Archive for Amphibians and Reptiles

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!

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.

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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 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. 

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.



Raorchestes resplendens

Sometimes I run across photos of frogs that just make me go WOW. Raorchestes resplendens is one of those frogs. Recently, the pictures below popped up on my Facebook feed. I love its gummy little feet. It almost doesn’t look real.

Raorchestes resplendens

Raorchestes resplendens are so rare that using a “common name” seems a bit odd, but they are also called the Resplendent Shrubfrog. These little frogs are only an inch or less from nose to ‘tail’. They are ground frogs typically found above ground in the foliage, although they can occasionally be found climbing. Their appearance is very different from other frogs in the Raorchestes genus, but a molecular study of their evolutionary relationships has put them in that group.


Raorchestes resplendens are native to a small area at the summit of Anamudi, the highest peak in the Western Ghats, a mountain range in western India. Their range appears to be 3 square km (about 1 square mile). This puts them on the endangered species list as Critically Endangered. It’s estimated that the total population is around 300 individuals.


They live in mossy forests and can tolerate a wide temperature range, between 26° and 86° F. Their eggs are deposited into the ground inside bamboo clumps and hatch into froglets, a process known as “direct development“.


Although they are listed as critically endangered, no traces of chytrid fungus have been found in their population. Their cause for decline is still unknown, but the lack of chytrid is at least a shred of good news. They have also not made it into the pet trade yet, which could quickly wipe out wild populations. A captive breeding population would be great, but needs to be done carefully.


This species is found very close to the range of the Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis, a frog that has appeared on social media a lot due to it’s bizarre appearance. It is also endangered. The Nasikabatrachus sahyadrensis is a round purple frog with a pointed nose, and is found on the same mountain peak in India.


More Fire Salamanders

A couple months ago, I added more Fire Salamanders, bringing my total to four. These fatties have settled in well and are pigging out on crickets and earth worms.

They’re housed in a pretty simple set up for now. I have them in a rubbermaid tub with peat moss and sphagnum moss for substrate, and a variety of pothos and philodendron cuttings for foliage. They have created burrows in the substrate, but they’re also out and about frequently and seem to be pretty comfortable just using the leaves for cover.

Salamandra salamandra more fire salamanders

The cuttings are rooting and at least the philodendrons will be moved with them into a nicer tank at some point. Pothos is great for simple set ups like this, but I don’t really like it in “show tanks”. It may be necessary if they dig too much for more delicate plants, but I’ll try out some other things first. Philodendrons should do fine. Hopefully they’ll allow some mosses and ferns to thrive as well.

more fire salamanders

The sphagnum really stuck to them a lot in the beginning, but as the new cage settled, that stopped happening quite as much as well. They don’t really seem to care either way though, as long as it’s not in their face.

fire salamander

Below the sphagnum moss is a layer of peat moss. They have dug some tunnels through it and sometimes I find them hiding in their burrows. By “find” I mean I’ll see them pop out and nab a cricket on occasion. Overall, they’ve been pretty bold. Usually they’re out under the leaves instead of underground.

fire salamanderfire salamander sleeping

I also picked up a third Matecho. This one has a hint of blue on its legs and belly. Should be interesting to see how it looks as it grows.He’s a bit smaller than the other two, but doing well with them. All my Matecho has a black spot on their backs. I’ll probably “have to” get another one or two with solid yellow backs. That’s a good excuse to get more frogs, right? Maybe some more Fire Salamanders as well…

dendrobates tinctorius matecho

Skinny Fire Salamander

This is my skinny Fire Salamander. He came to me a month or two ago, pretty skinny, but with a great appetite. He came with his whole tank set up and, since it was nice, I left it as it came. After weeks of feeding him all the crickets he could possibly eat, he still hadn’t fattened up. I hadn’t actually seen him eat; I just poured the crickets in, and they disappeared.

After weeks of insects disappearing and no change in his weight, I decided to hand feed him some worms from my garden. He readily took them from my hand, further confusing me. How could such a voracious salamander not be gaining any weight? Especially after dumping dozens and dozens of insects in his enclosure, and all of them disappearing quickly.

As I was hand feeding him another worm, this second Fire Salamander… a fat second salamander… waddled out of the foliage in the cage, as if to say “Hey, where are my worms?”

I was floored. I’m pretty sure I made a weird noise in my excitement. I somehow scared the cat, anyhow.

The fat salamander cleared up the mystery pretty quickly. The fatter one is also bigger all around, making it easier for her to eat all the food. So that’s why the little guy is in a jelly jar with worms. In addition to their regular feedings, I also take the little guy out and give him a little extra so he can gain some weight. It’s already helping. Soon they’ll both be fat little Fire Salamanders. Hopefully he’ll be able to compete better for food once he’s back to the correct weight, but I’ll probably have to continue giving him a little extra for a while.

Although it’s not the clearest picture of the smaller Fire Salamander, I couldn’t pass this last one up. Here’s the little guy with a mouth full of worms. Look at that little chin bulging.

fire salamander with a mouthful of earth worms

New Tinctorius

I got new frogs last weekend at the reptile show in Renton Washington. I decided to go for something pretty simple and got a few new Tinctorius. I bought two Azureus and one Matecho, but only because they only had one! I probably would have bought several if they’d been available.

The Azureus are settling into the 40 gallon tank nicely. These guys climb a lot, so they’re exploring every inch of this tank. I may have to secure some things a little better to prevent the frogs from dislodging the plants, but so far so good.

tinctorius azureus

Action shot! You can even see the springtails in his mouth!

I decided to put the new Tinctorius in the 40 gallon tank because the water feature is a bit too deep for the Varadero. There are too many ways for such tiny frogs to get in trouble. The new Tinctorius are big enough to manage the water without issue, and too big to squeeze into some of the tiny holes that concerned me with the Varadero.

tinctorius azureus

I’ve seen a lot of belly shots, but what I really liked about this shot is the toes. You can kinda see through the little knuckles where the bones are a bit translucent. It’s amazing how tiny their ‘fingers’ are. Plus, those colors. I know Azureus are pretty common, but there’s a good reason they remain so popular. Just look at that blue!

tinctorius azureus

I have yet to get a shot of the Matecho that does it justice. The lights are causing some overexposure and blowing out the faint orange around the eyes. Beautiful frog. I need to get out my good camera! This little guy is living in a temporary home until I get something larger build for him. Obviously, he’s not even half of his full size yet, so I have a little time to work on that. And the good news is, I get to build another tank!

tinctorius matecho

Another attempt at a photo… The point and shoot really can’t handle his colors.

tinctorius matecho

And just for fun, a bad shot of the Varaderos as well. Water on glass makes photography difficult.

Ranitomeya imitator Varadero

First Confirmed Male Varadero!

This little guy started calling today! He’s chasing around the fattest frog in the tank. Better pictures to follow. I didn’t want to bug him too much.

male Ranitomeya imitator Varadero

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Smooth Newt Video

Check out this smooth newt video. Their habitat is really beautiful.

These newts are Lissotriton vulgaris, known as the Common Newt or Smooth Newt. These newts are found in much of Europe. The newts in the video are ready for breeding. The males develop crests for their breeding displays.

smooth newt video

The photographer put his camera in a bottle and lowered it into the water to get this shot. This is a great idea. It reminds me of little viewing boxes I made as a kid, but forgot about until I saw this. I think I might try this on a future field herping expedition.

under water camera