Reptile or Amphibian: The Right Pet for You?
Reptiles and amphibians-affectionately called “herps,” from the Greek word for “creeping thing”-aren’t everyone’s idea of the perfect pet. They may not offer the affection or loyalty of a dog or cat, but if you’re looking for an unusual, challenging companion, a herp might be right for you.
What to Keep in Mind
- Which species of herps is it legal to keep in your area? Many jurisdictions ban the ownership of some exotic species, so do some research to make sure it’s legal to own the reptile or amphibian you have in mind.
- Do you have time, space, and money for a herp? They’re not cuddly, but reptiles and amphibians need constant care.
- You must be prepared to invest money in a proper terrarium and food, time to ensure your pet gets proper light and heat, and space if you choose a larger species like an iguana or python.
- Many reptiles can also live a long time, and you must not be squeamish about feeding your snake small animals.
- Are you prepared to take the necessary steps to avoid salmonella? With proper care it’s easy to prevent your reptile from spreading the disease, but you must inform yourself of the risks and be vigilant. Children under five and very ill people should avoid contact with reptiles.
- Terrarium: There are roughly three kinds of terrarium: desert, woodland, and aquatic. Which terrarium you create depends on what kind of herp you choose: is its natural habitat the water, the temperate or tropical forest, or the desert? Although the three environments are different, they all require a heat lamp, a basking area, a hiding place, a bottom covering, and a water source. The size of the terrarium should be appropriate for the size of your reptile or amphibian.
- Food: Different herps require very different kinds of food, and many species are notoriously picky eaters. If your pet eats insects, are you prepared to put up with constant cricket chirping? If your pet eats meat, are you prepared to feed it live or dead mice, rats or rabbits? If not, maybe you’d better go with a vegetarian species of turtle or lizard. Consult with an expert on your herp’s precise dietary needs.
Low Maintenance vs. High Maintenance – Good Beginner Species – Leopard Gecko
All pets require care, but the leopard gecko is one of the easiest reptiles to own. They are small, quiet, inexpensive to buy and maintain, and they don’t smell.
Corn snakes are beautiful, hardy creatures. They require food about once per week, and baby corn snakes become tame remarkably quickly.
Species for Experienced Owners – Iguana
Though common at pet stores, and cute as little babies, iguanas grow into massive lizards-as long as six feet! They require huge terrariums and are expensive to maintain.
Another massive species, Burmese pythons can grow to twenty feet and 200 pounds. Although relatively docile as pets, these are dangerous predators, so be careful.
While not all dart frogs are lethally poisonous, some can kill you if their toxic secretions enter your bloodstream. They are short-lived in captivity, and are definitely not ideal pets for cuddly owners.
Read more about the care and feeding of reptiles and amphibians: