Plumed Basilisk Breeding
I have found this species of lizard to be one of the easiest to breed in captivity. In nature, the plumed basilisk (Basiliscus plumifrons) may lay several clutches of eggs in a season, each clutch containing as many as 15 to 20 oval-shaped eggs. In captivity, the frequency of egg laying can vary dramatically and may correspond to the age of the female.
In my experience, keeping a colony of several basilisks proved to be key in stimulating breeding activity. Although males will generally get along with one another within a large enclosure for most of the year, during breeding season there may be some signs of aggression that are greater than the typical head bobbing gestures. Because of this, I recommend one male to several females if, of course, your goal is propagation. If you have no intention of breeding this species at all, do not keep males and females together.
Proper temperatures, food and lighting as suggested above seem to be all the basilisk needs to stimulate breeding activity. If a female is sexually mature, an adult male will respond to her pheromones with an attempt (usually with little resistance) to mount her, grasping her in his powerful jaws just behind the neck. Mating occurs when the male aligns his vent with hers, the female making this task easier by lifting her leg above her back. Copulation may take several minutes or more than an hour, and there is little that can be done to disturb the pair while in this position.
After 30 to 50 days, the female plumed basilisk will begin digging nesting burrows and may take several days before she finds a suitable location to deposit her eggs. Instead of a nestbox, it is preferable to have a substrate several inches deep, such as ground pine mulch. Younger females and females that have not found a suitable nesting site may become egg bound and die, so please take every responsible measure you can during breeding.
After excavating a suitable burrow, the female plumed basilisk will enter the burrow and turn around with her head exposed just beyond the burrow entrance. She may lie there for some time while depositing her seven to 20 spherical eggs, and she should not be disturbed. Once the eggs have been deposited, she will cover the burrow with substrate and leave them.
Raising Baby Basilisks
It is crucial that you collect the basilisk eggs as soon as possible and move them to a preheated incubator to allow for proper development temperatures and to prevent other females from disturbing them while finding suitable nestsites themselves.
While moving freshly laid plumed basilisk eggs, it is important not to squeeze, turn or drop them — this actually takes a bit of skill! Place them in the incubator as you recover them from the nesting burrow. Set them gently into dampened, fine vermiculite. Other incubation mediums such as mulch or peat moss have been used with success.
Plumed basilisk eggs can be incubated at temperatures between 84 degrees to 88 degrees, much like colubrid eggs, and should hatch after 60 to 90 days. The juvenile basilisks will begin to pip, creating a thin slice in the shell that will give them their freedom. In nature the rather drab, olive-colored juveniles will immediately ascend into the foliage, where they will remain hidden, feeding on insects and other small animals for the several months they will need to reach maturity.
At just under 1½ inches in length, in captivity baby basilisks should be kept in a nursery away from predacious adults. They should be lightly misted several times a day, and their enclosure should have open air circulation, just like the adults. If natural sunlight isn’t available, full spectrum lighting should be present and abundant. The juvenile basilisks should have food available daily and be fed gut-loaded insects, such as size-appropriate crickets and flightless fruit flies. These feeder insects should be dusted with a calcium D3 powder twice a week.
For reasons unknown, captive-born baby basilisks sometimes die off. All of the juveniles in some of my clutches died within days of one another. All of their needs seem to have been met, but variables such as temperature fluctuations by slight, unintentional drafts may have been a factor. Keepers should adhere strictly to their routines and be diligent about keeping detailed husbandry records. Handling the hatchlings as little as possible for the first couple of months is important.
Your basilisks should be fully grown and sexually mature at 1½ years of age when cared for properly.
A word of caution: Be responsible — it is best to have buyers waiting before you produce plumed basilisk offspring. The steady production of eggs takes a heavy biological and psychological toll on females of any age, and constant breeding should be avoided. Overly amorous males can do a lot of damage to breeding females, so rotate your stock to avoid unnecessary and avoidable problems.
Want to read the full story? Pick up the October 2010 issue of REPTILES, or subscribe to get 12 months of articles just like this.