Caiman Are For Expert Reptile Keepers

Question: Would you recommend a caiman as a good pet? They’re so cool, and a spectacled caiman seems like the best bet for someone who wants to keep a crocodilian.
Frances Cornwall
St. Petersburg, Fla.


Ben Schusterbauer/Shutterstock

Caiman, even of the dwarf variety will grow very large, and as such are only to be kept by experienced reptile keepers.

First, a better bet for a captive caiman these days is a dwarf caiman (Paleosuchus spp.), because they don’t get near as large as the 8 feet a spectacled caiman can attain. But even so, a person needs to think long and hard as to whether or not they should try keeping a caiman. I had a baby spectacled caiman when I was young, and it wasn’t long for me to discover I was in over my head as it grew larger and more feisty. Luckily, I lived near an alligator farm at the time, and they gave him a good home.

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Caiman should only be kept, if at all, by veteran herpers with decades of experience with many species, tons of know-how, and ample space in which to maintain a crocodilian. Even dwarf caiman can get about 5 feet in length. You can’t just toss these guys in a plastic tub and call it a day; a custom enclosure will most likely be a must.

So to answer your question, Frances, no, I would not recommend a caiman as a good pet — at least not for anyone other than the very specific type of person described, and that’s assuming having one is legal in that person’s home town/state. But for an intermediate enthusiast looking for a new challenge? No way.

For that rare person who fits the caiman owner profile, step-by-step instructions for building a proper caiman enclosure can be found here:  —Ed.

Categories: Beginner Questions, Big Boxes, More Reptile Reading