Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

Sailfin Lizards


©1994 Melissa Kaplan


Hydrosaurus putulatus (Philippines)
H. amboinensis (Celebs, Moluccas, New Guinea)
H. weberi (Moluccas) [considered by some to be H. amboinensis]


General Introduction
Not a good choice for beginners.

More high strung and nervous than iguanas, and do not become as tame as igs even when worked with extensively. Frequent flee/flight behavior necessitating a very large enclosure. Injured snouts and fingers/toes common due to bashing into walls of their enclosure.

Hunted for food in their native countries, the added pressure of wild collection of adults and juveniles for the pet trade is quickly reducing the wild population. Currently no wildlife management of these species.

Although it would work as well, there is currently no farming program for the sailfins as there are for the green iguanas.

Family Connections
These are agamid lizards, thus the old world cousin to the new world iguanids. They are the largest of the Agamidae family. Males can reach 3.5 feet, females somewhat less.

Males recognized by the development of their tail crest, appearing as buds at about 6 months of age in captivity. In adults, the sail-like fin of the males is unmistakable; females have a smaller fin.

Males develop enlarged nasal knobs, but so do some females. Males have larger pre-anal and femoral pores.

Up to 10 or more years. One 15.5 year old H. amboinensis was still living in 1992.


Relatively asocial (though they do get along well with igs larger than they are). Males will fight if kept together; females can be pretty aggressive, too. Overcrowding and territorial stress include hiding most of the time, inanition, listlessness.

Mature animals require viviariums 5' long or longer. Large plants, bark and cork substrate, and a large pan of water for swimming, soaking and defecation a must. Branches for climbing and basking. (cornstalk dracenea, cut-leaf philodendrons, pothos, clover, hibiscus, grape)

84-88 F during the day, 75-80 F at night. Basking area of no more than 90 F.

UVB fluorescents not essential, but some regular exposure is recommended to help ensure both calcium metabolism (UVB) and proper feeding and other behaviors (UVA).



Sailfins are omnivores:

Hatchlings: 70% prey / 30% plant.
Juveniles: 60% prey / 40% plant.
Adults: 50% prey / 50% plant.

Feed plants as for iguanas, and add Zoophoba (super worms) and Tenebrio (mealworms) worms, crickets, pinks. Supplement vitamins and calcium regularly.


Handle regularly so that you can at least perform periodic health inspections. Trim nails as for iguanas.


Little done at this time as the imports are so cheap. Oviparous, larger females laying 8-11 eggs. Incubation 65 days. Due to the continued destruction of their habitat and the poor condition in which they arrive in this country, captive breeding is not only desirable, but will soon become a "must."


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