reptiles – Keeping Exotic Pets http://www.keepingexoticpets.com Tue, 26 Dec 2017 10:39:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.7.8 Bosc Monitor Care Sheet (Varanus exanthematicus) http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/bosc-monitor-care-sheet/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/bosc-monitor-care-sheet/#respond Sat, 10 Jun 2017 11:06:15 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1965 Bosc monitors are one of the more popular large lizard species kept in captivity. Hailing from Eastern and Northern Africa, the bosc monitor is capable of growing up to five feet (150cm) in length, though in reality most specimens top out at a more modest three to four feet in length (90-120cm). While these certainly […]

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Bosc monitors are one of the best larger pet lizards that can be kept in captivity. This care sheet reveals how to look after Bosc monitors - a perfect read for all reptile enthusiasts, or those looking for a pet lizard. Bosc monitors are one of the more popular large lizard species kept in captivity. Hailing from Eastern and Northern Africa, the bosc monitor is capable of growing up to five feet (150cm) in length, though in reality most specimens top out at a more modest three to four feet in length (90-120cm).

While these certainly aren’t the biggest lizards available to reptile keepers, they’re certainly a far larger and more impressive species than the more commonly-kept bearded dragon or leopard gecko.

Together with their impressive dimensions, be aware that their teeth and claws are also in proportion of their body. A scratch or a bite from a bosc monitor is therefore likely to be much more uncomfortable than from a Green Anole! That said, a properly-tamed bosc monitor can become silly tame, posing no major risk for their owner.

Their potential size, combined with a fearsome arsenal of tooth and claw – not to mention a powerful tail – therefore mean that the bosc monitor is generally not a good pet lizard for beginners.

For reptile keepers with some experience, however, looking to upgrade to something a little bit different to the usual species seen in reptile stores, the bosc monitor can make an ideal introduction into the larger and more impressive lizards.

In this bosc monitor care sheet we’ll discuss everything you need to know in order to safely house, feed and care for your first pet bosc monitor…

Wild Habitat

Hailing from the arid regions of Northern and Eastern Africa, bosc monitors may be found across a wide range, including Ghana, Senegal and Ethiopia.

They are typically ground-dwelling lizards, though may occasionally climb when the desire arises. Far more commonly, bosc monitors use their sharp, elongated claws to dig. In doing so they may create a hole in which to hide, or may unearth potential prey.

Bosc monitors are carnivorous lizards, naturally hunting throughout the day where they feed on whatever live prey they can capture. With their forked tongues, they prowl the wild areas of Africa, looking almost like small komodo dragons, tasting the air for any tasty morsels. In the wild this is likely to consist primarily of a wide range of life invertebrates, supplemented with the occasional rodent or eggs from ground-nesting birds.

When it comes to bosc monitor care the best solution is to try and mimic this natural lifestyle as far as is possible in captivity. This means that a large cage will be required to enable these active lizards to explore and hunt.

A very hot basking area is also recommended, to help mimic the effects of the sun’s rays warming the earth. A drier environment is also preferable to more humid atmospheres, which can lead to health problems in bosc monitors.

Lastly, giving your monitor the opportunity to dig around in their substrate, and even to take a nice long bath, will also help to add interest and to foster more natural behaviour in their captive environment.  

Housing Bosc Monitors

Many people are taken in by how cute (and relatively inexpensive) baby bosc monitors are. They can often be purchased for similar prices to bearded dragons, and being less than a foot in length the chunky babies can be very appealing indeed. It is important, however, to appreciate just what you’re getting yourself into before buying a baby bosc monitor.

While young bosc monitors will be happy in a traditional wooden vivarium or large Exo Terra tank, adult specimens will require a far more roomy enclosure. Youngsters can be successfully housed in a tank measuring roughly three feet (90cm) in length, and eighteen inches (45cm) in depth.

Appreciate, however, that baby monitors can double in size in a matter of months when well cared-for, so it is often to start off with a larger cage of 120cm or more. This means that such a cage can be used for a longer period of time before rehousing is necessary.

Such a plan helps to save you money rather than needing to buy a new cage every few months. In the meantime, of course, your baby monitor will be able to get plenty of exercise, exploring their oversized cage until they grow into it.

Adult bosc monitors require considerably larger enclosures, which can be difficult to source from standard reptile stores. A cage of some six feet (180cm) in length, with a height and depth of three feet (90cm) is recommended as a minimum for adults. Due to the excessive size it may be necessary to build your own vivarium as your monitor reaches maturity (and process that can take just 2-3 years), or to order an over-sized vivarium from a specialist tank builder.

As bosc monitors like a hot and dry environment wooden vivariums are often the best option. These successfully hold in the heat, while making it easy to attach the various electrical appliances you’ll need. The wood also won’t rot in the otherwise dry environment. Cheap to buy “off the shelf” or to build yourself, this is often the most practical and cost-effective solution.

Heating & Temperatures

To mimic their wild environment, bosc monitors need a hot enclosure. As with other reptiles, it is recommended that one end be heated while the other end of the cage is allowed to remain slightly cooler. Under such conditions your monitor will be able to choose their preferred area; warming up under their heat lamp and then going off to explore the cooler areas of their cage once they have reached their optimum temperature.

A recommended temperature at the hot end is some 28-32’C, though this can drop during the night. This should be monitored continually with a reptile thermometer such as a digital thermometer or heat gun.

There are a number of ways to provide this level of heat. The first of these, and arguably the most popular solution, is to use a heat lamp. Alternatively ceramic heaters may be used. Ceramics don’t provide light; just heat, so some bosc monitor owners find them more practical as they can be run safely during the “night” without upsetting your bosc monitor’s natural circadian rythmns.

Note that both heat lamps and ceramic heaters can get very hot indeed. Not only do such heaters risk overheating the cage, but lizards can receive hefty burns if they’re unlucky enough to come into direct contact with the heating element. As a result, a number of precautions are essential for the health of your pet…

Firstly, any heating element should be safely protected with a bulb cover to eliminate any chance of your monitor coming into contact with it. Additionally, such powerful heaters should only ever be used with a thermostat.

There are a range of thermostats designed specially for reptiles, and they help to keep temperatures within acceptable levels. On colder days, the thermostat can gently increase the power of the bulb to maintain a suitable environment, while on hotter days it will be automatically turned down to prevent overheating.

Depending on how well-insulated your chosen bosc monitor cage is, and it’s overall size, it may be necessary to add supplemental “background” warmth to take the edge off the cooler end. This can be easily, cheaply and safely achieved through the use of one or more heat mats.

The best guide to heating your bosc monitor cage will be your lizard itself. Pay attention to his or her behaviour to see if changes are necessary. A monitor that only rarely ventures away from the basking spot could likely do with the temperature increasing further. In contrast, of course, a monitor that rarely goes anywhere near their hotspot, but instead lurks at the cold end may be finding their enclosure too hot.

By modifying the temperature of your bosc monitor’s cage in response to their behaviour you should quickly be able to find the optimum conditions for your pet.

Ultraviolet Lighting

Lighting your bosc monitor cage is a point of great contention. Veterinarians and reptile keepers alike are aware that some lizards – such as green iguanas – positively must have artificial lighting. Without the provision of UV light, such lizards are unable to effectively metabolize calcium, which can lead to weak bones, swollen joints, paralysis (particularly of the rear end) and sometimes even death.

It has been claimed by some authorities, however, that bosc monitor’s do not require UV light and can live perfectly happy and healthy lives without. Some keepers have even successfully bred boscs without the provision of artificial lighting.

That said, it does seem like an unnecessary risk when the reptile community is so divided. As a result, I recommend the use of a suitable UV bulb, placed as close to your lizard’s basking spot as possible. Ideally, the distance between lizard and tube should be no more than 30-45cm or so.

To maximize the volume of ultraviolet light available to your monitor use a reflector behind the bulb. Also be aware that most bulbs require changing every six months or so. Even if the visible light appears bright, the UV portion (invisible to our eyes) drops away over a period of months. If in doubt, a handheld UV monitor can be used to check the output of your chosen bulb.

Also, in cases where you opt to provide a UV light, your monitor should have ample opportunities to escape the glare. This means providing light in just one area of the enclosure, while also providing hides and artificial plants, where your bosc monitor can retire if desirable.

Water & Humidity

Bosc monitors may come from arid areas of Africa, but it is still considered a good idea to provide fresh water at all times. This should be provided in a heavy ceramic bowl, to prevent these powerful lizards from tipping over their water.

Like many other monitor lizards, it seems that bosc monitors often appreciate a nice soak in their water bowl. Selecting a bowl that will accommodate your bosc monitor safely can therefore be a wise idea. Note that monitors have an unfortunate habit of defecating in their water, so you’ll want to scrub the bowl and change the water regularly to keep it hygienic.

Normal household humidities are perfectly acceptable for bosc monitors, with no additional spraying generally being required.

Tank Decor

The first consideration when setting up your bosc monitor cage is the substrate which goes on the floor, and here there is much disagreement. Some keepers use orchid bark or beech chippings, though it is generally accepted that potting soil may be the best solution. Be certain that the compost you choose does not have any nasty chemicals added to it, such as the artificial fertilizer granules found in some brands.

Mixing this compost with some children’s play sand then creates the perfect environment for digging. In larger vivariums it can be a good idea to offer a healthy depth of substrate, and to pack it well. This enables your bosc monitor to dig naturally in the substrate as they might in the wild.

Bosc monitors are large, powerful lizards capable of digging and climbing. As a result, a beautifully-landscaped vivarium may not stay so for very long. Instead, tank decor elements should be sturdy, and ideally fixed in place with screws or reptile-safe silicone sealant. The use of large branches and pieces of cork bark, combined with artificial plants, can be put to use to create an appealing and varied environment for your monitor.

Lastly, don’t forget to provide your bosc monitor with somewhere suitable to hide away from prying eyes. There are a huge range of potential reptile hides, but the size of an adult monitor means that a very large piece of curved cork bark may be the easiest solution. For youngsters reson caves or curved wooden hides can also work well.  

Feeding Bosc Monitors

Learning how to feed your pet is a critical aspect of bosc monitor care. The reason is that bosc monitors can be prone to laziness and, as a result, may become obese over time. Over feeding your bosc monitor, or providing it with the wrong food can therefore lead to an overweight lizard which will, in all likelihood, shorten it’s lifespan.

Young bosc monitors are best fed every day or two, on a wide and varied selection of livefood, including crickets, locusts, mealworms and even earthworms. All livefood should either be dusted with a suitable mineral supplement, or gut-loaded before feeding. Doing so maximizes the mineral content of the food, helping to keep your monitor in the best of health.

As your lizard grows, so the feeding frequency can drop. Alongside this, the size of prey items provided can increase. Many experienced bosc monitor keepers offer dead mice to their pet roughly twice a week (every three days or so). This rodent prey can be supplemented with further invertebrate prey as desirable.

Bosc monitors are one of the best larger pet lizards that can be kept in captivity. This care sheet reveals how to look after Bosc monitors - a perfect read for all reptile enthusiasts, or those looking for a pet lizard.

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The Beginners Guide to Keeping Terrapins at Home http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/keeping-terrapins-at-home/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/keeping-terrapins-at-home/#respond Sat, 01 Oct 2016 14:06:13 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1244 In the past terrapins have been unfortunate enough to earn a rather bad reputation. When the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles entered public awareness in the 1990’s thousands of school children decided that they wanted to keep their very own Leonardo or Donatello. Sadly, the solution offered up by pet shops was far from ideal. The […]

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In the past terrapins have been unfortunate enough to earn a rather bad reputation. When the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles entered public awareness in the 1990’s thousands of school children decided that they wanted to keep their very own Leonardo or Donatello. Sadly, the solution offered up by pet shops was far from ideal.

The species of terrapin that was imported in vast quantities is known as the “red eared terrapin” or “red eared slider” thanks to the red stripe through their eye.

Many died as youngsters due to the specialist care they require in captivity, while those that did survive to adulthood grew into 10″ long monsters. Many owner simply couldn’t accommodate a large, long-lived and potentially-aggressive animal so thousands were released into the wild.

Its a sad tale, for certain. But things have changed an awful lot in recent years. No longer a “fad” pet, these days we not only have a range of terrapin species which grow to a far more reasonable size, but we also know ever more about keeping these fantastic animals happy and healthy for the long term.

Today, keeping terrapins has really come of age. If you’re interested in purchasing your own pet terrapin then read on to discover how best to care for these fantastic little reptiles at home…

Introduction to Keeping Terrapins in Captivity

Keeping terrapins as pets in captivity.

There’s something about keeping terrapins which makes them special. Maybe its how cute they are as hatchlings, or maybe its how graceful they are swimming about, but keeping terrapins as pets is a decidedly enjoyable pursuit. You’ll get to watch to watch them swimming about, going about their everyday lives.

That said, terrapins do require some specialist care, and arguably take more time, effort and money to keep when compared to many pet reptiles. Potential owners should be certain they do their research and are happy with the necessary investment before bringing their terrapin home from the pet shop…

Terrapin Cages

Terrapins spend most of their lives either swimming around in ponds and streams in the wild, searching for food, or basking on dry land, warming up in the sunshine. Their cage needs to allow your terrapins to exhibit both behaviours.

Typically terrapins are kept in suitably-size aquariums, filled with water, where they can spend the majority of their time swimming around. Alongside this you will also need a dry area where they can haul themselves out to bask.

The size of the aquarium used needs to be decided by the size and number of terrapins being kept. The RSPCA recommends 80 litres of water for every 5cm of shell length,  while the British Chelonia Society suggests “100 square cm of water surface area for each centimetre of shell length”.

In reality this means that even hatchlings should be provided with a cage no smaller than 60cm x 30cm, while adults will require a tank several times this. Buying a terrapin tank is therefore not a cheap exercise!

Once filled with water you’ll then need to provide one or more areas of dry land for them, and here there are a number of options.

An increasing number of accessories are available from pet stores to help you create the necessary basking spot. For example one can now buy floating terrapin “islands” or ramps, both of which allow your pet to leave the water when they desire.

Terrapin Heaters

terrapin photoTerrapins are cold-blooded creatures, which come from the warmer parts of the world.

It should therefore come as no surprise that they will require artificial heating in all but the warmest months of the year.

One of the things that can make terrapins rather more expensive to keep than some other reptiles is that they will require two different heaters; one for the water and one for the basking area.

The water is best heated using an aquarium heater. In the past terrapin keepers simply used the aquarium heaters typically sold to fish keepers in aquarium shops, but recently a small number of specialist terrapin water heaters have come onto the market. The particular benefit of these terrapin heaters is that they include a heater guard, which prevents your terrapin from burning itself if it rests directly on the heater.

This heater should be carefully submerged in the water, carefully fixed to the inside wall of the tank, and placed in an area of good water flow so that it can effectively heat the entire body of water.

Most terrapin water heaters have a built-in thermostat so you can set the water to a comfortable 25’C and feel confident that it won’t overheat in warmer weather.

The second type of terrapin heater than you will require is a basking spot. There are a number of options here. In the past many terrapin keepers used fluorescent bulbs, which provide both light and heat. However the risk of such a heater is that they get very hot indeed, and if splashed with water from the tank, can sometimes explode.

A safer option, therefore, is to make use of one of the many ceramic heaters for sale. This will need to be attached to a suitable thermostat, in order to provide a basking area of 28-32’C.

Lighting

terrapin photo

One difficulty when keeping terrapins as pets is ensuring that they receive enough calcium. Without this, their shell can become soft or misshapen, causing considerable discomfort.

Terrapins have an interesting solution to this problem. In the wild they will bask in natural sunlight, and the UV rays which they absorb help to bolster their levels of vitamin D3. This in turn helps them to effectively absorb calcium from their diet.

This means that in captivity it is necessary to address both issues; the requirement for UV light, and a diet that is rich in calcium. We will cover diet in more depth below, so for now let us concentrate on the provision of ultraviolet light.

A range of specialist reptile lighting units are now available, providing the necessary UV light. It is critical when keeping terrapins that you provide such a light. Typically you will end up purchasing a fluorescent tube designed specifically for reptiles, a lighting unit to provide the necessary power, and a UV light reflector to ensure that as much of the useful light is pushed down into your terrapin tank.

These tubes should ideally be placed as close to your terrapin as possible (less than 12″ is ideal) and the bulb should be replaced every six months. This regular replacement is important as studies have shown that over time the UV output of bulbs declines, even if the bulb itself still seems to be giving off suitable visible light.

Water & Humidity

terrapin photoWe’ve discussed the importance of providing a large body of water for your pet to swim in, but what is equally important is that this water is kept as clean and hygienic as possible.

Here there are three elements to concern yourself with.

Firstly, the water that comes out of our taps has a variety of chemicals added to it. While these chemicals serve to keep us healthy, they can do quite the opposite for terrapins.

Chlorine, in particular, should be avoided in terrapin tanks. Fortunately there’s a simple solution to this problem in the form of dechlorinating liquids. Simply follow the instructions on the bottle, adding the necessary volume of this fluid to your terrapin’s water and the chlorine will quickly dissipate.

The next concern comes from the waste that your terrapins produce. Over time this will build up in the water, not only causing it to be unsanitary but also risking algae growing. Just like in a fish tank, therefore, you’ll need a powerful filter to continually clean your terrapins water.

There are a range of options available, though aim for one of the more powerful canister or internal filters that can process plenty of water, as terrapins tend to be quite messy animals.

The final stage of maintaining suitable water quality for your pets comes in the form of regular water changes. While your filter will extend the period between cleans, it does not properly replace the process.

Generally speaking a pattern of replacing a third to a half of the water every few weeks is a good start, though if you find the water becoming messy in-between you may want to consider more frequent water changes.

Cage Furnishings

Once you’ve bought your tank, installed your floating islands or land area, together with your UV light, filter, water heater and basking spot you’ll be pleased to hear that there aren’t many more hardware factors you need to consider.

Terrapins can be quite messy creatures, so placing live plants and suchlike in their cage tends to end in disaster, as they dig them up or start nibbling them.

Indeed, apart from some gravel on the base of the cage most keepers maintain quite a “bare” tank. This tends to make cleaning easier and to relieve any annoyance that all the effort you put into landscaping the tank soon becomes ruined.

Feeding

terrapin photo

Terrapins are voracious feeders and rarely go off their food. As with all species of reptile in captivity, a varied diet tends to work best. This ensures that your pet is getting a wide variety of nutrition. Fortunately, terrapins will eat a wide variety of foodstuffs, so finding suitable food for your terrapin shouldn’t be too problematic.

Here are some of the better options:

Commercial Terrapin Diets

A number of commercially-produced terrapin foods are now available. These are typically dried foods, sold in small tubs like fish food.

In my experience terrapins can vary wildly in their response to such diets. Some terrapins will happily gobble up as much as you provide, while others seem to find them rather less interesting. While you won’t want to feed your pet solely on such a diet, it can be handy to keep a tub of terrapin food on hand for the days when you run out of other foods.

Raw Meat

In the wild a large part of a terrapin’s diet comes in the form of meat. Feeding raw meat to your pet is therefore an ideal way to mimic this wild behaviour. Examples of suitable foods include chicken and beef, though this should be fed raw (rather than cooked) and should be carefully chopped into tiny “bite size” pieces.

If you choose to feed raw meat to your pets from time to time it is wise to establish a “feeding tank”. This is a separate tank, with no clutter in it. The terrapins are placed into it, they are fed, and then moved back into their standard tank.

The “feeding tank” can be completely bare apart from the water, making cleaning up wasted meat much easier than in the confines of a standard terrapin tank.

Seafood

Interestingly many terrapins seem to enjoy a variety of seafood. The most common source are prawns, bought frozen and thawed out as necessary. They will also readily accept oily fish such as mackerel, sardines and tuna, though again these should ideally be fed raw rather than cooked.

Live Invertebrates

Feeding live invertebrates to your pet can be a great “bonding experience”. I have often found that gently feeding your pet with mealworms, small locusts or waxworms can be an ideal bonding experience. Using forceps (to protect your fingers) simply dangle the item close to your terrapin. In time, most will build up enough confidence to feed from your hand, helping you to gently tame your terrapins.

The livefood available for tropical fish keepers – such as artemia, tubifex and bloodworm may also be fed on occasion as a treat, though take care that no dead prey items are left to rot and so contaminate the water.

Plant Material

While the vast majority of a terrapin’s diet should come in the form of meat in one form or another, some terrapins will also enjoy the odd bit of plant matter. From water cress to apple, carrot to strawberry, these should be grated or finely-chopped to prevent choking.

Dietary Supplements

While a varied diet is critical to the health and well-being of your pet terrapin, the subject of dietary supplements should not be ignored. These supplements help to increase the essential minerals in your terrapins diet; especially calcium which is essential for a strong shell.

Reptile supplements come in a variety of different types, but many of them can be problematic in a terrapin’s aquatic environment. For example, one of the more popular reptile supplements is “dusted” into the food – rather like sprinkling sugar onto fresh strawberries. However once the food is placed in the water this can quickly wash off.

As most terrapins prefer to feed in the water, placing dusted food on the land area isn’t always very successful (though feel free to try it with your own terrapin to test the response).

Arguably the best feeding supplements for terrapins are therefore “gut loading” supplements. These are fed to live insects for a period of 24 hours before they are given to your pet. In this way when your pet terrapin eats his or her cricket, they will also consume all the calcium in the insect’s digestive tract.

Handling

terrapin photoGenerally speaking terrapins are not really pets for handling.

While they may look very cute as babies, many of the more popular terrapin species grow to quite an impressive size, and large terrapins can have an equally impressive bite on them!

I’m not saying necessarily that terrapins can’t be handled at all, but rather that as they grow you need to take more and more care to avoid an unpleasant experience.

Arguably the best way to pick up your terrapin if you need to do so is the grasp them at the back of their shell. In doing so you’ll keep your fingers well out of the way and avoid a potentially unpleasant nip.

Lastly when discussing handling terrapins you should note that there have been reported cases of terrapins carrying salmonella. If and when you do handle your terrapin, therefore, its essential to thoroughly wash your hands afterwards to avoid the risk of illness.

All things told, I recommend only picking up your terrapin when it is necessary for practical reasons (such as when cleaning them out). Children should avoid handling them at all times and great care should be taken to avoid nips and to sanitize your hands afterwards.

Pictures

Below you will find a wide range of terrapin photos that I have gathered together. Feel free to click on any picture to see it full size, and please remember to follow me on Pinterest for more exotic pet pictures.

 

Photos c/o sk8geek, Squeezyboy, r3beccaf, smagdali & hodgers

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The Best Reptile Hides – An Examination of the Options http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/best-reptile-hides/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/best-reptile-hides/#respond Wed, 20 Jul 2016 06:00:25 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=1248 As the reptile-keeping hobby has grown, so too has the selection of reptile-keeping equipment on offer. These days there are more reptile hides than ever before available; some custom-made for the reptile-keeper, with others being easily re-purposed from other sources. In this article we’re going to look at some of the options available to you, […]

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As the reptile-keeping hobby has grown, so too has the selection of reptile-keeping equipment on offer.

These days there are more reptile hides than ever before available; some custom-made for the reptile-keeper, with others being easily re-purposed from other sources.

In this article we’re going to look at some of the options available to you, in order to help you choose the best reptile hide for your needs.

The Importance of Reptile Hides

Many reptiles and amphibians are know to be quite shy in captivity. Even the bolder or more confident species will generally benefit from a hide of some form; somewhere they can hide away from prying eyes and feel safe.

Indeed, some species (notably snakes) can become noticeably aggressive in the absence of somewhere to hide. It seems that being forced to constantly sit in the open leads to stress, which can then boil over into aggression towards their keeper.

But there are other reasons to provide a reptile hide besides limiting stress and minimizing aggression.

Providing somewhere for your pet to hide away also makes for a more natural environment. The natural world isn’t sterile and dull; it’s a multi-layered experience with plenty of plants, rocks and bits of old bark to explore and hide within.

Lastly, appreciate that reptile hides can enable you to create “micro-habitats”. For example many of our more commonly-kept snake species (think Corn Snakes or King Snakes, for example) tend to be kept in arid surroundings. A damp substrate can lead to sores or skin problems in many snakes. But what happens when your snake struggles to moult, thanks at least in part to their dry surroundings?

Here a hide can be used as a source of moisture. When your snake enters the humid surroundings of their hide they’ll find their remaining skin softens and becomes easier to slough off. Outside of the hide the substrate can remain as dry as ever, giving your pet snake the best of both worlds.

The provision of one or more hides should therefore be considered an essential part of keeping any reptile or amphibian in captivity, as it leads to happier and more docile captives.

Types of Reptile Hides

There are more reptile hides available than ever before. While some are freely available from most pet stores (or online) a handful might be rather more difficult to find.

For clarity we have opted to separate the range of reptile hides available into three core groups. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses which we will cover in turn.

Natural Reptile Hides

“Natural” reptile hides are those made from natural materials; most commonly wood.

Benefits

Organic Appearance – Most natural hides look absolutely fantastic when placed in a reptile cage. For those of us (like me) who appreciate a well landscaped vivarium, such as for smaller lizards or tree frogs, natural hides can become an attractive and integral part of the overall design.

Habitat Simulation – Arguably natural materials like wood can also benefit your reptiles and amphibians by more accurately mimicking the hides that wild herps use. In other words, natural hides can more accurately simulate the wild habitat of many species.

Large Variability – Natural hides are often available in a wide range of sizes and shapes thanks to their natural origin. For example pieces of bark may be found that are a matter of six inches long or several feet, and they may be flat or curved.

While this can mean a fair amount of shopping around to find the “perfect” hide, it also means that with enough patience you will almost certainly be able to find one or more natural hides of a suitable size and shape.

Weaknesses

Mould Attractant – Of all the different hide materials wood is the most likely to attract mould and fungus, especially in more humid tank environment. While problems are unlikely in drier environments (think of bearded dragons or most snakes) great attention should be paid in humid rainforest set-ups like those for day geckos.

Difficulty of Cleaning – The rough and absorbent properties of wood can make cleaning such hides rather more difficult than more “artificial” hide materials.

Coconuts

One of the smaller natural hides comes in the form of coconut halves, typically with a small access hole cut in the side. While these are unlikely to be much use for those of us keeping ball pythons, for smaller critters such as poison dart frogs they can be ideal. They’re lightweight, they look great and the cost is minimal.

Cork Bark

Cork bark has been one of my “go to” reptiles hides for as long as I can remember. This natural and renewable resource is lightweight and as each piece is different its possible to find a huge range of different sizes and shapes.

Taking the time to select an attractively curved piece of bark under which your pet can hide is well worth the effort and can look fantastic in a vivarium.

For arboreal reptiles and amphibians such as day geckos and tree frogs (and even some tarantulas) it is often possible to find whole “tubes” of bark, which can be placed on end in the vivarium. This not only gives vertical height to creatures that like to climb, but also allows them to climb inside to hide away at will.

Curved Wood

There are a small number of hides which look like pieces of log, yet have had the inner surface smoothed off and rounded. These are typically considerably heavier than cork bark or coconut shells, and come in a smaller range of sizes. They can however look good and are one of my preferred solutions for smaller snake species.

Artificial Reptile Hides

Artificial reptile hides are typically man-made, from materials such as plastic. While they are often priced similarly to more natural hides, they offer quite the opposite list of pros and cons.

Benefits

Easy to Clean – The artificial materials that such hides are made from can make them considerably easier to clean. Consider, for example, how easy it is to spray down a plastic container in comparison to a wooden one and you’ll get the idea.

Varied Appearance – There is a growing market in “pre-fabricated” reptile hides. From artificial caves to dinosaur eggs through to skulls, if you want to create a truly memorable vivarium design then there are all sorts of options available to you.

Weaknesses

Less Attractive Appearance – Some might argue that artificial hides are less attractive than natural hides made of wood. While the overall effect depends on the actual hide chosen, I have to admit that I generally prefer the appearance of more natural hides.

Fewer Range of Sizes – As artificial hides are made by people, there is far less variety than one might find with naturally-occurring hides like cork bark. It may take extra effort to find a suitable hide, therefore, especially if you’re keeping a larger species such as a common boa.

Plastic Hides

I stumbled across plastic hides just recently while in a reptile store. To be fair, they are worse than hideous; just a shiny black plastic box with a hole cut out of the front. They’re completely at odds with the aesthetics of a naturalistic vivarium, but I must admit they have a range of practical benefits.

They’re super-easy to clean, incredibly lightweight and come in some very generous sizes. I’m slowly moving most of my ball pythons over to these hides simply due to the practicality of being able to clean them easily, and quickly lift them up to check on each of my captives even if they’re hidden away.

Moulded “Caves”

“Caves” is in speech marks, because this word rely doesn’t do justice to the wide range of options available now. While most of the more popular options do indeed mimic the appearance of a small cave, a growing range of different styles are available, including the skulls and dinosaur eggs mentioned earlier.

Re-Purposed Reptile Hides

Lastly in the list of potential reptile hides there are a range of household objects which can be effectively re-purposed for use as reptile hides. While the range is really limited only by your creativity, I would like to take a moment to discuss two of the more popular options among reptile owners.

Cereal Boxes

An empty cereal box, placed on its side with the “end” open can make a cheap and effective hide for snakes. If necessary the box can be “cut to fit” so that it properly accommodates your pet. These are of course available free of charge and can be easily sourced and replaced.

As with all the other options, of course, there are a number of downsides of such a solution, not least their less-than-attractive appearance. In addition its worth noting that such boxes cannot be cleaned, and can become easily soiled.

As a result you might need to eat a lot of cereal in order to keep throwing them away when soiled and replacing them with a fresh box.

Plant Pots

If your vivarium has a decent layer of substrate then a second alternative is to place a plant pot on its side, and partially bury it in the substrate to create a semi-circle. This is a solution which I personally use regularly for tarantulas, but rather less so for reptiles and amphibians.

For ease of cleaning I make use of plastic pots, though terra cotta pots are another option if you’re willing to put the necessary time into cleaning them.

What Is The Best Reptile Hide?

Now we’ve covered some of the more popular reptile hide options the next obvious question is that the best reptile hide is. The answer here isn’t an easy one, and is largely down to personal preference after considering their appearance, the size of your pet and the pros and cons outlined.

Personally I’m a huge fan of using curved wood hides, carefully placed into the vivarium so that one end is flush with the back of the vivarium. This provides just one access point, and looks great. They can also be very easy to clean and come in a range of sizes, so are ideal for smaller snakes.

Increasingly I’m using the boring plastic hides for larger ball pythons due to the practicalities of keeping larger snakes. Here a piece of cork bark is so light that it is likely to be slowly shifted around the cage over time, making it harder to site it in the most appropriate location.

However the only wrong answer here is to provide no hide at all for your pet. No matter what species of reptile or amphibian you’re keeping you should put some thought into which option is likely to work best for you.

What Size Hide Should You Buy?

Reptile hides come in a range of different sizes and styles, and many beginner reptile keepers struggle to decide on the most appropriate size for their pet.

The primary goal of your hide is that it should allow your pet to entirely conceal itself. Hides for snakes should therefore allow your coiled-up snake to comfortably sit inside, without its head or tail poking out of the entrance. So pay attention to the approximate dimensions of your snake when curled up and aim for a hide at least as large as this.

Ball pythons are a good example of a reptile species that can benefit from a hide. In the wild these snakes would typically hide out in old rodent burrows during the day, only leaving the safety of their burrow at night.

As a result ball pythons tend to feel most confident and comfortable with a reasonably-small hide. Given something much larger than they need can make them feel rather less secure than a hide which offers a rather more snug fit.

The goal when choosing a hide is therefore to find one which is large enough for your pet to conceal itself in fully, but small enough that it mimics a small hole in the wild.

This means that it can be necessary, especially if you own a baby snake, to progressively invest in larger hides over time, replacing it a couple of times a year as your snake outgrows its existing hide.

How to Clean Your Reptile Hide

It’s critical when keeping reptiles and amphibians to maintain their cages in hygienic conditions. While many keepers are happy to remove soiled substrate and to wash out a vivarium, its equally important to regularly clean and sterilize the hides that you use.

Here there can be significant differences in how easy different hides are to clean. For example one of the moulded plastic hides discussed earlier may not be the best-looking solution, but they are supremely-easy to wipe over with some anti-septic reptile-safe cleaning spray. Left to air-dry the hide can be sterilized and back in your pet’s cage within minutes.

Contrast this to a piece of cork bark, with all its rough surface, and they can be a lot harder to keep clean.

Broadly speaking I have found that the best way to clean your reptile hide largely depends on the material it is made from.

Cleaning Plastic or Moulded Hides

Simply scrub the hide clean to remove any faeces, sloughed skin or other debris. Next spray liberally with a reptile-safe disinfectant and leave to air dry before placing back into the cage.

Wooden Hides

Natural wood can be rather more problematic to clean due to its rough and absorbent surface.

The best solution I have found is to start off by soaking the hide in warm water to soften any attached debris, then follow up by rubbing firmly with a scouring pad to remove any debris.

The challenge comes next, when it comes to sanitizing the hide; in my experience reptile-safe spray can be rathe rless effective, as it is often absorbed by the wood rather than treating the surface.

Instead I recommend boiling the kettle, and in a safe place (in the garden or the bathtub) liberally pour this boiling water over the wood. In this way you should kill any micro-organisms or fungal spores present. Then leave the wood to cool before placing it back into the vivarium.

How Many Hides Should I Give My Pet?

The number of hides you give your pet will be affected by a range of factors, including the size of the cage and the number of inhabitants.

If your reptile cage allows it then offering two different hides can be a good idea. The reason is that it gives your pet choices, and allows you to see which they prefer.

As a first experiment try placing one hide at the hotter end of the cage, and the other at the cooler end. Pay attention to which one your pet chooses to use over a period of a week or two. The reptile always sat at the hotter end may want the temperature in their tank to be increased slightly.

The opposite may be true of reptiles always cowering at the cooler end. By slowly moving these hides around the cage over a period of weeks you’ll be able to identify the “ideal” temperature that your pet likes to rest at.

The next experiment can then involve moving both hides to this locality, to see which hide they actually prefer. Providing a piece of cork bark and a moulded plastic hide next to one-another, for example, can help you to identify which of these hides your pet prefers.

Once you know which hide your pet prefers, and where in he cage they like it placed, you can consider removing the less-popular option to give your pet more space to move around in their cage.

In situations where you keep two or more reptiles or amphibians together I would recommend always providing at least two hides. In this way if one of the animals is more dominant or aggressive there will always be somewhere for the less dominant individual to hide.

Questions? Please use the comments section below and I’ll get back to you 🙂

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6 Reasons Why You Should Join A Reptile Society Today http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/6-reasons-why-you-should-join-a-reptile-society-today/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/6-reasons-why-you-should-join-a-reptile-society-today/#comments Thu, 05 Jul 2012 07:24:14 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=723 It still surprises me just what a small percentage of the exotic pet keepers I come across actually belong to one or more reptile societies. It’s not through a lack of societies – most Western countries have a number of reptile-related societies as well as smaller niche societies dedicated specifically to groups such as tarantulas, […]

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It still surprises me just what a small percentage of the exotic pet keepers I come across actually belong to one or more reptile societies.

It’s not through a lack of societies – most Western countries have a number of reptile-related societies as well as smaller niche societies dedicated specifically to groups such as tarantulas, tortoises and so on.

So today I’d like to take a few minutes to explain why you should you invest your hard-earned money on joining a reptile society rather than on buying more reptiles if you haven’t already….

Protecting Your Hobby

Exotic pet keepers have a lot of enemies. Despite the fact that exotic pet keepers are, on the whole, a dedicated, passionate bunch of individuals whose main priority is the health of their animals it seems everyone from well-connected animal charities to politicians to the animal health supporters dedicate huge resources to trying to outlaw the keeping of exotic pets like reptiles.

Bearing in mind how strong these foes are and the power that they have it is essential that reptile societies exist to act as a “union” and fight for our rights to keep exotic pets. A few recent examples include the way the International Herpetological Society recently took a case to court in order to prevent a reptile show getting closed down and how UK cosmetics company Lush was banned from showing an offensive and factually-inaccurate anti-reptile-keeping advert.

Remember that when you pay your annual membership fee at least a portion of this goes toward lobbying and protecting your hobby from interference.

Sharing The Latest News And Information

From recent discoveries in the field of reptile-care to captive breeding successes, from recently discovered species to new product releases these reptile societies act as conduits for distributing high-quality information to their members. Joining such a society adds a further level of interest to the hobby – as well as helping you to ensure you are using the very latest and most effective techniques for keeping and breeding your exotic pets.

Building Community

When you take up reptile-keeping as a hobby you immediately start to stand out from the crowd. From my own experiences I have found I rapidly get known by nicknames like “spiderman” or “python boy” when new friends and associates find out that I keep exotic pets.

And while, in truth, I think many of us relish this sense of being a little “different” it can be hard to find other hobbyists that understand your passions and can share tips and advice (as well as care duties when you go on vacation).

Once again reptile societies help to build a sense of “community” and to connect their members. Through newsletters, online discussion forums and live events reptile societies help to bind us closer together, make new friends and provide an excellent opportunity to learn from the experiences of other people.

Event Organizers

Thanks to their connections and the support they receive many of the reptile shows that are organized each year around the world are done so by these very same reptile societies. Despite all the cost and effort of arranging such events these really are part and parcel of being an exotic pet keeper.

These events can make up an important part of your social calendar helping you to meet new people, ask questions in person to highly-experienced keepers and also to pick up both livestock and equipment at competitive prices as a result of many hobbyist breeders displaying their wares at such events.

Once again, while some reptile shows allow non-members entry, quite a few offer members-only access or at least a discount for society members. Even more so, without the financial support from membership sales these societies simply wouldn’t have the resources necessary to arrange such events and I have no doubt the hobby would suffer as a result.

Members-Only Services

A number of reptile societies offer extra services to their members. This may be in the form of free reptile-care advice of you need it, or networking events or even down to a “breeders list” to either help you track down a certain species you’re dying to keep or a mate for one of your existing animals.

When you join a reptile society try delving deeper into these services to see just how much value they really offer you. And remember that if these services aren’t being used then they will soon stop being supported.

Furthering The Cause

On a wider scale many reptile societies further the cause of reptiles and amphibians around the world in a variety of ways. For example many of them freely offer impartial, educated advice to the media and animal charities on the proper care and maintenance of exotic pets. Others offer rescue services and help unwanted reptiles to find suitable new homes. Still others invest money in reptile and amphibian conservation thus helping vulnerable species and habitats to survive for future generations.

Whichever way you cut it, reptile societies not only make owning exotic pets more enjoyable and successful but also have wider effects that anyone who cares about herptiles should appreciate. As a result I would strongly advise you to join a reptile society if you haven’t yet done so, and if you are already a member of one or more societies then please leave a comment below with which societies you personally support.

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7 Useful Tricks For Handling Livefood http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/7-useful-tricks-for-handling-livefood/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/7-useful-tricks-for-handling-livefood/#respond Tue, 10 May 2011 09:59:31 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=320 One cause for concern when you start keeping exotic pets is that in many cases you will need to learn to deal with live food in the form of crickets, locusts, mealworms and the like. While many people quickly get used to this task and treat it as a necessary evil of keeping exotic pets […]

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One cause for concern when you start keeping exotic pets is that in many cases you will need to learn to deal with live food in the form of crickets, locusts, mealworms and the like.

While many people quickly get used to this task and treat it as a necessary evil of keeping exotic pets many other people have concerns over handling livefood. Whether those concerns are based on having to touch some wriggling crickets or more about how to control them properly to making feeding your exotics as easy as possible help is at hand with these handy tricks for dealing with livefood…

Choose The Right Live Food

There is a large range of different feeder insects currently available and each have their strengths and weaknesses. As crickets are one of the most popular forms of live food available let’s take them as an example. Of all the various live feeder insects it seems that crickets are the ones that cause the most potential problems.

One example of this is how many people get squeamish at the thought of having to touch them. Another is that they can be quick and jump well so can easily make a break for freedom when you open the tub. And the adult males can also chirp loudly at night which can be annoying for some people – especially if they manage to get behind a heavy piece of furniture.

However there are alternative insects that can be bought that will resolve many of these problems.

For example many livefood suppliers now offer “silent crickets” which make far less noise than standard black or brown crickets so if you’re going to keep your livefood in your bedroom you may be better to opt for these insects instead.

In general locusts are slower and less flighty than crickets, and cause less people to squirm, so they can also serve as an alternative to the classic cricket. Of course they also make no noise and so while they need to be kept warmer than crickets if they are to survive until “dinner time” I personally base my livefood purchases around locusts with standard crickets being more of a treat than anything else.

One final example is that some very small exotic pets – hatchling tarantulas, froglets and so on – require very small insects to eat. Pinhead crickets are a common suggestion, closely followed by fruit flies. But these can both be very difficult to work with as they easily and regularly escape.

However if you search around you can often find wingless fruit fly cultures for sale and these tiny insects offer just as much nutrition as standard fruit flies but as they have no wings they are unable to fly making them easier to handle.

So before you buy any livefood consider your options. You might be surprised by how much easier you can make your life by selecting the correct livefood to begin with.

Cool The Live Food Down

Insects are cold blooded so the warmer they are the more active they will become. And while your exotic pets will appreciate active insects trying to handle them yourself can be a challenge.

Therefore another trick can be to place your feeder insects in the fridge for a few minutes before you feed them to your pets. This will noticeably slow down their movements making them easier to catch and handle and then once they get into the warmth of your vivarium they will quickly start to speed back up again (well, until you pet gets hold of them anyway!)

Buy Live Food In Smaller Tubs

Many livefood suppliers offer varying sizes of livefood tubs and it’s tempting to go for a really big tub in order to try and get the best possible value for money.

Appreciate, however, that the more insects there are in a tub, the more likely it is that one will manage to escape when you take the lid off. And it is for this reason that it can sometimes actually make your life easier to buy a number of smaller tubs. Quite simply smaller tubs mean fewer insects which means fewer potential escapees.

Set Up A “Holding Tank”

For livefood which can jump – crickets and locusts being two perfect examples – the use of a “holding tank” can be useful. Rather than opening up a corner of your cricket tub to try and catch some insects it can be easier to place the whole tub into a larger container before removing the lid.

That way when you remove the lid, should any insects try to jump out and make a break for freedom they will still be safely contained and can be returned to the tub (or sacrificed first to set an example!).

Examples of containers that can be used include old aquariums or even the bathtub. Be aware that the container should have sides at least 30cm high and ideally more because a surprised cricket can jump an impressive distance into the air.

Use A Pooter

A pooter is a small piece of equipment for handling tiny insects so is an ideal way to deal with fruit flies and pinhead crickets. Quite simply it has two plastic tubes attached to a plastic holding vessel. You stick the end of one tube over an insect and suck hard on the end of the other one and the vacuum created sucks the insect into the plastic vessel in the middle. A small filter prevents you from sucking any insects into your mouth.

Once they are safely inside the plastic container at the centre you can simply remove the lid and tip the required number of insects into your exotic pet’s home. It is through the use of a pooter that I can quickly and efficiently feed hundreds of tarantula spiderlings in a very short space of time.

Getting Hands-On With Live Food

Let’s say the worst happens and a cricket or locust does escape from the tub. What next? I have personally found the following technique is the most effective for recapturing those little beasties.

Firstly, act quickly. Crickets in particular will quickly disappear under or behind furniture though locusts can be a bit slower to vanish out of sight.

As soon as you see an insect escape place a cupped hand over the top of them to contain them and gently curl your fingers up beneath your hand to contain them firmly but gently in the palm of your hand.

From here you can stick the forefinger and thumb of the other hand into the closed palm of your other hand to secure the insect.

Buy A Cricket Trap

Lastly if you suffer from regular escapes consider buying some cricket traps as available from many live food suppliers. These can be placed behind furniture to deal with any escaped insects and improves the chances of you getting a decent nights sleep undisturbed by either the non-stop chirping of a cricket out of arms reach or by nightmares about waking up to find the cricket in your bed.

Are there any tips you think we missed out? Anything you disagree with above? Why not leave your opinions in the comments form below…

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The Inside Track On Adopting A Pet Reptile http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/the-inside-track-on-adopting-a-pet-reptile/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/the-inside-track-on-adopting-a-pet-reptile/#respond Sun, 01 May 2011 09:56:09 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=324 Many people adopt dogs and cats but have you ever thought about adopting an exotic pet like a reptile or an amphibian? In this article we’re going to take a closer look at adoptions of exotic pets including why you might want to consider it, the downsides of adopting, my own experiences of giving exotics […]

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Many people adopt dogs and cats but have you ever thought about adopting an exotic pet like a reptile or an amphibian? In this article we’re going to take a closer look at adoptions of exotic pets including why you might want to consider it, the downsides of adopting, my own experiences of giving exotics a new home and how you can get started yourself.

For the purposes of this article I will be interchangeably using the words exotic pets, reptiles, amphibians and herptiles to describe the same animals. Whichever word I use I’m talking about exotics in general but merely using a select of words to make the article more readable. Onwards…

Why Are Herptiles Put Up For Adoption?

Exotic pets may be put up for adoption for a wide variety of reasons. One common reason is a personal change of circumstances. One unfortunate consequence of he exotic pet trade is that typically keepers don’t build an emotional bond with their reptiles. They may enjoy keeping them and may be fond of them but there is rarely a bond and this can make getting rid of a reptile easier than a cat for example.

Sometimes people move into a smaller home. Sometimes people get a new partner who dislikes exotics. Sometimes exotic pet keepers decide to start a family of their own a don’t want the risk of a large snake in their home while they have a baby.

So the easiest solution is to offer the animal for adoption.

There are of course other reasons. Sometimes the animals have become too large or aggressive for the original keeper to safely keep in their home though of course you could argue they should have done their research before buying the reptile in the first place.

A few exotic pets get lost by their owners and are then found and taken to an animal shelter and even a few sneak into the country in shipments of fruit.

So why don’t these reptiles get sold on through the pet trade rather than put up for adoption? Sometimes the owner needs a quick solution and waiting for an advert to go out and for people to come round and make a decision would take too long. Sometimes an animal is realistically not suitable for sale because of it’s temperament or large size. Sometimes an owner simply decides they’ve had enough of their pet and want out.

Whatever the reasons don’t make the mistake of assuming that either nobody puts herptiles up for adoption or that the only pets available to adopt aren’t worthy of sale. Some can be challenging but many have simply been unlucky.

Why Adopt A Reptile?

Adopting an exotic pet offers many of the same benefits of adopting a “standard” pet such as the ability to give a disadvantaged pet a new home and a new lease of life. It also means getting an exotic pet often for free allowing you to expand your collection without spending as much money.

But animal adoption also brings with it a number of potential downsides. Firstly exotic pets are put up for adoption for including the possibilities of behavioural problems or a large size.

Also don’t adopt an exotic pet just because it is free. It is important to realize that in many cases you will need to buy a new vivarium and kit it out fully so that the saving overall of being given an exotic pet is minimal. Even those reptiles that *do* come with a vivarium are often best rehoused as the old cage is too small, badly made, dirty etc. so always assume you’ll need a new cage and you won’t be disappointed.

Also appreciate that there are a vast number of different species and color-forms of exotic pet and when you’re adopting you need to take whatever you can get rather than being overly picky. Quite often the species available are the more common ones – corn snakes, bearded dragons and so on – because the rarer or more expensive species tend to be kept by more dedicated, experienced keepers who are less likely to get into a rehousing situation and who, if the worst happened, would be able to sell their pets for a significant sum of money.

But sometimes an unusual species turns up – particularly in the form of those that get into the country in fruit shipments and they may require considerable research before you can figure out what species they actually are and hence how they should be kept.

My Own Reptile Adoption Experiences

Over the years I have adopted a number of exotic pets including a Moorish gecko that came in on a banana ship, an iguana that had outgrown it’s previous owner and most recently a Cuban treefrogs – once again a fruit shipment escapee.

I have been lucky enough to be able to provide quite a few homes to herps over the years but one thing I have had in my favor is that over the years I have built up quite a collection of exotic pet equipment so I always have spare cages, heaters, lights and so on sitting around unused and this means I have been able to quickly set up a new vivarium when necessary.

Overall I have enjoyed the experience of adopting reptiles and giving them a new home and if you’re considering buying an exotic pet then I would strongly encourage you to consider adoption as a viable alternative to buying.

Where To Find Reptiles To Adopt

There are many places to find potential adoptions. One of those is to look in the classified section of your local newspaper and in pet shop windows. Look on the “for sale” sections of reptile discussion forums. Make yourself known at your local zoos, vets and exotic pet shops as someone who may be able to help take unwanted exotics off their hands.

Lastly there are a small number of charities that deal with exotic pet adoptions. Many are privately-run by one or two passionate individuals though here in the UK I have been lucky enough to be involved with the RSPCA Reptile Rescue centre in Brighton a few times and have taken a few specimens off them.

If you’re considering adoption the most important thing is to get immersed in the hobby and then keep your eyes and ears open. It’ll only be a matter of time until an opportunity arises.

Have you ever adopted an exotic pet? If so what have your experiences been? Are you considering adopting a reptile right now? If so how is your hunt going and is there any extra advice you’d like to see here in this article? Please leave me a comment in the section below and tell me more about your personal experiences in this department.

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Tips For Buying Exotic Pets From A Reptile Show http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/tips-for-buying-exotic-pets-from-a-reptile-show/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/tips-for-buying-exotic-pets-from-a-reptile-show/#respond Tue, 12 Apr 2011 09:45:22 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=326 Buying exotic pets from a pet shop gives you a degree of insurance in that if you have any problems at all you know exactly where to return to so you can either demand your money back or ask for advice. It’s also easy to ask around and get an idea of the reputation of […]

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Buying exotic pets from a pet shop gives you a degree of insurance in that if you have any problems at all you know exactly where to return to so you can either demand your money back or ask for advice.

It’s also easy to ask around and get an idea of the reputation of a shop before you actually go in and buy anything and furthermore a quick walk around the shop will quickly tell you if you have walked into a professional establishment or whether it’s run by cowboys who have no idea what they’re doing.

In short buying reptiles and amphibians from a pet shop is the safe option.

But buying reptiles and amphibians from exotic pet shows – now that’s a whole different kettle of fish. After all there’s no shop to look around. There’s no local people to check on the reputation of a seller. And at the end of the show the seller will go home leaving you holding whatever it is that you bought.

In other words buying exotic pets from a pet show offers far more risk.

But if it’s so much more risky why would anyone actually go to these reptile shows – and even more importantly why would anyone actually buy a live animal from one?

Reptile shows are exciting. You never quite know who you’ll bump into or what animals will be for sale. A building full of passionate reptile keepers and breeders can turn up all sorts of exciting specimens that youd struggle to find in a standard reptile shop.

There are also masses of animals for sale so if you’re looking to start breeding a species you can often find different sexes, sizes and blood lines of the same species and so come home with a “ready made” breeding project. Lastly, and just as importantly, the prices at reptile shows are often significantly less than at you would pay in a pet shop so you can often save yourself a considerable sum of money.

Personally speaking I think reptile shows are the best thing since sliced bread.

So if you’re considering going to a reptile show with money in your pocket what can you do to put yourself in the best position possible to make an intelligent buying decision?

Get Prepared

Never make a rushed decision when buying an exotic pet. That goes for buying from a reptile shop or from a show. Take your time to look around, carefully weigh up your options and never make an impulse buy. Better to miss out on something than hand over your money too soon only to discover later that you’re not capable of giving the animal the level of care it needs and deserves.

It also pays to go to a reptile show with a vivarium set up before you go – or at least to have all the equipment at home and ready to go. Sure, there are always surprises but if you go with a clear plan that you’d like to buy a corn snake and you have a vivarium all set up ready then not only will it reduce the chances of you coming back with something you didn’t intend but even more importantly you know that as soon as you get home you have all the housing set up and ready to go.

This not only makes your life easier but is also the best plan of action for any reptile you buy at the show. The sooner you can get them into a properly set up vivarium the happier and healthier they will be.

It’s also a good idea to take a few books with you in the car so that if necessary you can do a quick bit of swotting up on a species that interests you in order to gain a better understanding of it’s needs before making a buying decision.

Get To Know The Seller

Once you’ve found an animal you’re interested in don’t rush into a purchase. Instead take your time to get to know the seller a little bit. Ask about how long they have been breeding the species, how many young they produce and see if you can get their contact details incase of any questions in the future. If they’re open, chatty and honest then this is a very good sign in comparison to the person who avoids your gaze and tries not to answer your questions.

Ask The Right Questions

Take the time to ask the seller how they’re successfully keeping the species you’re considering. Keep poking questions at them until you’re confident you have a handle on the care of the pet you’re looking at. Ask about housing, feeding, handling and so on. Ask about lifespan, temperament and any common problems seen. Treat the seller as your “go to guide” for advice on the species and only seriously consider a purchase once you’ve gained the knowledge you need.

Get Hands On

Liking what you’re hearing so far? If so it may be time to actually consider a purchase. If more than one specimen is for sale then carefully weigh up the options and ask if you can have one or two out. Getting them out not only helps you ascertain their temperament but also allows you to do a basic health check to ensure you are getting a healthy specimen.

Ask About Reservation

Lastly once you’re confident you have a vivarium set up at home, that you have grilled the seller and got all the information you need and you’ve selected a healthy specimen you should either take the animal straight home to put in it’s new cage or ask the seller to hold onto it while you finish looking round the show rather than carting that new treefrogs or boa around the hustle and bustle of a busy reptile show.

In closing I should say that most reptile shows are very carefully regulated. Most of the sellers know each other (or at least know of each other) so the risk is far less than you might imagine. I have bought a number of exotic pets from shows over the years and have never had any problems with my purchases at all. If you’re considering visiting your first show then a little preparation and common sense will keep you safe and ensure you have the best day possible.

If you have been to a reptile show recently, what were your experiences? Are you a fan or would you never go back? Why not leave me a comment below with your own experiences of buying animals from reptile shows…

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How To Clean Out Your Exotic Pet http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/how-to-clean-out-your-exotic-pet/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/how-to-clean-out-your-exotic-pet/#respond Mon, 04 Apr 2011 10:01:30 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=322 One of the benefits of exotic pets are that the vast majority make very little mess on a weekly basis. Certainly terrapins (turtles to our American readers) can quickly make a mess of their water but for those of us keeping tarantulas, snakes, lizards and the like we tend to have quite an easy life […]

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One of the benefits of exotic pets are that the vast majority make very little mess on a weekly basis. Certainly terrapins (turtles to our American readers) can quickly make a mess of their water but for those of us keeping tarantulas, snakes, lizards and the like we tend to have quite an easy life in terms of cleaning.

Cleaning out exotic pets can be broadly split into two kinds of job – the spot clean and the full clean.

The spot clean is the kind of maintenance that can and should be done on a regular basis. My royal python, for example, only defecates once every week or so and because of this my typical spot cleaning involves carefully removing the faeces as they are deposited by picking them up in a plastic bag, turning the bag the right way, tying it at the top and putting it in the bin.

Occasionally during feeding a little mess will be created – such as blood dripping on the substrate but I then just follow the same procedure to remove any obviously-soiled substrate. Every so often my snake moults and I remove the skin as soon as I see it.

That’s the full gamut of most of my cleaning routine. A couple of minutes a few times a week cleaning individual problems up and leaving the tank in a clean and hygienic state.

Doing these regular spot cleans as you see a problem will significantly cut down on the other type of cleaning necessary and will also keep your cage looking (and smelling) nicer for longer.

The other type of cleaning is the full clean where every part of the cage gets attention and that’s what I’d like to discuss in a little more detail below so you can see just how much more work this is and therefore why spot cleaning is so important to save you from this job for as long as possible.

Here is the process in detail as I do it:

1) Remove Exotic Pet

Firstly remove your exotic pet from their vivarium. Doing this ensures you can complete freedom over the rest of the process and so makes things much easier than trying to clean around your pet.

The whole cleaning process can take quite some time depending on the condition of the vivarium, the size of the housing and the time of year (which will affect drying temperatures) so you need to put your exotic pet somewhere that it will be safe and secure for a period of time.

For this purpose I generally keep a range of old vivariums, tubs and containers of assorted sizes that cover the full range of my livestock collection. I place the animal in, secure the lid, place the container in a warm place and cover it with a towel so that my movements as I go about my work won’t stress them.

2) Remove All Vivarium Decor And Clean

Once the animal is secured I remove all the vivarium decor such as rocks, wood, the water bowl, any hides, fake plants and so on. Using a new toothbrush and a bucket of reptile-safe detergent I scrub each item to within a inch of it’s life to remove any faeces, blood, dirt or bacteria that may be present, rinse them thoroughly and set them down to dry naturally.

This is an ideal point to discuss how many household chemicals can be tremendously dangerous to exotic pets and so you need to keep these as far away from your pet and it’s vivarium as possible. It is therefore a smart idea to go and buy brand new equipment the first time you clean out your exotic pet and then use a marker pen to write on the outside of them so you know that they have never been used for household chemicals.

The most important parts of your cleaning kit are going to be a plastic bucket or two, a dustpan and brush and a firm brush such as a toothbrush, together with some cloths for wiping the cage.

Never, ever try to use household chemicals for cleaning your exotic pets. No bleach. No glass polish. No washing up liquid. Use only detergents from a specialist exotic pet store designed specifically for reptiles and amphibians. OK, rant over 🙂

3) Remove Vivarium Substrate And Dispose Of

Next up I get rid of all the vivarium substrate. The easiest way I have found of doing this is to use a dustpan to scoop it up then place it into a bin bag. This can either be disposed on in the bin or put on your compost heap if you have used a natural substrate. Typically you will be left with some fine dust at the bottom of the vivarium and this can easily be removed with a vacuum cleaner.

4) Clean Inside Of Vivarium Including Glass

Next grab your clean cloths and your reptile-safe cleaning spray and get to work wiping down every surface inside the vivarium. Every bit of wall, glass, every fitting, nook and cranny. We want the anti-bacterial formula of the cleaning detergent worked into every area of the cage to fully sanitize it.

5) Allow Vivarium To Dry Thoroughly

By now you should be ready for a short break. Making yourself a cup of coffee or tea at this point is ideal because you now need to wait for the vivarium itself and all the decor which have been thoroughly washed to dry out naturally. You don’t want to be putting your exotic pet back into a cage still damp with the detergent no matter how “reptile safe” it is. Once you’re confident that everything is dry you can move onto the next step.

6) Check Vivarium For Issues

Take the opportunity while the vivarium is empty to check it over carefully for any potential problems. Is the wood warped? Are the electrical fittings in good condition and are they where they should be or have things moved? Do the doors/lid still fit securely? Are there any gaps or holes appearing anywhere? If so, resolve these issues before putting the vivarium back into use.

7) Replace Substrate

Grab a new bag of substrate and fill up the base of the vivarium so that it looks just like it did before you started.

8) Replace Vivarium Decor

Put all the decor back into the cage, changing the layout where necessary based on how your exotic pet uses the vivarium.

9) Replace Exotic Pet

Lastly when the vivarium is fully clean and has been set back up with all the heating and lighting working properly you can gently replace your exotic pet. Don’t be surprised if your pet either spends a lot of time exploring or hides away for a while. The vivarium will likely smell – and possibly even look – rather different and so your pet may behave a little strangely at first as they get used to the changes.

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Free Exotic Pet Supplies Ebook http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/free-exotic-pet-supplies-ebook/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/free-exotic-pet-supplies-ebook/#respond Wed, 09 Feb 2011 14:02:35 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=303   Interested in keeping exotic pets but confused by all the equipment and exotic pet supplies available? Then fortunately help is at hand… The Insiders Guide To Exotic Pet Supplies has been written specially for people just like you who are starting to get into the wonderful world of exotic pets but don’t know where […]

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Interested in keeping exotic pets but confused by all the equipment and exotic pet supplies available? Then fortunately help is at hand…

exotic pet suppliesThe Insiders Guide To Exotic Pet Supplies has been written specially for people just like you who are starting to get into the wonderful world of exotic pets but don’t know where to start.

In this comprehensive guide you’ll learn all about the different types of housing available, how best to heat and light your cage, all about monitoring and maintaining humidity and overall how to set up the perfect home for the exotic pet you’re considering.

Best of all The Insiders Guide To Exotic Pet Supplies is now available free of charge. To download your own copy all you need to do is to click the link below to visit our Facebook page and then click the “like” button at the top of the page. As soon as you’ve done that you’ll be given instant access to your ebook.

Click here now to download your free copy of The Insiders Guide To Exotic Pet Supplies

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Vitamin Supplements For Insect-Eating Exotic Pets http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/understanding-vitamin-supplements-for-insect-eating-exotic-pets/ http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/understanding-vitamin-supplements-for-insect-eating-exotic-pets/#respond Sat, 08 Jan 2011 14:27:54 +0000 http://www.keepingexoticpets.com/?p=268 In order to give your exotic pet as varied and nutritious a diet as possible it is wise to consider adding vitamin supplements to the diet of insect-eating species. Feeding nothing but crickets for months or years on end risks nutrient deficiencies which the popular supplements on the market help to avoid. In general there […]

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In order to give your exotic pet as varied and nutritious a diet as possible it is wise to consider adding vitamin supplements to the diet of insect-eating species. Feeding nothing but crickets for months or years on end risks nutrient deficiencies which the popular supplements on the market help to avoid.

In general there are three main ways to give vitamin supplements to your exotic pets – water-based supplements, gut-loaded supplements and dusting supplements – and the aim of this article to discuss the benefits and problems of each of these kinds of supplement to help you make a better decision about which form will be best for you and your pets.

Water-Based Vitamin Supplements

Just as they sound, water-based vitamin supplements are a liquid form of supplementation. You simply add a few drops of the supplement into your exotic pet’s water and when they drink they also receive some additional vitamins.

The problem that I see with this method is that your pet’s water should be changed daily and your pet should also have water available at all times and these two factors combined means that you end up throwing out a lot of water – and with it – a lot of supplement.

Combine this with the fact that many exotic pets such as most chameleons and a wide range of geckos will rarely or never drink from a water bowl if it is present in the cage and there are further potential problems with this technique.

While there are situations in which water-based liquid vitamin supplements can be useful for exotic pets I think there are better solutions for the hobbyist.

Gut Loading Supplements

The next way to supplement the diet of your exotic pets is through the use of “gut loading”. When you buy livefood from a pet store – locusts, crickets, mealworms etc. – they typically come in a small tub with some bran in the bottom as a basic source of food. Clearly bran isn’t the most nutritious of foods and so when it actually comes to feeding the insects to your pet there is a risk that they won’t be as nutritious as they could be.

This can certainly be improved by offering a range of food types to your livefood before feeding 0- and indeed I have even found this can be helpful for keeping your livefood alive for longer periods of time. I like to use a range of fruits and vegetables such as apple, carrot and cabbage for feeding my livefood but all the same I think gut-loading can be a good idea.

Gut-loading supplements typically come in powder form. You mix up a little of the powder with some water to make a porridge-like paste and then feed this to your livefood. In this way when your exotic pet eats the insect they will also get a shot of the vitamin-enriched supplement still in the insect’s gut – hence the phrase “gut loading”.

I have personally found though that this “paste” can quickly dry out – particularly in the warmer months – turning into something akin to concrete which has to be thrown away several times a day. Once again this means more wastage and lost money though from a purely supplemental point of view you know your pet is going to eat the insects you give them so there is a far greater chance of your pet getting the nutrition it needs with this method in comparison to water-soluble vitamin supplements.

Dusting Supplements

Rather than gut-loading supplements where the supplement is within the body of the livefood dusting supplements work the other – way they are on the outside of the insects.

Before feeding your exotic pets you place the livefood you will be giving into a plastic bag or small plastic box with some dusting supplement and shake them gently so they get a decent coating on the powder in their bodies and then to feed them to your pets.

In this way your exotic pets get a decent dose of vitamins as soon as they eat the insects you give them and little or none is wasted as it is all on the insects. Any excess supplement will remain in the bag and can simply be reused next time.

Now there are still a number of potential downsides to dusting supplements. Firstly you need to feel comfortable handling the live insects in the first place to be able to transfer them into the bag for “dusting” and additionally many insects will try to groom themselves and remove the dust from their surface so this method works best if you use it immediately before feeding and your pets eat all the insects quickly.

So what is the best method of all? As you can see there are strengths and weaknesses to each method but in terms of being certain your exotic pets have received suitably supplementation and in terms of minimizing waste my own preference is to use dusting supplements rather than one of the other options.

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