The Brown Basilisk, also known as a Striped Basilisk, is a native species of Central America, but has been introduced into the wilds of Florida. The Brown Basilisk, along with the Common Basilisk, is often given the nickname “Jesus Lizard” due to its ability to run across water for short distances. This lizard is a fairly delicate lizard in captivity; they are known to have a very skittish personality and probably will not allow frequent handling, so are not suggested for those that wish to have a social animal. Basilisks are known to run quickly, so may occasionally run into the sides of aquariums; they can also frequently develop parasites. Some of these lizards, especially females, can be extremely aggressive while males are very territorial. It is not suggested to keep more than one male in the same cage as power struggles can break out, causing a high amount of stress to the less dominate lizards.
Size and Sexing:
Basilisks are known to grow up to three feet, most of that length being the tail. The male of the species is often noticeably larger than the female. As the males mature, raised dorsal fins and caudal fins will become apparent, giving them an exotic and enchanting appearance. Females lack the fins of their male counterparts.
The average lifespan for a well kept basilisk can be 7-8 years, so be sure you will be willing to spend the time, money and effort on the care this pet will require before making a decision to buy it.
Young basilisk can be kept in 20-30 gallon aquariums, increasing the size as they grow older. A 50-60 gallon aquarium is a good size for full grown basilisks. Depending on how many animals you wish to keep will determine the size you will need. I have heard of someone keeping up to four animals in a 55 gallon, standard glass aquariums with good results. Remember, only one male should be kept in a cage at any one time.
A locked screen cover should be used, keeping these arboreal lizards from escaping and running freely around the house without supervision.
Large sturdy climbing branches should be used to allow this arboreal, tree climbing lizard’s space to do what they do naturally in the wild. If you prefer natural enclosures and feel you can care for live plants, pothos, dracaena, and philodendron are all safe choices. Remember, if you choose to put live plants, special care should be taken to make sure that the plant is safe for your animal and that you are sure the plant is not infested with a parasite that your animal could catch by being around the plant.
Like with many lizard species, the Brown Basilisk requires full spectrum lighting to be able to keep the animal healthy and aid in vitamin D3 synthesis and utilization of calcium. A special UV light can be purchased as a light source, but should be turned off after 12-14 hours so that the animal keeps up a natural day and night cycle. Glass tends to filter out UV Rays, so care should be taken to not shine the light through the sides of the cage. Natural sunlight is beneficial to these animals, so a screen, outdoor enclosure can be built for temporary exposure.
The enclosure should be kept at around 76-88F during the day, while nighttime temperatures should drop to 70-75F. A basking spot should be provided on one end of the cage, either from a ceramic heat emitter or a reptile basking light (white, blue, red). Red basking lights can be used both day and night, as they do not disturb the reptiles natural day and night cycle; ceramic heat emitter’s emit no light at all. Basking temperatures should be kept at 90-95F.
Heat rocks are never recommended for any reptile, due to the high risk involved that your animal can get severely burned on its belly or sides.
Two thermometers should be placed on either side of the cage, one to monitor the “hot side” and the other to monitor the “cool side” of the enclosure.
Humidity: A humidity level of 60-70% is acceptable for Basilisks and can be accomplished by daily misting or setting up a system with a timer to mist several times a day. Humidity levels can be monitored with a hydrometer.
There are many reptile substrates available to buy, but cedar chips and shavings should be avoided due to the possible risk of causing respiratory problems. Reptile carpet, shredded newspaper, and toilet paper are all cheap and easy to clean. Shredded newspaper and toilet paper are safely digested without causing serious problems. Many people like to use potting soil for these animals, seeing that it’s easy to find and makes it easier to hold humidity in the cage. This is a great choice if you choose to use live plants, or simply want a natural look to your enclosure. Potting soil also keeps many insects from hiding from your pet, so it is more likely that there won’t be any leftover insects hiding under the substrate.
Feeding and Diet:
Basilisks are omnivorous, meaning they eat both plant and animal matter. A mix of crickets, waxworms, mealworms and even pinky mice can be offered to them. Crickets should be the main source of food, seeing that they are the most nutritious. Waxworms, mealworms and pinky mice should be rare treats. Crickets should be dusted with vitamin supplements and calcium supplements with vitamin D3 once a week. Vegetables and fruits should be offered as a regular diet as well to ensure proper nutrition. Dark leafy vegetables, edible flowers, and small amounts of fruit such as strawberries, melons, figs and bananas can all be offered. Iceberg lettuce should be avoided as it is mostly water and has no nutritional value. Always do your research before offering any type of food to your animal to ensure that you are feeding it something potentially harmful.
Basilisks should be offered a good sized source of water as they enjoy swimming and soaking. Water is also a source of comfort, as in the wild Basilisks will jump into water and run short distances across its surface to escape would be predators. Water should be checked regularly as it is likely the animals will defecate in it. If that is the case, water should be cleaned out and replaced with fresh water as it is likely they will drink, swim and soak in the same water.