Reptiles are exotic pets, which means they have specific, complicated needs. Whether you’ve never owned a reptile before or you’ve had several, there is always something new to learn about Kingdom Reptilia. Here are 8 facts about keeping reptiles that you may not expect.
1. Most Reptiles Are Mislabeled As “Beginner” Pets.
When adopting a reptile for the first time, most people trust the advice of the pet shop owners that they purchase their pet from.
Sometimes they are indeed quite knowledgeable, but sometimes they have limited experience with owning exotic pets. Because of this, some reptiles may be labeled as “easy for beginners,” when they actually are very complicated to care for.
Doing your own research on caring for reptiles is essential, and figuring out how much experience you need to care for different reptiles should be done before going to the pet store.
2. They Need More Space than You Think.
There are several misconceptions about what size tank a reptile needs. Some people believe that reptiles feel safer in a smaller enclosure, or that reptiles need less space because they are minimally active pets.
These assumptions are not true. A reptile will actually feel stressed in a small enclosure, not safe, and reptiles can actually be quite active! Some recommended tank sizes are:
For snakes, it should be long enough for the snake to stretch to its full length. If they cannot stretch fully in their enclosure, this will hurt their digestion.
For lizards like leopard geckos, it should be 10 gallons for a single gecko. If you own two or three, the tank should be 20 gallons.
3. Their Feces are a Health Indicator.
A reptile’s poop (or lack thereof) tells a lot about their nutrition, stress level, and general well-being. You should check your reptile’s poop if you notice any of the following:
- Your reptile isn’t eating.
- It’s growth has slowed tremendously.
- It appears stressed and is constantly hiding.
If the stool is runny, that is a good sign that something is wrong with their diet, or that they have a more serious illness.
For leopard geckos, blood in their feces could mean they have an endoparasite. For bearded dragons, extremely smelly feces could mean they have coccidia. In any case, take a sample of the stool to your vet for examination.
4. Hot Temperatures Help Their Digestion.
Every reptile owner knows that the tank must be set to a hot temperature, but few know the exact reasons why.
Most people assume it’s because reptiles are cold-blooded, which is true, but they don’t know much beyond that.
One of the key reasons reptiles require hot temperatures is for proper food digestion. If the temperature gets too low in the tank, food will rot in your reptile’s stomach. If this happens, they will get sick or stop eating.
5. Reptiles need “Micro-humidity chambers.”
While reptiles do generally require hot temperatures, they also require cooler hideouts and micro-humidity chambers.
As the name suggests, a micro-humidity chamber is a hideout that traps in more humidity than the rest of the tank. This is especially important for egg laying for females, and proper shedding.
6. Reptiles May Develop “Pica” if They’re Understimulated.
Inadequate heating is not the only reason that a reptile won’t eat properly. If a reptile isn’t being stimulated, they could develop something called pica.
When pica occurs, your reptile doesn’t stop eating, but rather they start eating non-food material in the tank, such as bedding.
Pica is very easy to misinterpret, and a typical first assumption is that you are not feeding your reptile enough, or feeding it the wrong food. Of course, consulting a vet will most likely be necessary if pica occurs, but you can begin by asking yourself:
Is my reptile basking too much/not enough?
Are they exhibiting additional, species-specific signs of anxiety?
How you respond to these questions will depend on the species, and your vet can help.
7. Reptiles Love to Play with Toys!
While many people associate toys with cats and dogs, giving your reptile toys to play with is extremely beneficial. Toys help keep reptiles active and prevent understimulation or self-mutilating behavior.
Some toys you can buy include balls, sticks, and hoses. You can also encourage play by hiding food for them to find, or rearranging their tank every once in a while so they can explore the new setup.
Toys are especially helpful to entertain reptiles that cannot be taken out of their enclosure.
8. You Can Control the Sex of Hatchlings.
Breeding reptiles is fun and exciting, especially for leopard geckos. When raising baby leopard geckos, you get to watch as they grow, and as their patterns develop.
However, what is really special about breeding leopard geckos is that you can control the sex of the hatchlings based on the temperature of the tank.
To raise all females, you must keep the tank between 80-82 degrees Fahrenheit. To raise all males, it must be 89-90 degrees. To have a mix, the tank temperature should be about 85 degrees.
Whether you’re a beginner or have experience with reptiles, if you take these 8 facts into consideration, you will be ready for any surprise that comes your way!
Author: Jonathan David