September 25, 2017

Choosing A Pet Reptile: Five Factors To Consider

Thinking about adding a pet reptile to your home? Reptiles make great pets, especially for people who lack free time or travel often. Many of them require minimal care and they don't mind being left on their own - most prefer it that way! It's important to always research new pets, however, even if they're classified as "beginner" reptiles. There are a few points to consider when deciding which species to bring home.


Choosing A Pet Reptile: Five Factors To Consider



While there are plenty of reptiles that can live in smaller set-ups, it's a good idea to consider the size of the reptile's enclosure. This becomes especially important if you're working with limited free space. One trap that many people fall into is to base their decision on the current size of the animal. Instead, make sure you research the proper cage dimensions for an adult of that species.

A bearded dragon hatchling can live in a 10-gallon aquarium but not for long! Young reptiles tend to grow quickly and many of them need larger enclosures as adults. That same bearded dragon, for example, will require an enclosure about the size of a 60-gallon tank once full-grown - and that's the minimum.

If space is a problem, consider an animal that stays small. Leopard geckos, crested geckos, green anoles, and Kenyan sand boas are all great choices that can comfortably live in a 20-gallon aquarium as adults. While not technically a reptile, the Pacman frog is another option for families looking for a smaller species.



If you're hoping to regularly observe your pet, take their activity level into consideration. There are some very cool-looking reptiles out there that kind of just...hide. I ran into this issue with a cane toad. He was huge and very docile. After I brought him home, though, I only saw him at feeding time. He'd hide under a log all day and night, only venturing out briefly to capture a cricket or two.

This is also a common complaint with ball pythons; the reptile community refers to them as "pet rocks" because they just sit there. Some pet owners don't mind having a pet they rarely see but other families want to be able to watch their pet.

If you want a bolder pet that won't hide 24-7, consider turtles, garter snakes, milk snakes, bearded dragons, green anoles, or day geckos. There are plenty of others but those are a few that tend to be out and about on a regular basis.


This one might seem obvious but many people only think about the cost of the actual animal. Be sure to also factor in the cost of the set-up plus any supplies you'll need. A young boa constrictor might sell for just $70 or less but the enclosure and upkeep will run in the thousands. Red-eared slider turtles regularly sell for $10 but the supplies will cost at least a few hundred.

Crested geckos are normally pretty cheap to set-up and maintain. Smaller snakes also tend to be inexpensive to care for, including corn snakes, hognose boas, Kenyan sand boas, and ball pythons.

Care Level

Care Level

Even among the "beginner" reptiles, some species will require more care than others. If you're gone a lot, for example, I wouldn't recommend an animal that requires daily misting or feeding. Snakes are great for people who travel a lot since they tend to eat once a week (or less) and require minimal care. On the other hand, turtles and monitors require constant care and maintenance.

Some species are also more complicated than others. A crested gecko is happy in a basic set-up at room temperature. Poison dart frogs, while pretty and interesting, require specific temperature gradients and humidity levels. Make sure to look up diets, too. A corn snake will be happy with a frozen-thawed mouse here and there while the aforementioned dart frogs need a culture of live fruit flies.

There are a few species that stand out as being incredibly easy to care for: leopard geckos, crested geckos, corn snakes, and kingsnakes. All four of them can live in simple enclosures and don't require UV-B lighting or complicated diets. They're all relatively hardy and can handle less than perfect conditions (though that shouldn't happen if you do your research!).



Most reptiles would rather be left alone. Handling can be stressful or even harmful to many species. There are some reptiles that can be "tamed", however, and these animals quickly become comfortable with handling. If you're someone that wants to be able to handle and photograph your pet, read up on the temperament of the species you're considering. Keep in mind that individual animals will have their own personalities--I've met mean leopard geckos and friendly blood pythons.

Some of the species known for their tameness are corn snakes, ball pythons, crested geckos, bearded dragons, hognose boas, boa constrictors, and most tortoises. I'm also a huge fan of Colombian rainbow boas but they can be nippy as babies.


In general, research is key when picking a pet reptile. There are hundreds of great species to choose from and you're bound to find one that meets your needs.

Also read: Creating A Memorial Tribute To Your Pet

Lucy Sheppard

Hi, I’m Lucy Sheppard. I love pets, especially dogs. My love for these true friends of humans turned into a passion. This passion led me to start this pets website so that people like me can benefit from my study and research.

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