Snakes, reptiles, turtles, tortoises and amphibians all fall into the general category of reptiles. Each has different requirements for housing, feeding and temperature. The purpose here is to provide our customers with an overview of the necessary requirements of reptiles in general. Most people own, or are at least familiar with, the more social pets. Cats, dogs and other mammals are the most common pets and enjoy handling. In fact, these pets do poorly if not given sufficient human contact – petting and playing are necessary. Reptiles fall into another category all together. In general, reptiles do not thrive on handling, since they are not as social as cats or dogs. Reptiles should only be handled in an effort to keep them tame since too much handling is stressful to them.
In general, it is probably best to keep reptiles in an aquarium. Ten gallon aquariums are good to start with, but remember that some reptiles (like snakes) will quickly grow beyond the dimensions of his size tank. The glass sides will help prevent injuries due to rubbing. A screen cover, along with locking tabs, is a necessity for all reptiles. Not only does it keep them in, but it also keeps other pets and curious fingers out. Most reptiles have different temperature requirements, but since they are cold blooded animals, they need a heat source that they can regulate. The easiest way to accomplish this is with a plug in electric stone that will provide a constant heat source. The reptile can then use this as a means of keeping his body at the best temperature. Incandescent reflectors are good for lighting, and will provide some heat, but since they should be turned off at night (because the reptile needs a day/night cycle as we do) they are less than adequate as a heat source. Something should be placed at the bottom of the aquarium. You should avoid anything that can absorb moisture – this would include cat litter, corn cob, etc. Products that absorb moisture could cause a potential bacterial build-up as moisture and excrement collect. This can be harmful to your pet. Remember, also, that these products may be taken in with the food and cause additional problems. The key to proper care is ease of cleaning – and keeping it that way. For this reason, products like newspaper, Astroturf or products designed for reptile environments will provide the best bedding. All are easy to keep clean – but Astroturf is more pleasant to look at.
When cleaning your reptile’s cage, use a diluted chlorine bleach solution (1 part of chlorine bleach to 30 parts of water). It is extremely important to remember, for the health of your pet, to make sure that the cage is always kept dry before returning your pet to it. This includes the aquarium itself and the bedding material that you washed. Pine-based products should be avoided because they are toxic to many types of reptiles. Clean water should always be available in a bowl, heavy enough so it cannot be tipped over. Your reptile should also have someplace where he can hide; a flower pot or a box. Some reptiles require a rock or a branch to rub against when shedding. Make sure these are large enough not to tip over when the reptile climbs on them.
As a rule, reptiles of the same type can live together, but to minimize problems, it would probably be best to keep them in separate cages. This avoids territorial battles and aids in cleaning. Preventatives and mediations are available when necessary. A clean, well-maintained cage is the best preventative and should provide you with a healthy, interesting pet that will live for many years.