory Infections, Ear, Eye, Parasitic Infections and Shedding Problems.
  • Average Life Span: 8 to 12 years
a Caiman Lizard basking on a rock

Physical Appearance of Caiman Lizards

Caiman Lizards are large lizards that have a muscular body. They have horn-like scales on their back which protects them from predators. The bumps on their back look fairly similar to how the bumps are on alligators. They have a long and flat tail that helps them swim in the water. They can use their tail to whip predators when they feel threatened. 

Their legs are very strong and their feet have sharp nails that help them climb. 

Caiman Lizards have an olive to bright green body with a bright red or orange colored head. Their tail has a black to brown color on the top with yellow stripes.

The males have wider heads with a brighter red than the females do. Males also tend to be longer and can get up to 5 feet long while females only get up to 4 feet long. 

Temperament of Caiman Lizards

Caiman Lizards have a balanced temperament. They are not very social but still not completely solitary. They generally do not get aggressive, unless they feel scared or threatened. If they feel scared they may bite you or whip their tail at you.

Caiman Lizards can be trained to be handled. They are intelligent and can learn very fast. Not all Caimans may become receptive to being handled even after training. Because it is impossible to know if they will be open to being handled, it is difficult to know how they will be as a pet

Caiman Lizards like to spend most of their time soaking in water, swimming or basking in the heat. The lizards like to climb and explore their enclosure. Doing lizard things generally keeps them happy.

Their Compatibility with Children

While Caiman Lizards do not usually get aggressive with humans, they do sometimes bite or whip their tails. These lizards can get large which does not make them a great pet for children. If you want children to handle Caiman Lizards, it is best if you have a younger lizard. With their size, adult Caimans can seriously injure your children.

Anyone handling reptiles should always wash their hands after handling them. This is because most lizards are carriers of infectious bacteria like Salmonella which can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain. Washing their hands after handling the lizard should prevent your children from contracting bacterial and fungal illnesses.

Living Space for Caiman Lizards

These lizards can get very long and like to climb, and that makes keeping them inside a large enclosure very important. They are semi-aquatic lizards and need an area with water inside their enclosure. As we will discuss in the next section they’ll need a rather large space to be kept happy.

Enclosure Size

Young Caiman Lizards can be kept in a 55-gallon tank but adults will need a much larger enclosure. Adult Lizards can grow up to 5 feet (including their tail) and an enclosure that is at least 6’Lx10’Wx4’H in size will be needed. Adult Caimans are really going to need a specially built enclosure if they will be happy lizards.

Most people that own Caiman Lizards will build an enclosure. The main reason why people build enclosures is because it’s easier and cheaper than trying to find an aquarium big enough. Even a 500 gallon aquarium is going to be too small, and they cost thousands of dollars. Many owners will build them a small in-ground pool so they can swim, and build the rest of the enclosure around it. You’ll want to have space for them to move around on the floor of the enclosure and a lot of room for them to climb up for basking.

two Caiman Lizards on a log


Adding natural decorations will help to make the Caiman Lizard’s enclosure look more natural and will also give them several hiding spots. Decorations like rocks, branches and plants can be added inside their enclosure. 

Since Caiman Lizards love to climb and can get long, branches should be sturdy. The branches should be placed at their higher ends of the tank. The branches should be secured so that it cannot injure the lizard while climbing or resting on them. The branches should be added to all areas of their enclosure. 

a Caiman Lizard eating an insect

To create a hiding spot you can get some cork. The cork should be large enough to completely hide your Caiman Lizard. If you add living plants, make sure they are strong so that brief contact does not damage them. The plants will help keep humidity levels higher in their enclosure. If you are worried about real plants being damaged, artificial plants will be a good choice too.


Use a substrate that helps trap moisture. A good substrate will help keep their enclosure humidified. 

Cypress mulch combined with sand and soil can be a great choice. They will absorb moisture and don’t pack down very hard so that your lizard can dig.

Best Climate for Caiman Lizards

Caiman Lizards have specific needs when it comes to temperature and humidity. They are semi-aquatic lizards that need both a warm and moist climate. 

Separate warm and basking areas should be created inside their enclosure. You need these different temperature areas to help your lizard regulate their body temperature.


The temperature in the basking area should be kept between 100°F and 105°F while the rest of the enclosure should be kept between 80°F to 90°F. At night the temperature should never fall below 75°F.

A halogen lamp can be used to create a basking area. The halogen bulb will help to supply both heat and light inside the enclosure.


A normal 12-hour day and night cycle should be kept inside their enclosure. Timers connected to the lighting are the easiest way to create a day and night cycle. Normal bulbs can be used to light the enclosure with other lights or equipment for heat. If you have added a halogen bulb as a heating source, then a separate lighting source will not be needed. Depending on your lighting setup you may need UV bulbs as well.

Halogen bulbs can supply heat and light but they cannot supply UV light to your lizard. UV lighting is important for reptiles to absorb calcium and regulate Vitamin D3. A normal full spectrum UV lighting bulb can be used to give the UV as well as light the enclosure. UV bulbs should be replaced every 6 months because they tend to lose their intensity after a few months.


Caiman Lizards are well-adapted to living in tropical climates. They need high humidity levels that need to be kept between 60 to 80 percent. Given the large size of their enclosure, it can be difficult to keep the humidity this high. 

Adding an electronic mister will make it much easier to keep the humidity high. The mister can be paired with a timer that can turn the mister on and off on its own. Adding an automatic mister is a great option if you know the humidity will drop during the day while you are away. If you have an automatic mister that is paired with a hygrometer then manual misting will not be needed.  

Water Source

A large water source should be kept inside the enclosure. The water area should be big enough so that your Caiman Lizard can not only soak themselves but swim around. A large plastic container is not going to be anywhere near large enough. Many owners will build a small in-ground pool for their lizard. This will let them live the aquatic life they would have had in the wild.

Like with any water source you’ll need to either replace it regularly or keep it clean. Because regularly flushing the water and replacing it is expensive and not environmentally friendly, many tanks are cleaned with aquarium filters. Using a filter is very important to keeping your water tank clean and your lizard healthy. 

Another often overlooked aspect of the water tank is keeping it heated. Again this is where aquarium products usually come into play. Many owners will have several heaters placed in the tank to keep the water tropical. One nice thing about a large tank of warm water is this really helps keep the entire enclosure very humid.

The Attention a Caiman Lizards Needs

Caiman Lizards need expert care and should be kept as pets only by experienced reptile owners. The large enclosure and feeding needs of the lizard are not easy for new pet owners to manage. 

While they can be trained to be handled, expert knowledge is still needed. Stressing them can cause your Caiman Lizard to bite you or whip their tail at you. A lot of patience and attention is needed to train them to become receptive to handling. Handling should be infrequent and short, you’ll want to put them back in their enclosure if they don’t appear happy.

a Caiman Lizard laying on dirt sunning itself

The temperature conditions inside their enclosure need to be monitored regularly. The large enclosure and the setup make it complex to keep the temperature and humidity in check. Separate thermometers should be added to both the warm and basking areas of the enclosure. The water temperature should be checked regularly.

a Caiman Lizard enjoying the sun

Hygrometers need to be used to monitor the humidity level and keep it between 60 to 80 percent.  As we mentioned earlier in the article, a large heated water tank will do most of the heavy lifting here. Warm water evaporates easily and will keep the humidity of the enclosure up.

Health Issues

Common health issues in Caiman Lizards are:

Parasite Infections

Internal parasites can be a major health problem for lizards. Captive lizards can get the parasites from other infected reptiles or by coming in contact with contaminated objects or eating infected food. The parasites can reproduce and spread fast. Symptoms include:

  • Weight loss
  • Abnormal stools
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite

The lizard can be infected with different types of parasites like roundworm, hookworm or pinworm. Treatment varies based on the cause of infection. If your Caiman Lizard shows the above symptoms, take them to a vet.  Keeping their enclosure clean is the best way to prevent your Caiman Lizard from getting parasites.

Respiratory Infections

Caiman Lizards with respiratory infections will stop eating, become lethargic, have difficulty in breathing or discharge mucus from their mouth. If your Caiman Lizard shows one or more of these symptoms, take them to a vet immediately. Respiratory symptoms can become serious if not attended to in the initial stages. Usually poor conditions inside their living enclosure can result in Caiman Lizards having respiratory infections. Keeping the humidity between 60 to 80 percent is the easiest way to prevent respiratory infections.

Shedding Problems

Some Caiman Lizards may have problems shedding their skin. Some parts of the skin may not shed during the process, especially on the legs and toes. Keeping the enclosure warm and humid or soaking them in water once a day should help them shed their skin. The stuck skin should usually come out when the lizard sheds next. If they still are unable to shed their skin, take them to see your vet.

Ear and Eye infections

Poor water quality inside their enclosure may cause some lizards to develop ear or eye infections. Reddening of eyes, scratching or itching these areas can be signs of eye infection. This may happen in one or both ears. Swelling around the ears or frequent rubbing can indicate ear infections. If they get an ear or eye infection, drain the water inside their enclosure and replace it with fresh water. If the infection still does not get better, take them to your vet for treatment.

Grooming and Care

Caiman Lizards have low grooming needs. The water inside their enclosure should help them stay clean by allowing them to soak themselves. Adding a water filtration system to the enclosure will help keep the water clean. You may still need to change the water if your lizard defecates in the water. Reptiles often tend to defecate in water while soaking themselves.

The nails of a Caiman Lizard don’t need trimming. The Caiman Lizards climbing and digging should naturally wear down their nails.

The substrate should be spot cleaned every day and replaced entirely once every month.

Their enclosure should be cleaned once every few months. To clean the enclosure, take out and place your Caiman Lizard in a separate enclosure. Remove all the decorations and use a reptile-safe disinfectant to clean the enclosure. Wipe the walls, floor and decorations using a clean cloth. The decorations can be washed in water. 

Rinse and let everything dry completely before placing your Caiman Lizard back inside their enclosure. You want everything to dry off to prevent your lizard from getting exposed to any cleaning chemicals.

a pile of mealworms ready to be fed do a reptile

Feeding A Caiman Lizard

Caiman Lizards are semi-aquatic carnivores. They are generally used to eating aquatic snails which are found in water bodies. It can be difficult to feed them this in captivity, so a variety of canned reptile food is recommended for them. One big problem to be aware of is that a good amount of Caiman Lizards will ONLY eat snails and nothing else. We recommend you find a reliable supplier of snails BEFORE you buy a Caiman Lizard so you have one less problem later.

Caiman Lizards have strong jaw muscles and molar-like teeth which helps them to crush and eat aquatic invertebrates. Their strong jaws allow them to eat shrimp, crawfish and freshwater clams. They also enjoy eating insects like crickets and super worms. 

Young Caiman Lizards should be given smaller snails in a feeding bowl and should be fed daily. Adults can be fed canned or live prey every other day. Uneaten food should be removed to keep their enclosure clean. Tropical fruits like bananas, mangoes and kiwis make an occasional tasty treat for them.

To make sure they get all the nutrients they need, dust their food with vitamin and calcium supplementation once every week.

Related Questions:

Are Caiman Lizards related to Caiman Crocodiles?

While Caiman Lizard and Caiman crocodiles have similar names, they are not related. The lizards are named Caiman because they have large, heavy horn-like scales on their body which resemble those on Caiman crocodiles. Both the lizard and crocodile are semi-aquatic reptiles. Apart from this, there is no other similarity between them. 

Why is My Caiman Lizard not eating?

When you first get them home, it can take a few days for your lizard to get used to their new enclosure. They may spend the initial days hiding or basking in the warm area. After 3 to 7 days, they should ideally start coming out and eating. If it takes longer, you can contact your vet to find out if there are any health issues that might be preventing them from eating.

Can I take out my Caiman Lizard from their enclosure?

You can do this if you are an experienced reptile owner. They like to bask more than they like roaming on the ground and should be kept in an area with lots of sunlight. If you want to let them move around your home, make sure you only leave them in a reptile safe room or area. You don’t want them getting injured or trying to escape.

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