Crocodilian (Crocodylidae) Care Sheet
Notice of Intent
The care and species information listed here is considered "basic". You should obtain, read, and learn as much information as you can about crocodilians and their behavior - captive husbandry.
Prior To Purchase
Firstly, before you decide to go off and purchase a crocodilian of any kind, you need to make sure you've thoroughly researched its requirements, and that you have everything you need for it already. Those commonly used rack systems are a no go for these guys. Sorry. Make sure you are legal not only stately but as well as your zoning. Also make sure that you've built the tank or enclosure in which you plan to keep the animal before you buy the animal. You won't believe how many people buy the animal first and then try and figure out how to house it later down the road. Potential owners must seriously take in mind his or her reasons for bringing a crocodilian into their home. A few limited questions you may want to ask yourself are:
"Am I truly interested in crocodilians or do I just want to impress my friends?"
"Do I have the room to properly house an adult crocodilian?"
"Am I prepared to spend what it takes to properly house and maintain the animal?"
"Am I willing to put the effort needed to keep the animal's environment clean?"
"Am I satisfied with an animal that will basically only be for display and not a pet one would consider a dog or cat to be?"
"How will my neighborly community think about my newly acquired animal?"
"What are my statewide and local jurisdictions on these animals?"
If you basically can't come to terms with at least these questions then it's possible that a crocodilian isn't the animal you need. To save the time, money, and effort just to end in possible disappointment and run in with the law, you may want to be honest with your motives from the start. You will also save to the negative feedback that is an everyday thing to this hobby on any sense as well as saving the animal from the already large number of unwanted reptiles.
Typically, it seems no one truly comprehends the true potential their little nine inch 'lizard' will soon grow to be.
All species of crocodilians are personally categorized into two separate size groups-large or very large. One may think that a five foot animal isn't much of a task, but let me assure you, a four foot Paleosuchus has just as much fight as a ten foot saltwater crocodile. What it lacks in size it makes up with speed, aggression and a high flight or bite response. This being said, they will still demand a good amount of cage space to properly acclimate successfully.
The larger species of crocodilians; Niles, Saltwater, Alligators, ex grow very fast. Under ideal conditions individuals may grow anywhere from 1-2 foot a year. This can prove disastrous to any unsuspecting keeper who decided not to properly study up on their animal before obtaining it. Large species have also been documented to reach up to four foot in length before their first year of life is up. Eventually, you may end up playing with an eight foot two hundred and thirty pounds animal in a matter of a few years. On the hand, the smaller species tend to grow very slowly with spectacle caimans growing less than a foot a year or with Paleosuchus you will have an animal that will only be about two foot in nearly a three year time period.
Here are a few growth charts for the previous mentioned animals.
Genus-Saltwater crocodile approx's
Hatchling 11 - 13
1 year 28 - 39
2 years 55 - 75
3 years 71 - 87
4 years 83 - 102
5 years 98 - 110
10 years 126 - 142
Genus-Spectacle caiman approx's
1 year 1.5- 1.9'
2 years 2'- 2.5'
3 years 3- 3.5'
4 years 3.5'- 4.2'
5 years 4.5'- 4.9'
6 years 5'- 5.5'
10 years 5.7'- 6.4'
1 year 1.3'
2 years 1.7'
4 years 2.5'
8 years 3'
20 years 3.8'
These graphs will serve as a visual aide and gives you the relative sizes of each. Mind you these graphs are based upon populations as a whole and with these populations under the opt conditions. You can generally control growth of these animals, like any other herp but not generally always a good idea or a healthy one.
Keeping crocodilians require amounts of space and a lot of care and maintenance.
Keeping hatchling crocodilians in a small enclosure is generally the best idea. They can do quite well in 30 gallon enclosures that attains half of the enclosure to be land and the other half water. The enclosure should be well vegetated for the simple reason of secureness. A secure animal is a healthy animal and the more secure the animal feels the less stress it is. The main objective for hatchlings is to keep them stress free and feeding. Thus being a healthy start on life.
After the animal reaches about 12"-14" in length the enclosure should be updated to a 100-150g enclosure. The bigger the housing is the less money you will spend in the long run. Again include a 50/50 land/water area and keep the enclosure well vegetated but not cluttered.
The "pond" area of these enclosures may be bare or graveled covered. A graveled enclosure is best because it will provide stones for the young alligators to ingest which will help aide digestion. Keep noted that a filled, large enclosure may cause damage to your floors so take needed precautions if needed to brace floorings.
The depth of these enclosures can vary to your needs, however the water area should at least cover the entire animal. The simplest method for housing young crocodilians is to place the either bare bottomed or graveled housing unit at a slant providing both land and water. This may however be less attractive to observers. Every aquarium should have the apted areas for the animal to be able to haul itself out of the water and have the ability to bask. These areas may be simply solved with using anything from a rock to a piece of driftwood. However, a well designed basking area may include driftwood, rocks and plants; This will present a visually appealing enclosure.
Enclosure designs are only limited by the imagination and funds of the keeper. Once your animal has reached a little over 30" it will be time to place the animal in a more long termed enclosure. Idealistically, the enclosure should be rather large, possibly as large as to house the animal for the rest of it's natural life. Prefabricated ponds or stock tanks may serve as the water unit if the animal is housed indoors. Outdoor enclosures may be solved the same way but to have the ponds or tanks dug into the ground with a fence bordering the preferred housing area.
Fencing may be provided with several items such as chain link, stock panels, welded wire or plastic and corrugated metal. All of which is relatively inexpensive. The fencing may be anywhere from 3' tall to 6' tall. It is always best to have an over hang to prevent escapes. It is also recommended to build the fence as high as possible to deter any would be predators, human and animals alike. Indoor enclosures using these pond/tank options may have a land area built around these water units or many specimens have learned how to use a ramp into or out of the units. This also helps to provide a drain which will come in handy for cleaning.
Remember that all crocodilians will engage in a terrestrial overhaul, and some species such as the Genus Paleosuchus, which will spend most of the time out of water so a land area of some gratitude is a must. Adults will require nothing less than the above statements. Although housing an adult indoors is a possibility, it is best to house adult crocodilians in outdoor ponds that are either earthen or cemented bottomed.
The rule of base or, at least my preference is that housing should consist of land being 3 x "Snout to vent length" by 4 x SVL. and water being 4 x SVL by 5 x SVL or as general the animal can turn completely around without touching either sides or water/land in the process and being high enough to prevent escapes.
After the animal has reached 3' you will find that anything that isn't large and heavy will shortly be removed or destroyed by the animal. At 3' the animal should have pretty much a flat run of the land area with maybe a few large logs or a small shrub to provide shelter.
Paleosuchus, have been noted to tunnel into the ground so several inches to several feet of soil may need to be provided for the animal's comfort. The water area should basically be the same as the land area, open with only a few large items to provide shelter.
Thermoregulation is a must for all herps. Crocodilians prefer warm temperatures and will often go off feed if water temperatures drop below 65 degrees F. Crocodilian owners should maintain the water temperatures at around 75-85 degrees F. for the commonly kept species. Water heaters for aquariums may be used to heat tanks. To save a possibility of an electrical outing, fires and electrocution of the animal all heaters should be placed out of reach of the crocodilian, or any other animal in the enclosure. A few options may be to enclosed the heater(s) by wire mesh or bricks with holes drilled into them to allow proper water flow and temperature disposition.
Large enclosures may be warmed by using pond heaters or by having warm water pipes running along the bottom of the ponds. It is practically unreal to heat large outdoor ponds in areas where snow is a common winter encounter. Land area is simply heated by overhead heat lamps and heaters if the room is rather large and air temperatures drop below 70F. The lamps must be kept out of jumping distance and should be clear of any debris or cage furniture. Wattage will vary from the height that the lamp is placed and the natural existing temperatures. Large enclosures are best apted with 250 infrared spot bulbs kept at the appropriate height for preferred temperatures. It is also best to provide UVation bulbs such as ReptiSun5.0 for all of your crocodilians life if most of it is indoors. You may be able to skip on the UV bulbs for adult males and non breeding females during the winter months I, however, would not advise it.
You may also be interested in reading this related caresheet: American Alligator Care Sheet