Varies by Species
The key to caiman and alligator feeding is high calcium and variety. When young, they require a variety of food, including fish, shrimp and pink mice. The greater the variety the better. Larger and older animals require much larger prey, including mice, rats, chickens and fresh-water fish. Avoid a diet heavy with insects even for smaller gators as they do not contain enough calcium for these fast growing creatures.
Young alligators and caimans should be fed 6 to 7 times a week. Adults can be fed less frequently. These reptiles will also accept thawed prey, as it is not necessary to feed live.
Young gators can be started out in large sized aquariums. This will not last long. They will require an enclosure that is large enough for them to be submerged in water and out completely on dry land. This enclosure should roughly be 30 ft. by 15 ft. More room may be required depending on the gator's full grown size. The average caiman grows between 5 - 7 feet and alligators 11-13 feet.
Keeping the water area clean is critical to prevent bacteria build up. Due to gators' large feeding and waste tendencies, large filtration systems are required to keep the water clean, clear and healthy. It should also be noted that you must design a cage that allows you to clean and drain it without interfearance from your pet. Many expert keepers use shift cages for this purpose. Never trust your pet to allow you to clean its cage.
Gators are from large shallow lakes, marshes,swamps, rivers and ponds. Your enclosure should be half land - half water. You should provide plants, branches and rocks inside the enclosure to make a more natural looking habitat.
Only experienced reptile keepers and those willing to devote considerable time, space, and money should consider keeping alligators and caimans.
Heating & Lighting Requirements
A full spectrum fluorescent bulb with 5% UVB is required. The daytime ambient temperature should be 78 - 82 degrees Fahrenheit, with a 10 degrees drop at night. A basking spot should be provided as well that approaches 100 degrees. Keeping the tank the proper temperature gradient is important. You will need to monitor the tank temperature before putting the animal inside the tank.
Keeping an animal too cool will weaken their immune system and cause them to have difficulty digesting their food. Keeping an animal too hot can cause them to overheat and die. A fluorescent light is important to allow the animal to use vitamins and minerals from their food. This long tube shaped bulb will not give off the necessary heat but will give off rays like the sun called UVB rays. This bulb should be used during the daytime hours only and needs to be replaced every six months. In order to properly absorb the UVB omitted from the light, your pet must be able to come within 12-18 inches of the bulb. Due to alligators and caimens size and violent tendencies this can pose a problem to keepers. Be sure to secure both your UVB lamps and your incandescent lamps in a way where they still provide benefit, but cannot be smashed by your pet. In the case of UVB rays, it is always best to provide your pet with natural sunlight if it's available. Advanced keepers in warmer climates should consider an outside portion to there gator enclosure.
Crocodilian handling is a very serious undertaking. Every species available in the pet trade is capable of killing or severely maiming its owner. Even captive born crocs can become dangerous without warning due to hormone fluctuations: even after decades in captivity. Extreme caution needs to be taken even by the most experienced reptile handlers
Being a responsible pet owner means keeping your pet in a safe habitat away from other humans and animals. Caiman and Alligators are strong, unpredictable animals and need to be treated with respect at all times. Zoos and other institutions rarely accept unwanted gators and it is irresponsible and illegal to release them into the wild.