The basilisk is named after the ancient Greek mythological figure, Basiliskos. This monstrous beast, had a crown-like crest at his head, had a deadly look and spitted fire. In Central America these lizards are also named as Jesus Christ lizards, as they can run considerable distances on the water.


Basilisken – Gunther Köhler  Book
A guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica – Twan Leenders  Book
The Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica – Jay M. Savage  Book
Basilisken – Gunther Köhler  Book
A guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica – Twan Leenders  Book
The Amphibians and Reptiles of Costa Rica – Jay M. Savage  Book


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Basiliscus basciliscus

Living space Basiliscus basciliscus
BasiliscusOmgeving250.jpgThe Basciliscus basciliscus inhabits the rainforests of Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and North-West Columbia at the Pacific side. You will find them mostly in trees, bushes, rocks, logs and riverbanks. Contrary to the Basiliscus plumifrons, you see the Basiliscus basiliscus mostly at sunny spots, enjoying the sun. Although the Basiliscus basiliscus can run away at his hind legs, across the water like the Basiliscus plumifrons, he mostly runs high into the trees than across the water or diving into the water. But they also can cross the water for quite some distance, like they run over land. A narrow seam of skin, which runs around each toe, forms a moveable flap that is expanded when its foot is pressed onto the water, thus creating a larger surface area. The force that the basilisk puts into the downward movement of its foot, produces an upward pressure that keeps him from sinking. When the basilisk presses its foot down onto the water, an air-filled pocket is formed around the foot. This pocket quickly fills with water, so the basilisk must rapidly withdraw its foot to prevent from having to ‘plough’ through the water. As the foot retracts, the moveable skin-flaps on the toes fold down against the sides of the toes to reduce friction against the air. This combined pressure allows the basilisk to run on water with a speed of 8 to 10 km an hour. Young bascilisks can run larger distances on the water before sinking. This ability gave them the name of Jesus Christ lizards.
Also contrary to the Basiliscus plumifrons you see the Basiliscus basiliscus often at large numbers together, sometimes up to 400 per hectare. Nevertheless the males have a real territorial urge, you can see this from the many damaged head crests, due to seriously fights.
Mostly you see the basilisks in the lowlands until an altitude of 800 m.

BasiliscusJong250.jpgThe basiliscus basiliscus female is with18 months sexually mature, the male already with one year. But in nature mating is a privilege of the elder, dominant males, who defend actively the females in their territory against the younger males. The younger males mostly do not mate until they have become a dominant male. They are then about 3 to 4 years old. In nature they can reach an age of 7 years, but 4 to 6 years is more common.
From July to February they produce the most clutches, a female mostly produces several clutches per season, sometimes up to 7 clutches. The clutches can have 4 to18 eggs. The first clutches are normally a little smaller, 4 to 8 eggs. Large females mostly produce larger clutches. The eggs are mostly 19-22 mm in length and 13-14 mm wide. In captivity the eggs are mostly a little larger.
There have been several registrations about Basciliscus basciliscus females producing fertile eggs while they have not been kept together with males for quite some time, sometimes even for several years.
The incubation period is at a temperature of 27ºC about 105-115 days, at 30 ºC 60-75 days. But there have been registrations of 140-150 days. The eggs swell a little during the incubation period.
Young hatchlings have a length of 10 to 13 cm, they weigh 2-3 gram.
With about 7 months the head crest of the male starts to grow, followed by the crest at his back. With about one year males get intolerant to each other.


Length, including tail, 70-80 cm. Colour brown/olive. From his head to his tail, he has to white stripes, which run over the vertical black stripes at his back. These stripes can fade a little when they get older. The males have sail-like crests at their head, back and tail. The Basciliscus basciliscus lacks the small first head crest of the Basiliscus plumifrons. Females have only a small head crest.


Healthy basilisks are attentive and curious. Active periods of eating, bathing, making an impression, head shaking are alternated with rest periods where they like to sun or to relax. Although you find them in nature often with large numbers together, in a terrarium you better cannot keep 2 males together. They are very intolerant to each other, which can lead to heavy fights, in which they can seriously damage each other. Some females with one male are fine.
Never put a young hatchling with adult basilisks, as they can eat the hatchlings, a tasty prey.


Often they advise for balisliks, a male with 2 or 3 females, a terrarium size of 150x80x180 cm, the height is important as they like to climb. For a couple we have a terrarium of 160x60x110 cm, this size pleases us. They prefer a little pond, so they can drink, bath, swim and cool down. The ideal water temperature is 25-28 ºC. The temperature in the terrarium 28-30 ºC and some heath bulbs, so they can sunbathe. At these spots the temperature can increase to 40 ºC. At night the temperature may cool down until 20-25 ºC. The terrarium needs a high humidity, between 70-90%, at night this may increase until 100%. During the raining season you can sprinkle 2-3 times a day for a longer period, in the dry season 3-4 per week will do.
We have over almost the whole bottom a pond with running water through a cascade. This gives the terrarium a high humidity, so we do not sprinkle. We use an external filter. As the basilisks almost always shit in the water, we do not have to clean the terrarium that often.


The Basciliscus basciliscus mainly eats insects (crickets, grasshoppers, walking sticks, wax-moths, morio-worms etc.), but also nest mice, snails, fish and rain-worms, some basilisks like also sweet fruit. Give them a few times a week some ‘pray’. For the young basilisks buffalo-worms, meal-worms, curly flies etc. will do. In nature they also like to eat fish and shrimps, they easily can catch small fishes out of the rivers.

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