a Green Basilisk eating a bug

Green Basilisk

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 will not bite unless provoked, and they are not venomous. They are easy to take care of and won’t get too big, so they make a great pet even with small homes.

If you’re looking for a lizard that’s a bit more exciting than the average pet rock, you may want to consider the Green Basilisk. Although they’re not as well-known as other family pets, the Green Basilisk is a unique lizard that will make a wonderful addition to your home.

Green Basilisk is the smallest species of basilisk lizard in the world, but it still has a few things going for it that might make it the perfect pet for your family. First, for a small animal, it has a relatively long life expectancy. Second, this lizard is generally pretty easy to care for, as long as it has a warm environment (around 85 degrees). Third, as we’ve already mentioned, they’re not aggressive.

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
  • Suitable for First-Time 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

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

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

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

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

a Green Basilisk perched on a log

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

Temperament of Green Basilisk

Green Basilisks are active lizards. They like to climb and move around exploring things inside their enclosure. They also like basking under the 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.

a Green Basilisk resting on a leaf

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 to breed 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 neither they, nore your lizard get hurt. 

They 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 keep your Basilisk happy and help reduce their stress.

Tank Size

Green Basilisks love to climb and bask and will need a large enclosure. Young Basilisks can be kept in a small tank of 20 gallons. 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 tank then it will be better as 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

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

Temperature

Day time temperature 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 UV rays. Adding a full-spectrum UV bulb should give them all the UV rays they need. A timer can be set up to keep the UV bulb on for 10-12 hours during the day.

a Green Basilisk laying on a branch

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.

a Green Basilisk laying on a log

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

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)

MBD is a common disease in reptiles that is generally caused by a lack of exposure to UV lighting. This prevents the lizards from absorbing calcium and regulating Vitamin D3 levels in their body. The disease can cause bone deformations or softening of their bones. Making sure that the lizards are exposed to UV light is very important to prevent them from getting the disease. Adding calcium supplements to their food will also help reduce the chances of MBD.

Parasitic Infections

Internal parasites like roundworm and hookworm can cause serious problems in reptiles. Infected Basilisks may have the following symptoms:

  • 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 Basilisk will encounter parasites from their environment. Take your Green Basilisks to a vet if they have the above symptoms. 

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 the 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 every month. You’ll want to move your Basilisk to a separate enclosure and remove all the decorations and substrate from the enclosure.

a Green Basilisk resting in its 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. 

a pile of mealworms ready to be fed do a reptile

Feeding A Green Basilisk

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 tool. 

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, 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 toes 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. 

Now 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.

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