Archive for June 2015

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.