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.
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.
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.
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.