Elaphoglossum peltatum

Elaphoglossum peltatum is one of my favorite tiny ferns. I’m not going to write a big complicated post about them right now. Just share some photos of this beautiful little fern.

If you want one of these, they’re actually available on Amazon. (This is an associates link. If you purchase through this link, I’ll get a commission.)


This fern is variable, so it may look like a couple different species, but the photos below are all E peltatum.

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Toad Tank

People have asked me how I keep heavy bodied amphibians in fully planted tanks, so here are some pictures demonstrating how it’s done. Frogs like Pac-Man’s and pixies can be kept in planted tanks, but there are a few special accommodations to make for them. The main key is you need to choose strong plants. Pothos and smaller philodendrons do well for this. Even so, you may want to let them grow in for a while before adding frogs.




Things like rocks and leaf litter help to protect the roots of the plants. Sometimes the frogs will just hide under leaves instead of digging into the soil. The leaf litter helps them feel more secure even one not underground. I do have more fragile plants in this tank, but as you can see they have gotten crushed by the toads. I’m leaving them in to see if they can recover. But I’ve accepted the possibility that the toads may kill these plants.


Pothos is the primary plant in this tank. It’s a very common plant even available at grocery stores frequently. That makes it cheap and easy to replace.


The second plant is a smaller philodendron Silver Queen. There are many commonly available small philodendrons that will do well in this environment.


The third plant is actually rare and since it was already well-established before the Toads moved in, I suspected it would do well. It’s a Syngonium, related to Arrowhead Vines that are common as well. Since I’ve had good luck with the more common varieties, I decided to take a chance with this plant and it worked out well.


The leaf litter was gathered outside. I did not wash it or anything, since these are WC toads anyhow and a planted tank benefits from the various microbes and microphone that can piggyback on leaf litter. This tank currently is not truly bioactive, although it does have a solid start. I have not added micro fauna such as isopods or springtails. Some may have piggybacked on the leaf litter but they have not yet formed a sustainable population. I will be adding these critters soon, but introducing them after the amphibians means I will probably need a larger supply to make up for the ones the toads eat before they get settled in.

No, You Did Not Do Your Research

When people acquire a new reptile, or are planning to, there’s a lot of talk about “doing your research”. The implication is that the person acquiring the animal has learned enough to properly care for a creature that was previously unfamiliar to them. All too often, the more they speak, the clearer it becomes that, not only did they not “research”, they don’t even really know what “research” means.

First, a couple definitions.

Research means you are studying to make new discoveries. This could mean finding out things no one else knows yet, or confirming discoveries through your own hands on investigation. This word should be used for actual scientific study and observation — not for reading.

While “study” can mean the same as “research”, it also includes learning from reading, especially from books. I’m not trying to get too hung up on semantics here, but we should really be asking people if they studied, not if they researched.

With either word, however, there’s some work involved. Whether you researched or studied, you put time and effort in, finding information, reading, comparing notes… I’ve seen an alarming trend on Facebook lately, where people will post in reptile groups and say “I’m getting ___, please send me a care sheet.”

This is not researching OR studying. This is barely scraping the surface.

Studying to acquire a new animal should involve multiple sources and time devoted to learning the needs of the animal, not just a cursory glance. You should compare care sheets and look for inconsistencies. Depending on the species, there are many great books available. Be sure to take into consideration the publication date of anything you read, either printed or online. The reptile hobby is constantly learning new things and improving techniques. A book from the 80’s may not be as accurate as a current website. However, you can find gold in those old books as well.

Asking for help on Facebook groups isn’t a bad option, but it should only be part of your studying. Asking people to “send me caresheets” is just about the laziest thing I’ve seen in the reptile community. If you can’t manage to use Google for yourself, I question your ability to go to the effort required to properly care for a live animal.

If using Facebook or other social media for learning how to care for your animal, keep in mind that the popular opinion is not necessarily the correct answer. The answer you like also may not be the correct answer. Popularity and ego should not play a part in preparing for a new pet. The willingness to change your mind when presented with new or better ideas is an important part of ongoing learning. And you should always do your best to verify all info with multiple sources, especially if it’s word of mouth information.

Please, for the sake of your animals, when you “do your research”, make sure you actually do it. You will be rewarded with the health and longevity of your pet or collection.

Colubrid Babies

Although I have some other species as well, kingsnakes and milksnakes are my favorite snakes. In past years, it’s become unusual to see kings or milks for sale at local reptile expos, especially directly from breeders or keepers. Occasionally resellers would have them, but usually just California Kingsnakes, which aren’t on my wish list. The last local expo was a pleasant change, though. Multiple vendors had kings and milks, and many of them were the breeders of those animals or selling an ‘extra’ from their personal collections.

My collection began years ago with a Mexican Black Kingsnake hatchling, Lampropeltis getula nigrita. He was one of my first purchases after getting my first apartment without roommates to complain about rodents in the freezer. Although he’s full grown now, I have another young Mexican Black Kingsnake that I’m raising, possibly to be his mate in a couple years.


My youngest snakes are the most colorful of my collection. And this second young kingsnake is possibly the most exciting of my collection. She’s a young Arizona Mountain Kingsnake, Lampropeltis pyromelana pyromelana. Personally, I find the normal coloration of Arizona Mountain Kingsnakes to be some of the most appealing of the mountain kings.

ArionaMountainKing2BabyColubridsOct192015 ArionaMountainKing3BabyColubridsOct192015

I also have a pair of young Pueblan Milksnakes. I’ve only been able to get a decent picture of the female, however. The male just won’t calm down enough for a picture.


None of the snakes above are venomous or dangerous in any way. The colorations mimic defense colors in other species, and appearing dangerous is what keeps them a bit safer from predators, in theory.


Eastern Hognoses are a new species for me. Years ago I missed out on the opportunity to acquire a melanistic Eastern Hognose. I never quite got over that, and have wanted one ever since, so when I got this girl, it was really nice to check this animal off my wish list. She still have juvenile coloration, but she’ll darken as she ages.

The melanistic Hognose is currently my trickiest snake, since she’ll only eat scented mice. In the wild, they prefer amphibians, but they’re not always easy to come by for feeder animals. As long as they smell like frogs, she’ll eat pretty reliably. The goal, of course, is to get her onto unscented mice.

Hognose2Oct 252015


One of the interesting things about Hognose snakes is their defence posturing. They flare their throats like cobras and puff up, as below. Although this may work against predators, it tends to scare uneducated humans who tend to think that all wild snakes are venomous. While Hognoses are rear fanged, they are only mildly venomous, similar to a bad bee sting with swelling and pain for some people. They are not deadly, however.

Hognose3Oct 252015

I’ll be on the lookout for a male Arizona Mountain King and a male Eastern Hognose soon, but I have plenty of time, as both of those girls are very young still. Despite their age, I’m already looking forward to those pairings, as well as some other colubrids I have my eyes on. More on those later!

#ReptileCare and Classroom Pet Reptiles



This post is sponsored by petMD Reptile Center, and the BlogPaws Professional Pet Blogger Network. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about Reptile Ownership, but HerpetoBotanical only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. petMD and PetSmart are not responsible for the content of this article.

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reptile care classroom pet

Parents, teachers, and other adults that care for children often have questions about kids and reptiles interacting. At what age should children be around reptiles or have one for a pet? What are the risks or rewards? What reptile would make a suitable pet for a child?  Is it a good idea for kids to be exposed to reptiles?

Kids should absolutely be allowed to interact with reptiles! Curious minds thrive on new and interesting experiences, and reptiles in the classroom open up a whole of possibilities to your students and their education.

Benefits of Classroom Pet Reptiles

Classroom pets can add a lot to your curriculum. You can use them as a way to tie in real world experiences to ideas that may be a bit more abstract to your kids. For example, a Bearded Dragon might be a great way to lead into a course about Australian wildlife and geography. A Kingsnake could tie into a class about American wildlife and conservation.

Or maybe holding the reptile could serve as a reward for completing certain tasks in class. Shy children may benefit from having an animal nearby. Whatever roll the reptile plays in your class, it will certainly pique the interest of your students and fuel their curiosity.

You can find lots of reptile information online, at places like petMD®. They provide reptile care information, as well as fun quizzes and trivia for your students.


classroom pet reptile care

Study Suggestions

Reptiles can segue into many different topics. Conservation and habitat restoration could be discussed about almost every species. You could study life cycles, egg development, and food chains.

You can find more helpful guides on petMD to help you prepare for teaching your students about reptiles.

Picking the Right Reptile

Choosing the correct animal will make all the difference in your success with a classroom pet or a child’s pet. First, decide how you want to interact with this animal. If you want a no-touching pet, your options are wider, but you may have difficulty enforcing that rule. The kids may get into the cage when you’re not looking, so picking an animal that can tolerate handling, or choosing a locking cage may be best.

If you’d prefer an animal that can handle some interaction, there are many great choices. Bearded Dragons tend to be docile and easy to handle. Turtles are a popular choice as well and are one of the most widely loved reptiles. It’s hard to find someone who’s scared of a turtle. Snakes can make great classroom pets as well and may provide opportunities for helping students or parents deal with some irrational fears. Sometimes a little education is all it takes.



I recently wrote a post on what supplies you’ll need for a new pet reptile. That post can help you create a checklist of what you’ll need, and you can find your supplies online at the Reptile Purchase Center online or at PetSmart®.


Have you had a pet reptile in your classroom, or your child’s class? What topics did it lead to in their studies? Share with us below!

My Experience with #ReptileCare

This post is sponsored by petMD Reptile Center, and the BlogPaws Professional Pet Blogger Network. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about Reptile Ownership, but HerpetoBotanical only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. petMD and PetSmart are not responsible for the content of this article.

reptile care petMD

Reptile care can seem like the most basic thing in the world: you just follow some directions, make sure your reptile has food and water, and maybe some heat, and it’ll be fine. This theory may work great for cats and dogs or other common household pets, but many people seem to forget that each species has specialized needs. There’s no “turtles eat lettuce” or “snakes eat mice” blanket statement that you can follow and have it work out every time. You have to adapt to your animals’ needs, and you have to continue studying.

My first herpetile pets were frogs and fire bellied toads. I was a kid and had read some books on the subject, so I felt like I had a pretty good idea on how to take care of my amphibians. Many of those books were published in the 60’s or 70’s and already wildly outdated by the time I read them. My frogs and toads did fine, but I kept reading and learning.

Before long, I started trying out different things that I had read about or seen, such as live plants and live moss, purchased nicer enclosures and lighting. Eventually, I discovered the online reptile community, and a whole new world of information opened up to me.

In the beginning, I enjoyed some great online forums, which eventually gave way to Facebook reptile groups and a myriad of websites devoted to reptile care.  One of the newer sites is petMD®.

As my reptile care improved, so did the happiness of my animals. My fire bellied toads even bred without much effort. They were a lot of fun to watch in their little jungle habitats that I had created for them. I also really enjoyed learning about what plants worked best for them, Great care made the animals even more fun to watch. To this day, I continue reading and learning. There’s always more info out there, and if it’s not new info, it’s a new animal to learn about!

I always love getting new animals, but my focus will always be providing great reptile care for the animals I have. Sometimes all it takes to improve your care is a new bulb or a larger tank. You can find these things at PetSmart®, in stores or at the Reptile Purchase Center online.

Be curious! Read about what your animal needs and how you can better meet those needs. Set a little extra money aside for supplies instead of a new pet. Read a care book! The more you know, the more fun this hobby will be!

How to Get Picky Turtles and Tortoises to Eat

tortoise food

I see a lot of posts on social media about how picky their turtle is. I just wanted to share some info from my perspective. My husband and I have been doing reptile, insect, bird and small furred animal rescue for 25 years. We hand make every diet using no commercial pet store items. We see no reason to patron pet stores when they are one of the reasons we take in so many animals.  We take in animals from police departments and private people and specialize in special needs and animals with long term previous poor care, especially for turtles where we are taking in up to 100 a year.

Sulcata tortoise eating

When we take them in, we worm them, trim nails and  beaks and get them started on a proper diet in a proper setup. No glass tank where they can spend their lives trying claw out and their health can fail because of it. No gravel or bark chip bedding as turtles and tortoises need high humidity depending species and love to dig. No dried insects where the nutritional value is compromised. We use planted enclosures with humidity hides, plastic shoeboxes with a hole cut in it with wet substrate, deep water bowls like plastic shoeboxes, 6 to 12 inch deep peat moss substrate and outside enclosures as well planted with grasses such as what is found on Tortoise Supply.

tortoise eating flowers

When we make our foods, we place kale, dandelion, radish, blueberries, mushrooms, apple, carrots and other veggies and fruit in a food processor until the pieces are about the size of a pea, we then mix in calcium and a probiotic vitamin such as what is on www.beautifuldragons.com with it. We never ever sprinkle it on top. We do however, sprinkle live mealworms on top and they wiggle down into the food forcing the turtle to dig through the food. This diet can also be frozen in baggies and thawed out when needed.

When done this way it takes a maximum of a month for even the most difficult turtles to come around to eating each and every bite.

How to Get Picky Turtles and Tortoises to Eat

We can’t afford to allow any of the animals in our care to be picky. They need every bite of nutrition they can get.  Eventually, they will eat larger pieces of anything we put in their enclosures with no hesitation. We can place a halved Apple in there or a zucchini whole and they accept it well. I like the Tortoise Library for ideas on enrichment for feeding.   We feed the bearded dragons and turtles and tortoises this way. Too many animals are being fed daily in a bowl and have behavior issues because of it. Enclosures are clean and boring day after day. Mixing things up, enrichment, using them in classrooms for an educational presentation, switching enclosures around daily, putting rocks in there for them to climb and much much more.  When we feed new parrots we feed the same way minus the vitamin and just add sprouts. We feed the rodents the same way minus the calcium. Just wanted to share my experience and say your turtles should not be picky and there are many ways to get around that.


Kim Theurer runs the Pipe Dreams Aviary rescue in Oregon.  She is always available for questions or comments on Facebook or you can visit her rescue’s website, Pipe Dreams Aviary. Please take a look at their supplies needed page and see if you’re able to help out in some way. 

What to Get for Pet #ReptileCare

This post is sponsored by petMD Reptile Center, and the BlogPaws Professional Pet Blogger Network. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about Reptile Ownership, but HerpetoBotanical only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. petMD and PetSmart are not responsible for the content of this article.

reptile care petMD
If you’re brand new to reptiles or have only had one or two, getting a new reptile may be overwhelming. But the basics are pretty similar for most reptiles. What you need for proper pet reptile care can easily be found online at places like the Reptile Purchase Center online or in pet stores.

The basics can be broken down into these categories: housing, substrate, heating and lighting, water and humidity, and food. You will need to research the specifics of whatever species you’re interested in getting to determine exactly what they will need, but I’ll outline the basics below, and help you understand what factors to consider for each item.


A lot of people think you can stick every reptile in an aquarium and it’ll be suitable. While a lot of species do great in an adequately sized tank, some animals need different enclosures. Chameleons, for example, will do better in screen enclosures, and tortoises do better in enclosures that they can’t see out of, like a tortoise table.

Size is also important. Frequently “bigger is better” will apply to your new pet, but it doesn’t apply to all of them. Some animals get overwhelmed by too much space or have difficulty finding food if it’s spread out too wide. Ambush hunters, such as Pacman frogs, may have trouble eating if there’s enough room for their prey to avoid them.

Also, consider security. Some tanks and lids will need additional latches.

tomato frog #reptilecare


Choosing the right substrate is very important to the health of your reptile. The type of substrate you choose will also tie into the humidity factors. Some species will do best with moss or coconut coir. Others may do better on rock or tile. Sometimes a combination of the two will be ideal. If you’re going for more utilitarian, some reptiles may do well on aspen shavings or other man-made bedding.

More advanced methods of reptile substrate are available. Bioactive substrate is what I aim for in my frog enclosures.


Heating and Lighting

Heating and lighting is crucial to maintaining proper body temperature and health. Heat lamps and under tank heaters are great ways to raise the ambient temperature of an enclosure. You’ll need a reliable thermometer to be sure the temperature remains in the right range.

In addition to providing heat, bulbs can provide UVB rays, which is important for many reptiles. Not all bulbs provide UVB, so if it’s required for the species you’re considering, make sure you look for a bulb that provides it. If you’re planting live foliage, you’ll need to consider the plants’ requirements as well.

pet reptile care

Water and Humidity

Consider the natural habitat of the animal you’re getting. Water may be a large requirement. Some animals do great with just a bowl of water, but others will need much larger water sources, possibly even fully aquatic. Some will need higher humidity. You can buy automatic misters to help with this.



Make sure you’re familiar with the specific diet of the species you’re thinking about getting. Some may require diets that you’re not comfortable with, such as feeding mice to snakes or insects to frogs or lizards. The reptile care center at petMD® has an infographic about reptile diet and nutrition that can start your research.


Whatever reptile you decide to go with, these factors will all play a part in their health. Researching reptile care and preparing ahead of time will help you start out on the right foot and keep your new reptile healthy.

The Importance of Research – #ReptileCare for Beginners


This post is sponsored by petMD Reptile Center, and the BlogPaws Professional Pet Blogger Network. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about Reptile Ownership, but HerpetoBotanical only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. petMD and PetSmart are not responsible for the content of this article.

reptile care petMD


Some of my earliest childhood memories are of reptiles and amphibians. At an early age, most of my exposure to them was through books and nature magazines and lifelike toys. I remember my favorite photo in those nature magazines very clearly. It was a close up of a large American Bullfrog with a nightcrawler in its mouth. The photographer had washed everything beforehand, and both the frog and worm were clean, wet, and slimy looking. Something about that was very appealing to me. But the closest I came to seeing a real frog was the toy rubber frog that I carried around everywhere with me by it’s outstretched hind legs.


My first interaction with a real live frog was around five years old. I was up way past my bedtime while my parents visited at their friends’ house. My dad and his friend came into the house with a big grin on their faces.

“Ryan, look!” my dad said, holding out his hands. He had an American Bullfrog. The best looking toy frog I’d ever seen! I grabbed it by the legs, just like my rubber frog…. And the thing started squirming and jumping like crazy! I let go quickly, shocked, and it shot across the room. My dad caught it again and let it go outside where he’d found it, and they soon forgot about the funny moment. I, on the other hand, had a whole new world opened to me! Frogs were live animals that jumped and moved and were really as slimy and squishy as my small child’s mind had hoped!

It also opened up the world of pet reptiles and amphibians. My parents couldn’t take me outside without me finding a garter snake or a tree frog, or even bugs, that I wanted to bring home and keep. The same went for pet stores and friend’s houses. The answer was always the same though: “We don’t know anything about reptile care. Maybe when you’re older.”

A lot of people don’t have the common sense my parents had. I see so many people getting animals that they have no idea how to care for and the animals end up suffering. I’ve seen turtles living in tanks they can hardly turn around in, lizards fed the wrong things and without proper heating, and snakes that are underfed because the owner doesn’t understand how frequently they should be fed. But researching and preparing is so easy.

crested gecko reptile care

In those days before the internet, I had a solution to that: the library. I would camp out in the pet section, and search for books on pet reptiles. These days, we have it easier. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of websites, forums, and groups online where you can learn about reptile care. One of these sources is petMD®. They provide information on preparing for reptile ownership, articles about health issues, as well as fun quizzes for the kids and infographics. Getting reptile care right is very important to the health of your reptile pets. Their warning signs are often very subtle, so learning how to research and care for your pet is one of the most important things I’ve learned.

These days, I spend a lot of time in online reptile communities on Facebook and other sites. It’s very common for people to ask why their bearded dragon or turtle is sick. While everyone will hit a snag eventually, a lot of these can be avoided by researching reptile care before your purchase is made. Some of the key elements you should

Some of the key elements you should learn, before you purchase your new pet, are

  • the heat and humidity requirements
  • the type of habitat they live in
  • what a healthy diet consists of
  • the size requirements for their cage

While doing your research, you’ll be able to determine which animal is the best fit for your home. Maybe you’re interested in a snake, but what species? Bearded dragons are a great option for many first-time lizard keepers, but maybe a Crested Gecko would be a better fit for your home. Turtles and tortoises are a favorite among reptile keepers, but make sure you know how big they will get!

While there will be variations depending on what animal you pick, pretty much all of them are going to need a cage, a heat source, substrate (what us reptile keepers call bedding), hides and shelters, and food and water. All of these things can be found at PetSmart®, in stores or at the Reptile Purchase Center online.


dart frog care

These days I still keep frogs, although they’re a lot smaller than bullfrogs, and a lot more care intensive. It took hours of research to learn how to set up their care, but it paid off in the end with fat and happy frogs. Start your journey to reptile pet ownership at petMD®, then head over to the Reptile Purchase Center to pick up the supplies you’ll need.

Are you thinking about getting a reptile? Let me know what you’re getting in the comments below! I’d be more than happy to help you with learning about their care needs.



Edible Plants for Turtles and Tortoises in Your Yard

In the wild, turtles and tortoises have unlimited options of what to eat, giving them a varied and diverse diet. In captivity, many keepers stick to what they’re familiar with, seriously limiting the variety of foods their animals get. While those foods may provide a complete diet, finding edible plants for turtles and tortoises in your yard and garden can add enjoyment for both you and your animals. Personally, I have a lot of fun identifying plants and finding out whether they’re edible (for myself or my animals).

things to feed box turtles

When foraging for food, be sure you know if chemicals have been used in an area. Common garden chemicals are usually poisonous. If it’s not your yard or garden, be sure to ask the owner before picking anything, and ask what chemicals they use. If it’s your own yard, there are natural alternatives that you can use for most issues that will maintain an edible and safe yard for your turtles and tortoises.

Our garden has started going crazy. The previous owner had planted a lot of stuff and kinda let it go. While we like the vigorous growth, we don’t necessarily like all of her plant choices, so we’ve been replacing some plants with preferred options, and identifying things as we go.

edible nasturtiums

One of the things we planted for multiple purposes is Nasturtiums. They are edible to a variety of our animals, as well as edible for humans. They should be fed to tortoises in moderation due to their levels of oxalic acid.

succulents turtle food

There are several types of sedum that can be found all over the garden. Thankfully they don’t choke out other plants, because they have spread everywhere. They’re a great option for feeding to tortoises. They were the first to get eaten when I gave mine a handful of different options.

can turtles eat coral bells

We have masses of coral bells in the garden. These are edible, but should be fed in moderation due to the high levels of tannins they contain. They are easily available at nurseries and look nice in the garden.

pansies for turtle food

The pansies are a new addition in our garden this year, taking the place of a large invasive plant that was ripped out in late winter. Pansies are edible to people and turtles and tortoises. The flowers can be added to salads for human consumption, and the turtles and tortoises will eat any part of it. To keep them going all summer, remove the flowers when they start to wilt. The turtles will eat the wilted flowers too.

Edible Plants for Turtles and Tortoises in Your Yard

If you have a yard or garden of any size, you’ve probably had dandelions. They’re a good food for turtles and tortoises, but act as a diuretic, so they should be fed as part of a varied diet. If you have the space, set aside a corner of your garden for edible weeds like dandelions to grow pesticide free.

strawberry plants turtles tortoises

The strawberries aren’t fruiting yet, but in a few weeks, the box turtles will really enjoy the crop of berries. Many tortoises are not able to properly digest fruit, so make sure you know if fruit is appropriate for your tortoise before feeding them berries.

male eastern box turtle

Recently a friend pointed me to The Tortoise Table Plant Database phone app. This app has over 800 plants with pictures and info on each one to help you identify plants. It will tell you if they’re harmful and why, or if they’re edible, or to feed in moderation. It’s free and definitely worth downloading if you’d like to start exploring for edible plants in for turtles and tortoises in your yard.

Our sister site, Bones & Fishes, has a more pictures and info on turtle gardening.