Reptile keeping in the home can be a fascinating experience for the whole family with a number of advantages over the keeping of more conventional pets. Relatively little space is required; accommodation can be aesthetically pleasing and the reptiles themselves are clean, quiet and non-
Although reptiles are non demanding pets it is still important to keep in mind their life span which can be from 15 (lizards) up to 75 years (carpet pythons) in captivity as they have no predators. The commitment level required includes feeding, upkeep of enclosures and regular handling to keep reptiles tame.
How many reptiles should I get?
How many pet reptiles you should keep depends on the size of the enclosure and your commitment to care. Usually housing lizards in pairs or more, is common however you should expect that they will breed if males and females are housed together. Snakes can be kept singularly, if you do decide to have two they would need to be separated into two enclosures if keeping a male and a female and only put together for breeding season (this is best left to the breeders only).
Licenses and Housing requirements
When choosing a reptile as a pet for you it is important to determine if the type or breed of reptile you wish to get requires a license to keep. Most pet shops or breeders can advise you on which reptiles require a license to keep and where to obtain one from. Persons over 18 years only can obtain a license.
Different reptiles require different housing setups, most snakes are tree climbers and lizards are ground dwellers. Reptiles require an enclosure large enough to meet its needs and most have special requirements of the height and length of the enclosure depending on the size the reptile will grow to and how many to be kept in there. The housing set up will need a heat source (reptiles absorb heat from environmental sources), humidity, light and landscape to recreate their natural environment. Generally the initial set up is the most costly, then maintenance is needed.
Captive bred snakes need to be fed dead laboratory rats or mice at different life stages depending on size, pet shops sell frozen rats and mice and they need to be defrosted prior to feeding your snake. Feeding snakes is usually only once every seven to ten days and possibly not at all over the winter months.
Most lizards eat insects including mealworms, crickets, locusts and fruit flies and some will also eat fruits and vegetables. All lizards are different so it is best to speak to pet shops and breeders first.
General health care
Snakes and lizards can play host to some parasites including mites, ticks and some types of worms however feeding laboratory raised food sources and keeping housing clean can minimize the introduction of at least some of them to your animal. Other problems that may occur could include bacterial diseases, respiratory infections and possible scale rot, however setting up your reptiles housing correctly and keeping it clean should prevent any of these happening.
Some other interesting facts about snakes and lizards is that they shed their skin as they grow. They shed or slough the outer layer of their skin following the production of a new one beneath it. Snakes skin usually comes off in one piece starting at the head coming off inside out like pulling off a sock from the top. Lizards skin comes off in large pieces.
Some snakes can go up to 12 months without food as long as they have access to fresh drinking water, it is because of this that snakes are a good option for people that have to go away regularly with work etc.
Snakes and lizards are fascinating and rewarding pets to keep and very interesting to learn about.
For more information a very informative Australian book is available; “Care of Australian Reptiles in captivity” by John Weigel.