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The Green Basilisk, the Jesus Christ Lizard

Green Basilisk (Basiliscus plumifrons)

Family: Iguanidae


Adults range from 18 to 27 inches in length, most of which is tail. They are bright green in color although there are some which are brown with a yellow underside. Males have large crests while females have much smaller ones. There are fringes on the side of the toes which give the lizard the ability to run across water if they can build up enough speed. Because of this ability they are known as the Jesus Christ Lizard in their native Central America.


The Green Basilisk is native to lower Central America where they live in the foliage that grows along waterways. They never wander far from the water.

Captive Care

The Green Basilisk can live 8 to 12 years in captivity. They are not a good lizard for beginners since they are prone to stress. In addition, unless you get them young and handle them a lot, they will bite and the bite is capable of breaking the skin.

Cage: They need a large, tall cage so they can climb. The cage should be well-ventilated to prevent the growth of mold. Since they are territorial, only one male should be put in a cage.

Food: They are omnivores which will eat anything they can swallow. Captives can be fed crickets or pinky mice. Feed them after they have had time to warm up. Fruits, berries and leaves should also be given.

Water: They need a small bowl of water to drink from and frequent misting.

Temperature: The Green Basilisk requires a range of temperatures in its enclosure to help it self regulate its own body temperature. You can do this by placing a heat bulb on one side of the cage. The cool side should be around 72-73°F (23°C), with the basking area increasing to 88-90°F (31°C). Reduce the temperature to around 68-72°F (21C-23°C) at night. Never let the temperature drop below 64°F (18°C).

Humidity: Humidity levels be around 70%. Humidity higher than 80% can cause respiratory problems. The humidity levels can be achieved by daily misting at regular intervals.

Lighting: Basilisks require both UVA and UVB lighting to remain healthy and get the vitamins they need. This should include about 12 hours of UVB lighting. Follow the instructions that come with the lamps. If it is too close or too far away, the amount of ultra violet radiation it gets will be affected.


The Green Basilisk becomes sexually mature around 2 years of age, when they are between 4.7″ – 5.4″ long. The female will lay a clutch of up to 20 eggs which hatch 8 – 10 weeks after incubation at 28C.

Green males will not breed with brown females. If you introduce a green female, remove the brown one as the male may kill her, even if there was no problem before.

Text © 2018 Gary J. Sibio. All rights reserved.

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Written by Gary J Sibio

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    • I find them fascinating. I always have. When I was 8 years old I traded my baseball cards for my first pet snake.

      While I wouldn’t call then cuddly, they can be affectionate. We have a Chinese Water Dragon that begs to be taken out of her cage and held. My wife will hold it and it falls asleep sitting on her. It will take food from my hand.

      The Argentine Tegu, which can get to be 6 feet long, will climb in your lap and nuzzle up to you.

      This particular lizard, which has since died, was not friendly at all. I got it as an adult. If you get them young and handle them a lot, they will tame.

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