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 plumifrons

Living space Basiliscus plumifrons
Plumifrons-Man-250.jpgThe Basciliscus plumifrons inhabits the rainforests of Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama at the Caribbean side. You will find them mostly in trees, bushes, rocks, logs and riverbanks. It seems that they prefer spots shaded by trees and bushes, a little hidden from the view. If you approach them, they remain motionless, if you approach too closely they run away at their hind legs, across the water or into dense bushes. The Basciliscus plumifrons 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. The Basiliscus plumifrons is an excellent swimmer, often he simply escapes by swimming away. Once is observed that a Basciliscus plumifrons remained 2 hours submerged before emerging again.
Mostly you see the Basciliscus plumifrons in the lowlands, below 500 m, although there are some observations of them at an altitude of 1200 m. They need a quite large territory, you seldom see adult males in one others vicinity, but you see often one or two females in its vicinity.

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Breeding - zaterdag 27 augustus 2005
The Basiliscus plumifrons is with 16-18 months sexually mature. In captivity, due to good nourishment they can mature some months earlier. They can breed during the whole year, but the most clutches are produced between February and September. The clutches can have 4 to17 eggs. The first clutches are normally a little smaller, 4 to 8 eggs. The eggs are normally 20-24 mm in length and 12-15 mm wide and weigh 2 to 4 gram. Larger females are laying more eggs per clutch than smaller females. The incubation period is at a temperature of 24-25ºC 90-105 days, at 27-28 ºC 65-75 days and at 29-30 ºC 55-65 days. But there is a great variety in registered incubation periods. The eggs swell a little during the incubation period, to 24-34 mm in length and 19-25 mm wide and their weight can increase to 5-13 gram. Young hatchlings have a length of 9-13 cm and weigh 2-3 gram and have a brown/olive colour. After some months they get greener and greener. After 6 months they are already 30-42 cm in length and weigh about 45 gram. At this age the crest of the males starts to grow, a little later followed by the crest at his back. A Basciliscus plumifrons in captivity can get 7-8 years old, however there are some registrations of basilisks that reached the age of 10. The average age in the wild is lower.
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Length, including tail, 75-85 cm. Colour bright green, offspring in captivity is often a little blue green. At his back he has in a horizontal line small white and blue spots and vertical black stripes until his tail. These spots and stripes can fade a little when they get older. The males have sail-like crests at their head, back and tail. At his head he has first a small crest followed by a large crest. The females have only one small crest. Young ones have during the first months a brownish/olive colour.


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. In a terrarium you better cannot keep 2 males together, this will cause constant stress, the dominant male will oppress the other male, who will probably languish. Some females with one male are fine. Females sometimes can be a little intolerant to one other, but this is mostly for a short period. It is better to keep a male with 2 or 3 females, with a couple the female can due to several clutches behind one other weaken, sometimes even die. With more females the male can divide its attention to all the females. Never put a young hatchling with adult basilisks, as they can eat the hatchlings, a tasty prey.

Often they advise for the Basciliscus plumifrons, 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 plumifrons mainly eats insects (crickets, grasshoppers, walking sticks, wax-moths, morio-worms etc.), but also nest mice, snails, fish and rain-worms. Give him a few times a week some ‘pray’. For the young basilisks buffalo-worms, meal-worms, curly flies etc. will do.

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