The Plumed Basilisk

The Plumed Basilisk

The Plumed Basilisks are beautiful, elegant and enjoyable lizards to keep in captivity. There are four species of Basilisks, the Green or Plumed Basilisk (Basiliscus plumifrons), Common or Brown Basilisk (B. basiliscus), Red-headed Basilisk (B. galeritus) and the Striped Basilisk (B. vittatus). All these species can be kept the same way but in this article we will be discussing the Plumed Basilisk.

The Plumed Basilisk also known as the Green Basilisk naturally occurs in the southern regions of Nicaragua, Costa Rica and western Panama. They keep to the lowlands where the temperature remains fairly constant, where cooler temperatures range from 20 – 23°C and warmer temperatures averaging between 24 -34°C. They experience a distinct rainy season in their range lasting from June to October. Out of the four species the Plumed Basilisk is the largest species and reach lengths up to 80cm. Males have a magnificent crest on their head, back and tail.

Captive Care

Basilisks are rather jumpy lizards so if you are looking for a lizard that you want to hold all the time then a Basilisk is not ideal. Basilisks are a lizard that should be appreciated in a beautiful display enclosure where you can watch them move around during the day.

Basilisks do well in outdoor enclosures where climates are appropriate. In winter they can then be brought inside. Indoor enclosures should be at least 1.2m wide x 1.2m deep x 1.8m tall, bigger is always better with these lizards. Many breeders will only house them in indoor enclosures using the appropriate UVB lighting.

Male Plumed Basilisks should not be kept together as it is likely that they will fight each other and even if they don’t fight they are likely to stress one another out or at least one of them become stressed. So it is recommended to only keep one male per enclosure. Depending on the size of the enclosure you can house more than one female with a male, some breeders will house up to three females with one male.

Being diurnal these lizards will need a basking light and a UVB light. It has been said that exposure to sunlight of a minimum of 4 to 8 hours a week during the day between 10am and 3pm is adequate exposure for most lizards to synthesis enough vitamin D3 to meet their requirements. For those that keep their basilisk indoors they will need two lights a basking light and a UVB light. The basking light is needed in order to provide heat and the UVB light will provide them with UV-B radiation, which is a replacement to the natural sun. UVB bulbs should be replaced every 6 months so remember to write the date on the bulb once it has been purchased. Light should be on for 12 hours and off for 12 hours a simple timer bought from hardware is best for this.

Your Plumed Basilisk will enjoy a 70 – 80% relative humidity. By having a large water dish in your enclosure along with your basking light it should be able to then sustain a relative humidity that will be adequate. Daily misting is also fine as long as you make sure it does not make the enclosure and substrate too wet. It must be allowed to dry over a 24 hour period.

Feeding

The plumed Basilisk is primarily carnivorous, but should also be offered a significant amount of plant matter. When they are hatchlings or juveniles you can offer them two to three week old crickets and mealworms and supplement the insects with vitamins and minerals every second feeding.

Remember when you are using a UVB bulb and you are feeding vertebrate prey like mice about once a week your Basilisk will be able to synthesize enough vitamin D3 to meet it’s requirements and therefore you will not need to supplement vitamin D3 in their diet. Also offer some finely chopped or grated fruits and vegetable, which will be eaten by some of the juveniles. As the little ones grow you can start to feed them larger insects and eventually you can stat to offer them a pinkie mouse about once a week. Adults should be fed every three to four days. Offer them small mice, adult crickets and mealworms. Make sure to also offer them some plant matter such as mixed vegetables, mulberry and nasturtium leaves and bananas. Make sure to supplement with reptile calcium and vitamins and minerals.

Breeding

The Plumed Basilisk can breed from the age of two years old. You will need to put them through a winter rest period before the breeding season. During the winter period lighting is reduced to 10 hours on and 14 hours off and hot spots are reduced to around 28°C. Night time temperatures can also be dropped to 20°C and adults are also kept drier for this 2 months period prior to the breeding season. During this period reduce feeding to once a week and offer food only in the late morning or midday. After this two-month winter period return temperatures to normal, photoperiod and feeding regime. Within a few weeks you will start to see signs of breeding and with females laying eggs about two months after copulation.

The Plumed Basilisk can be bred relatively easily in captivity. Under ideal conditions they can lay up to two to three clutches in a season and can lay as many as 16eggs per clutch although average clutches of 12eggs are more common. The incubation period is on average 65 days and incubation temperatures should be around 29°C. As the female gets closer to laying you will see she will appear fat as the eggs are developing. You will need to make sure that you place an egg laying box, which can be a plastic container with a 20-25cm layer off peat moss. It is a good idea to place a piece of wood over this box just leaving a section open at the end for the female to enter the box, they female will then dig a burrow under this wood where she will lay her eggs. Once the eggs have been laid they can be carefully removed and placed into an incubation container.

An incubation container is a plastic container with a few small holes in it, that has about a 10cm layer of moist vermiculite in it. The eggs are then buried with one third of the egg exposed above the vermiculite.  As mentioned maintain the eggs at 29 – 30°C. Make sure to double-check temperatures as temperatures in excess of 31°C can prove to be fatal at the later stages of development. At exceedingly high temperatures the Basilisk metabolism may demand more oxygen than the amount able to pass through the eggshell and membranes

Out of the four basilisk species, the Plumed Basilisk is the best choice, not only for it’s beautiful appearance but it seems to be the hardiest and best suited Basilisk for captivity. The Plumed Basilisks is a very beautiful and elegant lizard that can be kept very well in captivity, if sufficient space and the right microclimate conditions are offered. These lizards are best kept as a show animal in a well-planted vivarium with lots of branches; they are not suited to handling.

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