For anyone thinking about getting a lizard as a pet it may seem there are almost endless choices to choose from. And since it can be so hard to decide which type of lizard to get, we’re going to help you decide if the Caiman lizard is the type you should pick.
Caiman lizards are very handleable, and extremely fascinating creatures to watch. They tend to be quite a bit tamer than other types of lizards.
Do Caiman Lizards Make Good Pets?
Caiman lizards do require a lot of care. You must not slack on cleaning their cage, providing food and necessary vitamins, maintaining the humidity and heat sources, and ensuring there is a large enough enclosure to house them as they grow. This can be overwhelming for some owners.
However, with regular handling most Caiman lizards will quickly become quite sociable. And since they’re not prone to aggression, they are a better choice as a pet than many other types of reptiles.
Plus, Caiman lizards tend to be quite smart and will pick up on new behaviors fairly easily. And a lot of Caiman lizard owners report they are fascinating to watch as they bask in the sun, eat, and swim.
How Big Does A Caiman Lizard Get?
Caiman lizards are one of the larger lizards found in the Americas! Males can reach an astounding 5 feet in length, while females generally grow to be about 4 feet long.
Caiman lizards are often said to resemble crocodiles. They stand apart from other most other species of reptiles because they have very unique color patterns on their bodies. They are various shades of greenalong their bodies and their head is either red or orange (males tend to have a larger, more red colored head than females).
Their flattened tails are mainly dark and can sometimes have yellow stripes or patches and their arms and legs are short but strong — they can tuck their limbs in while swimming or use them to climb and run fast. Their scales are large and quite bony. They can easily catch prey with their forked tongue, and they have powerful jaws with smaller, shorter, rounded teeth.
Considering caiman lizards grow to be so long and are quite powerful, it’s pretty surprising they don’t weigh very much. Typically, they weigh in at only 8 to 12 pounds!
How Long Do Caiman Lizards Live?
No one is sure exactly how long caiman lizards live in their wild habitat, but it’s approximated to be about 8 – 12 years. However, Caiman lizards who are bred and kept in captivity will generally live 10 years or longer — as long as they are properly cared for.
Do Caiman Lizards Bite?
Caiman lizards generally will flee from danger rather than fight, but if they are surprised or frustrated, they can and will turn and bite a predator. And since they have extremely powerful jaws with blunt teeth it will hurt whatever they attack and make it very tough for anything caught to get away.
Are Caiman Lizards Venomous?
Although you do want to stay away from their bite, Caiman lizards are not one of the lizard species considered to be venomous.
Is The Caiman Lizard Endangered?
At one time, the Caiman lizard was hunted heavily for its skin, but a protection act brought about in the 1970s has stopped this practice, raising the Caiman lizard population back up to healthy levels.
Local, indigenous people often still hunt the Caiman lizard for its meat, however, there needs to be more research done to determine if this is actually harming the Caiman lizard population.
It’s also a concern that because of habitat loss due to fires, high levels of pollution, and deforestation, the Caiman lizard population has been dropping in many areas.
Although their population may be decreasing slightly in the wild, Caiman lizards are fairly easy to find online to purchase for pets, and can also be found or sourced through aquatic or pet stores or by finding a reputable dealer in your area.
Care Of Caiman Lizards
Because the Caiman lizard is a semiaquatic creature it likes to spend most of its time in or near water. So,they require the right type of cage, food, and surroundings to be replicatedin order to thrive in captivity. In fact, there are several important factors for you to consider and several things you will need to set up before you decide to purchase a Caiman lizard.
And unlike a few other lizard species, Caiman lizards don’t hibernate so they will require year-round care.
Temperament Of Caiman Lizards
Caiman lizards are generally fairly laid-back creatures. They’re not naturally aggressive but will occasionally lash out and bite if put in a dangerous situation. Several keepers of Caiman lizards have been able to successfully train them to be extremely tame and even like to be handled, while others say their lizards never quite get to that level.
If you’re planning on keeping a Caiman lizard you should make sure to have a large enough cage for it to thrive in. Young Caiman lizards require an enclosure that measures at least four feet by one foot and is at least two feet high. Once it is a full-grown adult your Caiman lizard will require an enclosure that is at least 6 feet long, 3 feet wide, and 4 feet tall.
Caiman lizards are naturally found inswamplands, rainforests, lakes, slower moving rivers, and other flooded areas in South America, so you should always ensure they have plenty of water around to replicate this type of environment.
The exact amount of water you should put in can vary due to the size of the lizard but there should always be enough water for the lizard to submerge themselves in and paddle around – generally a minimum depth of 12 inches for adults.
Caiman lizards can be very messy eaters and their waste will generally end up in the water. A high-quality special aquarium filter will help to keep the water clean, but you should still be prepared to do frequent water changes to keep their area liveable.
You may be tempted to place gravel along the bottom of your Caiman lizard’s terrarium. However, this is not a good idea because the lizard may mistake it for food and ingest it — which can lead to serious gastrointestinal issues.
If you want to place some river stones at the bottom of the terrarium you can — but you must ensure they are too big to fit in your Caiman lizard’s mouth to prevent choking.
Realistically, a bare-bottomed terrarium is safest and easiest to maintain.
You really should include a branch or two raised safely above the water and under the heater (but not too close!) Caiman lizards love to bask in the hot sun during the daylight and will appreciate the perch. Make sure the branch can support the weight of your Caiman lizard for them to stretch out and do their daily basking.
Your Caiman lizard will also likely appreciate a few bushes and plants (make sure they are suitable for terrariums) in their living area as well since they generally like to tuck themselves into bushes to sleep.
Food And Water
Caiman lizards generally survive off of three main foods:
- – aquatic snails
- – fresh water clams
- – crayfish
Once they get to be adults, they often refuse to eat anything except these foods. Young Caiman lizards and some adults kept in captivity will eat a varied diet with food such as canned shrimp or snails, frozen crayfish, and crickets.
And they’ll often eat fruit like banana, mango, kiwi, and papaya. Caiman lizards kept as pets have also been fed turkey, eggs, hot dogs, ham, and even cat food if they’re offered.
If you’ve recently acquired your Caiman lizard from a pet store make sure to continue with the same diet they were on there for a while before introducing new or different foods in. During the first few years, you should try a variety of foods to see what your Caiman lizard will eat, although you shouldn’t stray too wildly from what they would find in the wild.
Caiman lizards will eat food given to them in bowls or with feeding tongs. If one feeding method doesn’t work, try the other method. Often younger Caiman lizards will need to be fed with feeding tongs but will start to eat out of a bowl after a few months or so.
You should feed young Caiman lizards every day for the first year, then slowly taper down to every few days as they get older.
It’s also very important to give a Caiman lizard special reptile supplements as well. Once a week they should get a reptile multivitamin and a reptile calcium supplement twice a week. Consult with your local veterinarian or reptile store for exact dosage information.
Heating And Humidity
Since Caiman lizards are naturally found in tropical areas of South America, Caiman lizards love heat and humidity — so you’ll need to get a special submersible aquarium heater to keep the temperature of the water in their tank between 75 and 85 degrees.
Humidity should be kept at between 60 and 80% to keep your Caiman Lizard comfortable. Substrates found at specialty reptile retailers and online will help to keep humidity at these levels. Moss will also help to accomplish this humidity rate, as will the addition of live plants and large water sources.
It’s easier to maintain high humidity levels if your terrarium is made of solid glass, but a glass terrarium is hard to maintain and usually not entirely appropriate for a fully-grown Caiman lizard so you may need to consider other options.
It’s best if you can mist the terrarium daily to keep up the humidity levels. If you can’t commit to misting every day you should install an automatic misting system in your terrarium to ensure you keep up the required humidity levels.
As for heat, since Caiman lizards are tropical, they require warm to hot temperatures year-round to thrive. They like their daytime temperatures to be between 80- and 90-degrees Fahrenheit, with basking areas of 100 degrees or more! Even at night, they like their temperatures to remain above 75 degrees. There are a variety of heating lamp options you can find to suit your type of terrarium.
Most Caiman lizard experts will recommend providing UVB to your lizards to allow them to manufacture their own vitamin D3. Lighting will also promote their natural behaviours like basking, feeding, and possibly breeding because it mimics the light they would receive in the wild. So, a 12-14-hour daylight period with UVA and UVB is highly recommended.
Caiman lizards reproduce sexually. After mating, female Caiman lizards lay 5 to 7 eggs in a hole in the riverbank which they then cover up to protect them. These eggs are then incubated for about 179 days before the hatchlings are born.
Caiman lizard babies need no prenatal care and are able to fend for themselves immediately after birth. They eat small insects until they develop the appropriate teeth and jaw strength to eat their natural diet of shellfish and other larger, solid foods.
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