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How to Care for Your Caiman Lizard

How to Care for Your Caiman Lizard


Caiman Lizards (Dracaena guianensis) are very large (4 -5’), diurnal, semi-arboreal brightly colored reptiles native to South America.  Males are generally larger than females. Caiman Lizards’ heads are usually red or orange.  Their bodies range from bright green to olive-green to bluish-green, and their tails tend to be more of a brown color and occasionally striped. Due to their size and wide range of habitat needs, they should be considered as advanced level pets.



Adult Caiman Lizards require large enclosures.  The minimum sized enclosure for an adult would be  6’ long, 3’ wide and about 4’ high. The enclosure should include a substrate to a depth of 24” which can be composed of mulch, sand/soil mixture, organic potting soil, or coir to help maintain the humidity level needed and to provide a digging option.  Additional cage items include a large water area at least 12” deep which the Caiman Lizard can swim in, stable hiding spots, and some pieces of wood or branches that can hold a Caiman Lizard’s weight below the basking area.  The humidity should be about 60-80%.

Heating and Lighting

Since they are diurnal reptiles, Caiman Lizards require two kinds of lighting:  a source of UVB throughout the cage to provide vitamin D3 for metabolizing calcium, and a focused basking light to provide heat and mimic the desert sun.  By placing the basking light at one end of the enclosure, it’s possible to establish a heat gradient with a range of temperatures throughout the enclosure.

The recommended UVB light is a full-spectrum 10.0 florescent bulb that runs most of the length of the enclosure.  The fixture can be placed inside the cage underneath the cover or on top of a mesh cover.  If the fixture is placed on top of the cage, a glass cage cover should not be used, since the UVB will not penetrate through the glass.  Florescent bulbs decrease in the amount of UVB emitted with time.  It’s safest to replace the bulb every 6 months, though a more accurate schedule can be determined if a UV meter is purchased and used to check UV levels.

Caiman Lizards require a basking area with temperatures of at least 100 degrees F. Since the Caiman Lizard is a large reptile, a single light is often not enough to heat its whole body.  Frequently a cluster of 3 floodlights will be used, one of which can be a full spectrum light to provide the Caiman Lizard with additional UV.  The air temperature in the remainder of the enclosure should range from 80-90 degrees, with a night time drop to the mid 70’s.  It may be necessary to use other heat sources, including ceramic heat emitters or infrared lights to maintain the temperatures these large reptiles require.

Food and Supplementation

In the wild, Caiman Lizards primarily eat snails.  They will benefit from a diet of canned snails as well as other live and canned aquatic creatures (such as shrimp or crabs), crickets, Dubia, and other roaches.  They also enjoy tropical fruits such as mango, kiwi, and banana.  Since Caiman Lizards are related to Tegus, they may benefit from canned Tegu food as well. Insects should be dusted with calcium and vitamin D3. 

*This care sheet contains only very basic information.  If you are new to Caiman Lizards, please do additional research to obtain additional information from more detailed care sheets.

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