Reptile Pet Guide
Each species of reptile has very specific requirements in order for them to lead healthy and happy lives. Please be sure to thoroughly research your specific pet's requirements and remember there are no short cuts to optimal husbandry. Below are a few basic topics regarding general husbandry, but they are by no means comprehensive. Check out our links to the various Herpetological Associations in South Africa and abroad. Members of these associations are fountains of knowledge and generally only too happy to help with advice or information.
WHAT THEY NEED
A larger habitat is always preferred. Larger habitats allow you to set up a more effective thermal gradient. However be aware that certain species prefer smaller more secure environments especially as hatchlings and neonates and may not feed if they are placed directly into a large enclosure.
Reptiles are cold-blooded animals, so they are unable to regulate their body temperatures on their own, this is why a heating source is critical. A wide range of reptile heating devices including light bulbs, pads, tubular heaters, under-tank heaters, ceramic heating elements and basking lights are available to regulate the temperature environment for your new reptile. You'll need to research your particular species to determine your herp’s optimal requirements. "Basking" reptiles move in and out of sunlight to gain the heat they need, which is their form of thermoregulation. A basking lamp set up on one end of their terrarium will give your pet a temperature gradient that will allow them access to heat for digestion purposes and a cooler area for sleeping or resting. Be sure the low ambient temperature doesn't fall below the optimal low-end of your pet's ideal temperature range even with all the lights off. Ceramic heating elements and under tank heaters are advantageous because they maintain heat without the need to keep the light on 24 hours a day.
Depending on the reptile you have, they may require different amounts of humidity or need different methods utilised to introduce moisture into their environment. Tropical Iguanas and other similar species require high humidity levels to maintain their health. Many different types of Chameleons rely on droplets of water on foliage or the sides of their habitats to drink rather than standing water. Every species has preferences when it comes to moisture, so become familiar with what types of moisture your pet will need and what equipment you will need to provide. Moisture levels are controlled by ventilation, temperature and the introduction of water into the atmosphere. You can raise the humidity level by spraying the air with water frequently or by providing a source of standing or running water. Use a hygrometer in your pet's habitat to track humidity. You can maintain the appropriate level of humidity in your pet's habitat through humidifiers, misters and aeration devices. Decorative mini-waterfalls are growing more popular, not only to add interest to the vivarium set-up, but also to provide appropriate humidity levels.
Lighting is another factor that varies greatly by species. Lizards, such as Bearded dragons and Green Iguanas, require certain amounts of light exposure each day, while nocturnal reptiles require more subdued lighting. Basking species need special lamps, correct positioning and even specific light bulbs. They require vitamin D3, which they typically obtain from direct sunlight. D3 helps your lizard absorb calcium. Normal household light bulbs cannot provide this, so be sure you find an ultraviolet bulb suited to the specific reptile. Your reptile will need to get within 30 centimetres of the light. Be sure there is a barrier between your pet and the light to avoid the risk of burns.
Reptile Husbandry is an ever evolving science and new tips, tricks and ideas are being discovered every day. If you have any advice on reptile husbandry that you believe will benefit fellow keepers then please feel free to drop us an email and we will be sure to include it here.
It doesn't have to be a major discovery, it can be literally anything that you have found that has benefitted the reptiles under you care.
We look forward to hearing from you.
KINDS OF REPTILES
Scientists classify reptiles into four major groups known as "orders." These four reptile orders are as follows:
Crocodilia — crocodiles, gharials, caimans and alligators: 23 species
Sphenodontia — tuataras from New Zealand: 2 species
Squamata — lizards, snakes and amphisbaenids (worm-lizards): approximately 7,900 species
Testudines — turtles and tortoises: approximately 300 species
Association of Reptile Keepers KZN
African Snakebite institute
Clinical Toxinology Resources