Archive for How To

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.

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.

Fruit Fly Culture Recipe

I get a very nice rush of OCD contentedness when I finish making a nice batch of fruit fly cultures and can line them all up in a row and admire them before putting them into the reptile room to incubate. I’ve tried a couple different methods so far, but I’m finding that my favorite way to make them is by using my own fruit fly culture recipe that I came up with after trying others. 

fruit fly culture recipe

I really like using a magic bullet blender to make fruit fly cultures. I find it easier to work in small batches, but I usually only make half a dozen at a time, so doing them two at a time isn’t a big deal to me. If you need to make 100, you might want to use a larger blender and double the recipe 50 times.

Another trick that’s been helpful is to freeze and thaw the bananas. You may need to drain off excess liquid when you defrost them, but freezing and thawing the bananas makes them really soft and much easier to blend smooth.

When you add the oatmeal, sometimes it’s helpful to let it sit for a while and allow the oatmeal time to soak up some liquid. If you make it too dry, the flies won’t do well, and the culture will dry a bit as the oatmeal absorbs the media.

Fruit Fly Culture Recipe

2 very soft bananas
1/2 cup vinegar
1 tbsp honey

Add bananas, vinegar, and honey to blender and blend until it reaches an even consistency. Split between two deli cups and mix in oatmeal until it’s solid enough to not drown the fruit flies. Sprinkle yeast on top. Add excelsior and fruit flies.

Date the cups and move to a warm location to incubate.

Yield: 2 cultures


Both the vinegar and the honey help inhibit mold growth. The yeast is added to out-compete mold. I realize the vinegar and honey may be stopping the yeast from growing, but I couldn’t really tell you which ingredient is keeping the mold away from my cultures, or if they’re all contributing. Whatever the case, it’s been working really well for me. I’ll experiment more down the road and see if I can improve this fruit fly culture recipe.

fruit fly culture recipe for dart frogs