The body of the caiman lizard is very similar to that of a crocodile. It is typically a bright green with slight dark green banding. There are horned raised scales along the dorsal of the back. This help to provide some protection against predators.
These lizards can reach up to 4 ft (1.2 m) long and weigh up to 10 lb (4.5 kg).
The caiman lizard has been hard to keep in captivity. Due to their natural diet consisting almost purely of snails, most wild caught adults will refuse to eat anything else. Some zoos and aquariums have had success in keeping and breeding them.
In the last five years, farmed baby caiman lizards from South America have made their way into the pet trade around the world. These hatchlings are more willing to accept other food sources. Even so, this is not a lizard which by any means is easy to keep or raise in captivity. They have strong jaws that are capable of delivering painful bites. Their aquatic lifestyle means they need a large pool or tank, but also need a place to dig and burrow and logs or other suitable material with dry surfaces to bask on. This can be quite hard to accommodate due to their need for high humidity and high basking surface temperatures. Proceeded by the fact that these lizards can grow to be fairly large, up to 4 feet in length, a large enclosure is mandatory to successfully keep them alive.
That being said, some owners claim there is a reward to keeping them. Caiman lizards are intelligent as can be seen in the way they approach a snail that is clinging to the rocks. They can solve problems which many other lizards apparently fail to and can generally recognize their owners, given they have been kept for the right amount of time and are in good health.
Captive diet includes turkey meat (often mixed with Mazuri alligator diet), mussels, clam meat, catfood, fish and some fruits.