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Bringing Home a Reptile

August 07, 2008  |  Difficulty: Easy

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You need to create a special habitat in a tank to keep your reptile pets happy and healthy.

Some reptiles are tropical like iguanas and geckos and some reptiles are denizens of the desert while some snakes, turtles and toads fall somewhere in between. Although each has its special considerations, you’ll need to follow some basic guidelines to set up a happy habitat before bringing home a reptile.


  • Do your homework! Find out exactly what your pet will need by researching it at the library or online. An aquarium, custom-cage or home built habitat will all suffice depending on your type of reptile.
  • Linings will differ depending on your reptile. Iguanas can use corn-cob bedding, Turtles and toads need organic matter like soils, leaves and peat moss; Geckos like smooth stones; and snakes like abrasive rocks to help with shedding. Many lizards and snakes appreciate driftwood for climbing. Change linings regularly and spot-remove wastes from basking spots every day.
  • Supply a hide box for your pet. A secure place for pets to hide and rest in dark coolness. Some hide boxes can double as nesting areas if you are breeding your pet. It can be an upside down shoe box, wooden box, or plastic container with holes cut in it simply placed in the corner.
  • All reptiles need to bask. Reptiles cannot regulate their own body temperature so you need to supply a heat source that the reptile can use because room temperature is not warm enough for most reptiles. A heat rock specifically made for your type of pet is one type of appropriate heat while a heat lamp that provides heat from above, whether it’s one that provides sunlight and heat through an incandescent bulb or just heat from an infrared bulb.   
  • Keep a thermometer in the tank and check it regularly to be sure you are keeping his habitat healthy for him. Reptiles will get as close to the heat source as possible and can burn themselves so unless it’s a heat rock, keep the sources out of the tanks. Heat source test:  If it’s too hot for your hand, then it’s too hot for your pet!

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