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post #1 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-23-2012, 11:09 PM Thread Starter
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The Basics of Reptile Keeping

Keeping Reptiles Isn't Difficult, With The Right Equipment!

Most people who start out keeping reptiles will fail if they have not done advance research on the species they are trying to keep. This happens for a number of reasons. First, many owners ask pet stores for information on how to care for the animals they buy. Unfortunately, pet store workers, and even owners, may not know how to maintain the animals they sell, in the long term. You need to seek specialist information for that, just as you would for tropical or marine fish.

As the Reptile Nation has grown, more companies have created and marketed specialized products for keeping reptiles healthy and happy in captivity.

Here is a list of the basic requirements for keeping reptiles properly:

1) A controlled heat source. Reptiles come from different climates around the world. Because they are ectothermic, and don't generate their own body heat, it is essential that they be kept at the same temperatures they would be at in the wild. So, if a reptile comes from a tropical rainforest where the daytime temperatures are 80F to 85F, then that temperature range should be inside their cage as well. Tropical reptiles cannot tolerate cold--some reptiles from mountain regions or more northern regions cannot tolerate excessive heat. It is very important to know the temperature requirements of the species you are going to keep.

Use a thermostat or rheostat to adjust the temperature of your heating device. Some heating devices do a better job than others. For desert species, overhead heating works great, but it can be too drying for rainforest animals. Undertank heaters are recommended for many species. They can also be attached to the back of a tank for arboreal species. Radiant heat panels work well for arboreal species. Heat tape, heat cords, and ceramic heat elements can also be used. Use thermometers to test the temperatures in different places in the cage. A thermometer with a remote probe works best--the type that stick on the glass are not very accurate, as they may register the glass temperature instead of the air. Never use a heat pad, cord, or tape without a controlling device (rheostat or thermostat).

Most reptiles do best with a heat gradient. This means that one end of the cage is much warmer than the other end. The warm end has a basking area--temperatures are usually 10 or even 20 degrees hotter there than they are on the cool side of the tank. Care sheets for reptiles will include both an air temperature and a basking temperature, so you can adjust your cage's climate properly. This basking area allows reptiles to thermoregulate--that means they can adjust their body temperature. A reptile that has just eaten may want to warm up in order to digest its food. This is a more natural way of living, and it's healthier for the animal than simply keeping it at one set temperature.

Improper temperatures are hazardous to reptiles' health, which is why controlled heat ranks first on your equipment list. Reptiles kept too cold may become sick with various infections, as it compromises their immune system. Reptiles kept too hot may die of heat prostration or dehydration. Always check your temperatures and get the best equipment you can afford to keep them right.

2) Proper humidity levels. Some reptiles come from desert regions, where humidity is extremely low. In many cases, these reptiles will hide during the heat of the day in burrows, which may be cooler and damp inside. As a result, some desert species need to be provided with a humid hide--this is simply a plastic tub or cave that is completely enclosed, with an access hole on top that they can climb in and out of. It should contain damp sphagnum moss or paper towel, and be cleaned and changed regularly. Not all desert species require this.
Some reptiles come from tropical rainforest regions with a high humidity. Humidity levels over 80% are needed to keep some animals well-hydrated and healthy. Low humidity can be devastating to these species. There are devices now on the market for raising and regulating humidity. For high-humidity species, an ultrasonic fogger such as a ReptiFogger can be used, along with a hygrostat which will turn the device on and off to meet a set humidity level, can be the ideal solution. Some species need more air flow than others, so make sure you check care requirements carefully for the species you want. It can be tough to keep a high humidity and temperature along with a high airflow in some climates.

3) Lighting. Most species need 12 hours of sunlight and 12 hours of night in order to sleep properly. As a general rule, animals that are nocturnal do not need any special lighting. You can use the same lighting you would for your home. Animals that are diurnal (awake during the day), however, DO need special lighting. These animals require a special spectrum of light from the sun called UVB. This allows them to manufacture vitamin D in their skin, and is essential to their health. These special lights are sold at most pet stores. Follow the instructions on the light carefully, as several different types are now available. Make sure that it says "UVB", and not just "UV". UVB lights may be fluorescent or mercury-vapor, but are never incandescent. Place them at the correct distance from basking areas so that the reptiles will be exposed to the UVB light while they bask. Most snakes do not require UVB lighting. Many lizards and all turtles and crocodilians do require it. If you like, you may use UVB lighting for a species that does not require it. Doing so will will benefit it, even though it isn't necessary.

4) Proper cage size. Some species require much larger cages than others, and the size of the animal does not always dictate the size of the cage needed. For example, a single grandis day gecko requires the same amount of space as a ball python, despite the huge difference in their size. Make sure that your cage is larger for very active, diurnal animals, and smaller for sedentary, nocturnal species. Some reptiles actually will not thrive in a cage that is too large for them. This may be because they live in burrows or enclosed areas in the wild, and find open space intimidating. Other species are so active, they need a very large cage to avoid being stressed. Naturally, make sure your cage is secure, and can be locked or latched tightly. Snakes can be very strong. Some types of cages can be kept humid more easily than others, so take that into consideration as well.

5) Hides. Reptiles are usually prey animals, in the wild. They need shelters in order to feel secure. They can be stressed (which will compromise their immune system and health) if they have no where to flee to and hide from danger. Many reptiles, especially snakes, will spend a majority of their time in hiding, venturing forth only to seek out food and water. Place appropriately-sized hiding boxes or caves on each side of the cage. This allows the reptile to hide in a hotter area or a cooler one, as it chooses, and it doesn't have to trade safety for comfort. If you want to see your reptile more often, choose a species that spends less time in hiding--don't try to force a shy species out into the open.

6) Water source. Every animal needs water. A very few desert species get virtually all of their water from the food they eat, but for most species, you will need to provide them with a shallow dish of clean water. Some species need more--a deeper pool of water that they can swim in. This must be kept scrupulously clean. Filtration can help with aquatic species, but you will need some truly LARGE filters to do a proper job of it. Many species of arboreal lizards will not drink water from a dish. They must be sprayed with a mister once or twice each day, so they can drink from the water droplets. Automatic misting systems can help with this, if you do not have time or feel that you might forget. Set up on a timer, these systems are not inexpensive, but they will make caring for these species much easier.

7) Cage furniture.
Some species are 'fossorial'. This means they live underground. Fossorial species need something they can burrow into, to hide, in the cage. This can be soil or coconut fiber, aspen shavings, or sand. Sand can be hazardous to some species, so do your research before you decide to use it. Fossorial species should have everything they require placed on the floor of the cage, and do not generally need any branches. Live plants may be dug up, so using fake ones may be a better choice.
Some species of reptiles are 'terrestrial'. This means they live on the ground. Newspaper, slate, cage carpet, soil or coconut fiber, aspen shavings, or bark can be used for terrestrial species. Sand (even calcium sand) is not recommended for the majority of terrestrial species, as they may eat it, and develop an intestinal impaction. For desert species, pieces of wood and bark and plastic plants can be used. For temperate or tropical species, live low-growing plants and large sturdy branches placed low down in the cage will provide a more natural environment.
Some species or reptiles are 'arboreal'. This means they live up in bushes and trees. Newspaper, slate, cage carpet, soil, coconut fiber, aspen, or bark can be used. Of course, arboreal species aren't often found in deserts, so sand is not appropriate for them. Several sturdy climbing branches should be used, including one that is only a short distance below the basking lamps or UVB light. Live plants of various kinds can be used for most species, as can plastic plants. Provide plenty of climbing space and foliage to make them comfortable. Food and water dishes may need to be placed elevated, as some species don't like to set foot on the ground.

That's really all you need! Wasn't that easy? Just make sure you have the right combination for the species you are keeping!
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post #2 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-24-2012, 12:45 AM
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also be prepared to have many people disagree on what is right for your reptile. Temps, food, lights, and cage

keeping many reptiles from different parts of the world is relitively new and many people are just figuring out what makes them thrive.

For a long time people fed iguanas meat, because they will eat it, appear to crave it once they've had it and so forth. But their life spans were around 9 years in captivity, Once studied in the wild where they found their life spans were on average 20 years and above they found that they are 100 percent herbivores

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post #3 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-24-2012, 02:38 AM Thread Starter
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It's best to side with the most authoritative source, when that happens. Breeders, zoos, and herp specialist vets are the most trustworthy sources. Other experienced keepers, general vets, and online care sheets come next in line. Newer keepers (or those with few animals), and pet stores, should probably be discounted.

For books, check reviews--those 'in the know' will have written positive or negative reviews, and will tell you which ones are worth buying.

Whichever source you use, be sure that you don't rely on just ONE--compare notes between several different sources. If they all agree, you can generally rely on that information. Stay on top of new information for your chosen species.

If you are brand new to reptile keeping, you should start with a well-established species with time-tested care requirements, and not a species that has needs that have not yet been worked out. Always buy captive-bred. Leave wild-caught animals to experts, no matter how 'cool' the animals look.
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post #4 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-24-2012, 07:26 PM
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.,oh I never know this, thanks for sharing this info about basics of keeping reptiles.


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post #5 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-25-2012, 07:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WingedWolfPsion View Post
Leave wild-caught animals to experts, no matter how 'cool' the animals look.
Which means many to most gecko species, almost all anoles, green snakes, most frog and toad species, and about half the tortoise species, etc....although many of these animals can be captive-bred, the work and cost involved vs the cost of wild-caught specimens results in the latter being almost the only ones available.

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post #6 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-25-2012, 08:19 PM Thread Starter
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Which means many to most gecko species, almost all anoles, green snakes, most frog and toad species, and about half the tortoise species, etc....although many of these animals can be captive-bred, the work and cost involved vs the cost of wild-caught specimens results in the latter being almost the only ones available.
Well...I would say 'some' gecko species, not most. These days, most gecko species available are captive-bred, including leopard geckos, fat-tails, pictus, crested and gargoyle geckos, and most Phelsuma day geckos. You can even find captive-bred tokay geckos readily.
There are tons of other rhacodactylus geckos available as captive-bred, as well.

Most dart frogs these days are captive bred, as are most red-eyed tree frogs, and 'pacman' frogs, but you're right about the rest of those, and about the tortoises.

Most of the lower dollar value animals--house geckos, anoles, long-tailed grass lizards, etc--are wild-caught. You will have to search a long time to find captive-bred specimens available, but it's NOT impossible.

If you don't know whether an animal is captive-bred, ASK. Never buy a reptile from a pet store, unless it is a specialty pet store with an absolutely pristine reputation.
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post #7 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-29-2012, 09:16 AM
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Well...I would say 'some' gecko species, not most. These days, most gecko species available are captive-bred, including leopard geckos, fat-tails, pictus, crested and gargoyle geckos, and most Phelsuma day geckos. You can even find captive-bred tokay geckos readily.
There are tons of other rhacodactylus geckos available as captive-bred, as well.
You are talking about perhaps 60 out of 1500 species...most species are not CB.

Quote:
Most dart frogs these days are captive bred, as are most red-eyed tree frogs, and 'pacman' frogs, but you're right about the rest of those,
Again, maybe 60 out of 5000 species. Most species of a very few genera, but that is a very long way from 'most' species.

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post #8 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-29-2012, 11:06 AM Thread Starter
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Well, ok, then--most species IN THE TRADE...
Most species of reptiles, you will never even chance to see on any import lists, much less in a pet store.
Out of the species that are commonly available, most now in the US are captive-bred.
You may see some more unusual reptiles in pet stores that aren't available captive bred, but not very often--most pet stores now stick with cbb stock (or ch stock), too, apart from the few exceptions mentioned.
Anything else, you'd have to go straight to importer lists.

When I said most species were available captive bred, I did not mean 'out of all species in the world', I meant 'out of all species in your local pet stores and reptile expos', lol.
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Well, ok, then--most species IN THE TRADE...

When I said most species were available captive bred, I did not mean 'out of all species in the world', I meant 'out of all species in your local pet stores and reptile expos', lol.
Actually, even still....trust me on this, I see about 30 dealer lists weekly, as well as being more connected within the trade and culture than you likely can imagine (after 35 years in the biz, it is not difficult).

To be fair, almost all of the 30 most common species of gecko in the trade are 95%+ captive bred, but there are a good 100 species of gecko commonly available in the trade....the same is true of anurians. For instance, despite many species of Uroplatus now being captive-bred, the vast majority of available specimens are wild-caught.

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post #10 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-30-2012, 08:16 PM Thread Starter
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True, but I was speaking of the availability of captive-bred, rather than the prevalence.

You must admit that things have vastly improved, and that the number of WC animals offered in pet stores has plunged. There's still plenty of room for improvement, but the bulk of available reptiles (in numbers of individuals, rather than in species variety) are now CBB.
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post #11 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-31-2012, 05:06 PM
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Another thing you need to think about is what are common problems for each reptile similar to what issues come with breeds of dogs. My iguana got cancer at 4 years old. and had to be put to sleep.

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post #12 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-31-2012, 05:55 PM Thread Starter
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I'm very sorry to hear that. I have not heard of any species of reptile being particularly prone to cancer, but of course, any animal may develop cancer.

Here are a few tips that come to mind:

Day geckos of the Phelsuma genus have delicate, thin skin that can tear easily, so they should be handled very carefully.

Water dragons, basilisk lizards, and sailfin dragons are all prone to nose-rubbing...they just can't understand glass, and will continually rub their face back and forth across it, trying to walk through. They should be prevented from doing this by placing a visual barrier on the lower part of the glass, or giving them a very large enclosure, as they will actually erode their face away if allowed to do it.

Certain morphs of leopard geckos have neurological or vision issues.
Certain morphs of ball pythons have neurological issues (mostly harmless, but somewhat bizarre to witness).
The above are directly tied to the mutation that creates the color or pattern change, so it is not the result of inbreeding, and cannot be bred out.

Reptiles are highly resistant to the effects of inbreeding, and no adverse effects have been noted when inbreeding some species for up to 10 generations, but most breeders will not inbreed for more than 3 generations, just in case.

While there are a few adverse genes floating around, the animals that carry them are removed from breeding programs when they're discovered, and they are fairly uncommon.

The reason reptiles seem so healthy is that they are not yet truly domesticated species, and wild animals with grave issues seldom survive. As a result, captive populations all originated with pretty healthy wild stock. Selective breeding for color and pattern is present in corn snakes and leopard geckos in particular, but in the majority of other species, is in its infancy...most fancy colors and patterns in reptiles are the result of single gene mutations, or combinations of single gene mutations. These colors can be produced readily with lots of outcrossing. Selective breeding for form, size, etc, is also in its infancy. As a result, there are few of what could be termed 'breeds' in any reptile species.

Every reptile species has a specific set of care requirements, in terms of cage size, humidity, temperature, and lighting. Some species are far more delicate, and exacting in their requirements, while others are hardy and forgiving of minor husbandry errors.
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post #13 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-31-2012, 11:07 PM
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Aparently cancer is fairly common near their vent in iguanas that are captive bred.

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post #14 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-01-2012, 09:26 AM Thread Starter
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Or perhaps farmed? Most iguanas, I think, still come from large iguana farms in El Salvador. I suppose it would make sense that they might have restricted gene pools, there, by now. They're called 'captive-bred' sometimes, but they spend their lives outdoors in large pens. Because it's more of a ranch than a facility, the term 'captive-farmed' is used to differentiate them from animals that are captive-bred in a home or reptile facility. There are a lot of South American iguana ranches producing them for pets, and for meat, just as alligators and turtles are farmed in the Southern US.

To be honest, it's the first I've heard of cancer in iguanas, and would be interesting to find out if it's just a vulnerability of the species, or if iguanas from certain origins are more susceptible. Iguanas have (thankfully) fallen out of favor as pet store mainstays, so I haven't really kept up on what's going on with them. They're huge, difficult to care for, and turn up in rescues more often than any other reptile than the red-eared slider turtle, though I understand it's not as bad as it used to be by far.
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post #15 of 20 (permalink) Old 02-01-2012, 12:20 PM
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They are indeed hard, but i loved kermit, she had her own bedroom. I will probably never have one again because i think i lucked out and got the easiest iguana ever. She was from Venezuela farm

The author of the ultimate green iguana manual's ig died from cancer at 5 years old as well. however his was male.

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