Everything pet parents need for reptiles
Caring for reptiles can be a bit more involved than caring for other pets, but scaly creatures need love too. Reptiles are exotic pets, and ancestors of species that have walked the Earth for millions of years. Most reptiles are carnivores, meaning they prefer to hunt and eat live food—though some will also eat plants. And since reptiles are cold-blooded, they require heat sources to stay warm. Here’s everything you need to know about the basics of caring for your pet reptile.
Feeding your reptile
Just as there are many different families and breeds of reptiles—including lizards, snakes, and turtles—there are many varieties of reptile food. You should also keep a shallow dish of fresh drinking water in your reptile habitat at all times. Every reptile needs to stay hydrated under those heat lamps.
Live food such as mealworms and crickets best mimic the kind of food your reptile would eat in the wild. Snakes also like to eat mice, which can be purchased fresh or frozen. For any reptile, chasing dinner is a stimulating, natural behaviour which is important for their well-being.
In addition to letting your reptile run after its food, you may also want to consider calcium supplements as part of a live food diet so your turtle gets all her shell-fortifying nutrients, for example.
You can get freeze-dried mealworms and crickets if you prefer your pet’s dinner to stay still.
Other packaged food includes pellets, which provide more essential nutrients than bugs alone.
In addition to food for your reptile, there is also food for your reptile’s food—fruit snacks for live feeding ensures your reptile is hunting a well-fed, well-nourished snack. These are called gut-loaded insects. Fresh food is a nice addition to some reptile diets, since your pet isn’t eating as much variety as they would in the wild.
Ask our in-store Animal Care Experts about food options
Each reptile’s tastes are different. Bearded Dragons shouldn’t have citrus fruits, though other types of fruit are enjoyed. Turtles love lettuce, flowers, and other leafy greens. And Leopard Geckos don’t eat fruit or vegetable matter at all. These tiny lizards are insectivores and only eat insects. Stop by one of our stores to chat about options.
Building a reptile habitat
It’s a common misconception that reptiles don’t need a lot of space. There are some exceptions like small lizards and turtles which can live in smaller terrariums, but geckos and iguanas do much more than lie around on rocks. Geckos are nocturnal, so while you may not see them move around much during the day, they can be very active at night and need enough room to move around. As a general rule, choose a 20-gallon terrarium for a gecko, at minimum. Even snakes can be very active, so pick the biggest habitat that works for your space and your reptile’s needs.
These come in several sizes and some have features like large sliding glass doors for easy access.
Starter kits come fully outfitted with supplies like thermometers, lamps, bulbs, water conditioner and water dishes.
If you prefer to shop for items separately, check out reptile habitat accessories and decor to add that personal touch with succulents and rock caves.
No matter what, you’ll need reptile heating and lighting for your cold-blooded creature. Reptiles can become hypothermic without a proper heat source. Most reptiles require UVA and UVB lights that mimic the sun’s rays, as well as a heat source.
These are an important part of any habitat. Consider the following when looking for substrate or bedding:
This dry material—such as coconut husk, desert sand, forest bark, or walnut shells—absorbs moisture.
Lots of reptiles are desert dwellers and can’t handle much humidity.
Substrate and bedding also provides enrichment by fostering natural behaviours like digging and burrowing.
Choose the right substrate from your reptile’s natural environment. Desert sand is great for Bearded Dragons, whereas coconut husks work well for toads and Rainbow Boas.