Reptiles make great pets for beginners. With the proper knowledge and understanding of the different life cycle phases, owning a reptile can be a very rewarding experience. From hatching to adulthood, reptiles require very specific care to ensure a happy and healthy life. It is important to research what kind of reptile is best for your lifestyle, especially if you are a beginner.

Habitat Basics for Beginners

A proper habitat for some reptiles cost considerably more than the actual reptile. When you are a beginner, consider all costs of care before bringing your new pet home. Unlike dogs and cats, most reptiles become extremely stressed and don’t adapt well when changing environments. Research your species, and get the proper substrate for its habitat. A desert reptile, like the bearded dragon, need a completely different environment than newts and salamanders. They would not thrive in a wetland type environment.

The habitat must provided enough room for your reptile to roam, eat, live and develop naturally. If you have young children, make sure the habitat is equipped with a lock. Enclosures need to be secure from top to bottom, so carefully check for gaps before introducing the reptile to its new home.  Reptiles can easily escape if their home is not secure!

Habitat Decor

Captive reptiles need a sense of security and this is easily achieved with the right decor. Include rocks, shrubs, limbs, branches and artificial trees to make your reptile feel right at home. These items provide a resting area and create a more natural and secluded environment. Although social, reptiles like to hide away and rest beneath shrubs and branches. Decorations not only provide security, but also a more ornamental and visually appealing enclosure.

Heating & Lighting

The proper heating and lighting is crucial for keeping a healthy reptile in captivity. If you’re a beginner, this element is extremely important to understand the exact needs of your reptile before considering which systems to use.

Most enclosures can be heated by a single incandescent bulb and dome. A series of lights, heat rocks or pads, spot lights and dark or infrared lights also work well. All lights, bulbs and lamps should be of the proper wattage based on the size of the enclosure and type of reptile. You would not want to heat a 55 gallon enclosure with a single 50 watt bulb for a Bearded Dragon. This doesn’t provide enough heat or light the reptile needs to survive. In this case, a 100 watt basking or “focused” bulb with a separate UV lighting system is appropriate. Improper lighting causes indigestion, loss of appetite, paralyses, illness and in most cases, death.

The lighting system or dome should be arranged in or on your enclosure to provide maximum efficiency and comfort for the reptile. A standard enclosure for most reptiles contains a spot or basking light. This is a light used to obtain a “hot spot” within your enclosure. It should aim atop of a flat rock or heat rock. This will ease the reptile into one specific spot of its enclosure to soak up warmth. Basking refers to when an animal lounges (on or under a heat source) to absorb warmth and light.Basking raises its bodily temperature to an optimum level to mate, defecate or hunt for prey. At the other end of the enclosure, create a cooling area where your pet can retreat from the heat when needed.

Additional Care

When you are a beginner, this may seem overwhelming. Our goal at PetSolutions is to help educate you and prepare you for a rewarding experience with your pet. We love reptiles and have just a few more points to cover with you!

A water dish needs to be in the enclosure at all times. Water must be easily recognizable and kept clean and fresh for your pet. All snakes, turtles, some tortoise and most lizards rely on a water dish to drink and soak. Soaking is most common when your reptile is shedding or close to its shedding cycle. Water bowls also play an intricate role in raising and lowering the humidity within any enclosure. If your humidity is too high, place a small bowl of water at the coolest part of your cage. If you wish to raise the humidity, place a larger bowl of water at the hottest or hotter part of the enclosure. NOTE: Do not place any water dish directly under basking light!

Some reptiles also need a daily misting. As stated previously, make sure to spray away from the enclosure lights, to prevent malfunction, cracks, or even a bulb to shatter! Additionally, its a good idea to keep the water bowl away from these lights as well. If water bowls are left under the direct lighting for prolonged periods of time, the evaporation can cause steadying cracking and ware on the bulbs.

Feeding Your Reptile

Food must be species appropriate and contain the proper nutrients including calcium and vitamin D3. A poorly fed or sick insect offers little to no nutritional value when fed to your reptile. Feed or “gut load” your insects before feeding them to your reptile, as this insures a high nutritional value and mineral enriched diet. You can find commercial cricket diets in pet stores and use them as a supplement for gut loading.

Some reptiles consume larger meals like small rodents. We recommend feeding frozen meals to protect your pet from unnecessary stress or injury during dinner time.

There are many vitamins available to make sure your reptile is getting everything that it needs. Reptivite and Reptocal, contain vitamin D3 vitamin A and C, Calcium and low quantities of phosphorus. All reptiles need to be supplemented with calcium and vitamin D3. Lack of vitamins and calcium can result in deprivation and causes paralyses in the tail and back legs.

In Conclusion

You can expect your reptile to be shy for the first few days.  During this period you should not handle your reptile in any way! It’s this period of time which is most important for your reptile to adapt to its new environment. As a beginner, it is important for you to hold off on handling your pet right away, especially within the first 24 hours. After the first few days, take gradual steps in handling your new pet.

Always make your pet feel comfortable and never restrained. When reptiles feel restrained, their instincts kick in. Your pet may feel as if it is being dominated or even eaten. This causes reptiles to lash out violently or offensively. Always approach a reptile from the side and grasp it gently but firmly enough that it won’t be able to jump and injure itself. Being approached from above can insinuate a predator and cause your pet to run or act defensively. Always wash your hands carefully after handling or feeding to prevent spread of the salmonella virus. As a reminder, your reptile is still a wild animal and should be respected and handled with care.

About The Author Giselle Rodriguez

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