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American Alligator Care Sheets
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Care Sheet for Alligators and Crocodiles

Average Rating Given To This Care Sheet Is 4.56    (1=lowest, 5=highest)    Last Updated: 07/07/2005

Main Category:


Sub Category:

Alligators and Crocodiles

 Care Sheet Submitted By:


Years Experience:

Over 20 Years


American Alligator

Other Species or Phases this Care Sheet May Cover:

New born to juveniles (6 inches-12 inches; 1 day to 1 yr old)
Juveniles to sub-adults (12 inches to 5 ft.;1yr-5 yrs.)
Adults (5ft.;5 years +)

Sexing and Characteristics:

Although anyone with practice can indeed sex an alligator using a specialized probe it is much easier to have your local vet trained in the care of these ancient creatures check for you while giving a routine examination after your purchase. While baby alligators are in fact "cute" and can be enjoyable, please remember...Alligators DO grow up, usually at the rate of one foot per year. Growth to some extent can be controlled by diet but genetics is the key factor. Consider your decision to purchase this pet carefully. This is truly a pet that will need to be handed down to the next generation; the average life span of an Alligator is (with excellent care) approximately 50 years +. The average size for an adult raised in captivity seems to be somewhere around 4 to 7 feet. But remember....this is still 4 to 7 feet of Alligator. Use common sense, read everything you can and always realize that although Alligators seem tame, they actually view humans naturally as a threat and as a means by which they are fed. Use caution when feeding larger Alligators...this is common sense. The instinct of 100 million years is not going to disappear....ever.

Mostly Active During:


Substrate and Water Needs:

New born to juveniles; Hatch-lings and young alligators up to 12" may be housed in a 40 gallon long reptile tank. Avoid using small pebbles especially as these materials can and do get lodged in the intestinal tracks actually leading to an untimely death. Babies and the very young are very healthy eaters and usually will eat the substrate along with the food being offered. I use larger natural rocks (boiled in water with a bleach additive of 1:10 parts bleach to water prior to placing in the tank. This avoids any bacteria or parasites to contaminate the Alligators). Under-gravel filters work well if maintained on a consistent basis. However, harmful bacteria can build up under the gravel if not properly cleaned. I recommend a complete water change regardless of the substrate at LEAST twice a month or more if necessary. Be sure to use a de-chlor product suitable to amphibians. For larger more mature Alligators, 12 inches plus regardless of age, I use children’s play sand that has been thoroughly cleaned (play sand can be boiled clean in a large container, heated to a boil and stirred. This will kill and potentially harmful bacteria and/or parasites that may be present.) A smaller pond and/or pool filter can be used for larger enclosures. Check out your local classifieds for used filtration systems. You can save a bundle. Be sure when housing a larger Alligator outside during acceptable weather that any fencing provided as a barrier is placed at least 1 to 2 feet below the ground as these guys love to dig. Having your neighbor ask you if you have seen her cat is an awkward way to discover your 4 foot pet is not in its enclosure. Water temperature, regardless of the size or age of the Alligator should be maintained at approximately 75 to 85 degrees F. This can be maintained in an aquarium with non-glass heaters(if you use a glass heater, be sure to disguise it well as broken glass and young Alligators who will eat anything is not a good mix). For larger indoor or outdoor enclosures, child wading pools or pre-fabicated ponds work very nicely. Relatively inexpensive pond heaters, pool heaters or even larger aquarium heaters can be used. Be sure that no matter what the size of the enclosure, whether an aquarium for the young or the wading pool for the larger, be sure there is enough water to allow the Alligator to totally submerse itself. Air temperatures of ranging in the high 70’s to 80’s is acceptable but be sure to provide and area in the enclosure for basking. This can be achieved easily using heat lamps designed for reptiles. Caution: DO NOT purchase standard clip-on light fixtures; these are not meant to be on for long periods of time and there is a very REAL possibility of fire. Use only the heat lamps that have the ceramic fixture where the bulb is inserted. Please remember that water and electricity do not mix; always be sure to use a power surge power strip and hang it higher than the area of placement. The laws o

Lighting and UVB:

The debate for the use of specialty UV lighting continues regardless of specie. I prefer to use the UV light for the Alligators, especially while new born up to juvenile stages. There is no definitive long term study as of yet and after reading through the various zoological articles on the subject, UV lighting use remains a 50/50 spit for and against. For larger gators, I continue to use the ceramic based heat lamps to provide heat and basking temperatures.

Temperatures and Humidity:

Alligators enjoy humidity but must also have "cooler" areas within the enclosure regardless of size. There is no need to provide any type of mechanical device to provide humidity. Mother nature will continue that process for you as long as you have water and heat. Be sure to observe the heat temperatures above. Once you begin to monitor the over-all air temperature in the enclosure, the humidity will take care of itself.

Heating and Equipment:

Basic equipment for any Alligator enthusiast should include a thick rubber band to secure the jaws when clipping toe nails (this is usually not necessary however accident can happen. Usually having a good hard surface for the substrate (IE. rocks or concrete) will naturally keep nails at proper length. With larger animals, keeping a "mechanical reach-er" is a good idea. This will help the Alligator distinguish your hand from its dinner. when working in outdoor enclosures, an "Alligator shield" can be made from simple plywood cut in the shape of a circle. Add metal handles to one side. these shields, although rarely used, can be a simple an effective way of putting a safe space between you and your Alligator who may have woken up on the wrong side of the pond. Keep it handy. My advise is to not feed or clean enclosures of the larger Alligators without someone else present. Remember...rule #1...these are instinctive creatures...they may always be docile...but there is that possibility that can bring disaster. Being prepared is the best policy.

Caging Provided:

For hatch-lings, I use a standard 40 gallon long reptile tank with the built in slide lid. This is a god size for 2 hatch-lings. Be sure if an under-gravel type filter is used that the cleaning recommendations as described above are followed. Use the larger, flat surface rocks to build up an area to allow the hatch-lings to leave the water and to bask in order to maintain temperature. By using a heat lamp in this size enclosure, there is actually no need for additional aquarium type heating elements. Larger tanks, such a a 50 gallon long or larger will need the heater to help maintain temperature. For larger Alligators, especially sub adults, I have found that store fixtures obtained through local swap meets and second hand stores are ideal. Larger jewelery, trophy and display cases provide adequate space an attractive display for your home. Be sure to remove any metal shelf brackets. Fill holes with a filler that is water proof. This can be found at boating stores and even larger discount retailers for a few dollars. After filling any holes in the solid backs and floors, paint the interior with a marine paint (be sure to check the manufacturer label and purchase only nontoxic environmentally safe products to avoid contamination to the Alligator.) Seal all corners and side of the case with a nontoxic clear caulking. This will help maintain temperature. A large plastic pan can be used for the water area. Especially useful are the plastic concrete pans sold at most home stores. Build up the rest of the area with rocks until even with the water containers edge. This allows the Alligator to come and go in and out of the water at its’ leisure. If the unit has sliding glass doors, be sure that the glass is in fact not less than 1/4 inch thick. Most cases use this as a standard thickness. You can purchase a specialty lock at just about any glass shop and some retailer stores. For larger indoor areas, a room dedicated to the Alligator is best but not everyone can afford to give up the home office or guestroom for their 6 foot + companion. If housing in a basement, provide the same lighting and temperatures for water and air as described above. Remember to check the area for any type of pesticides and/or chemical containers. Wash the area thoroughly using a mild dish soap and scrub brush (save your back...screw or duct tape the brush onto a painting pole). Pre-fabricated chain link dog kennels make great basement enclosures, are easily maintained, relatively inexpensive and provide a safe environment. Substrate should be of natural material such as rocks, children’s play sand or pea-gravel. DO NOT use pine bedding. It is not only unsightly, but when wet can foster harmful bacteria. Perhaps the easiest and most affordable way to keep indoor and outdoor enclosures clean is with the use of a 50 gallon + wet/dry vac. Be sure to introduce this piece of machinery slowly. It can cause anxiety in your Alligator but over time wil



Description of Diet:

There has always been heated discussions of what exactly to feed an Alligator in captivity. But I believe that common sense is often the best way to go. Simply put, Alligators are carnivorous but that doesn’t mean it becomes the family garbage disposal. Hatch-lings can be fed mice pinkies, occasionally crickets and super worms. I avidly avoid chicken and store purchased meat. Chicken and beef can harbor bacteria, is expensive and difficult to store. Neither can provide a balance nutritional meal for your Alligator. I have found that pre-killed rats (usually purchased frozen from pet outlets) are perfect for larger juveniles and sub-adults. Be sure when feeding the frozen rats that it has been thoroughly defrosted. This can be easily achieved by soaking it in warm water for approximately one hour prior to feeding. NEVER feed an Alligator frozen food of any type. The freezing temperature can cause serious gastro-intestinal damage including death. Rabbits purchased and thawed in the same manner may be used with the larger adults. Many people do in fact raise their own rats as a feeding source. This can be done in a home or apartment setting with relative ease. Raising rabbits on the other hand can not be. If feeding an Alligator appears costly, you are quite correct. However, again, please DO NOT consider an Alligator as a pet unless you are willing to provide all of the proper and necessary care, food and above all, finances that it will require.

Supplements, Nutrition and Usage:

Alligators fed on a strict diet of whole pinkies, rats or rabbits really do not require a supplement. Since the feeder animal is basically tenderized and swallowed relatively whole by the Alligator, all of the minerals and vitamins necessary will be extracted from the feeder.


Be especially careful to keep algae from growing in the Alligators water container and/or enclosure. Algae can be very harmful to the Alligators respiratory and digestive systems. Always play a yearly trip to your local herp vet. Observe your Alligator daily and be aware of any changes that may seem unusually. However for the most part, given the basic care and feeding as described above, I have found that my Alligators are healthy, content creatures that I look forward to being around for many years to come.

Some Words on this Species:

Please remember...any pet, a dog, cat, reptiles such as lizard and snakes...anything can show aggression. Alligators have gotten bad press due to recent attacks on humans and companion animals. But never forget...although the Alligator will more than likely adjust to you and to his home and may even seem cooperative and "tame"...beware. Always put safety first both for yourself and your Alligator.
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The information contain in these care sheets represents only the opinions and husbandry care of members and therefore is not guaranteed to be 100% accurate or reflects the advice or opinions of It is always advised to seek additional information or the advice of a qualified veterinarian or qualified reptile dealer. It is also advisable for you to a good amount of research before implementing any of the ideas and care described in these care sheets. We also recommend you ask many questions in their related forums before acting on any information.

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