- Large water bowl, high perching for climbing and basking high up. Recommend covering 2-3 faces of all glass enclosures and mind the proximity to screen tops as nose rubbing may occur. Plants for hiding also recommended and if possible outdoor enclosures are best.
- Minimum width and height on enclosures for adults should be 3-4′ wide and 4-6′ tall. More space the better as these guys are very active.
- Highly recommend regular time in natural sunlight where possible.
- Omnivorous: Insects, small mammals, and smaller lizards as well as small amounts of fruits and flowers.
- Like other iguanids this species is prone to metabolic bone disease when kept out of natural sunlight. Also prone to issues from nose rubbing.
Notes on Enrichment & Training
- Check out the Reptelligence Facebook page and Reptelligence website for enrichment and training inspiration.
- Variety is the spice of life! Offer as many different types of insects and other small food items that you can. Occasional nightcrawlers and pinky mice as well as free feeding crickets and worms can really help to stimulate foraging behaviors.
Colony or Breeding Management
Notes species is housed or managed socially or for breeding purposes.
Dimorphism or practiced ways to individually mark species (such as those in colonies, like giant millipedes).
Tips on Presentation
- Can be walked on typical lizard harness (piece of leather with holes for front legs and a lead) though be mindful that the lead doesn’t irritate the crests. Best to be conservative with outdoors presentations due to flight risk.
Tips on Handling
- Give time to work out the wiggles when picking up for encounters.
- Not typically a good species for handling. If you get the right individual they can be very striking additions to animal ambassador collections.
- Loss of habitat from human development is the main pressure. Harvesting for pet trade less of an issue due to robust populations of captive bred basilisks.
- Apparent sexual dimorphism
Comments from the Rating System
- Zoo Miami: Beautiful species to have though not commonly able to be handled. With the right individual regular handling paired with tong feeding and regular outings without touching from guests (just for sun) can be a great ambassador. Great to interpret sexual dimorphism and defense mechanisms like ‘walking on water.’
Natural History Information
Range and Habitat
- Honduras, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua
- Forests. Heavily forested streams and lowland wet forests.
Plumed basilisks are one of the largest basilisk species, with an average body length of approximately 10 inches (25 cm). Including the tail, they can reach 3 feet (91 cm) long. Adult lizards are brilliant green with bright yellow eyes and small bluish spots along the dorsal ridge. Males have three crests: one on the head, one on their back, and one on the tail while the females only have the head crest. Juveniles are less conspicuously colored, and lack the characteristic crests.
- Diurnal, semi-aquatic, semi-arboreal
- Excellent swimmer and can hold its breath for up to 30 minutes.
Threats and Conservation Status
- IUCN – Least Concern
- This species is threatened by a loss of primary forest habitat resulting from the the impacts of expanding human populations.
- There is a need to monitor the harvesting of this species for the pet trade, although at present this does not appear to be a major threat (many in the trade are captive bred).
Did you know…
- Aka double-crested basilisk, or Jesus Christ lizard (derived from their defensive behavior to run directly over the surface of water in flight from perceived threat).
- One of the few parthenogenetic iguanian lizards (females can produce offspring without the genetic contribution of a male); Talk about ‘Jesus Christ lizard!’
Any Documents to attach, species spotlights, etc.
- Choice, Control, and Training in Ectotherms, By Carrie Kish
- Ambassador Animal SAG Newsletter Vol. 2, Issue 3: Temperature and Transport: Welfare Implications for Ambassador Ectotherms
- Reptile Lighting Information
- Stress Management in Reptiles and Frogs
Contributors and Citations
- Zoo Miami