Green Basilisk

a Green Basilisk climbing across a branch covered with leaves

Green Basilisks are native to Central America and are very fast, and can reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour. Most people don’t know these lizards by name, but they know about their reputation for being able to run on water.

Green basilisks are very agile, strong and can climb trees and shrubs. They are omnivorous, eating insects, fruit, and even small rodents. Males are also very territorial, and will attack other males that are kept with them. 

If you want a pet that is as fascinating as a lizard, but with a friendlier face than a snake, a Green Basilisk (Basiliscus plumifrons) is the perfect pet for you! They can be a great family pet. Basilisks are generally docile and don’t bite unless provoked. Its also worth noting that they’re not venomous if they did bite. They are easy to take care of and won’t get too big, so they make a great pet even with small homes. 

Green Basilisks are the smallest species of Basilisk lizard in the world, but they still have a few things going for it that might make it the perfect pet for your family. First, for a small animal they have a relatively long life expectancy. Second, this lizard is generally pretty easy to care for. Third, as we’ve already mentioned, they’re not aggressive.

Fortunately they also don’t cost too much. Depending on where you look for them they should cost between $20 and $40.

Green Basilisk Information

  • Average Length: Males: 25 inches; Females: 21 inches
  • Average Weight: 5.5 pounds
  • Skin Appearance: Covered with granular scales
  • Skin Colors: Light, dark or bright green with white, gray or light-blue markings
  • Grooming Needs: Low
  • Shedding: Every few months
  • Sensitive to Touch: No
  • Biting Tendency: No
  • Tolerance to Heat and Cold: No tolerance to cold
  • Good Family Pet: They don’t like being handled, so maybe not? 
  • Safe with Children: No
  • Good with Other Pets: No
  • Suitable to live in an Apartment: Yes
  • Good for Less Experienced Pet Owners: No
  • Weight Gain: Normal
  • Health Concerns: Metabolic Bone Diseases, Parasitic Infections and Rostral Injuries
  • Average Life Span: 8 to 10 years

Physical Appearance of Green Basilisk

a Green Basilisk perched on a branch looking for food

Green Basilisks have a bright green colored body with white, gray or light-blue markings along their body. These markings can be dots, short straight lines or even short curved lines. They are about the same size as a dot or line you would make with a very fine paint brush. On some Green Basilisk they will have a repeating pattern, but on many they appear randomly along their body. Their stomach is usually lighter than on the rest of the body. Their skin is covered with small granular scales.

Green Basilisks are long thin lizards. They have a triangular-shaped body, the front part of their body is a little narrower than their back end. Their front legs are smaller than the rear legs. They have long flat toes that are good for climbing. They have a long thin tail that helps them balance.

They are a type of Helmeted lizards, a group of lizards that have crests on their back. The crest looks a lot like a sail from a sailboat. The crest on the male Basilisks starts from their head and runs to their tail. From a distance it may look like one continuous crest but there are four different crests on the top of their body.

A small crest is behind their eyes, followed by a larger crest behind their head. The third crest is on their dorsal area which is the most vibrant of their four crests. The tail crest is long and runs along the length of their tail.

Female and young Basilisks have only two crests, one on their head and the other on their tail. These crests are noticeably smaller than the ones found on adult males.

Adult male Green Basilisks are normally 24 to 36 inches long and females range between 18 to 24 inches long.

Temperament of Green Basilisk

a Green Basilisk looking for food

Green Basilisks are active lizards. They like to climb and move around exploring things inside their enclosure. Like other lizards they also like basking under a light.

By their nature Green Basilisks are easily irritated. Most Green Basilisks do not like being handled and are happy to be left alone within their enclosure. Their anger can lead to destructive behavior like rubbing or banging their nose against things. If they feel threatened they may act out and start destructive behavior like banging their nose. Most of the time they will rub their nose against the glass of their enclosure.

Though it may seem strange, this kind of aggressive behavior is normal in many lizards. Green Basilisks are known to behave this way when they feel scared. If they are afraid and feel like they are in danger they may even bite you.

The easiest way to reduce their destructive behavior is by making sure that they have several hiding places and making sure that their enclosure has the climate and space that they need.

Males are known to be territorial and keeping two males together can lead to aggressive behavior. A male and female can be kept in pairs but we only recommend doing this if you plan on breeding them.

Their Compatibility with Children

Green Basilisks do not like being handled, so we recommend not having your children handle the lizard. It may not be the most fun, but children can safely watch the lizards climb and explore their enclosure from a distance.

If you still want your children to handle them, make sure the children are calm and patient. They should only do this with adult supervision to ensure that your children, and your lizard stay safe.

a Green Basilisk climbing across a branch in their enclosure

Children should always wash their hands after handling the lizard. We recommend this because most lizards are carriers of infectious bacteria like Salmonella which can cause diarrhea, fever, and abdominal pain in humans. Washing their hands should prevent your children from contracting bacterial and fungal diseases from the lizards.

Living Space for Green Basilisk

Giving them a large enclosure with lots of decorations and hiding places is important. Adding hiding spots, branches to climb and a moist substrate will make their home similar to their natural habitat. A natural habitat will help reduce their stress and help keep your Basilisk happy.

Tank Size

Green Basilisks love to climb and bask and will need a large enclosure. Young Basilisks can be kept in a small 20 gallon tank. A single adult Basilisk should be given an enclosure at least as big as 48”Lx28”Wx36”H, but bigger is better.

If you can get a larger enclosure then it will be better because it will allow you to add lots of branches and plants. A larger enclosure will also be needed if you plan to keep two or more Basilisks in one tank.

Decorations

Green Basilisks need a lot of hiding spots and places to climb inside their enclosure. An easy way to create this by adding several branches, rocks, plants and other decorations inside their enclosure.

Substrate

For substrate use a material that can retain moisture. The substrate options we recommend are orchid bard, soil mixtures, coconut coir and cypress mulch. Make sure the substrate is insecticide and pesticide free.

Best Climate for Green Basilisk

a Green Basilisk climbing across a branch

Basilisks are cold-blooded reptiles and need both warm and hot areas inside their tank to regulate their body temperature. Heating and lighting equipment will need to be placed at different locations to set up warm areas and a basking area.

Temperature

Day time temperatures should be kept between 82 to 87°F. The basking area should have a temperature of 95°F. The temperature inside the enclosure should never fall below 73°F during the night. Heating equipment like heat mats, reflector bulbs and ceramic heaters can be used to keep the temperature at the right levels. 

Overhead bulbs should be properly secured to prevent your lizard from getting skin burns if the bulb falls over.

Lighting

A standard day and night light cycle should be kept inside their enclosure. You can use any kind of regular aquarium lighting for their enclosure, or even LED strips if you wanted. In addition to standard lighting, your lizard needs to have UVB rays. A UVB bulb should give them all the UV rays they need. A timer can be set up to keep the UVB bulb on for 10-12 hours during the day.

Humidity

Green Basilisks prefer a hot and humid environment. The humidity should be kept between 55 to 75 percent with lower humidity during winter months and higher humidity during summer months.

Misting their enclosure once a day will help keep the humidity levels up. Since Green Basilisks are semi-aquatic lizards some owners will build a waterfall inside the enclosure if it is large enough. If you do this then there might not be a need to mist their tank. 

A water bowl with fresh drinking water should be placed inside their enclosure. The bowl should be large enough for them to soak their entire body.

The Attention a Green Basilisk Needs

Most Green Basilisks don’t like being handled. If you try handling them, they may get stressed and try to run away. Sometimes they may even try to bite you. Some Basilisks may let you handle them if they have been handled since they were very young.

While handling them it is important to be calm. Building trust with your lizard is also very important. Always observe how well they are responding to being handled. If they react badly to being handled, put them back in their enclosure and try again after a long break.

Keeping the enclosure temperature and humid conditions at the correct levels is the most important part of looking after your Green Basilisks. You’ll want a thermometer inside both the warm and basking areas inside the enclosure. Monitor the temperature and make changes to the heating and lighting equipment if needed. You can keep an eye on the humidity level inside the enclosure with a hygrometer. If the humidity is low, misting their enclosure is a short term solution to raising it.

Health Issues

Common health issues in Basilisks include:

Rostral Injuries

Doctor holding a sign with the name of the medical problem

This is not a disease but a negative effect of nose rubbing. Poor climate inside their enclosure or owners trying to handle Green Basilisks can cause the lizards to be stressed and irritated. As a result they will run at the sides of the tank and start rubbing or banging their nose against the glass walls. For obvious reasons hitting their nose against the enclosure will cause injuries to Green Basilisks.

Most times the injuries will heal on their own but in severe cases, infections or brain injuries can occur. If they develop anything beyond a mild injury they should be taken to a vet. Keeping them in a large enclosure with lots of hiding spots can help them feel safe. Less stress will reduce their likelihood of nose banging.

Metabolic Bone Disease (MBD)

Metabolic Bone Disease is the most common disease found in pet reptiles. The disease is caused by your reptile not having enough vitamin D to properly absorb calcium. Being exposed to UV lighting helps them create vitamin D that they can use to absorb calcium.

 Symptoms include:

  • Lower jaw swelling 
  • Limb swelling
  • Facial bone softening
  • Loss of appetite
  • Seizures
  • Lethargy

An X-ray can help identify the extent of the disease. Sometimes MBD can lead to fractures, thin bone tissue or thickened bone shafts. The disease is more common in reptiles less than 2 years old.

If left untreated the disease can also lead to death. Consult your vet immediately if you find any of the above mentioned symptoms in your reptile.

Treatments can range from injecting your reptile with mineral supplements to medication and dietary modifications. To keep your reptiles from having MBD, they should be fed a diet rich in calcium (or calcium supplements) and have daily exposure to UV lighting.

Parasitic Infections

Intestinal Parasites like roundworms, hookworms or pinworms can cause serious health issues in reptiles. In mild cases, the disease may not show symptoms but in severe cases it can result in:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Behavioral issues
  • Diarrhea
  • Loose Stool
  • Throwing up food

Captive lizards generally contract parasitic infections from other infected reptiles, contaminated food or objects. Regular cleanings to their enclosure can reduce the chances your reptile will be infected from parasites in their environment. Take your pet to your vet if they have the above symptoms.

Parasitic infections have the potential to destroy the digestive tracts of your turtles and must be treated as soon as signs are noticed.

Mites

Mites are tiny black insects that are parasites. They feed off the blood of your reptile, and they can be quite the pain in the butt to get rid of once you have them. Most times they will be caught and sold already having mites, or they’ll get them from another pet.

Symptoms of mites on your reptile:

  • Long soaks in their water
  • Rubbing on objects in their enclosure
  • Tiny black specs on your reptile or objects in their enclosure
  • Tiny black specs on you from handling your reptile

We recommend contacting your vet to find out what treatment they recommend for killing mites. Keep in mind that mites don’t tend to stay in one place, and any other snakes or reptiles kept in the same room could be infested with mites as well. Distance between pets is key, just as washing up between handling pets is key to not spreading mites from pet to pet.

Ticks

Ticks are blood sucking parasites that are just as bad for your lizard as they are for people. They can pass on quite a number of terrible diseases to your reptile. Depending on what the ticks carry, or if left untreated, they can cause your reptile to die.

Symptoms of ticks on reptiles:

  • Rubbing on objects in their enclosure
  • Long soaks
  • Weight loss
  • Red spots or deformities on their skin

Usually with the above symptoms, especially red spots on their skin people will be suspicious of either ticks or mites. Ticks are a lot easier to see than mites are and with a close inspection of your reptile you should be able to spot them pretty easily.

The treatment is fairly straightforward and can be done at home, or you can have your vet do it. Once you find a tick attached to your lizard, rub it with rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball, then use tweezers to pull the tick off. Using alcohol first should help the tick release their grip and make them easier to pull off. If you are at all worried about diseases your reptile might have gotten from the ticks you can have your vet take a look and they may prescribe medication based on what they find.

Salmonella

All reptiles are potential carriers of salmonella bacteria. The bacteria is present on their skin and shells (for turtles) but doesn’t seem to harm them. A major concern is that the disease can be transmitted to humans. Salmonella can cause serious and life-threatening conditions in humans. 

Symptoms include: 

  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain in humans

As a preventive measure, we always recommend washing your hands after handling any reptiles. Pregnant women, young children and older people shouldn’t handle reptiles. These people are at an increased risk of getting infected because they have a weaker immune system.

Grooming and Care

Green Basilisks have very low grooming needs. The water bowl inside their tank should allow your lizards to bathe as often as they need to.

Their nails will generally wear down naturally. In the unlikely event that their nails do get too long, it’s OK to trim them using a reptile nail clipper. Avoid clipping it too short because they need their nails for climbing.

Check their eyes, ears and skin for signs of infection, bulging eardrum, swelling or unable to open their eyes. If there are any signs of infection, take your lizard to the vet.

Green Basilisks prefer to live in a clean environment and cleaning their tank regularly is extremely important. The substrate should be spot cleaned every day. The entire tank should be cleaned and the substrate replaced once a month. You’ll want to move your Basilisk to a separate enclosure and remove all the decorations and substrate from the enclosure.

Use a reptile friendly disinfectant to clean the tank. These should be available at your local pet store or online. Once you have removed everything, spray the disinfectant inside the tank. They work quickly and only need to be left for about a minute.

Wipe the walls, floor and glass with a clean cloth. If you have artificial decorations, the disinfectant can be used to clean them as well. After disinfecting the decorations, wash them with water. Allow the tank and decorations to dry completely before placing everything back inside.

Feeding A Green Basilisk

a Green Basilisk eating a cricket

Green Basilisks are omnivore lizards who enjoy eating both plants and meat. Feeding Green Basilisks may be difficult in the beginning. When you first get them, they may resist coming out to feed. Patience and commitment will be needed to overcome their skittishness.

Younger Basilisks should be fed small crickets, roaches or tiny super worms. Add calcium and vitamin supplements in their diet to keep them healthy. Young Basilisks can be fed every day.

As your Basilisk grows you can feed them larger super worms, mealworms, Goliath worms or rodents. Sweet potatoes or carrots can be fed to them occasionally to make sure they get enough Vitamin A. Fruits like mangoes, raspberries, blueberries and cantaloupes can also be fed to them in moderation. If you feed your lizard too many fruits they may get a runny stool.

Only feed them what they can eat within a few minutes. Uneaten food should be removed the same day to keep their enclosure clean.

Some female Basilisks can become aggressive while feeding, especially if they are kept with a male. They will try to eat the food before the male can get it. To make sure both get enough food, it’s best to feed your Basilisks separately.

Related Questions:

How Fast can Green Basilisk Run?

Green Basilisks can run at speeds of up to 7 miles an hour. Their ability to run so fast helps them to walk on water and escape from predators. Because of this special ability to walk on water, they are also known as Jesus Christ lizards!

How do Basilisks Run on Water?

They have long toes on the rear feet with thin webbing between their toes. The webbings can open up when they are on the water, giving their feet a larger surface area. As they start running they push water with the large surface area of their toes to create a tiny air pocket. These air pockets help keep them from falling into the water.

This works as long as they can maintain their speed. Once they slow down, the Basilisks will sink into the water and start swimming. The good thing is they are good swimmers and can stay submerged in water for up to 10 minutes.

Do Green Basilisks Shed Their Skin?

Just like most reptiles, Green Basilisks shed their skin. The shedding is gradual and not all at once, like a snake. They will shed once every few months and should not need help. Keeping the temperature between 82 to 87°F and humidity between 55 to 75 percent will make their shedding easier.